Tag Archives: nuclear energy

San Onofre Nuclear Plant shut down for the summer – does Southern California still need it?

This summer may be just a test run for operating Southern California’s electrical grid without a nuclear plant.

The latest report on the outage at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shows the replacement of four massive steam generators was accompanied by serious design flaws, with no clear solution in sight.

Both stakeholders in San Onofre and critics of nuclear power say the start of a summer without the twin-reactor plant has forced a new accounting for its costs and benefits.

The utility industry and the state’s main grid operator are “considering a range of existing and new alternatives for mitigating the impacts of a long-term or permanent shutdown at San Onofre,” said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator.

At full tilt, San Onofre can produce enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes.

Yet the grid operator foresees only the remote chance of rolling outages during hot weather in the next three months — when San Onofre is needed the most.

 

Keep readingSan Onofre: Do we really need it?

 

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As Senator Boxer and City Council get involved, no word on source of radioactive steam leaking from San Onofre

Sen. Barbara Boxer has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a comprehensive review of the radiation leaks at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, to determine how widespread the problems might be.

In a letter, Boxer asked to NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo to “thoroughly assess” the conditions at San Onofre plant “to determine what further investigation and action is required at this time, and whether similar actions may be needed at other nuclear facilities.”

A staffer at the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee said the senator is concerned that the reported wear and tear on the unit’s piping, which is only two years old, might reflect broader problems at other plants across the country.

via UT San Diego

In an earlier post, I summarized the situation to-date:

There is also discussion that the Nuclear Commission is suffering from regulatory capture, which means that they are afraid to report any leaks.

This has led to a large amount of confusion in the public and so it’s great that San Clemente citizens are getting involved:

Residents worried about leaks from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station asked San Clemente’s elected leaders Tuesday night to have sensors installed around town to monitor radiation levels.

“We believe with recent events at the San Onofre Waste-Generating Station that it is necessary for the citizens’ safety and well-being to have a monitoring system,” San Clemente resident Gene Stone told the City Council.

Stone said an independent monitoring system would provide radiation readings so residents could tell how safe the atmosphere was at any given time. He also called for a study to identify cancer and leukemia risks in San Clemente, which is just over two miles up the coast from the nuclear plant’s two reactors.

“Edison may know what the radiation levels are, but they’ve told me that they won’t share those with the public,” San Clemente resident Donna Gilmore told the City Council. “I could go to the library and look at last year’s figures. Well, that’s not going to do me any good.”

Read the response from the Nuclear Company (Edison) and the City Council at OC Register

San Onofre Nuclear Plant shut down after leaking 82 gallons/day of radioactive steam

The NRC’s preliminary event report says plant operators estimated the steam leak at 82 gallons per day. That may sound like a lot but regulators consider it small compared to ruptures in steam tubes at other plants between 1975 and 2000 that vented as much as 630 gallons of radioactive steam per minute.

via OC Watchdog

I daresay that comparing leaks to other disastrous ones is not accurate. The NRC should be telling us how damaging the leak is.

Unfortunately, they resort to words like “minor” and “small” instead of saying something like, “it is in the upper atmosphere and shouldn’t be blowing into your home, if it is here are the signs to look out for…”

The nuclear industry has a very bad history when it comes to leaks, often lying and denying problems until they get worse. In fact, more than 75% of the 104 nuclear plants in the United States have leaked, prompting some to claim the NRC is stuck in regulatory capture. Which means that the regulators protect the companies and not the citizens.

With that in mind, we have to read between the lines to understand what is really happening.

At the plant, Unit 2 was already shut down as it is being upgraded. During inspection nearly one thousand tubes were found to be faulty and worn away.

According to the commission, more than a third of the wall had been worn away in two tubes, which will require them to be plugged and taken out of service. At least 20 percent of the tube wall was worn away in 69 other tubes, and in more than 800, the thinning was at least 10 percent.

via San Diego Union-Tribune

Then, in a possibly separate issue, Unit 3 reported an alarm because radioactive steam was being released into the atmosphere. That unit was promptly shut down within 2.5 hours.

An investigation is ongoing and the results will reported next week, according to the Science Report from Pat Brennan.

If these issues are serious than many millions of Southern Californians are in danger. The blast radius for the Fukushima meltdown was 50 miles, which puts San Diego and Los Angeles counties on the alert. Both are within that range.

A few state activists are keeping an eye on the situation, reports the LA Times. Which is good because there was another leak this past November, 2011, where non-radioactive ammonia was released into the atmosphere.

An ammonia leak prompted officials to declare a Level-Two emergency at the San Onofre nuclear power plant and evacuate some workers, officials said.

The leak posed no danger to the public, and no radiation was released during the emergency, said Lauren Bartlett, a spokeswoman for Southern California Edison.

via LA Times

And, sadly, we must also keep an eye on our newspapers. When they report a leak, evacuation, a level-two emergency, and then tell us everything is fine, we must be wary.

 

// Update: Feb 12, 2012, As Senator Boxer and City Council get involved, no word on source of radioactive steam leaking from San Onofre

Is the nuclear industry suffering from "regulatory capture"?

I was doing a little research on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when I found the following statement:

“Some observers have criticized the Commission as an example of regulatory capture

Just what does that mean?

In economics, regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests 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 large firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called “captured agencies”.

via Wikipedia

Sounds eerily similar to what happened with Wall Street and the housing market.

If you’re interested in learning more about how this can happen the NY Times has a great article on regulatory capture:

“The commission’s defenders often argue that it must be cautious because increased costs from safety requirements could kill the nuclear power industry. But the cost of generating electricity from existing plants is actually low: the construction expenses have been paid off and running them is relatively cheap. Requiring the operators of plants to install new safety systems would not result in them being shut down…”

 

Is the nuclear industry suffering from “regulatory capture”?

I was doing a little research on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when I found the following statement:

“Some observers have criticized the Commission as an example of regulatory capture

Just what does that mean?

In economics, regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests 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 large firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called “captured agencies”.

via Wikipedia

Sounds eerily similar to what happened with Wall Street and the housing market.

If you’re interested in learning more about how this can happen the NY Times has a great article on regulatory capture:

“The commission’s defenders often argue that it must be cautious because increased costs from safety requirements could kill the nuclear power industry. But the cost of generating electricity from existing plants is actually low: the construction expenses have been paid off and running them is relatively cheap. Requiring the operators of plants to install new safety systems would not result in them being shut down…”

 

Ginormous nuclear haul from California to Utah

Today the largest truck ever to travel in California transports a nuclear steam generator weighing 750,000 pounds to Utah. The 50 foot long turbine is classified as nuclear waste and is travelling on a truck with 192 tires to a nuclear waste dump in Utah.

The story of the journey is fascinating. A large police escort follows it the whole way. The truck can only travel 15 mph and is so long it can barely turn relying on six robotic pivot points every time. It has one powerful deisel pulling it and two trucks pushing it.

I’m inclined to try to find this truck and bear witness to the behemot (pic), but it’s travelling at night and hoping to avoid the public.

I just love it, there are so many different action adventures movies waiting to be written about it.

To learn more read the OC Register article: Giant nuclear parts: stealth ride to Utah.

The journey starts here in Orange County at my local nuclear power plant in San Onofre, where four new generators were recently installed. The plant is capable of producing 2,200 megawatts and powereing 1.6 million homes.

I’m quite certain that we get our power from a nuclear source which raises some concern for me. Not only do we live in earthquake territory with a nuclear reactor not that far away, but we also sit in a tsunami zone. I definitely need to do some research to see ow safe we are and what to do in the event of emergency.