| LAGUNA HILLS, Calif.
LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. Nov 30 Southern California
Edison officials faced tough questions from the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission on Friday at a packed public meeting
during which the utility laid out its case to restart the
damaged San Onofre nuclear power plant.
San Onofre, which sits on the Southern California coast
halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, has been closed since
January after workers discovered a small radioactive steam leak
at one of its two reactors that indicated accelerated
degradation of tubes in the plant's new steam generators.
The cost of the prolonged outage to Edison has topped $317
million in repairs, purchase of replacement power and other
After months of inspections, the plant's majority owner last
month submitted its plan to restart its Unit 2 reactor at 70
percent power for five months. The leak occurred in the Unit 3
reactor, which is shut down indefinitely.
Separately, the utility said this week it found indications
of potential tampering with an emergency diesel generator. It
has beefed up security at the plant and is continuing to probe
Edison's efforts to restart the reactor faced vocal
opposition from environmental groups and local residents, who
said the plan was an experiment that could endanger 8 million
people living nearby.
Several activists gathered at the meeting before it started,
chanting "No restart, shut it down". Local Buddhist monks began
a seven-day fast in support of a permanent closing of the plant.
Some of them also attended Friday's meeting.
The meeting, which took place at a hotel ballroom in Laguna
Hills, near the San Onofre plant, was the first opportunity for
the utility to discuss its plan to restart Unit 2 with NRC
Most of the three-and-a-half hour meeting was taken up by
Southern California Edison's presentation of its investigation
into the leak and subsequent repairs. A top San Onofre engineer,
Thomas Palmisano, argued that operating the plant at reduced
power would prevent the excessive vibration that caused the
steam generator tubes to bump up against one another, wearing
The company has also plugged hundreds of tubes that showed
signs of wear, and hundreds more out of caution, he said.
Palmisano argued that tube wear was far more extensive at
the Unit 3 steam generator, which operated for just 11 months.
Unit 2, which the utility proposed to restart, had less damage
despite its steam generator being operated for twice as long as
that of Unit 3, he said.
Edison has said that a complete replacement of the steam
generators, which were manufactured by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy
Industries, would take years.
NRC officials probed Palmisano and other Southern California
Edison representatives on various technical matters throughout
the presentation. Art Howell, the NRC's team manager on San
Onofre, said at the conclusion of the meeting that the agency
would review Southern California Edison's analyses and modeling
to determine whether the power plant could be safely operated.
Members of the public were also given a chance to speak.
Many referenced last year's meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear
plant in Japan in calling for San Onofre to be decomissioned.
San Onofre is 78 percent-owned by Southern California
Edison, a unit of Edison International. The remainder is
held by San Diego Gas & Electric, which is a unit of Sempra
Energy, and the city of Riverside.
It is the biggest power plant in Southern California, and
its closure forced the state grid operator to take steps to
bolster power supplies during the summer when customers use air
conditioning to escape the heat.