San Onofre Crisis Update: New Analysis Details Specific Design Changes Likely Behind Dangerous Reactor Equipment Degradation

by on April 15, 2012 · 1 comment

in California, Energy, Environment, Health, Popular, San Diego

Protest at San Onofre, March 11, 2012. Photo by Frank Gormlie.

New Analysis Comes Following Grudging Edison Admission That Reactors 2 and 3 Face Same Dangerous Issues

By ROSE / April 12, 2012

A follow-up analysis released today by one of the nation’s leading independent nuclear engineers provides the first detailed picture of the extent of design changes made by Southern California Edison at its San Onofre nuclear reactors. These changes likely led to the equipment degradation and failure that has forced the reactors offline, pending a thorough and comprehensive investigation.

The study by Arnie Gundersen and Fairewinds Associates is the second in a series commissioned by nuclear watchdog Friends of the Earth. It is available online here.

For weeks Southern California Edison has been trying to draw distinctions between the situation at the two reactors, but late yesterday admitted that Unit 2 showed “additional minor tube wear” that was “similar to the type of wear that was seen in Unit 3, but at a very low level.” The study confirms that Units 2 and 3 have identical specifications and were subject to identical operating conditions.

“Southern California Edison continues to try to downplay the issue, even as they finally admit the truth – there is no difference between reactors 2 and 3 and they have the same problems,” said Shaun Burnie nuclear specialist to Friends of the Earth.

“This whole crisis arose because of substantive changes made in the design and fabrication of key equipment installed in both reactors. The NRC has to date adopted the Edison position that there is a difference between reactors 2 and 3. That was always wrong and irresponsible and now we have confirmation from Edison about what our analysis has been saying for weeks. Here’s a tip: when your nuclear reactor is springing leaks and radioactive pipes are deteriorating twenty times faster than they should, it’s a big deal, and no amount of nuclear spin by Edison or the NRC can hide that fact,” said Burnie.

The new analysis is based on a review of Southern California Edison and nuclear industry documents. It found a series of cascading major design changes leading to failure, specifically:

  •  The redesign crammed almost 400 additional tubes into the generator.
  • These additional tubes required additional holes be drilled in the “tubesheet,” the critical radiation barrier that serves as an enormous foundation supporting the entire generator.
  • Making room for these additional tubes required the removal of the critical supporting “stay cylinder,” which is designed to secure the generator and prevent vibration – exactly the kind of vibration that seems to be behind the tube degradation.
  • All of these changes necessitated pressure and flow changes in the generator’s operation.

The report notes that these dramatic changes were all portrayed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as an exact replacement of the original steam generators. The original generators lasted over 20 years, while the new ones were falling apart after 20 months. The report also found no difference between Units 2 and 3.

“In Fairewinds’ opinion, the vibration between the tubes caused the steam generator leaks and degradation…and was due to the simultaneous implementation of numerous unreviewed fabrication and design changes to the replacement steam generators by Edison/MHI. The NRC can no longer justify its position of treating the problems at the reactors as separate. A root cause analysis of both reactors – not just unit 3 was always necessary – and now Edison has provided the evidence as to why,” author of the report Arnie Gundersen stated.

Gundersen is 40-year veteran of the nuclear power industry. A former nuclear industry senior vice president, he earned his Bachelor and Master Degrees in nuclear engineering, holds a nuclear safety patent, and was a licensed reactor operator. During his nuclear industry career, Gundersen managed and coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the country.

Friends of the Earth and local citizens’ groups released a new ad campaign last week targeting Southern California Edison. The ad calls on citizens to let the utility know that their families come first – and that they must not restart the troubled San Onofre nuclear reactors currently facing serious questions about safety and secrecy. The citizens’ groups include Citizens Oversight Projects, Committee to Bridge the Gap, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles, Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE), San Clemente Green,, and the Peace Resource Center of San Diego.

The ad can be viewed online here.

ROSE is Residents Organized for a Safer Environment


Sunday, April 29, 2012

1:00pm until 3:00pm

 Three Mile Island! Chernobyl! Fukushima! San Onofre?

 How much more evidence do we need?

 The time is now! Now that SONGS is closed down, YOU AND ONLY YOU CAN KEEP IT CLOSED FOREVER!

 Join us Sunday, April 29, 1-3 p.m. San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, San Clemente, CA!

 Protest the Continued Risky and Costly Operation of San Onofre Nuclear Waste Plant and Commemorate:

26th Anniversary of Continued Chernobyl Meltdown (April 26, 1986)

33rd Anniversary of the Three-Mile Island Disaster (March 28, 1979)

Recognition of the Continuing Fukushima Meltdown (March ll, 2011)

And Stand for Permanent Decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS)

 The No Nukes Express Bus will roll again! Reserve your space now and this time make sure to bring another one, two or three persons with you.

PLEASE EMAIL to reserve your space on the NEW NO NUKE EXPRESS for 4/29! She will get back to you with the details immediately!

Check here for updated info:

or contact ”

Carol Jahnkow,

Ray Lutz,

Gene Stone,

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Guest April 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Many Downwinders of California appreciate the peaceful dedication of those trying to keep us all safe from a potential Fukushima-like catastrophe.

If there are any doubts about the dangers of nuclear energy, please read this free on-line book:

And you can stay current on Japan’s nuclear crisis and how it’s affecting the U.S. here:


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