by David Safier
In another cautionary tale about the nuclear energy industry, the San Onofre nuclear plant in southern California is closing. The reason is, steam generators installed recently had dangerous levels of damage to hundreds of tubes.
[T]ests found some generator tubes so badly eroded that they could fail and possibly release radiation, a startling finding for nearly new equipment.
Federal investigators last year concluded that a botched computer analysis resulted in design flaws that were largely to blame for the heavy tube wear. Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog group, said the mistake raises broad questions for an industry that regularly relies on computer tools.
This is the second time San Onofre reactors had to be mothballed. The first was in 1992, due to decaying generator tubes.
Of course, the owner of the plant, Southern California Edison, fought the closure. It's always worth taking a little risk with leaked radiation to keep the energy pumping out and the money rolling in. With the shutdown a done deal, Edison is planning to sue Mistubishi, which designed the reactor. Consumer groups are asking for a refund to users that could total $1.3 billion. Whatever the financial outcome, the 8 million people who live within 50 miles of the plant (between L.A. and San Diego) can breathe a little easier.