Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hopes dim for restart of San Onofre Unit 3

Layoffs equal to the staff of a nuclear reactor and removal of fuel from Unit 3 are troubling signposts for the future of the power station

Steam generator problems that have kept both Units 2 & 3 offline since last January played a role in two new sets of consequences in August. Southern California Edison (SCE), which owns and operates the twin 1,100 MW nuclear reactors, said it was eliminating 730 jobs by the end of 2012.

Also, the utility said it was removing the fuel from Unit 3 which indicates it may be some time before it restarts if ever.

In a statement, SCE said, "The steam generator issues at the plant require that SCE be prudent with its future spending while SCE and regulators review the long term viability of the plant."

The layoffs may have been coming for some time as SCE previously address plans for staff reductions in its rate case processes with state regulators. The size of the layoffs amount, in terms of numbers, if not skill mix, amount to the staffing needed to run a reactor the size of Unit 3. Steam generator problems there are much more serious that at Unit 2.

SCE said it would address skill mix issues, and a new organizational structure, by October. The utility also claims that the layoffs are needed to align the power station's costs with other dual reactor power stations. The layoffs will reduce staffing to a workforce of about 1,500 people.

The anticipated loss of the payroll earnings associated with over 700 high wage earners got a lot of attention in southern California. The biggest impact will be in the San Diego area.

SONGS pulls fuel from Unit 3

In late August SCE said it would begin to remove the fuel from Unit 3, a clear sign that restart of the plant is a more distant prospect. The utility said it is working on repairs to Unit 2 but that "Unit 3 will not be operating for some time."

NRC's senior resident inspector Gregory Warnick told the Associated Press Aug 27 that "Unit 3 is going to take more work."

A technical analysis of the steam generator problems revealed that computerized design errors by Mitsubishi, which manufactured the units, was a leading contributing factor in the early failure of hundreds of steam tubes. It's not clear how much steam can be pushed through the units without the risk of further premature damage. SCE has plugged hundreds of tubes which have excessive wear, but the total number is still below the level which would degrade the overall performance of the units.

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2 comments:

SteveK9 said...

Order new generators. Sue Mitsusbishi.

Jack Keeling said...

The plant is dead. California has shown it can get along without it this summer, and California is California. I know; I was at Rancho Seco 1985 - 1988.