Regulators delay decision on nuclear plant probe
Thursday, June 21, 2012
LOS ANGELES (AP) — State utility regulators are postponing a decision on whether to launch an investigation into the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.
The twin-reactor plant between Los Angeles and San Diego has been shut down for nearly five months after a break in a tube that carries radioactive water. Investigators later found unusual wear on hundreds of tubes running through the plant's steam generators.
According to a Public Utility Commission meeting agenda, the panel intended to consider an order Thursday to launch a probe into the shutdown and its possible impact on electricity rates for customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.
But commission spokesman Christopher Chow said that the proposal was not finished and would be postponed until Aug. 2.
Earlier this week, Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigators announced that a botched computer analysis resulted in design flaws that are largely to blame for the unprecedented tube wear.
It was not clear how or when the problems can be fixed, and there is no date to restart either of the seaside reactors.
The problems center on four steam generators that were installed at San Onofre during a $670 million overhaul in 2009 and 2010. Tests found some tubes were so badly corroded that they could fail and possibly release radiation, a stunning finding inside the virtually new equipment.
The NRC hasn't ruled out that one or more of the generators might have to be replaced.
Edison has said the Unit 2 reactor likely would remain offline at least through August, pending NRC approval for a restart. It did not project a restart date for Unit 3, where tube damage has been more severe.
The company is expected to submit a plan to the NRC later this summer to restart one, or both, reactors, which would have to outline how the company can control the tube damage.
The trouble began to unfold in January, when the Unit 3 reactor was shut down as a precaution after a tube break. Traces of radiation escaped at the time, but officials said there was no danger to workers or neighbors.
Unit 2 had been taken offline earlier that month for maintenance, but investigators later found unexpected wear in tubes in both units.
The plant is owned by Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside. The Unit 1 reactor operated from 1968 to 1992, when it was shut down and dismantled.
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