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Some Nuclear Parts Shot, San Onofre Shutdown Costs Up to $1 Million a Day

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new steam generators in the last couple years, and now some heat exchanger tubes are nearly worn out.

Crucial components that contain high-pressure, radioactive water at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station are, in many places, nearly too worn to function, said an Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman.

There is no danger to plant workers or the public because both reactors at the San Onofre station are shut down-- and .

But, the components are only one to two years old and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, raising troubling questions about their functioning.

The plant is producing no electricity. As crews are assessing and planning repairs to leaks at Unit 3 at the plant, the unplanned shutdown, an expert told KPBS, is costing Southern California Edison from $600,000 to $1 million per day.

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Problems have been identified in the heat-exchanger tubes that boil water in the steam generators at the plant; there are two generators in each of the two reactors at the plant.

The high-pressure, superheated, radioactive water that runs through the tubes has started to wear through walls of the heat exchangers.

"They've looked at about 80 percent of the tubes in Unit 2," said NRC spokesman Victor Dricks. "Two of the tubes have more than 30 percent wear and have to be plugged and taken out of service. Sixty-nine others have more than 20 percent wear. Over 800 others have less than 20 percent wear, but more than 10 percent."

These aren't the leaky tubes that caused the Tuesday shutdown of Unit 3 at the San Onofre plant, but the same component at Unit 3 has been isolated as the site of the leak.

Unit 2 has been shut down to replace the massive turbines and reactor head at the unit. The wear was detected as part of the routine inspection of equipment that technicians conduct before restarting the reactor, whether for a routine refueling outage or for refurbishments like the turbine replacement.

A spokesman for Mitsubishi, the manufacturer of the components in question, issued a statement Monday saying they were assissting Southern California Edison crews in assessing the damage.

“Mitsubishi is aware of the issue reported at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and has been in contact with the customer, Southern California Edison," said Mitsubishi spokesman Pat Boyle. "The investigation of the incident is being conducted by our customer. However, as the manufacturer of the steam generators, we will do whatever we can to support our customer in resolving the issue.”

The damage raises questions about possible flaws in , but there are dozens of factors that could be involved. Contractors installing the equipment, shipping personnel and plant staff all have roles to play in the installation and operation of the steam generators.

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Mitsubishi representatives are on-site consulting as Southern California Edison crews investigate the damage.

"They [SCE] are talking with the manufacturer," Dricks said. "It's unusual. They'll have to determine what caused it."

The tubes are heat exchangers. The nuclear fuel rods super-heat water within a primary system. This water runs through these hundreds of tubes, set up like a car radiator, at a pressure of about 2,500 pounds-per-square-inch.

The heat boils water in a secondary system that makes steam to turn giant turbines. The electricity generated by San Onofre can power more than a million homes at any given time.

San Diego Gas & Electric owns a significant stake in the plant, but SCE is charged with maintaining and operating it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated Feb. 6, 2012 with comments from the Mitsubishi spokesman.

julia tully February 03, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Experts say 'Radiation MAY have leaked.' Lord , help us! These experts should KNOW without a doubt if there has been a leak and if so , the public has the RIGHT to know! These people can't be trusted with nuclear and therefore cannot be trusted with our lives. Keep the plant shut down forever. Other cities in northern California replaced their nuke plants with safe sources of power and places all over the world are doing the same. Help make Orange County and Californa a nuke free zone. http://CaliforniaNuclearInitiative.com/
Donna Gilmore February 03, 2012 at 11:16 PM
The steam generators had manufacturing problems. See http://wp.me/p1YIeo-A5 San Onofre has the worst safety record of all U.S. nuclear plants. And they retaliate against employees who report safety problems. See NRC data at http://sanonofresafety.org/ San Onofre is down & Edison says we have "ample power" right now. Why are we being forced to spend billions of dollars to keep these old reactors running? Edison makes up to a million dollars a day & we take the risks -- to our health, food supply & financial future. The NRC is proposing to store radioactive waste at the plant for 200-300 years. They have effectively admitted they have no solution for permanent waste storage. San Onofre stores tons of waste on site and produces about 600 pounds a day. Our government has not been effective on these issues, so it's up to the citizens of California to take action. Please sign the California Nuclear Initiative petition today so we can shut down the two remaining California plants. http://californianuclearinitiative.com/cni-petition/ Please share this information and take action today. No one else is going to do it. The buck stops with us. Japan still suffers from the on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster -- radiation in their food, milk, water, ground & air; permanent loss of their homes & livelihood. Japanese citizens have asked me to please warn the American people, so the same thing doesn't happen here. http://sanonofresafety.org/fukushima/
george gregory February 03, 2012 at 11:46 PM
edison cares little for sdge customers , just money
Gene Stone February 04, 2012 at 12:32 AM
San Onofre Waste Generating Station didn't spend millions, it was the ratepayers that have been overcharged by millions of dollars over and over again, year after year. Paying for upgrade after upgrade for a worn-out 40-year-old nuclear power plant that should be retired for the safety of everyone including the workers. US nuclear power plants are not even using parts made in the US we buying overseas parts that have a long record of failure in Japan, France and here. Does anyone remember Fukushima? Failure means catastrophic disaster for our lovely seaside town and California. Add up the real cost of nuclear power and you'll easily find it is the most expensive way to generate electricity, then add in the cost to just one nuclear disaster you'll start to see the real cost in money and lives and property. Hey San Clemente you think our property values are low now, if the accident turns into a meltdown watch your property values meltdown. ROSE http://residentsorganizedforasafeenvironment.wordpress.com/
James Schumaker February 04, 2012 at 12:38 AM
This defect sounds extremely serious, and, to state the obvious, carries with it enormous potential liability either for Mitsubishi or the installing agency, or both. It will be difficult to justify restarting either Unit 2 or 3 until all the heat-exchanger tubes have been inspected and the defective ones replaced properly. Unfortunately, even this may not be enough, since it sounds like there is an overarching quality control issue. It may be that the only safe way to proceed will be to replace all the tubes. Otherwise, the reactors will have to be shut down again and again whenever one of the current set of tubes fails. At a minimum, it sounds to me like consumers are going to be in for a nasty surprise when they open their electricity bills next year.
Adam Townsend February 04, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Just to clarify, they said that radiation may have escaped, but it was harmless in that it was indistinguishable by the monitors from normal background radiation that is present throughout the atmosphere and earth. No measurable amount of radiation escaped.
julia tully February 04, 2012 at 03:50 AM
To Mr. Towndsend, And what about next time? http://CaliforniaNuclearInitiative.com/
Rich B February 04, 2012 at 07:43 AM
A sad sidebar to this situation is that the tubes built by Mitsubishi were chosen supposedly because according to SONGS personnel, there were no manufacturers in the U.S. who could produce the tubes.
PAUL DEG. February 04, 2012 at 03:33 PM
The tubes in question were they procured by Mitsubishi and also where the tubes originally manufactured ? ISO compliant QC testing of material workmanship and specs up to standard? Perhaps We should look at Canada's Nuclear Heat exchanger components more expensive but built according to specs ISO 2000.
Gene Stone February 04, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Sure Paul the ratepayers will be happy to pay higher rates, anything else you think they might want? Should we get them a big cake for a job poorly done? SHUT IT DOWN BEFORE IT MELTS DOWN. San Onofre has the worst safety record of US plants for 10 yrs running.
Ronald Douglas Kennedy February 04, 2012 at 04:37 PM
San Onofre Shutdown. This old failing plant has done her work, take here licence away before she kills a lot of people. There three good reason in my book to shut hear down, any one of them is enough to make the call game over: 1.) Old plant technology, And starting to fail because of age. 2.) Bad site location, two low to Ocean Serf. Theirs a major engineering Plate Technology question out their, Is she built high enough of the mean high tide line to survive, both the San Andreas fault rupturing the Englewood Fault? They will be surfing off here dome hat if this happens. 3) THIS OLD lady is a major target of any terrorist group with Cruise MISSILE CAPIBILIETS, FROM A SHIP IN THE Pacific, OR ICBM from a major player. And its a two for one target shot, The power plant is taken off line,spreading radio active poison. And one of our finest Military bass Camp Pendleton is also shut down, With the rest of down coast, due to the prevailing wind's . Ronald Douglas Kennedy
julia tully February 04, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Ronald Kennedy is on target about SanO being a target.
Ronald Douglas Kennedy February 06, 2012 at 08:33 AM
This Clown Cooperation that cant shoot straight, Has another one of there great public benefits beginning opened up now. North County Times February 5, 2012 page 1. "Smart Meters" . Reads as to be a 2008 Problem not fully studied or resolved. Why should that stop this for profit first monopoly, To just wait for a "authenticated" clear bill of health, for these possibly brain fryers, to the public SDG&E bill's for this and that daily. Faulty billing of the meters, and in who's favor? Seams the wireless communication pulse signal may be a health hazard, not as bad as putting your pet, our your head in your microwave, but to what level not revealed hear. How much higher is this signal then a cell phone? What if theirs a stack of these cookers on a out side of a wall, but on the other side theirs a child, is it just written off as another fry job by SDG&E? At least there going to give you the option to have the fryer turned off our you can buy the old style analog meter, kind of like what they took of your wall in the first place. Now win a employee shows up to read it SDG&E can call it a new job's program. This also is a funny business deal for the public their offering use. I never got paid for the perfectly good meter they took from me in the first place?
george gregory February 06, 2012 at 05:26 PM
i hear they are going to provide fiol hats and lead under ware
Steve Netherby February 06, 2012 at 08:22 PM
One of the utilities that owns the plant says, "Service will not be affected; Southern California Edison has ample reserve power to meet customer needs." So why do we need SONGS two miles from town producing an average of 500 pounds of highly toxic nuclear waste per day? By all the measures I can think of—except the SCE profit line—it's insane. BTW, radiation did indeed leak into the atmosphere, the leak was significant enough that workers couldn't enter the vessel to assess the damage, and Three Mile Island and other plants are also experiencing problems with the tubes of their new generators. When are "officials" in this country going to wake up to the fact that they are putting the lives of their own loved (?) ones at risk by bending like willows in the wind to the political power of the nuclear industry? Wait: that's not the question; they already know this. The real question is, when will we citizens wake up ourselves and, en masse, replace these officials with public servants who take the trust we place in them as sacred and inviolable? "Service will not be affected; Southern California Edison has ample reserve power to meet customer needs." So shut down SONGS for good and go to work figuring out what to do with its offal—while, at the same time, developing energy that doesn't poison the planet.
Donna Gilmore February 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Adam, It would improve the confidence of the citizens, if radiation levels were viewable on the internet. Right now, San Onofre refuses to share actual data, let alone let us see real time or near real time information. An Edison spokesperson told me I could go to the library and look at year old data. He said he couldn't share the information for "security" reasons. Who's security? Edisons?
Greg Brance February 07, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Services are not affected because energy demand is low during the winter months. Also as far leak goes. The leak wasn't significant enough to register above background at the plant. Basically the leak was insignificant. you would have received more radiation from a cross country flight. Normally when a nuclear reactor is operating certain areas of the plant are to radioactive to enter safely. The leak didn't prevent the workers from inspecting the tubes. It was the fact that the reactor was running and needed to cool down after it was taken offline prevented entry.
Donna Gilmore February 07, 2012 at 03:09 PM
To Greg Brance: Regarding your comment "services are not affected because energy demand is low during the winter months", We also had power in SoCal last September when San Onfre was shutdown, and that was in the summer. And goverment sources have data showing we have plenty of power sources available (without San Onofre). See http://sanonofresafety.org/energy-options/
Della February 07, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I am new to this area, moved here from Palm springs. I am very concerned about the power plant! We are looking to by a home here (actually looking in San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. Now I don't know!!
Donna Gilmore February 07, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Della, the prevaling winds blow to the East, so you're not safe in Palm Springs. The only solution is to sign the California petition to shut the plant down. The NRC has a history of allowing plants back in service when they still have safety problems.see details at SanOnofreSafety.org
julia tully February 07, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Della, I hope you stay in this area, sign the petition and urge others to do the same. Once the plant is shut down, we can all rest and enjoy one of the loveliest places to live in the world --and nuke free
Zeolite February 08, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Radiation can have a half-life of millions of years, and we haven't been around that long to know its long term safety on humans or the environment. There is no safe level of radiation. The only other people that would have you believe this are obviously the Nuclear Commission or their paid scientists. University professors teach differently and more objectively. Their studies show that it is highly harmful and damages everything it comes into contact with. What to do: http://thehealingfrequency.com/radiation-leak-from-san-onofre-nuclear-plant-in-california/

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