Utility calls assertions “not accurate”
By Jim Shilander
California Senator Barbara Boxer, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is calling for a new investigation of Southern California Edison based on information in a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries document that Boxer said indicated that Edison and Mitsubishi were aware of potential safety problems with the replacement steam generators at the plant.
Boxer, who signed the letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Allison Macfarlane with the ranking Democratic member on the House Natural Resources Committee, Ed Markey, wrote that documents in the “Root Cause Analysis Report for tube wear identified in the Unit 2 and Unit 3 Steam Generators of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station” document created by Mitsubishi, had indicated that the two companies rejected further safety modifications because “among the difficulties associated with the potential changes was the possibility that making them could impede the ability to justify the RSG (replacement steam generator) design.”
The letter further states that the report “also indicates that SCE’s and MHI’s decision to reject additional safety modifications contributed to the faulty steam generators and the shutdown of reactor units 2 and 3.”
The letter also asks the NRC to consider reviewing the information, and to take it into account before making a decision to allow Unit 2 to be restarted:
“This newly-obtained information concerns us greatly, and we urge the NRC to immediately conduct a thorough investigation into whether SCE and MHI did in fact fail to make needed safety enhancements to avoid the license amendment process… We believe this alarming report raises serious concerns about SCE’s and MHI’s past actions. Safety, not regulatory short cuts, must be the driving factor in the design of nuclear facilities, as well as NRC’s determination on whether Units 2 and 3 can be restarted.”
Southern California Edison spokesperson Jennifer Manfre issued a release Thursday morning stating that the letter’s assertions were “not accurate.”
“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,’” Manre 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. SCE, like other utilities seeking to replace its steam generators, sought to purchase replacement steam generators that would meet or improve upon the safety standards and performance of the original steam generators. SCE’s design specifications followed industry standards for compliance with NRC processes. In fact, SCE submitted two license amendments during the replacement steam generator review process, which the NRC approved.”
The NRC will provide an update to area residents on the status of the restart Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Capo Beach Church (formerly Capo Beach Calvary Chapel), 25975 Domingo Avenue in Capistrano Beach. The facility has seating for 1,100. The public will be able to ask questions of NRC staff and Edison concerning the inspection and technical evaluation activities.