Report is critical of SCE handling of San Onofre situation

A new report released by Friends of the Earth (FOE) says it would be unwise for Southern California Edison (SCE) to run the San Onofre nuclear power plant at reduced power.

The Edison International (NYSE: EIX) subsidiary has indicated that both units of the 2,200-MW nuclear station will probably remain offline this summer and the California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO) has been drafting contingency plans to keep the lights on in Southern California without the nuclear plant.

The steam generator leak was discovered Jan. 31.

SCE’s four replacement steam generators at San Onofre faltered in less than two years of operation, while the original equipment ran for 28 years, according to the report by Arnie Gundersen of Vermont-based Fairewinds Associates. Gundersen has authored various reports in the past critical of the nuclear power industry.

The report, released May 15, says a more thorough NRC licensing review would have likely spotted the design problems before the steam generators were manufactured.

The report takes issue with the company’s position that the steam generator replacement a few years ago was a “like-for-like replacement” and should have triggered a license amendment process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Finally, Fairewinds finds that tube plugging is not the solution to the vibration problem and that the damaged steam generators will still require major modifications with repair and outage time that could last more than 18 months if Edison and Mitsubishi are even able to repair these faulty designed steam generators. However, Fairewinds finds that the safest long-term action is the replacement of the San Onofre steam generators,” according to the report summary.

“The ongoing plugging of the tubes will not eliminate the vibrational failure mechanism causing tube failures,” according to the new report.

Likewise, running the plant at reduced power is also not a viable option, according to the FOE report.  “Reducing power does not provide a remedy for the underlying structural problems that are creating the vibration that has damaged and will continue to damage tubes deep inside the San Onofre steam generator,” according to the report.

SCE has said that it is doing a detailed review of the problems at San Onofre and will eventually submit a remediation plan to NRC. The company and NRC have publicly pledged that the plant will not resume operation until safety is assured.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.