Critics Renew Calls To Keep San Onofre Offline

Reactors At San Onofre Nuclear Plant Shut Down In January

The controversy regarding whether to restart the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is heating up.

 

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It comes down to questions of safety and cost. Critics said the potential danger of restarting the plant is too high and that the risk to communities up and down the coast is too great.

"If Edison tries to restart a reactor that is heavily damaged without having fixed the underlying problems, it places us all at risk," said UC Santa Cruz professor Daniel Hirsch.

San Onofre's two active reactors were both shut down in January. One was shut down for planned repairs while the other was shut down abruptly on Jan. 31, when a faulty piece of equipment leaked a small amount of radioactive steam. The leak led to the discovery that many more cooling tubes were wearing out more quickly than expected.

The plant has been offline ever since. Hirsch said for the safety of 8.5 million Southern Californians that live within 50 miles of the plant, it should stay that way.

"San Onofre is unreliable," said Hirsch. "Its viability is in question and if the governor and other elected officials don't start putting in place the renewables, the lights going off in this region will be at their doorstep."

San Diego State University professor Murray Jennex used to work for Edison and is familiar with San Onofre's design.

"I would say that's actually... that's just not the way to look at it," he said.

After months of evaluation, Jennex said engineers have figured out what went wrong with steam generators and cooling tubes at the plant.

"They're going to change the operating parameters to fit within the parameters that the steam generator was actually designed to operate at so it will be just as safe as any other component," he said.

However, Hirsch said there is another problem and that has to do with the agency that oversees San Onofre.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is arguably the most captured regulatory agency in the federal government, meaning it is captured by the industry it's supposed to regulate," said Hirsch.

Jennex said, "I've dealt with the NRC for many, many years when I was with SCEĀ… I could never say they were doing what I wanted them to do."

Southern California Edison is expected to request the restart of one of San Onofre's reactors within the coming months.

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