Nuclear engineer warns: Keep troubled San Onofre reactors shut down
Friends of the Earth released today a new analysis by one of the nation’s leading independent nuclear engineers, Arnie Gunderson. The report has revealed serious unresolved safety problems at Southern California Edison’s San Onofre nuclear reactors which could lead to significant radiation releases if the plant is allowed to restart. The paper also documents that Edison misled the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission about changes made to the plant, which have led to unforeseen and undiagnosed safety problems. To date, Edison has failed to provide substantive information to the public about the safety problems and testing at San Onofre...
Nuclear engineer warns unresolved safety issues threaten San Onofre reactors
A new analysis released today by one of the nation's leading independent nuclear engineers has revealed that serious unresolved safety problems at Southern California Edison's San Onofre nuclear reactors could lead to significant radiation releases if the plant is allowed to restart. The paper also documents that Edison misled the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission about changes made to the plant, which have led to unforeseen and undiagnosed safety problems. To date, Edison has failed to provide substantive information to the public about the safety problems and testing at San Onofre. The study by Arnie Gundersen and Fairewinds Associates, and commissioned by nuclear watchdog Friends of the Earth, is the first public technical analysis since problems were discovered at the two now-closed reactors at San Onofre:
• Reactor Unit 2 was undergoing a regularly scheduled shutdown in January when severe damage was found in tubes in the steam generator system.
• Reactor Unit 3 was shut down by Edison on January 31 after radioactive water leaked from a damaged pipe in the steam generators. The steam generators at both reactors are only months old and were installed at a cost to ratepayers of some $671 million.
In his analysis of available public information, Gundersen has concluded that "both units 2 and 3 have experienced extraordinarily rapid degradation of their steam generator tubes." He has concluded that the "severe short-term steam generator degradation" could lead to a "large risk of tube failure" and result in "an uncontrolled release of radiation into the environment."
Edison kept steam generator replacement details secret from NRC
Push to restart reactors even though cause of deterioration not known
Steam tube failures in reactors designed like San Onofre cause a significant nuclear safety issue by substantially increasing the risk of an accident that releases radioactivity into the environment.
Simple inspections conducted by using Eddy Current tests indicate that more than 100 tubes show astronomical wear rates, need further evaluation, and must be plugged prior to resuming plant operation.
Southern California Edison has pressure tested only the tubes in San Onofre unit 3 and failed to perform similar tests on unit 2. In addition, the NRC has sent an inspection team only to unit 3. Without pressure testing unit 2, Southern California Edison cannot know the full extent of this critical safety and reliability issue.
"Fairewinds Associates recommends that both [San Onofre] Unit 2 and Unit 3 remain shut down until the root cause of each nuclear reactor rapid steam generator tube failures are understood and repaired, reliability is assured, and radioactive releases are prevented," Gundersen concludes in the report.
Friends of the Earth Report: Steam Generator Failures at San Onofre | Fairewinds Associates, Inc
Steam Generator Failures at San Onofre
see also: News | Fairewinds Associates, Inc