SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (AP) — Small steps are being taken to prepare for possibly restarting the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant, even as its future remains clouded with uncertainty, officials said Monday.
The seaside plant between San Diego and Los Angeles hasn't produced electricity in nearly a year, after a tiny radiation leak led to the discovery of excessive wear on hundreds of steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission senior inspector Greg Warnick said Monday that the agency is beginning to prepare a detailed plan of what would need to be done to bring the plant safely back to service.
Meanwhile, workers for Southern California Edison are visiting other plants this week to become familiar with working conditions after a year with San Onofre on the sidelines.
"The equipment isn't used to operating at power, but the people aren't used to it either," Warnick said.
Edison has asked the NRC for permission to restart one of the reactors, Unit 2, and run it at reduced power. A decision isn't expected until at least March.
NRC chair Allison Macfarlane toured the plant Monday and later told reporters she's "concerned about the situation."
The trouble at San Onofre centers on steam generators that were installed during a $670 million overhaul in 2009 and 2010. After the plant was shut down, tests found some generator tubes were so badly worn that they could fail and possibly release radiation, a stunning finding inside the nearly new equipment.
In effect, what was intended to be an upgrade that would extend the plant's operating life for years could instead cut it short — or even end it.
Macfarlane, who is not directly involved in the restart decision, promised a thorough review of Edison's proposal. She defended the agency against criticism that it was silencing the public's voice in the review.