San Onofre asks regulatory commission to amend license to restart

SAN DIEGO – The operator and majority owner of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station announced today that it has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to amend its license to allow it to restart one of its two reactors at 70 percent power.

Southern California Edison’s draft license amendment seeks to change a technical section requiring structural integrity of steam generators from ”across the full range of normal operating conditions” to compliance at 70 percent power. It also includes a promise that power would not exceed that amount, which equates to 3,438 megawatts thermal.

Another license section, which currently states that the reactors are allowed to operate at 100 percent power, would be changed to 70 percent power, or 2,406.6 megawatts thermal.

Edison requested that the NRC rule on the proposed amendments by May 24. The utility’s plan to restart the plant at a lower power had been known previously.

The nuclear power plant on the northern San Diego County coastline has been shut down since January 2012, when a small, non-injury leak occurred in one of the reactors. The other one was undergoing maintenance and was not operating at the time.

An investigation found that vibration caused premature wear in steam generator tubes.

SCE said operating Unit 2 — the reactor where the leak did not occur — at a lower power level would allow it to supply electricity to the region during the summer months without causing any potential damage to the tubes.

”Since last fall, SCE has provided the public and the NRC with detailed analyses from global experts that support safe restart of Unit 2,” said Ron Litzinger, SCE president. ”We are considering the proposed voluntary amendment as the best path to get Unit 2 safely up and running before the hottest months of the year hit our region.”

Edison officials plan to speak with NRC regulators at a meeting this week in Maryland before making the license amendment request official.

SCE wants to operate the reactor at 70 percent for five months, then shut it down so its steam generator tubes can be inspected. The reactor would resume at 70 percent for 18-24 months while officials use the inspection data to determine a safe long-term operating level.

Friends of the Earth, an anti-nuclear group that opposes a restart and wants tighter scrutiny of San Onofre’s license, contends Edison is trying to avoid a safety review and public hearing.

”The NRC must stand firm and demand a comprehensive license amendment process that includes all safety issues and the opportunity for a full public hearing,” said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

Unit 2 is ”a severely damaged reactor that is unsafe to operate,” she alleged.

Also today, leaders of 23 environmental organizations sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, urging them to continue their regulatory oversight by requesting a comprehensive license amendment process for San Onofre by the NRC.

San Diego Gas & Electric owns 20 percent of the plant and receives one- fifth of the generated electricity.

10 Responses to "San Onofre asks regulatory commission to amend license to restart"

  1. Candi   April 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Unfortunately I have a friend that worked on the San Onofre plant and it is a time bomb waiting to go off. It is dangerous and probably is still leaking and puts us all at risk. Close it down before there is a terrible accident and nothing you can do about it.

  2. MJ   April 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    There are thousands of people that have jobs there! You can’t take their jobs away! Their parents and grandparents worked there.. they are entitled to those jobs.

  3. MJ   April 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Also notice in typical "expired" business acumen of the SCE president. ‘We need to hurry this process "before the hottest months" come along’. Why, so another reactor can overheat again?? No thanks vote from me!

  4. Need some specifics   April 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Candi, tell us in what capacity your friend worked at the plant and what information he has that would indicate it is dangerous or leaking. Without specifics, why should anybody believe what your friend has to say? They monitor the plant very carefully and if there was any leak or other dangerous situation they would immediately know about it and take the appropriate action. I too have friends that worked there in Operations and Management. They assure me that the plant is safe. Fear mongering does a great disservice to everybody. If your friend has some inside information, lets hear exactly what it is.

  5. Need some specifics   April 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    MJ, no reactor at SONGS has ever "overheated". The reason it is important to everybody to get the units operating before the hottest months is because those hot months are when people use the most power. There maybe energy shortages, power outages, and higher utility bills if these units are not restarted. Power outages and higher costs may not matter to you, but some people need reliable affordable power to keep their businesses operating.

  6. Bill Hawkins   April 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Comparing Davis- Besse Nuclear Power Plant with San Onofre Unit 2

    Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station is a nuclear power plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. On March 5, 2002, maintenance workers discovered that corrosion had eaten a football-sized hole into the reactor vessel head of the Davis-Besse plant. Although the corrosion did not lead to an accident, this was considered to be a serious nuclear safety incident. Some observers have criticized the NRC

  7. Why, Why, Why?   April 3, 2013 at 1:10 am

    We lived without it’s contribution for the entire 2012 summer’s peak power demands with no blackouts. It served it’s purpose for decades and ran it’s useful lifetime. Besides the corrupt power companies, it’s suppliers and power brokers please tell me who wants this potential catastrophic disaster in their backyard? Why don’t we ask a few Japanese folks what they would recommend?

  8. Redneck Bill   April 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I have gone from being very opposed to nuclear power to thinking it may be a reasonable element of an energy policy, and back to being stridently opposed.

    Humans–us–learn by trial and error. I don’t care how smart we think we are, there will always be something we didn’t anticipate or foresee. It’s one thing when that leads to your car being recalled, and quite another when there is a nuclear accident.

    I’m certain very bright people designed the Fukushima power plant. I’m certain they spent hours and hours planning, checking and rechecking every conceivable problem that could occur. It’s that one in a million that bites you when it comes to something as unforgiving as nuclear power.

    The argument that jobs and businesses are on the line and we won’t have enough power to meet our summer needs becomes moot when you realize that Fallbrook is 15 miles from San Onofre, and a Fukushima incident there would render the friendly village uninhabitable. Not to mention the immediate and longer term deaths it would cause.

    I think the decision to restart the reactor is a serious mistake.

  9. Concerned Citizen   April 6, 2013 at 5:16 am

    I agree with Redneck Bill. I am a Fallbrook resident and am fearful of a meltdown. Let us remember Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island. We owe it to our children to avoid obvious risk to their health and future and to avoid genetic defects from radiation. There are other safer methods to generate power now.

  10. Bill Hawkins   April 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Root Causes are defined as the basic reasons (e.g., hardware, process, or human performance) for a problem, which if corrected, will prevent recurrence of that problem.

    MHI Root Cause: Insufficient programmatic requirement to assure effective AVB contact force to prevent in-plane fluid elastic instability and random vibration and subsequent wear under high localized thermal-hydraulic conditions (steam quality (void fraction), flow velocity and hydro-dynamic pressure).

    Bill Hawkins Rebuttal: MHI Answer is Incorrect. Contact force is the force in which an object comes in contact with another object. Examples are pushing a car up a hill or kicking a ball or pushing a desk across a room are some of the everyday examples where contact forces are at work. In the first case the force is continuously applied by the person on the car, while in the second case the force is delivered in a short impulse. The most common instances of this include friction, normal force, and tension. According to forces, contact force may also be described as the push experienced when two objects are pressed together. The MHI designed AVBs had zero contact forces in Unit 3 to prevent in-plane fluid elastic instability and subsequent wear under high localized thermal-hydraulic conditions (steam quality (void fraction) and flow velocity). In-plane fluid elastic instability did not happen in Unit 2, so therefore double contact forces and better supports is conjecture. Refuted by indepth review of Dr. Pettigrew papers, Westinghouse, AREVA, John Large and earlier version of MHI Reports.

    NRC AIT Team SCE Root Cause: The combination of unpredicted, adverse thermal hydraulic conditions and insufficient contact forces in the upper tube bundle caused a phenomenon called


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