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Worn tubes found San Onofre nuclear facility after leak

February 2, 2012 |  3:39 pm

Regulators find worn tubes at San Onofre nuclear power plant
Nuclear regulation officials said Thursday that extensive wear had been found on the tubes inside a unit at the San Onofre nuclear plant, where another unit was placed off-line after a leak earlier this week.

Dozens of relatively new tubes that carry radioactive water in a steam generator showed "many, many years" worth of wear, even though the tubing is 22 months old, said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nearly 70 tubes, made from a metal alloy and formed into a U-shape, had 20% of their interior lining worn off, while hundreds more had 10% of the lining deteriorated. More than 9,000 tubes are in the generator.

Dricks said that some of the tubes will require repair, while others will probably have to be replaced.

But officials for Southern California Edison, which operates the facility and is a majority owner, say it's too premature to make any determination, and that continued tests will be conducted. The unit was off-line for a scheduled maintenance period of several months for technology upgrades and fuel replacement, said Gil Alexander, an Edison spokesman.

It is unclear why the tubes are showing so much wear.

The commission's findings come on the heels of a leak in a tube Tuesday, prompting operators to shut down a reactor. However, officials said it was a miniscule amount of radiation that did not endanger the public.


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Photo: Regulators found worn tubes at San Onofre nuclear facility, where another unit was placed offline after a leak on Tuesday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times