By Jim Shilander
The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent word Friday to California Senator Barbara Boxer that the NRC was conducting an investigation into the documents provided by Southern California Edison related to the steam generators at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
That investigation included an investigation of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries report cited by Boxer last week in a letter to the NRC, along with other evidence, Macfarlane stated. The investigation began September 28. Macfarlane wrote that the NRC’s staff would be evaluating that report in context of its review of the process that lead to the replacement of the steam generators in Units 2 and 3 at SONGS.
Boxer, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment Public Works wrote in her letter Wednesday (which was cosigned by Ed Markey, the ranking Democratic member of the House Natural resources Committee) that passages 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.”
Boxer’s letter further stated 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 Mitsubishi document has not been released to the public, as it contains proprietary information.
The initial letter asked 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.”
In response to Macfarlane’s letter, Markey said the NRC should put off any decision on Edison’s re-start plan for Unit 2 until it completed the investigation.
“Our nuclear safety officials should now postpone any decision on the re-start of the reactors until this critical investigation is complete,” Markey stated in a news release.
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. The investigation into the documents is not on the agenda for discussion.