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Leak at San Onofre Not Fault of Southern California Edison Says UCS

Overnight, we've seen a lot of breathless coverage about the steam generator leak that happened at San Onfre Generating Station on Tuesday, one that led to a story on the AP's national wire and another during the first segment of ABC's World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer on Wednesday evening.

What happened at San Onofre is a pretty typical operational event. If you don't believe us, feel free to ask David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Here's what he told one Southern California newspaper about the incident at San Onofre:
The "pinhole"-sized leak in a steam generator tube that caused a partial shutdown at the San Onofre nuclear plant Tuesday is something that is actually to be expected when a plant has new generators like San Onofre does, according to one expert.

San Onofre recently replaced its old generators.

Whenever generators are new or very old, leaks can occur, and engineers know to be alert for the problem, said David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Lochbaum said that as long as sensors detected the problem and the operators were prepared, "it's not the fault of [owner] Southern California Edison. It just happens" with new generators as they are being broken in.
If you want to know why our nation is having trouble devising a sound energy policy, you should know that the sensational coverage we've seen about San Onofre over the past 48 hours is a part of the reason.


donb said…
If we had reports like this of steam leaks at the nation's coal-fired power plants, our eyes would quickly glaze over, as this is a rather common occurrance. But since this is at a nuclear plant, it becomes 'big news' as reporters breathlessly comment on the problem.
Gene Stone said…
Releasing steam is one thing, releasing radioactive steam on a regular basis in a population area of over 8.5 million people is quite another. With the EPA rad system turned off and over 50 miles away from San Onofre when it is working, we have no idea of what was released yesterday and for how long. But we do to know the long-term effect of radiation on human beings, it is not good.

France's recent study of clusters of childhood leukemia around each of their nuclear power plants leads us to demand a epidemiology study in our area. It also calls for us to demand the city and county to form a radiation monitoring system of their own to keep the citizens informed. ROSE
Atomikrabbit said…
From the NRC Licensee Event Report:

"All control rods fully inserted on the trip. Decay heat is being removed thru the main steam bypass valves into the main condenser. Main feedwater is maintaining steam generator level. No relief valves lifted during the manual trip. The plant is in normal shutdown electrical lineup."

I doubt that anything even detectable was released, since they were able to use condenser steam dumps. But since radiation so easily detectable, even in amounts millions of times less than harmful, if even a trace were found they have to acknowledge it, or be called liars by the likes of Gene Stoner.

Meanwhile he blithely posts references to thoroughly refuted “studies” and no one has the cajones to step forward and sue him for libel. Here is the reality:
Brian Mays said…
If there's one thing that never fails to amaze me, it is how ridiculously uninformed "anti-nukes" like Gene here are. For example:

"France's recent study of clusters of childhood leukemia around each of their nuclear power plants leads us to demand a epidemiology study in our area."

An epidemiological study of populations near nuclear facilities is already underway and has been for well over a year. The last such large-scale study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health, found no increased risk of cancer for such populations after studying a wide variety of facilities, going back to the 1940's.

As for the French study, this is from the abstract:

"The results suggest a possible excess risk of AL [acute leukemia] in the close vicinity of French NPPs in 2002-2007. The absence of any association with the DBGZ [dose-based geographic zoning] may indicate that the association is not explained by NPP [nuclear power plant] gaseous discharges."

The French study is very weak evidence of anything -- just a couple of statistically significant results, out of many non-significant results reported in the paper, that merit some additional study. That's all.
Anonymous said…
While the leak that caused Unit 3 to shut down has no major safety significance, there is something wrong with the new steam generators at San Onofre.

Unit 2 is in an outage and the first of the steam generators they are inspecting has over 800 tubes that have more than 10% thinning. Two of the tubes have enough thinning to need to be plugged, and 69 tubes have thinning greater than 20% of the wall thickness. This is an indication that there may have been some significant problems with their feedwater chemistry control in Unit 2, and possibly in Unit 3 too.
Anonymous said…
"...he blithely posts references to thoroughly refuted “studies” and no one has the cajones to step forward and sue him for libel."

Yet another reminder for the constitutionally impaired: Simply posting a reference to a report is not libel. The first amendment is still in effect.

Also, Citizens United notwithstanding, a nuclear power plant is not a person and so can't be libelled. nor can an industry. \

If he claims company X did Y, and they did not, that could be libel. But you just want to sue because you don't like what's being said.
Anonymous said…
And for what it's worth, saying that someone is a "Stoner" (i.e., a marijuana smoker), with no proof (just to make fun of his name), is closer to being libelous than what Gene posted.
Brian Mays said…
"And for what it's worth, saying that someone is a 'Stoner' (i.e., a marijuana smoker), with no proof (just to make fun of his name), is closer to being libelous than what Gene posted."

Sure ... let's put Gene on the stand and have him swear, under oath, that he has never smoked pot. Should be fun!

This seems to me to be much ado over something that is arguably a one-character typo.
John Reynolds said…
Who's going to sue "anonymous" for libel? If you believed in what you were saying, you'd use your real name.
Anonymous said…
"If you believed in what you were saying, you'd use your real name."

My employer wants their name kept out of this stuff, so I'm constrained.

It's not a manhood issue, for crying out loud.

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