Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) have sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requesting an immediate investigation into new information they claim reveals the operators of the San Onofre nuclear power station were aware of problems with the design of the plant’s replacement steam generators before they were installed.
According to the letter, Southern California Edison (SCE) (NYSE:EIX) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) were aware of problems with the plant’s replacement steam generators and rejected enhanced safety modifications to avoid a more rigorous license amendment and safety review process.
“This newly-obtained information concerns us greatly, and we urge the NRC to immediately conduct a thorough investigation into whether SCE and MHI did in fact fail to make needed safety enhancements to avoid the license amendment process,” read the letter addressed to NRC Chairman Dr. Allison Macfarlane.
In January 2012, operators at the 2,200 MW San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown the Unit 3 reactor after a tube leak in a steam generator was identified. Further inspections revealed the cause of the leak was excessive tube wear, which was also then identified at the station’s Unit 2 reactor.
In June 2012, SCE said extensive testing had determined the cause of the unexpected tube-to-tube wear was “fluid elastic instability” or excessive tube vibration. Both units have remained offline while SCE and the NRC have been addressing the issue through a formal safety review process.
SCE issued a statement in response the accusations flatly denying it had knowledge of flaws with the steam generators at San Onofre before they were installed.
“SCE would never, and did not, install steam generators that it believed would not perform safely,” the company said.
The NRC has said it will consider all information provided in determining the restart of the San Onofre units.
Source: Penn Energy