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Hydrogen leak at San Onofre poses no risk, Edison says [Updated]

October 22, 2012 |  2:37 pm

Workers discovered a hydrogen leak in a pipe on the non-nuclear side of the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant over the weekend.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a non-emergency notice of the leak on Sunday, after plant operator Southern California Edison reported it. Edison also notified the California Emergency Management Agency and the San Diego Department of Environmental Health.

The company said in a statement that the leak was discovered near the turbine building in the plant's reactor Unit 2, during routine pipe maintenance.

The maintenance was unrelated to equipment testing that began last week in which a temporary boiler was used to produce steam in the non-nuclear portion of the unit.

The company said it will replace a pipe fitting to stop the leak and that, in the meantime, the hydrogen is dissipating in the air and "does not pose a safety risk to workers or the public."

[Updated Oct. 23, 2012 at 9:46 a.m.: Edison said the pipe fitting repairs were completed Monday afternoon].

San Onofre has been shut down since late January, when a steam generator tube in Unit 3 leaked a small amount of radioactive steam, leading to the discovery that many more tubes were wearing out more quickly than expected.

Edison submitted a plan for restarting Unit 2 -- the less heavily damaged of the reactors -- earlier this month, but is awaiting NRC review of the plan.

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission may vote to open an investigation into the outage, which could result in some or all of the costs of the plant being removed from customers' rates.


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Photo: A protest outside the darkened San Onofre nuclear plant earlier this year. Credit: Los Angeles Times