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San Onofre: Edison denies it was aware of plant defects

February 7, 2013 | 11:29 am

Surfers riding waves at Trestles with the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant in background. Credit:  Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.

Southern California Edison, the operator of the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant, pushed back against two lawmakers who said that the utility company was aware of defects in the plant's replacement steam generators before installing them.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday saying that a leaked report from steam generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries showed that Edison and Mitsubishi knew of problems with the design and "rejected enhanced safety modifications and avoided triggering a more rigorous license amendment and safety review process."

Edison responded in a statement just after midnight Thursday denying the allegations:

"It is simply not accurate to suggest, as the letter does, that when they were installed 'SCE and MHI were aware of serious problems with the design of San Onofre nuclear plant’s steam generators,'" the company wrote.

"Indeed, MHI, the manufacturer of the steam generators, warranted the steam generators to be free from defects for 20 years after installation. SCE would never, and did not, install steam generators that it believed would not perform safely."

The plant has been shut down for just over a year because of unusual wear on steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water. One tube leaked in January 2012, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam.

The Mitsubishi report referenced in Boxer and Markey's letter so far has not been released publicly. The lawmakers did not specify what changes Edison and Mitsubishi had chosen not to make.

Representatives of both companies, as well as of several consultants involved in the investigation of San Onofre's issues, were slated to speak to the full NRC commission Thursday.

The meeting, which was scheduled prior to Boxer's letter, will be the first time since the plant's shutdown that the full commission will have the opportunity to question Edison directly.

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-- Abby Sewell

Photo: Surfers riding waves at Trestles with the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant in background. Credit:  Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

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