SCE to remove fuel from San Onofre 3; prepare for longer outage

Edison International (NYSE: EIX) subsidiary Southern California Edison (SCE) plans to defuel Unit 3 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, and place the reactor in a longer term outage mode.

The development is not a surprise given that Edison made public plans to remove fuel from the units in its July 31 quarterly earnings report. Prior to that SCE has been pointing toward a longer-term outage at Unit 3.

Both units have been idle since January when unexpected tube-wear problems were found in steam generators at San Onofre, the 2,000-MW nuclear complex in San Diego County, Calif. During the summer air conditioning season, the California ISO has been getting by through use of certain fossil fuel plants and also utilizing conservation “flex” days with customers.

Because the steam generator tube wear is more significant in Unit 3 than in Unit 2, SCE does not foresee Unit 3 coming back online in the near future. SCE is focusing on finalizing a response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Confirmatory Action Letter that will describe the company’s plan for returning Unit 2 to safe operation, the utility said in a statement.

Unit 3 is being defueled, which is a normal state during an extended outage, SCE said in the statement.

SCE has left the door open for possibly getting Unit 2 back online by the end of this year. SCE also announced recently that there would be a major layoff at the nuclear plant by the end of the year.

This action will maintain a safe plant and fuel configuration while testing and analysis of Unit 3 continues. Defueling refers to the carefully executed transfer of fuel from the reactor into the spent fuel pool in a strong, reinforced building where it is secure and constantly monitored.

Unit 2 was taken out of service Jan. 9 for a planned outage. Unit 3 was safely taken offline Jan. 31 after station operators detected a leak in a steam generator tube.

San Onofre is jointly owned by SCE (78.21%), Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric (20%), and the city of Riverside (1.79%).

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.