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  • Tuesday, July 17, 2012


    Crisis at San Onofre; What to Look For in the NRC’s Final Report

    Bill Walker, July 17, 2012 (Friends of the Earth)

    “…[T]he U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to issue the final report from its Augmented Inspection Team (AIT) investigation of the steam generator crisis at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which has kept the plant shut down since January…[Friends of the Earth experts] – including Dave Freeman, former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, author of the previous FOE reports [have commented]…

    “…[The “50.59” NRC rule] requires that if nuclear plant components are replaced, “like-for-like” equipment and technology must be used or else the operator must obtain a license amendment for the replacements…[Most likely] the AIT report will call for review or reform of the 50.59 process…Southern California Edison did not comply with requirements of the 50.59 process. The replacement steam generators included major design changes that compromised the safety of the plant…[U]ntil there is [a license amendment] there should be no restart…”

    “…Edison maintains that because more tubes are damaged in Reactor Unit 3 than in Unit 2, the problems are most serious in Unit 3 and Unit 2 should be considered for restart…The AIT report could affirm that…[because of] manufacturing differences between the generators…The design of the replacement steam generators in both Units 2 and 3 is fundamentally flawed…The main reason for the damage is Edison’s decision to remove a critical safety feature, the central stay cylinder…a decision driven by the desire for increased profits…Both remain unsafe, and restarting either would be an irresponsible and unacceptable gamble.

    “…If Edison is found to have violated safety guidelines, financial penalties could be imposed by the NRC…Edison has attempted to defer blame to the manufacturer of the steam generators, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd…The AIT report could affirm that Mitsubishi used a faulty computer simulation program that failed to correctly analyze the consequences of making significant design changes…[but that was done] by a team from Edison and one from Mitsubishi. Edison, not Mitsubishi, stood to profit…The utility’s attempts to blame Mitsubishi is a strategy that looks ahead to a court case in which Edison will try to recover some of the $671 million wasted on this doomed project… “


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