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Like the forthcoming tans of a rapidly approaching summer, hopes are fading that the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will be functional by the time peak summer usage rears its sweaty head.
With San Onofre's nuclear reactors offline indefinitely -- Unit 3 was shut down following January's radioactive leak and Unit 2 is offline for maintenance -- local agencies are scrambling to strategize a way of handling the upcoming summer demand to avoid shortages or blackouts.
Preliminary plans were discussed Thursday at a meeting to address the power supply issue.
State regulators may need to bring in electric generators via barges, or un-retire closed power plants to make up for lost electricity. Officials at the California Independent System Operator meeting said an extended heatwave or surge in usage may still cause outages.
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It does not take a nuclear physicist to understand the troubling situation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Three tubes failed to pass a pressure test this week, prompting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to send an inspection team to San Diego County.
NRC officials explained the relatively obvious in a statement, by noting that the tubes that failed are more likely to rupture during plant events affecting pressure in the generator.
It goes on to say that tube integrity is important because "the tubes provide an added barrier inside the containment building to prevent a radioactive steam release."
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U.S. nuclear power plants have until the end of 2016 to comply with new safety recommendations released Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Plants were ordered to begin immediately implementing the upgrades in an effort to prevent a large-scale radioactive crisis like what occurred last year at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami.
Recommendations were laid out in a three-part plan. Two points apply to every U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, including those under construction and recently licensed new Vogtle reactors. One point only concerns a specific type of containment structure, said the NRC in a press release.
- The first Order requires the plants to better protect safety equipment installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to obtain sufficient equipment to support all reactors at a given site simultaneously.
- The second Order requires the plants to install enhanced equipment for monitoring water levels in each plant’s spent fuel pool.
- The third Order applies only to U.S. boiling-water reactors that have “Mark I” or “Mark II” containment structures. These reactors must improve venting systems (or for the Mark II plants, install new systems) that help prevent or mitigate core damage in the event of a serious accident.