San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
May 28, 2013, 10:52 p.m.

A letter from a Southern California Edison executive shows the company became concerned about the potential for serious design flaws in replacement steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear plant as early as 2004.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who released the letter Tuesday, said it showed that Edison misled regulators about the extent of differences between the old and new generators and said she will ask the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s office of investigations and office of inspector general are already investigating whether there was any wrongdoing by Edison.

The plant was shut down more than a year ago after a steam generator tube sprang a leak and released a small amount of radioactive steam. That led to the discovery that the tubes in the generators — installed in 2010 and 2011 — were wearing down at a rapid rate.

Tube wear has been an ongoing issue in the nuclear industry, but the type and extent of wear found at San Onofre was an anomaly.

Boxer pointed to a section in the November 2004 letter written to steam generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries by Edison Vice President Dwight E. Nunn that says, “although the old and new steam generators will be similar in many respects, they aren’t like-for-like replacements.”

“That is extremely disturbing that [Edison] would do a self-certification that this was like for like when it wasn’t,” Boxer said in a phone conference with reporters Tuesday. “I don’t have confidence in Southern California Edison, given what I now know.”

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