San Onofre reactor shuts down for repairs
By: PAUL SISSON – Staff Writer NORTH COUNTY TIMES
| Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 12:00 am |
SAN ONOFRE – The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shut down this weekend to fix a leaking valve, according to officials at Southern California Edison and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Officials said the valve, which was leaking hydraulic fluid, is one of several used to vent steam from the plant’s Unit 2 reactor in the event of an unplanned shut down.
“If there was a problem, this valve would dump the steam to relieve the pressure,” said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Steven Conroy, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, San Onofre’s majority owner and operator, said Monday that plant engineers detected hydraulic fluid leaking from one of the valves and decided to shut the plant’s “Unit 2″ reactor down over the weekend in order to make repairs.
“The repairs were completed and the unit was returned to service late Sunday,” Conroy said.
Some in the anti-nuclear community viewed the shutdown not as preventive maintenance, but rather as further evidence that San Onofre is showing its age.
Rochelle Becker, a founding member of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, said Monday that San Onofre’s twin reactors, which produce enough electricity to power 1 million homes, continue to require repairs that should not be necessary for a plant midway through its operating life.
“These are all components that are guaranteed to last the life of the plant,” Becker said. “But the license does not run out until 2022.”
The plant has suffered much larger expenses than a leaky valve. Edison is midway through replacing the “steam generators” in both of its two operating reactors at a cost that exceeds $600 million.
The generators, which act like a car’s radiator, contain thousands of tiny tubes which have begun to crack over time. Replacing the towering structures will require cutting holes in the sides of both reactor containment domes, a maneuver which Edison insists is safe and which the Alliance describes as pure folly.
Usually, when a San Onofre reactor shuts down, Edison issues a “event notification report” that explains why. But no such report was issued or posted on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Web site. Dricks said no report was issued because the shutdown was planned.
“They had scheduled the shutdown a week before, and no event notification report was required,” Dricks said.
Becker was not buying the explanation. She said the public deserves to be notified of any shutdown before it happens.
“Whether there were plans or not, there should have been a notice that said ‘We have a leak and we are going to fix it at such and such a time,’” Becker said.
Posted in Local on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 12:00 am Updated: 7:12 pm.