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Inspection at San Onofre finished, but no findings released yet

A runner passes by the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant on April 6, 2012.
A runner passes by the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant on April 6, 2012.
Grant Slater/KPCC

Inspections of faulty tubes that caused the shutdown of two reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station have been completed, but findings are not yet being released, Southern California Edison said Friday.

Investigators are hoping that the inspections will pinpoint the cause of unusual wear in steam-generating tubes in Units 2 and 3, which was detected in January.

Findings from the inspections are being analyzed, SCE spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said.

The inspections were undertaken at the behest of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must give the go-ahead before the reactors come back online. It remains unclear when that may happen, Manfre added.

The tubes, which carry radioactive water, are being damaged by friction and vibration by neighboring tubes and bracing, but investigators do not know why that is occurring, especially as the equipment was only installed in 2009 and 2010.

The defects were noticed when a tube on Unit 3 leaked in January. Unit 2, which was shut down for routine maintenance, was found to have the same problem.

The plant, located on the coastline between Los Angeles and San Diego, can churn out electricity to serve 1.4 million homes.

Energy officials around Southern California are worried that the plant may not be back up and running in time for the peak-use summer season. If replacement energy sources are not brought online and a heat wave hits, the region could see rotating blackouts.

Meanwhile, a small fire in Unit 2's electrical panel on the non-radiological side broke out Friday, but it was extinguished in less than an hour. No injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.