Nuclear commission pushes back decision on San Onofre

Surfers work the waves at Lower Trestles near San Clemente while the darkened San Onofre nuclear plant rises up in the background. Photo by Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times

Surfers work the waves at Lower Trestles near San Clemente while the darkened San Onofre nuclear plant rises up in the background. Photo by Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times

The plant has been shut down since January 2012, according to the L.A. Now story, because of issues with unusual wear on its steam generator tubes, which carry radioactive water.

According to the Los Angeles Times local-coverage blog L.A. Now, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has pushed back the date when it could make a decision on the fate of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The NRC is weighing a proposal by plant operator Southern California Edison to restart one of the two units and run it at partial power, which the company says would alleviate the conditions that led to the wear. […]

It would take several weeks to restart the plant if the NRC gives the go ahead, meaning that the unit could potentially be back online by summer.

Southern California got through last summer without blackouts in the absence of San Onofre’s 2,200 megawatts of power, but some of the measures taken to replace the plant were temporary. Energy officials have been working on a backup plan for this summer, should the plant remain out of service.

Last week, the same blog said an environmental group called Friends of the Earth asked federal regulators to bar Southern California Edison from restarting the San Onofre nuclear plant unless it goes through a trial-like hearing process.

In May 2012, we posted that the resignation of the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the “abrasive” Gregory Jaczko, had already created uncertainty in the nuclear industry, specifically surrounding the troubled San Onofre station.

Last July, Federal regulators released the most detailed information to date on damage at California’s idled San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Records posted Thursday show the extent of wear in 3,400 tubes that carry radioactive water in the plant’s troubled steam generators. The tube wear caused by vibration and friction was found in 15,000 places at varying degrees of erosion. The report has implications for the fate of the plant shut down since January.

L.A. Now also reports that an NRC investigation found that “the issues arose because computer modeling by manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries failed to accurately predict the flow of steam and water in the generators, leading the tubes to vibrate excessively and rub against support structures and adjacent tubes.”

Another story on the plant from Jan. 8,  said California Public Utilities Commission meetings are investigating whether ratepayers should get a refund because of the plant’s year-long outage. According to the commission, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric customers are paying more than $1.1 billion a year in costs related to the troubled plant, the story said.

According to yesterday’s L.A. Now story, the commission is projecting a late April or early May date for a decision.

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