Southern California breaking news and trends

Edison prepares to pull radioactive fuel from San Onofre

Grant Slater/KPCC

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is seen on April 6, 2012.

After months of mushrooming safety concerns and no timetable for a possible restart, plant operator Southern California Edison is preparing to pull radioactive fuel from one of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant reactors.

The Associated Press reports that the radioactive fuel in San Onfre's Unit 3 reactor will be moved into storage in mid-September, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission senior inspector Gregory Warnick.

Edison says it will focus on repairing the less-damaged Unit 2 reactor.

The plant, located between Los Angeles and San Diego has been shut down since January, after a tube carrying radioactive water broke, causing a leak of radioactive steam. Widespread damage to tubing in both reactors was discovered during the course of the investigation.

Last week, Edison announced plans to cut 730 employees at the facility. The layoffs come after two years of analyzing staffing at similar nuclear power plants. The staff reductions are expected to start in the next month, leaving 1,500 employees at the plant.

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San Onofre problems prompt possibility of policy change

San Onofre Nuclear Plant

Grant Slater/KPCC

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is seen on April 6, 2012.

A rule allowing nuclear plant operators to replace certain equipment without prior approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is being reconsidered.

Speaking in North Carolina on Wednesday, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the tubing trouble at San Onofre suggests the rules under which the generators were installed may need to be modified, the Associated Press reported.

The twin reactors, offline for months, will need federal approval to restart.  Plant operator Southern California Edison hoped to reopen in time for summer's peak energy use, however no projected timeline has been released.

Earlier this week, NRC Chairman Jaczko announced he will be stepping down from his post.

After nearly eight years on the Commission, I am announcing my resignation as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, effective upon the confirmation of my successor. My responsibility and commitment to safety will continue to be my paramount priority after I leave the Commission and until my successor is confirmed. 

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Fairewinds report blasts safety claims at San Onofre nuclear plant

Grant Slater/KPCC

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is seen on April 6, 2012.

San Onofre is twisting in the breeze of the new Fairewinds safety report released by activist group Friends of the Earth.

The study raises serious doubts about safety at the Southern California nuclear facility, and says running at reduced power will not solve the tubing trouble that has plagued the plant.

Southern California Edison recently disclosed a tentative plan to run the twin reactors at an unspecified lower power, at least for several months. 

Engineers believed reduced power would ease the vibration causing the unusual deterioration of tubes inside the steam generators.

The Fairewinds report, however, says running at reduced power may actually make the damage worse and increase the possibility of cascading safety failures. 

The report also expands a previous allegation that Edison misled federal regulators about modifications to the generators. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) disputes that claim.

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No timeline for restarting San Onofre, says NRC chair

Grant Slater/KPCC

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is seen on April 6, 2012.

Days after Southern California Edison said there was hope for a possible restart of the San Onofre nuclear plant in June, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a statement saying there was no timeline planned for a reopening.

The statement, released Monday by Chairman Gregory Jaczko, says the agency will take "whatever time is necessary" to review exisiting and pending documentation on repairs and issues at the plant. 

Both reactors have been offline for more than three months following a radioactive gas leak and evidence of excessive and unusual wear on the tubing inside the steam generators.

Federal approval will be required to boot up the plant. Jaczko says to even discuss that possibility at this point is "premature."


STATEMENT FROM CHAIRMAN GREGORY JACZKO ON SAN ONOFRE RESTART:

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San Onofre trouble prompts visit by NRC Chairman Jaczko

David McNew/Getty Images

With both of San Onofre's reactors powered down, the troubled nuclear power plant by the sea is about to get a visit from the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it was announced on Wednesday.

The visit by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko emphasizes the concern over safety and equipment that began in January with a radioactive steam leak.

Since then, the commission determined that tubes carrying hot, pressurized, radioactive water inside the steam generators were deteriorating at a dangerous and unusual rate at least in part because they are rubbing against each other.

Amid reports that the nuclear plant misled federal regulators about equipment changes, the plant was barred last week from restarting operations until the situation is understood and resolved.

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