U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman to tour San Onofre
The chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory B. Jaczko, will be touring the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant Friday along with congressional members who include California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).
The plant has been out of commission for the past two months, since officials discovered unusual wear in tubes that carry radioactive water in the plant's two working reactor units. The tubes were installed in the last two years as part of a $671 million replacement of the plant's steam generators.
The plant has been down since Jan. 31, when a steam generator tube sprung a leak, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam. Plant operator Southern California Edison conducted pressure tests of 129 tubes in the Unit 3 reactor. Eight tubes failed pressure tests. An additional 192 tubes in the Unit 2 reactor were taken out of commission because they displayed unusual wear.
Commission inspectors have been on site conducting inspections and analysis since March 19. The commission issued a letter last week that outlines a series of steps Edison has agreed to take to address the problem and prohibits Edison from bringing either unit back into service until the cause of the wear is understood and addressed.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks said Jaczko will be meeting with some of the plant's managers on Friday and looking at some of the "key equipment," including the steam generators.
Dricks said he could not confirm who would be accompanying the chairman on the trip. Aides confirmed that Feinstein and Issa would be present, along with a staffer from Sen. Barbara Boxer's Washington office.
The prospect of the plant remaining out of service through the summer has had energy officials scrambling to come up with contingency plans to avoid power outages in Southern California.
Meanwhile, a group of environmental organizations launched a TV ad accusing Edison of trying to cover up defects in the plant's equipment and restart the reactors before it's safe to do so.
Jaczko has agreed to meet with "concerned, local organizations" in San Clemente after his tour of the plant, according to a statement put out by the nuclear watchdog Friends of the Earth, which financed the TV ads, and local advocacy group San Clemente Green.
-- Abby Sewell