City takes its position on SONGS to PUC

DEL MAR — Council members reiterated their position on restarting the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, agreeing unanimously at the Oct. 22 meeting to send a previously adopted resolution to the California Public Utilities Commission prior to that group’s scheduled Oct. 25 meeting. 

Last month council adopted a resolution urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to require plant operator and majority owner Southern California Edison to undergo a public, transparent license amendment hearing before SONGS is allowed to restart.

Correspondence to the PUC will include a letter stating the city opposes a restart until the costs of reduced-power generation can be investigated. The letter will state city support for an Order Instituting Investigation of the costs associated with the prolonged shutdown of the plant and overruns that resulted from the installation of faulty steam generators.

Unit 2 at SONGS was taken offline Jan. 9 for a scheduled inspection. Unit 3 was shut down Jan. 31 after a small leak was discovered in one of its steam generator tubes. The plant has been offline since then.

An NRC investigation revealed several problems with generators, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which had been replaced a few years earlier.

The report cited issues with fabrication, testing, transportation to California and computer modeling that underpredicted steam velocities in some areas where tube-to-tube rubbing occurred on the new generators.

After the report was released this past summer, many organizations and residents expressed safety concerns. In response the NRC hosted an Oct. 6 meeting featuring a panel that included Del Mar Councilman Don Mosier, a research scientist and professor at Scripps Research Institute.

A few days prior to that meeting plant operator Southern California Edison requested a 70 percent restart of Unit 2 for five months.

“There is a significant safety concern that’s shared by a lot of people about restarting this thing,” Mosier said. “It’s obviously shared by the NRC and Southern California Edison otherwise they wouldn’t do this sort of partial-power restart for five months to see what happens.

“This is basically an experiment with our safety,” he said. “They know that they’ve got a reactor that’s poorly designed and it has the identical design in the one that’s already failed that they don’t propose to restart.

“So they’re going to do this experiment and it only has two outcomes,” Mosier said. “They’re going to have another tube leak and another radiation leak or it will hold together at this reduced power.

“The big problem with this is it’s doing an experiment that exposes 8.5 million people to a safety risk, and secondly it’s spending a lot of money … to run these tests at reduced power,” he added.

Mosier said ratepayers are paying for 2,200 megawatts but would only receive about 700 megawatts at the reduced level.

Once a facility is down for nine months, the PUC must initiate an investigation that includes what the costs are, who should pay for them and if the plant is still useful.

Mark Nelson, director of generation, planning and strategy for SCE, told council members last month his company wouldn’t restart the plant until it and the NRC are satisfied it is safe to do so.

“Everything that we do and everything that our employees do, safety is always job one,” Nelson said.

He agreed there were problems with the generators but said some of the tube-to-tube vibrations were not unusual.

At the Oct. 22 meeting, council members also named Mosier and Councilwoman Lee Haydu to an ad hoc committee to keep the city informed about progress on these issues, appear in front of the PUC on regular basis and relay council decisions to the NRC and PUC.

Councilmen Mark Filanc and Terry Sinnott stressed the committee should focus on safety and not take a stand on nuclear power.

Mosier said he wasn’t proposing the city intervene in the process.

“I just want us to be a cheerleader for the CPUC to do the right thing,” he said.



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