Nuclear, Reactors

UPDATE: Regulators to discuss shutdown nuclear power plant during meeting

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Sept. 13 said it will hold a public meeting on Oct. 9 to discuss the status of the shutdown, 2,200 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) near San Clemente, Calif., and respond to questions about current plant issues.

“We want to provide members of the public with an opportunity to get their questions answered on a broad range of topics related to San Onofre,” said Region IV Administrator Elmo E. Collins.

Southern California Edison (SCE) operators shut down Unit 3 on Jan. 31 after a tube leak in one steam generator was identified. Unit 2 had been shut down for a scheduled maintenance outage. Both reactors have remained shut down. In a July 19 report, the NRC said faulty computer modeling that inadequately predicted conditions in steam generators at SONGS and manufacturing issues contributed to excessive wear of the components.

The first part of the Oct. 9 meeting will be a facilitated roundtable discussion on topics of significant public interest. The second part of the meeting will be a question and answer session between the NRC and the public on topics related to SONGS and the NRC’s regulatory process.

During a Sept. 12 hearing on nuclear safety held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, California Senator Barbara Boxer (D) asked the NRC for an update on the progress at SONGS.

“I am pleased that the NRC has undertaken an investigation regarding the problems at San Onofre,” said Boxer. “Today, I want to make certain that the Commission continues to pay serious attention to this nuclear facility.”

In August, SCE, a subsidiary of Edison International (NYSE: EIX), said it would be cutting 730 jobs at SONGS. During that announcement, SCE also said the steam generator issues at SONGS also require that SCE be prudent with its future spending while SCE and regulators review the long-term viability of the nuclear plant.

“The reality is that the Unit 3 reactor will not be operating for some time,” the utility said.

The California Independent System Operator Corporation (Cal ISO) on Sept. 13 said is taking steps to prepare for the summer of 2013 should Southern California remain without the generation from SONGS.

Cal ISO said topping the list of recommended mitigation actions is converting Huntington Beach units 3 and 4 into synchronous condensers. The units were brought back into service this year to fill the void left by the nuclear plant shutdown. However, the air emission credits expire at the end of October. As synchronous condensers, the Huntington Beach units do not produce electricity and, therefore, no air emissions credits are required. The these units would not require cooling water from the ocean and therefore will comply with new once-through cooling restrictions.

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