CA Reactor Looks to Remove Fuel

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 @ 03:08 PM gHale

In another indication San Onofre nuclear power plant will not be operating at full capacity anytime soon, officials are preparing to empty the radioactive fuel from one of its twin reactors, a federal official said.

Tons of fuel inside the disabled Unit 3 reactor will move into storage in mid-September, said Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspector Gregory Warnick.

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The plant located between Los Angeles and San Diego has been shut down since January, after a break in a tube that carries radioactive water. Investigators later found unusual wear on scores of tubes inside the plant’s four steam generators, and Southern California Edison (SCE) has been trying for months to determine how to fix it.

Edison previously said it is focusing on repairing the Unit 2 reactor, which went offline earlier in January for maintenance, and “the Unit 3 reactor will not be operating for some time.”

Damage to the tubes in Unit 2 appears less widespread, but there’s no timetable for its possible restart.

Unit 3 “is clearly not the focus right now in terms of correcting the steam generator issues,” said Warnick, the NRC’s senior resident inspector at San Onofre. “Unit 3 is going to take more work.”

SCE spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said removing fuel from the unit “will best allow us to maintain the unit as testing, analysis and repair planning continue.”

Traces of radiation escaped at the time of Unit 3’s tube break, but officials said there was no danger to workers or neighbors. A three-month federal probe blamed a botched computer analysis for generator design flaws that ultimately resulted in excessive wear to alloy tubes.

About 7.4 million residents live within 50 miles of San Onofre, which can power 1.4 million homes.