Thursday, November 8, 2012

[SDCPJ] Top nuke official: Edison responsible for San Onofre problems

http://www.nctimes.com/blogsnew/business/energy/top-u-s-nuclear-official-edison-ultimately-responsible-for-san/article_cbb51ab6-77f8-535c-bd30-93f229fb5e73.html

The top U.S. nuclear safety official said Tuesday the operator of the idled San Onofre nuclear plant is ultimately responsible for the ensuring the quality of equipment and work provided by vendors and contractors.

Plant operator Southern California Edison has shut down San Onofre indefinitely as it grapples with the rapid degradation of replacement steam generators that were installed in 2010 and 2011.

Addressing nuclear industry executives in Atlanta, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane touched upon challenges at the idled San Onofre nuclear station and highlighted the responsibilities of the plant license holder.

"This obligation extends to the licensees' use of vendors and contractors," McFarlane said. "The licensee is ultimately responsible for the work done by their vendors and contractors to ensure they meet our quality assurance requirements."

Edison has billed replacement steam generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for $45 million in connection with the plant's nine-month outage, with costs for repairs, inspections and replacement power already exceeding $350 million.

After hiring Mitsubishi in 2004 to build and deliver four new generators, Edison audited the manufacturer's quality assurance program at facilities in Kobe, Japan. Edison repeatedly found issues associated with design control before acknowledging improvements in 2006, according to an inspection report published by the nuclear commission in July.

Edison has linked generator problems to faulty computer modeling in the design process and additional manufacturing issues. Mitsubishi has not revealed its own findings.

The nuclear commission is considering a proposal by Edison to restart the Unit 2 reactor at partial power for a five-month period before conducting further inspections.

The Unit 3 reactor appears to have more significant damage to its generators, where a tube sprung a leak on Jan. 31, prompting the shutdown. Steam generator tubes are a crucial barrier to the release of radioactive water that circulates through the reactor core. A tube rupture also can threaten the reactors cooling system.

State utility regulators opened an investigation in October into whether it is appropriate to continue billing Southern California electrical customers more than $1 billion a year for a plant no longer producing power.
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