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730 jobs cut at troubled San Onofre nuclear plant

August 20, 2012 |  7:44 pm

San Onofre nuclear power plant

Southern California Edison announced plans Monday to cut nearly one-third of its workforce at the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant.

The cut of about 730 employees will bring the plant’s staffing down to 1,500, with a plan for the cuts to be completed later this year.

Edison had begun plans to downsize more than two years ago, after concluding that San Onofre’s staffing and costs were “significantly higher” than at other similar nuclear plants, the company said in a statement. The cuts were in the works before equipment issues forced a complete shutdown of the plant Jan. 31, which has now stretched on for more than six months with no clear end in sight.

Jennifer Manfre, a spokeswoman for Edison, said that the plant’s recent troubles had influenced the decision on the number of jobs to be cut.

“It was prudent to look at the current situation,” she said.

In a statement, Edison said, “The steam generator issues at SONGS also require that SCE be prudent with its future spending while SCE and regulators review the long-term viability of the nuclear plant. The reality is that the Unit 3 reactor will not be operating for some time.”

Company officials have said that they hope to submit a restart plan for Unit 2 by the end of the year, but have given up on making any projections as to if or when Unit 3 might return to service. The plant has been shuttered because of excessive wear on hundreds of steam generator tubes. The plant’s shutdown was triggered when one tube leaked, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam into the atmosphere.

San Onofre’s full work force had been on duty during the outage to assist with testing and repairs – including plugging 1,301 tubes to take them out of service. That activity has now abated.

Manfre said a final staffing plan, which will outline which jobs are to be eliminated, will be finalized by the end of October. She said it was too early to determine whether some workers would be hired back if and when the plant returns to service.

Employee union representatives could not be immediately reached for comment.

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--Abby Sewell

Photo: San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. Credit: Los Angeles Times