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San Onofre asks regulatory commission to amend license to restart

Monday, April 1st, 2013
Issue 14, Volume 17.

SAN DIEGO - The operator and majority owner of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station announced today that it has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to amend its license to allow it to restart one of its two reactors at 70 percent power.

Southern California Edison's draft license amendment seeks to change a technical section requiring structural integrity of steam generators from "across the full range of normal operating conditions" to compliance at 70 percent power. It also includes a promise that power would not exceed that amount, which equates to 3,438 megawatts thermal.

Another license section, which currently states that the reactors are allowed to operate at 100 percent power, would be changed to 70 percent power, or 2,406.6 megawatts thermal.

Edison requested that the NRC rule on the proposed amendments by May 24. The utility's plan to restart the plant at a lower power had been known previously.

The nuclear power plant on the northern San Diego County coastline has been shut down since January 2012, when a small, non-injury leak occurred in one of the reactors. The other one was undergoing maintenance and was not operating at the time.

An investigation found that vibration caused premature wear in steam generator tubes.

SCE said operating Unit 2 -- the reactor where the leak did not occur -- at a lower power level would allow it to supply electricity to the region during the summer months without causing any potential damage to the tubes.

"Since last fall, SCE has provided the public and the NRC Advertisement
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with detailed analyses from global experts that support safe restart of Unit 2," said Ron Litzinger, SCE president. "We are considering the proposed voluntary amendment as the best path to get Unit 2 safely up and running before the hottest months of the year hit our region."

Edison officials plan to speak with NRC regulators at a meeting this week in Maryland before making the license amendment request official.

SCE wants to operate the reactor at 70 percent for five months, then shut it down so its steam generator tubes can be inspected. The reactor would resume at 70 percent for 18-24 months while officials use the inspection data to determine a safe long-term operating level.

Friends of the Earth, an anti-nuclear group that opposes a restart and wants tighter scrutiny of San Onofre's license, contends Edison is trying to avoid a safety review and public hearing.

"The NRC must stand firm and demand a comprehensive license amendment process that includes all safety issues and the opportunity for a full public hearing," said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

Unit 2 is "a severely damaged reactor that is unsafe to operate," she alleged.

Also today, leaders of 23 environmental organizations sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, urging them to continue their regulatory oversight by requesting a comprehensive license amendment process for San Onofre by the NRC.

San Diego Gas & Electric owns 20 percent of the plant and receives one- fifth of the generated electricity.



Comment Profile ImageCandi
Comment #1 | Monday, Apr 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm
Unfortunately I have a friend that worked on the San Onofre plant and it is a time bomb waiting to go off. It is dangerous and probably is still leaking and puts us all at risk. Close it down before there is a terrible accident and nothing you can do about it.
Comment Profile ImageMJ
Comment #2 | Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm
There are thousands of people that have jobs there! You can't take their jobs away! Their parents and grandparents worked there.. they are entitled to those jobs.
Comment Continued : The comment above was written from the same location.
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Comment Profile ImageMJ
Comment #3 | Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm
Also notice in typical "expired" business acumen of the SCE president. 'We need to hurry this process "before the hottest months" come along'. Why, so another reactor can overheat again?? No thanks vote from me!
Comment Profile ImageNeed some specifics
Comment #4 | Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Candi, tell us in what capacity your friend worked at the plant and what information he has that would indicate it is dangerous or leaking. Without specifics, why should anybody believe what your friend has to say? They monitor the plant very carefully and if there was any leak or other dangerous situation they would immediately know about it and take the appropriate action. I too have friends that worked there in Operations and Management. They assure me that the plant is safe. Fear mongering does a great disservice to everybody. If your friend has some inside information, lets hear exactly what it is.
Comment Continued : The comment above was written from the same location.
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Comment Profile ImageNeed some specifics
Comment #5 | Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm
MJ, no reactor at SONGS has ever "overheated". The reason it is important to everybody to get the units operating before the hottest months is because those hot months are when people use the most power. There maybe energy shortages, power outages, and higher utility bills if these units are not restarted. Power outages and higher costs may not matter to you, but some people need reliable affordable power to keep their businesses operating.
Comment Profile ImageBill Hawkins
Comment #6 | Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm
Comparing Davis- Besse Nuclear Power Plant with San Onofre Unit 2

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station is a nuclear power plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. On March 5, 2002, maintenance workers discovered that corrosion had eaten a football-sized hole into the reactor vessel head of the Davis-Besse plant. Although the corrosion did not lead to an accident, this was considered to be a serious nuclear safety incident. Some observers have criticized the NRC’s Commission work as an example of regulatory capture [See Note 1] and the NRC has been accused of doing an inadequate job by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission kept Davis-Besse shut down until March 2004, so that First Energy was able to perform all the necessary maintenance for safe operations. The NRC imposed its largest fine ever—more than $5 million—against First Energy for the actions that led to the corrosion. The company paid an additional $28 million in fines under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The NRC closely monitored First Energy’s response and concluded in September 2009 that First Energy met the conditions of the 2004 order. From 2004 through 2009 the NRC reviewed 20 independent assessments conducted at the plant and verified the independent assessors’ credentials. The agency also conducted its own inspections and reviewed First Energy’s reactor vessel inspections conducted in early 2005. NRC inspectors paid particular attention to the order’s focus on safety culture and safety conscious work environment to ensure there were no new signs of weakness. The NRC task force concluded that the corrosion occurred for several reasons:
• NRC, Davis-Besse and the nuclear industry failed to adequately review, assess, and follow up on relevant operating experience at other nuclear power plants;
• Davis-Besse failed to ensure that plant safety issues received appropriate attention; and
• NRC failed to integrate available information in assessing Davis-Besse’s safety performance.

Southern California Edison wants to restart unsafe Unit 2 nuclear reactor at 70% power under false pretenses, just for profits, and as an unapproved risky experiment by subverting the NRC and Federal regulatory process. The true Root Cause (See Note 2) of the unprecedented tube-to-tube wear in Unit 3 has NOT been established, as required by NRC Confirmatory Letter Action 1 for restarting the defectively designed and degraded Unit 2. NRC has not even completed their review of Unit 2 Return to Service Reports, nor have they finished Special Unit 2 Tube Inspections, nor have they (publicly?)reviewed SCE’s Response to NRC’s Requests for Additional Information (RAIs). Now, SCE wants the NRC to approve a new shady License Amendment, undermining public safety and do it without the involvement of Public Safety Experts/Attorneys and Citizens/Ratepayers. After the review of the Mitsubishi Root Cause Evaluation and the Draft SCE License Amendment, it is crystal clear that the NRC needs to follow the example of their own enforcement at David Besse together with the lessons learned from Fukushima, when it comes to approving this new Shady License Amendment for restarting San Onofre Unit 2’s defectively designed and degraded replacement steam generators. In light of the unanticipated/unprecedented tube leakage at SONGS 3, the health and safety, along with the economic concerns/objections of 8.4 million Southern Californians’ MUST OVERRIDE and PREVENT the restarting of Unit 2at 70% or ANY power level. In a Democratic Society, truth must prevail over profit motivations, misleading propaganda of electricity service disruption and/or projected probabilistic temporary inconveniences to the public based on phony data, because America cannot afford a trillion dollar nuclear eco-disaster!

1: Regulatory capture occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can act as an encouragement for firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called "captured agencies".
2. Human performance errors resulting from the negative safety culture of production (profits) goals overriding public safety obligations.
Comment Profile ImageWhy, Why, Why?
Comment #7 | Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 1:10 am
We lived without it's contribution for the entire 2012 summer's peak power demands with no blackouts. It served it's purpose for decades and ran it's useful lifetime. Besides the corrupt power companies, it's suppliers and power brokers please tell me who wants this potential catastrophic disaster in their backyard? Why don't we ask a few Japanese folks what they would recommend?
Comment Profile ImageRedneck Bill
Comment #8 | Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm
I have gone from being very opposed to nuclear power to thinking it may be a reasonable element of an energy policy, and back to being stridently opposed.

Humans--us--learn by trial and error. I don't care how smart we think we are, there will always be something we didn't anticipate or foresee. It's one thing when that leads to your car being recalled, and quite another when there is a nuclear accident.

I'm certain very bright people designed the Fukushima power plant. I'm certain they spent hours and hours planning, checking and rechecking every conceivable problem that could occur. It's that one in a million that bites you when it comes to something as unforgiving as nuclear power.

The argument that jobs and businesses are on the line and we won't have enough power to meet our summer needs becomes moot when you realize that Fallbrook is 15 miles from San Onofre, and a Fukushima incident there would render the friendly village uninhabitable. Not to mention the immediate and longer term deaths it would cause.

I think the decision to restart the reactor is a serious mistake.
Comment Profile ImageConcerned Citizen
Comment #9 | Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 5:16 am
I agree with Redneck Bill. I am a Fallbrook resident and am fearful of a meltdown. Let us remember Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island. We owe it to our children to avoid obvious risk to their health and future and to avoid genetic defects from radiation. There are other safer methods to generate power now.
Comment Profile ImageBill Hawkins
Comment #10 | Monday, Apr 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm
Root Causes are defined as the basic reasons (e.g., hardware, process, or human performance) for a problem, which if corrected, will prevent recurrence of that problem.

MHI Root Cause: Insufficient programmatic requirement to assure effective AVB contact force to prevent in-plane fluid elastic instability and random vibration and subsequent wear under high localized thermal-hydraulic conditions (steam quality (void fraction), flow velocity and hydro-dynamic pressure).

Bill Hawkins Rebuttal: MHI Answer is Incorrect. Contact force is the force in which an object comes in contact with another object. Examples are pushing a car up a hill or kicking a ball or pushing a desk across a room are some of the everyday examples where contact forces are at work. In the first case the force is continuously applied by the person on the car, while in the second case the force is delivered in a short impulse. The most common instances of this include friction, normal force, and tension. According to forces, contact force may also be described as the push experienced when two objects are pressed together. The MHI designed AVBs had zero contact forces in Unit 3 to prevent in-plane fluid elastic instability and subsequent wear under high localized thermal-hydraulic conditions (steam quality (void fraction) and flow velocity). In-plane fluid elastic instability did not happen in Unit 2, so therefore double contact forces and better supports is conjecture. Refuted by indepth review of Dr. Pettigrew papers, Westinghouse, AREVA, John Large and earlier version of MHI Reports.

NRC AIT Team SCE Root Cause: The combination of unpredicted, adverse thermal hydraulic conditions and insufficient contact forces in the upper tube bundle caused a phenomenon called “fluid-elastic instability” which was a significant contributor to the tube to tube wear resulting in the tube leak. The team concluded that the differences in severity of the tube-to-tube wear between Unit 2 and Unit 3 may be related to the changes to the manufacturing/fabrication of the tubes and other components which may have resulted in increased clearance between the anti-vibration bars and the tubes; (3) Due to modeling errors, the SONGS replacement generators were not designed with adequate thermal hydraulic margin to preclude the onset of fluid-elastic instability.

Bill Hawkins Rebuttal: Answer is Incorrect as described above.

Bill Hawkins Possible Causes: Too many adverse Design Changes to produce more megawatts, Adverse Operational Parameters, and human performance (Lack of Critical Questioning & Investigative Attitude, Lack of Solid Teamwork & Alignment between SCE/MHI Team, Lack of Adequate research and Industry Benchmarking (e.g., NUREG-1841, Palo Verde, etc.) complacence, time pressure)

Bill Hawkins Root Cause: Nuclear Safety was compromised Lack of Critical Questioning & Investigative Attitude and undermined by Profits Motivations

Dr. Pettigrew’s Advise*: To prevent the adverse effects of fluid elastic instability and flow-induced random vibrations, need Solid Teamwork & Alignment between Designer & Manufacturer.

* World’s Foremost Renowned and Canadian Research Scientist Professeur Titulaire, Michel J. Pettigrew advise for the last 40 years in a 1976 address to the Canadian Atomic Energy Commission, “Most flow-induced vibration problems, which can be avoided provided that nuclear components are properly analysed at the design stage and that the analyses are supported by adequate testing and development work when required.” SCE/MHI AVB Design Team in 2005 rejected recommendations to reduce high void fractions, which caused fluid elastic instability in Unit 3. The recommendations were rejected by MHI/SCE Team, because it would have cut down the profits due to less electricity production, cost more money to implement changes, delayed the fabrication and installation process and Triggered a Lengthy NRC 10CFR 50.90 License Amendment and Public Hearing Process. SCE/MHI subverted intentionally the regulatory process. That is what Barbara Boxer was saying.

Here are more quotes from SONGS Insiders:

1. To the best of my recollection, the Root Cause Member told me that Unit 2 was running at higher pressures than Unit 3, that is why Unit 2 did not experience FEI. He had a 2006 paper with him published in 2006 by Dr. Pettigrew in his hand, which warned about the ineffectiveness of the flat bars to prevent fluid elastic instability. He was researching on curved bars, bars with springs, which could be attached to the tubes to prevent in-plane vibrations and repair the RSGs. What the Root Cause Member said matches with SONGS Procedures, Plant Briefing Sheets and NRC AIT Report Data.

2. The Root cause Team leader told to a friend of mine, “I wish that SCE engineers would have made these design changes one at a time and tested them instead of making all the changes at one time.”

3. One of the very highly placed SCE Manager and Corporate Emergency Director (Now retired) told me that all these changes were made without much thought and analysis, which consisted of the substitution of Inconel 690 for Inconel 600 as the tube material. Inconel 690 is more resistant to corrosion than Inconel 600. However, Inconel 690 has a thermal conductivity approximately 10% less than that of Inconel 600. The requirement that the SG’s thermal performance be maintained, in conjunction with maintaining a specified tube plugging margin, SCE told MHI for increasing the tube bundle heat transfer surface area from 105,000 ft2 to 116,100 ft2 (an 11% increase).

4. One of the very highly placed SCE Manager was shaking his head, when he told me, “I wish that SCE Engineers would have duplicated the Palo Verde Replacement Steam Generators and we would not be experiencing this embarrassing day. Combustion Engineering not only designed and replaced six Palo Verde steam generators with considerable improvements and higher thermal megawatt, but solved the problem with the original steam generators.” Please note that San Onofre and Palo Verde Original Steam Generators were designed and fabricated by Combustion Engineering, but Palo Verde steam generators are largest in the world. The Palo Verde Replacement Steam Generators are running fine for the last 10 years without any plugged tubes and San Onofre, everybody knows the story. Now the question is that SCE owns 20% of the share of the Palo Verde and how come SCE Engineers did not contact their counterparts – Answers in the Next Update

Article Comments are contributed by our readers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Fallbrook Village News staff. The name listed as the author for comments cannot be verified; Comment authors are not guaranteed to be who they claim they are.


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