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Nuclear Officials Deny They Knew About Safety Problems Before Upgrades

Officials from Southern California Edison contradict accusations by two elected officials that they knew of safety problems before installing the $670 million steam generators.

Southern California Edison is denying an assertion by two lawmakers that it knowingly installed faulty steam generators at the embattled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

"The Feb. 6 letter to the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Ed Markey quotes portions of two sentences from a lengthy technical report that was prepared by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, not Southern California Edison," read a statement from SCE.

"The report was submitted to the NRC by MHI months ago as part of the voluminous records, data, information and other materials the NRC has been thoroughly reviewing and inspecting as part of its consideration of SCE’s request to restart Unit 2 safely."

Mitsubishi is the manufacturer of the steam generators, one of which sprang a leak of radioactive steam in January 2012, revealing widespread . The plant has been shuttered since.

The Boxer/Markey letter asserts that both Edison and Mitsubishi were aware of serious problems with the design of the faulty generators before their installation in 2009 and 2010, but declined to act on that information.

"It is simply not accurate to suggest, as the letter does, that when they were installed 'SCE and MHI were aware of serious problems with the design of San Onofre nuclear plant’s steam generators,'" Edison officials stated. "Indeed, MHI, the manufacturer of the steam generators, warranted the steam generators to be free from defects for 20 years after installation. SCE would never, and did not, install steam generators that it believed would not perform safely."

Local, statewide and national environmental groups have argued since spring of last year that Edison used bureaucratic loopholes to duck a license amendment process that would have caught design flaws that led to the widespread damage in the steam generators.

Friends of the Earth, an anti-nuclear group opposing a restart at San Onofre, is demanding that SCE go through a rigorous amendment process to its NRC operating license prior to a restart because the new generators were of a much different design than their predecessors. Kendra Ulrich, an FOE campaigner, told City News Service the new report was a "game changer'' in their efforts to prevent a restart.

"This amounts to the willful endangerment of the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Southern California,'' Ulrich told CNS. "Given the massive safety and corporate malfeasance implications, we are calling for the immediate release of this document in its entirety.''

Edison is currently in the process of trying to convince regulators it can restart half of the plant at partial power. A decision by the NRC is expected this spring.

Read hundreds of Patch articles about the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station listed in chronological order on our topic page here.

-- City News Service contributed to this report.

Brenda Barnes February 07, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Assume no one responsible knew about the problems earlier than they took action. Why should we believe they know all the problems now? To take any more chances is madness.
Jay Berman February 08, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Why in the world would they install known faulty generators ? That is just wrong ... replacing them is a massive undertaking, requires cutting huge holes in the containment ... a very tricky thing to do ... If they knew they were faulty, why would they even take posession of them ? Boxer (now a nuclear engineer) is simply doing what she does best, pandering to her progressive base .. They need to get unit 2 back online ay 70% so they can see what was going on in real time so they can either fix these or replace them ... we are teetering on curtailments now, Encina is running full tilt ...

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