NRC chair: No timetable for Cal nuke plant restart

Associated Press Modified: May 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm •  Published: May 7, 2012
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday there is no timetable for restarting the sidelined San Onofre nuclear plant on the Southern California coast, where investigators are trying to determine the cause of unusual wear on hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

The statement from Chairman Gregory Jaczko came just days after a senior executive for Southern California Edison disclosed that the company was hoping for a possible June restart. The twin-reactor plant, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, has been offline for more than three months.

The integrity of complex machinery inside the seaside plant has come under close scrutiny since investigators found that tubing that snakes through massive steam generators eroded at an unexpected rate, in some cases rapidly.

Jaczko said the federal agency is waiting for documentation on repairs and other work at the plant and "any discussion of a date for the restart ... is clearly premature."

"We will take whatever time is necessary to conduct a thorough safety review," he added.

A restart would require federal approval.

Last week, Edison executive vice president Stephen Pickett said the company was looking at the possible June restart for at least one of the ailing reactors. The company is drafting a plan under which the reactors would run at reduced power, at least for several months, because engineers believe that will solve a problem with vibration that the company believes has been causing unusual wear in the alloy tubing.

When Jaczko visited the plant in April, he said there must be a clear understanding of the cause of the excessive tube wear before either reactor returns to service.

Ted Craver, chairman of SCE parent Edison International, told investors in a phone call last week that unusual wear was found in about 1 percent of nearly 39,000 tubes in the steam generators.

Costs related to the long-running shutdown could climb over $100 million, company officials say, and state officials have warned about possible rotating blackouts in Southern California while the reactors are offline.

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