NRC chief promises tough probe at Cal nuke plant

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DANA POINT, CALIF. (AP) - Following a tour of the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the plant will remain offline indefinitely until the cause of unusual tube wear in the plant’s steam generators is determined.

Gregory Jaczko promised a thorough probe of suspect tubing Friday and said there will have to be a “clear understanding” of the cause of the problem before either of the twin reactors is restarted.

The reactors at the plant located between San Diego and Los Angeles have been shut down for more than two months.

Jaczko says there is no timetable to restart the plants but left open the possibility that Unit 2 could be restarted more quickly.

He made his comments after a tour of the plant with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The twin reactors at the San Onofre nuclear plant have been sidelined, more than 300 tubes that carry radioactive water will be scrapped because of excessive wear, and investigators are trying to figure out why tubing is rattling inside the lungs of the plant _ its massive steam generators.

How sickly is San Onofre?

The chief of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will get a firsthand look Friday, at a time when some officials in nearby communities have been calling for the plant to shut down permanently because of safety concerns.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, joined by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will meet with plant managers and discuss the issues of the steam generators, where hundreds of tubes have shown unexpected wear, agency spokesman Victor Dricks said.

The visit to the seaside plant, located between San Diego and Los Angeles, comes 10 days after the NRC announced that San Onofre will remain dark until operator Southern California Edison fixes the widespread problem with tubing that carries radioactive water.

The high-profile trip also underscores the concern inside the federal agency tasked with ensuring the safe operation of the nation’s commercial nuclear industry.

SCE has assured its customers that the reactors will not be restarted until it is safe to do so, and no date has been set.

State energy officials have warned of rotating blackouts in the power-hungry region if a heat wave hits while the plants are offline _ San Onofre can power 1.4 million homes.

The troubles began to unfold in late January, when the Unit 3 reactor was shut down as a precaution after a tube break in one of the generators. Traces of radiation escaped, but officials said there was no danger to workers or neighbors.

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