Tag Archives: san onofre

San Onofre nuclear plant update – one unit to turn on, another to stay off permanently

Yesterday Southern California Edison submitted plans to restart one of its two nuclear generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The other generator is being shut down permanently. Both units showed radioactive damage and required repairs.

Unit 2, the generator that will be turned on, had six tubes showing extreme decay, and 1,600 overall with some decay. Unit 3, which will remain shut down, had 381 showing extreme decay, and 1,800 with some decay. Edison reports that a team of independent experts inspected these repairs and approved the plan to turn on Unit 2. These plans were submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and are awaiting approval.

If accepted Unit 2 will run for five months at 70% power, and then turn off for “inspection of the steam generator tubes to ensure the continued structural integrity of the tubes, to measure tube wear and to confirm that the solutions are working.” At the same time, Edison plans to defuel Unit 3, which “refers to the carefully executed transfer of fuel from the reactor into the spent fuel pool in a strong, reinforced building where it is secure and constantly monitored.”

This is a “longer term outage mode” and there are no plans to bring it back online “in the near future”.

In a separate release from a review started two years ago, Edison plans to downsize the staff at SONGS by 730 employees, a 33% reduction. The press release said this was for achieving greater efficiencies like other nuclear plants. But there was also a mention of the financial losses at the plant due to the shutdown, and a reference to Unit 3 that “will not be operating for some time.”

There is a public meeting about this information scheduled for October 9 at 6pm in the St. Regis Hotel in Monarch Beach. There will also be a live stream of proceedings available at video.nrc.gov – starting one hour before the meeting. The official pdf notice of the meeting and a blog post with updates and comments.

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More information can be found at SongsCommunity.com and by following the SONGS twitter account.

 

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Future of clean energy in California – part renewable, part natural gas, and lots of changes

Living in California means power plants on the beach. It’s a fact of life driving up and down the coast. When you enter Los Angeles driving north there is a line of smokestacks so dense that some refer to it as “the apocalyptic city of the future.” Then as you enter San Diego driving south you pass along the “Betty Boop monument,” two giant domes with a small cap on top, which are the two nuclear generators of San Onofre.

They are all facing an uncertain future as California state law requires 33% renewable energy by 2020. Plus, an “upgrade law” which establishes higher standards for air pollution and environmental impact. That second law is the most far-reaching, and somewhat sneaky, because it directly attacks the existing power plants.

It forces all the existing plants to pay for expensive upgrades or be decommissioned, and many will be decommissioned.

As that happens you can see the future of energy in California start to take shape. 1 out of every 3 plants will be shut down and replaced by renewable energy. Another one-third will be upgraded, and the final third will be a mix. For Southern California that could mean nuclear energy, but it is more likely to be several lower-emission natural gas plants.

There is also a hope that renewable energy can take on up to half of the energy needs by 2020, but only time will tell.

To hit this point home, my local power plant, just a few miles away, is facing the decommission or upgrade dilemma. According to the owners, AES, the plant is a critical supplier in an ideal location so it won’t be shut down. The plant, a natural gas user, will be upgraded.

The plan they have put forward involves a much more modern set-up, including: replacing the industrial smokestack profile with an office building look, using air cooling instead of water (a big win for local ocean groups), much more efficient and powerful generators, quick start capabilities (from 12 hours to 10 minutes), and a reduced emission output.

For locals, like me, this is a partial win. We get rid of the ugly smokestacks and get cleaner energy, but still have a local plant giving off emissions and using fossil fuel.

The Orange County Register did a feature on what this change means for the community and the state – H.B. to lose landmark stacks for cleaner energy project

So, that image of driving along the California coast may soon change. Maybe those industrial smokestacks will turn into windmills, parks, or knowing how the state works, new million dollar homes.

 

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Final report issued on San Onofre Nuclear Plant – Edison not to blame, it was a Mitsubishi computer glitch

The final review of the radiation leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) has been completed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Among its findings are that Southern California Edison (SCE) responded appropriately to the issue, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a company based in Japan, is to blame. They found that Mitsubishi’s “faulty computer modeling” resulted in mismatched components that, after only a year, had worn down significantly.

The good news is that we caught this issue before a catastrophic problem occurred, hinting that the safety protocols from SCE were adequate. The bad news is that we were one computer glitch away from a national disaster.

The outcome of all this is uncertain. You can bet that SCE would like to restart SONGS to start making money again, and they can do so by completing the checklist in the NRC report. They have said publicly this will not be until at least September, probably longer, meanwhile the public is digesting this news and preparing a public hearing from the NRC.

Many are speculating that since the plant was not needed during the heavy-use summer days, maybe it is not needed at all. But, that ignores the fact that other power plants were operating above capacity to compensate. Either way something will need to change, whether it’s an acceptance of the restart of SONGS, a new plan to make normal the over-operation of natural gas plants, or some blended model that takes into account the renewable energy sources coming online in the next few years.

 

More on this…

NRC:

 

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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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Update on San Onofre Nuclear Plant – backup emergency generators also flawed

NRC OVERSIGHT HAS FAILED AT SAN ONOFRE

This letter was sent to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, with a copy to The Orange County Register:

Dear Chairman,

We were stunned to learn recently that for nearly three decades, the San Onofre nuclear reactors have been operating with inherently flawed backup emergency diesel generators, flaws that could have caused these generators to shut down as a result of a major earthquake. According to documents submitted to the NRC on May 14 of this year by Southern California Edison, the operator of the San Onofre plant, the effect of a major seismic event on the high-frequency sensors that would trigger the shutdown of the backup generators had not been analyzed. Upon discovering this issue, the sensors were immediately turned off, indicating significant safety concerns.

Allowing the San Onofre nuclear reactors, located directly next to major fault lines, to operate with such a fundamental safety issue unexamined for three decades is a dramatic failure on the part of the commission. The loss of both offsite and onsite power, or station blackout, is the very condition that led to the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi (Japan). As you are aware, the seismic vulnerability of nuclear reactors has become an even more urgent issue in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. We are well aware of your particular concerns in this area. Tuesday’s news underscores the need for immediate and urgent action.

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Edison delays investigation of San Onofre nuclear leak – local newspapers stop covering completely

March 2, 2012 – Southern California Edison (SCE) continues to perform extensive testing and inspections of the steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

“Nuclear safety is our top priority,” said Pete Dietrich, SCE senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. “Everything we do — from normal plant operations and routine refueling…”

Edison PR

I don’t want to be controversial, but this is starting to sound like a delay tactic. The leaking nuclear steam turbine was taken offline over two months ago with an investigation to follow. The initial word was that a report would be issued “the following week.”

After that deadline passed a few newspapers reported the delay. Then, Barbara Boxer, California’s Senator, issued a concerned letter and so did the local city council.

Still no results from the investigation.

Even the local newspapers, with readers in the fallout zone, have stopped reporting on it. The issue seems to be sliding into the rear view mirror, and perhaps that’s the way Edison wants it.

The leak has become much more serious than initially reported. Our local journalists (at the LA Times, OC Register, and San Diego UT) did us a disservice by simply reporting what Edison told them: the leak was tiny, no safety issues were posed, and Edison is doing everything right.

A line they still stick to (when they do cover it).

My own investigations turned up something different. First, the report to the NRC said that the first unit leaked up to 82 gallons/day of radioactive steam. Second, the sister unit had upwards of 1,000 pipes showing radiation damage. Third, there was another incident back in November with an ammonia leak.

Yeah, nothing to worry about here, Edison has it all under control. Two reactors turned off, one leaking, radiation damage, and ammonia problems.

It doesn’t help that Edison is purposely ambiguous in their statements. The only significant piece of information in the latest press release (linked above) is that some of the 1,000 pipes have been “plugged”. Which begs the question, were they leaking?

I understand these things are complicated but the longer the issue drags on the worse it seems to get. Edison isn’t becoming any more honest in their dealings with the public. The newspapers are continuing their anti-journalistic approach.

I have to wonder if the approach is to delay, wait until any public interest dies down, and then handle it their own way.

Stay tuned and remember that the nuclear industry has a very poor track record and may have no regulatory control.

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

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.