Environment & Science

San Onofre nuclear plant could restart in June if feds approve

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

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The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has announced that it could be back online as early as next month. The plant has been shut down since a radioactive steam leak was discovered in January.

Federal regulators still have to approve a restart.

Southern California Edison, which operates the plant, says that if federal regulators approve their plan San Onofre could be back online by late June.

Inspectors discovered the leak in January. They believe it was caused by "accelerated wear" on tubes in the plant's new generators.

SoCal Edison has since found that vibrations, possibly caused by the flow rate of steam through the generator tubes, were causing the unusual wear. Inspectors from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission or NRC verified the assessment.

Steve Conroy with Southern California Edison says the company will send the NRC an outline of what needs to happen before firing up the plant.

"We hope to do that possibly in the coming weeks," said Conroy, "and that will be the driving factors of the next steps for restarting of the San Onofre plants."

Conroy says the filing will include repair work the NRC must approve.

California’s power grid managing agency has asked the operators of a Huntington Beach gas-fired power plant to “unretire” two units in case San Onofre is still offline when summer heat drives up electricity demand.