The San Onofre nuclear power plant will remain shut down until there can be a definitive answer found as to why there are problems with two of the plant’s generators. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) said on Friday that there is no timetable as to when the nuclear power plant might resume operations. Instead, there were explicit conditions as to what must happen before the plant is brought back up and running.
Gregory Jaczko, who is the chairman of the USNRC, said that the plant was shut down last winter after there was a leak of radioactive gas from one of the steam generators. There was no way for regulators to determine how much gas had leaked out, but they did not believe there was any threat to the public.
The gas leak was caused by a water leak in a tube that carries water through the steam generators from the reactor’s core.
The owner of the plant, Southern California Edison, recently replaced the generators in the last two years. The replacement of those generators was part of a massive $680 million project. The generators are 65 feet tall and weigh 640 tons. They were built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan and each one has thousands of tubes inside that carry water from the nuclear reactors. The tubes are constantly rubbing against each other and vibrating, which is often what causes the water leaks. One of the generators had more than 9,700 tubes in it and eight of those tubes failed pressure testing. There were 186 tubes in another generator that had to be plugged for leaks.
The two reactors at the San Onofre plant are the largest source of electricity in Southern California. However, one of the founders of San Clemente Green, which is an anti-nuclear activist group, said that if the nuclear power plant was allowed to reopen with ensuring that the problems had been dealt with, there could be a nuclear accident like the one in Japan last year.