Is Jerry Brown Involved in the San Onofre Nuclear Plant Shutdown Scandal?

by on March 3, 2016 · 18 comments

in Energy, Environment, Health, History, Politics

Jerry-BrownNuclear Shutdown News for February 2016

By Michael Steinberg  / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the US nuclear power industry in this country and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free world.

Last year Nuclear Shutdown News reported on a scandal involving the San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown, and a secret deal that left its ratepayers holding the bag for a multibillion dollar debt for which the public bears no responsibility. This onerous debt will take consumers and their descendants decades to pay off if the powers that be get their way. But the people are fighting back.

San Onofre rally 3-11-12 crowd best

Protest at San Onofre, March 11, 2012.

Since this story broke in 2015, it has continued to grow, and now has reached the Sacramento mansion of California Governor Jerry Governor “Moonbeam” Brown.

The debt deal, based on a unanimous ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), dictated that Southern California utility customers would be stuck with 70% of San Onofre’s  $4.7 billion shutdown costs, or $3.3 billion.

San Onofre was permanently closed down in the summer of 2013 after majority owner Southern California Edison decided to throw in the towel, after new replacements components in  its two nuclear reactors, that were supposed to last for decades, turned into junk in less than two years.

San Diego Gas & Electric is a minority owner of the plant.

Not long after the nuke plant’s shutdown, a secret meeting took place in Warsaw, Poland. The sole attendees were Michael Peevey, then president of the CPUC, and Stephen Pickett, a high level  Southern California Edison executive.

Discussions at this clandestine get together allegedly resulted in the ripoff deal that the CPUC subsequently laid on San Onofre customers in November 2014.

After this story began to break last year, agents from California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office, bearing search warrants, raided Edison’s corporate headquarters in SoCal, as well as the CPUC’s in San Francisco.

Among the evidence seized in the raids were emails between Pickett and Peevey supporting allegations of collusion and corruption in cooking up the utility consumer ripoff deal.

Since then attorney Mike Aguirre, former San Diego city attorney, has been representing the utility customers, and has been taking legal action to reverse the course of this scandal, and obtain justice for the aggrieved customers. Specifically, Aguirre and associate Maria Severson have been trying to obtain emails from Jerry Brown’s office that may implicate him in the scandal.

Governor, Judge: Just Good Friends

On February 22, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran an article, “Judge halts PUC email case for review.”

The U-T report told of a decision by state appellate judge Anthony Kline granting the CPUC a stay on a previous ruling by San Francisco Superior Court judge Ernest Goldsmith. Goldsmith had told the CPUC that Aguirre had a right to see Brown’s emails under the California Public Records Act.

The Union Tribune article reported that Judge Kline has a long history with Jerry Brown. They went to Yale Law School together, and Brown has given Kline several lucrative judicial appointments, including his current one as presiding justice over the state’s 1st District Court of Appeals.

Commenting on Kline’s ruling, Mike Aguirre said, “A close personal friend of Jerry Brown gave protection to the governor without ever giving us a hearing,” the U-T reported.

Aguirre’s associate Maria Severson added, “The speed with which this order was made denies us due process. It’s a complete end run.”

In a report in  the January 26, 2016 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, “Judge: CPUC has to justify email secrecy,” the newspaper stated,

“The state Public Utilities Commission must justify its refusal to release emails that could reveal a behind-the scenes role of Jerry Brown in a multi-billion dollar deal with two utilities that shut down a southern California  nuclear plant, a San Francisco judge ruled Monday.”

In his ruling, Judge Ernest Goldsmith said,

“Withholding records of allegedly ex parte secret deals resulting in shifting $3.3 billion of utility losses cannot possibly be a regulatory function of the PUC.”

Goldsmith further commented,

“The core value of a democracy is the right of citizens to know the actions of public officials.”

In a previous edition of the Chronicle, on November 29, 2015, “Brown’s emails sought in nuke deal”, Goldsmith castigated the CPUC for “stonewalling” and urged the commission to release the emails it had received.

In that article, the Chronicle reported that Mike Aguirre had filed a Public Records Act request with the CPUC and “ultimately learned that the agency had withheld about 130 emails involving Picker (Michael Picker, (current president of the PUC) related to the San Onofre closure.”

One email that was revealed to Aguirre, from June 6, 2013, “the day before Southern California Edison announced the nuke plant’s shutdown was from Edison CEO Ted Carver indicating that Carver had talked to Brown “several times on the phone” that day, the Chronicle reported.

Of the CPUC’s refusal to release the emails, Goldsmith said,

“This is a big deal. This is not a trivial issue to the taxpayers of California. And just like the San Bruno events (a 2011 disaster in northern California caused by the explosion of a Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipeline)were not a trivial deal, and when something is big enough, it just has to come out. And it’s going to come out, and it’s either going to be horribly painful, or you can do the right thing.”

A state law passed last year would have allowed Superior Court judges like Goldsmith to “resolve record disputes involving the Public Records Act,” the Chronicle reported.

But in October 2015, Jerry Brown vetoed that law, the newspaper added.

Sources: San Diego Union Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

tj March 3, 2016 at 11:20 pm

geez, what happened to former priest in training, & our populist GB?

too many democrats are now acting like republicans.



CaptD March 4, 2016 at 10:24 am

Whether it is a multi-billion dollar engineering debacle at San Onofre or the Biggest Gas leak in CA History the CPUC just looks the other way while making ratepayers responsible for all costs while the Utilities and their shareholders continue to make record profits.

It needs to be said that they are even making MORE profits by causing these debacles thanks to the CPUC.

To Imagine how much money the CPUC would have given the Utilities if San Onofre had become a nuclear disaster, just look at the Billion the Japanese Government (that owns TEPCO) will continue to pay the Utility EVERY YEAR to “clean up” Fukushima, when what they are really doing is enabling as much of the ? waste as possible to enter the Pacific Ocean. Because once off site, it is no longer their responsibility!
#SanOnofreGate ==> The new hashtag that will keep up to date on the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff.


Dan Johnson March 4, 2016 at 10:39 am

Actually Units 2 and 3 could be started up with minor mods to the seismic restraint system. Just remove the snubbers and replace them rigid, pinned structural supports. Here is a recap on why the S/G’s had to be replaced in the first place and why the RSG’s failed. Had nothing to do with SCE and MHI. The fault was Bechtel’s after review of the manner in which the Nuclear Steam Supply System was pinned and sprung. The model I developed shows how the resonance condition developed in the NSSS with the OSG’s and RSG’s.
When power operation commenced in SONGS Units 2&3 with their older System 80 Inconel 600 S/G’s (OSG’s) and Reactor Vessel, there were severe vibration problems observed. A vibration problem existed in their S/G’s and even the reactor vessel. Look at the tube sheet maps for both S/G’s E-088 & E-089. The vibration problem was largely located along the AVB supports exactly where the problems were documented in the newer MHI S/G’s. Now, lets look at the cause of this resonance within the NSSS. A resonance condition developed as these Seismic Snubbers started to unload and fail. The vibration level reached a resonance condition in their entire Nuclear Steam Supply System. In fact it was so bad, all the plugs installed in the Steam Generator tubes VIBRATED OUT after I had filed a safety concern asking at what condidence level could a defective tube be detected and removed from service? I take no credit for this BTW, as a humble soul, but this could only happen at resonace and calls for a closer look at the reactor coolant pumps vane passing frequency and the natural frequency of every tube within and outside the tubesheet. This vane passing frequency is like canon blasts going off at 100 Hz., impacting the S/G tubesheet. It is deafening. Here is a very basic video that I shared with the NRC and Senator Feinstein’s office:
This IS a credible accident.
The snubbers were used to dampen seismic motion and not designed for vibration flow induced shaking around the tube U bank. Several internal forcing functions existed within the S/G’s at resonance. The first was that noted by Foster and Wheeler in 2005, where it was noted that acoustics pressures could be as high as 200 times that which was used in design. I cannot locate that document, it may have been classified, however I still retain a hard copy, as I mailed it to Region 4. A more tamed version was published in 2010 and you access it at:
The other forcing functions was in the Reactor Coolant Pump’s Vane passing frequency at 100 hz on the S/G tubes, up near the U bend region, and the other anomaly was discovered in the S/G’s Feed Water Level Control System.
These Acoustic Pressures that were used in design were relatively small in magnitude, but at resonance are considerably higher; say 200 times higher. A resonance condition culminated within the NSSS, provided by the “loose” snubbers The pressure disturbances act like shock waves, driving resonant vibration, over a range steam flow mach speeds. Resonance is required for a extreme elevated acoustic pressures. Now look at the area of all those tubes (even more in the newer S/G’s) and multiply that area by the elevated differential pressure across the U bank by the area of interest (S/G U-tube bundle). It’s one heck of a hugh jolting blow to the Steam Generator tubes, support structures and shell, which causes a violent shaking of the S/G’s. This shaking displaces the reactor vessel via the hot and cold legs from and to the S/G’s (as the snubbers become inoperable from this abnormal non seismic shaking). I observed this as spiking on the excore detectors, and in some cases resulted in a reactor trip. This caused the fuel to shake and rattle in the reactor vessel causing an enormous fuel flea problem in the plant. There WAS shaking of the reactor vessel and fuel assemblies as seen from the neutron excore spikes on the Core Protection Calculators and knowledge of their spatial arrangement. Spikes on 2/4 channels would cause a reactor trip. There were pretrips all the time. But as I recall, there were two reactor trips associated with this scenario. Knowing the spatial arrangement of of the excore neutron detectors and excore signal output to the CPC’s (core protection calculators), you could determine the movement of the reactor vessel which was about 2″ (pretrip) and 4″ (trip) near the lower part of the reactor vessel. This was significant and extremely dangerous. The issue was very frustrating to management and written off as some sort of EMF generated signal to the CPC’s, which could never be identified or proved. They had neither the time or desire not exactly find the actual source of the problem, so the CPC neutron detector circuits were altered to electronically filter the noise as the shaking of the reactor vessel continued, now un-noticed. Think of the safety significance. IMO, based on the size of these S/G’s, SCE could have contracted with and enlisted Engineers at Locheed Martin’s Skunk Works to review the damaging effects of these elevated acoustic pressures at resonance, like Kelly Johnson, for example, that designed the SR 71 Blackbird with a slide rule back in the 1950’s.
Getting back on track here, the severe fuel flea issue was hushed up on a gag order in the Tang vs SCE case. The shaking was well noted when a containment entry at power was made to service the damaged snubbers. A worker was holding a hefty snubber in a fashion like Rambo with a gatling gun, while another worker was pinning it to the S/G and support structure. The steam generator lunged (shook violently) and nearly sent “Rambo” to his death over the scaffolding railing. The Steam Generators were actually shaking placing huge cyclic loads on the hot and cold legs between the reactor vessel and steam generators, This not only resulted in support and tube damage in the steam generators, but also the shaking of the reactor vessel and damage to the fuel assemblies. This observation was never reported to the NRC as far as I know. The cyclic loads placed on the hot and cold legs increased the probability of a large break loss of coolant accident resulting in the design basis high energy blowdown of the primary system. With damage and wear associated with the Steam Generator tubes primarily located in the AVB (anti-vibration bar area), the high energy blowdown of the primary system would cause these tubes to whip, as the primary blowdown is directed around the U bend of the tube bundle. This would result in very high rarefaction stresses in the worn tubes and cause multiple steam generator tube ruptures along with a loss of the primary coolant. The secondary unborated steam flow and condensate back into the reactor vessel would cause steam binding in the core and present the operators with a core where the peak cladding temperatures would cause the zircaloy cladding to burn, establishing an uncoolable fuel array and fission product release via the stuck or blown off S/G safeties and/or header. This scenario is what I presented to the NRC-ACRS in the 1980’s. The whole idea behind all this madness is to maintain a coolable array in the core. Without primary to secondary coolant system integrity, that is an impossible task even with high pressure and low pressure safety injection. The NRC told me, upon my request, they would have to get a court order to inspect the primary for cracks and even the spalled concrete around the base of the S/G hold-down bolts.
This is why I wrote, in the most conservatively upfront manner, to the California Senators and House Members and warned them that SONGS was about to experience an identical radiological mess as they did in the 1980’s, but much more severe, after SCE refused to meet with me to discuss this and other issues at the Cornell Institute of Conflict Resolution, as directed by the NRC. Now let us look at the newer designs and their legal liability to SCE and the NRC. The failed fuel issue at San Onofre was gagged, in court, while operating with the older CE units. The same thing was happening with the newer MHI S/G’s. Same shaking, but more severe due to a larger size and greater inertial mass. They were seeing, not only S/G tube wear, but failed fuel too in the newer MHI units. SCE could never correct this failed fuel problem as they never addressed this older issue I presented to the NRC on March 26, 2013. I also gave oral testimony to the NRC on Dec 19, 2011, and before that to the USNRC, ACRS.
Why is this so hush, hush? Cause SCE continued operation with this failed fuel problem, with the NRC’s approval for a considerable period of time. They would rather choose “void fraction, fluid elastic instability” and the likes of “botched codes” than admit the truth. One thing about “botched codes”. These codes assumed that the NSSS (Nuclear Steam Supply System) was pinned and sprung properly. It was not. This was not all SCE’s fault, period, even though they could have enlisted help in this radical, large design before issuing the specifications to MHI. It was a design problem by Bechtel, with the containment support structures for the NSSS with both the OSG’s and the RSG’s.

Dan Johnson


CaptD March 5, 2016 at 8:06 am

Sorry Dan, you are so far off-base I don’t know where to begin.
Since when are you more knowledgable than the NRC ASLB?

SCE and NRC both lost to the San Onofre Ruling signed by the NRC Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB). The Judges stated in an unanimous ruling that SCE changed the design of San Onofre OSGs from in-plane FEI to out-of-plane FEI by removal of stay cylinder, egg-crate lattice grids and added more tubes without a (50.90) license amendment. 

In short, the published root cause of the failures at SanO by SCE, MHI and even the NRC AIT were all flawed and were basically done just to coverup what had occurred at SanO. 

BTW: The Original steam generators ran successfully for 20+ years even with SCE running them with a power uprate they were never designed for.

Compare that with the less than 1 year of operation for Unit 3 and less than 2 years for Unit 2.

* The new hashtag that will allow you to keep up to date on the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff.


Dan Johnson March 5, 2016 at 9:39 am

Practical experience and a desire to generate a positive learning curve. The only vendor that came close was Areva Nuclear. Mitsubishi knows of this. The NRC is way off track. These elevated acoustic pressures have an effect on all the various flow characteristics in these vibrating units. The NRC cannot tell you what they are. They just say botched codes and I guarantee you MHI is snickering at their position.


CaptD March 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Dan — SCE Picked MHI because they were desperate to prove that they could build “big” RSG that they would do whatever SCE told them to do, including not talk to the NRC or complain about the 50.59 instead of the 50.90. SCE’s engineers thought they knew what they were doing so not having MHI ask too many questions also helped SCE avoid the 50.90 “problem.”

SCE was wrong not to apply for a NRC 50.90 License Amendment because they did not inform the NRC of the very high void fraction problems in their new design or even more troubling, that their design was based on unverified analytical assumptions that were unsupported by any thermal-hydraulic/vibration analysis or valid AVB testing, as required by NRC regulations, at their June 7, 2006 NRC Meeting.


Dan Johnson March 5, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Well, not sure even if SCE reported all the plugs vibrating out of the tubes, nor reporingt the violent shaking of the S/G’s. These are civil penalties, and the NRC should recognize them as such. They did have every opportunity to report these issues with their OSG’s and use them in the newer designs, but failed to do so. I even bet you, they forgot that they had removed the noise from the excore detector circuits, absent a 50.59, and that is why the NRC never saw the spiking after the RSG’s were installed. This, again, was never reported to the NRC. All these things led to a catastrophe with the new RSG’s. It was not MHI’s fault either, as they had no way of knowing these plant problems since they were never reported, and heck, even forgotten about after 20 years. The blame IMO, rests with Bechtel and even after an Engineer there warned the entire NSSS was going to come apart and lost his job for it.


CaptD March 5, 2016 at 5:29 pm

Dan — Read the SCE Analysis, which itself (along with MHI and even the NRC AIT report had major gaps). The 9,727 tubes inside each of the Replacement Steam Generators tubes were vibrating and alarming due to the tubes banging into each other and the AVBs due to too much primary heat which caused extremely high velocities, water hammering and pressure pulsations.

One example
Root Cause Evaluation: Unit 3 Steam Generator Tube Leak
Condition Report: 201836127, Revision 0, 4/30/2012
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Purpose: The purpose of this analysis is to determine if there is an acoustic wave generated on the secondary side steam piping downstream of the Steam Generator (SG) and if it could be a potential cause of the tube-to-tube wear on the Units 2 and 3 Steam Generators.

Description of why this is a potential cause:

The configuration of the steam piping downstream of the Steam Generators could be causing a flow-induced acoustic resonance to travel back into the Steam Generators and excite the tubes, causing them to vibrate.

Facts to support as a cause/contributor (in descending importance):

1. Analysis from Continuum Dynamics, Inc. concludes that frequencies associated with vortex shedding over the inlets to the main steam branch lines (leading to the safety relief valves) can overlap the in-plane modal frequencies of tubes in the affected region of the SG depending on the support conditions. Additionally, the Strouhal number calculated from the configuration of SONGS steam piping and branches is near the peak pressure response, which suggests that acoustic resonance may be responsible for vibration in the Steam Generator tubes (Ref 1).

2. Prior analysis for SONGS has shown the most plausible explanation for damaging vibrations in the main steam safety relief valves was vortex shedding at the inlets to the main steam branch lines (Ref 2).

3. Flow-induced acoustic resonance in safety relief valve stub pipes has caused damage to the steam dryers inside the reactor vessel in BWRs (Ref 3).

4. System acoustic noises which can propagate long distances are one source of tube excitation in tubes with axial flow (Ref 4).

Facts to refute as a cause/contributor (in descending importance):

1. All tubes in the Steam Generator are subjected to same excitation frequency, but only relatively few tubes in a concentrated area experienced significant tube-to-tube wear. The Steam Generator also has a significant dryer and moisture separator assembly above the tube bundle, which has not been observed to be damaged during the tube bundle inspections.

2. Flow-induced acoustic resonance is not explained as a wear mechanism in PWR Steam Generators by industry papers (Ref 5).

3. Based on the operating experience for Steam Generators accumulated to date, acoustic load has not been identified to be significant with regard to flow-induced vibration and tube wear (Ref 6).

Analysis of facts:

The supporting and refuting facts do not rule out the possibility that flow-induced acoustic resonances in the downstream secondary loop piping could contribute to the tube-to-tube wear in the Steam Generators. However, previous design and operating experience of PWR Steam Generators suggest that this contribution is small compared with the contribution of other flow-induced vibration sources.


It is unlikely that tube excitation by flow-induced acoustic resonance was the primary cause of in-plane tube vibration and tube-to-tube wear in SONGS Units 2 and 3.

Recommendations (if significant contributor or cause):

Engineering to consider long term project to measure secondary loop steam line pressure pulsations between the Steam Generator and the branch lines to the safety relief valves to determine the frequency and magnitude of the acoustic wave and perform a quantitative analysis of the impact. NN 201972757 was written to track this recommendation.


Dan Johnson March 5, 2016 at 5:58 pm

It is the primary cause. Those dings and dents on the VLPM (vibration and loose parts monitor system) was the S/G’s shaking. This was once visually observed.


Dan Johnson March 5, 2016 at 6:04 pm

On several instances, computer plant printouts indicated VPLM alarm actuation and CPC-LPD (local power density) pretrips or trips.


CaptD March 5, 2016 at 9:26 pm

SanO Operators did not pay attention to extra alarms in Unit 3 RSGs
NRC AIT Report States, “During the review of operational differences between Unit 2 and 3 steam generators the team identified a significant difference in number of valid vibration and loose parts monitoring system alarms. The vibration and loose parts monitoring system was designed to provide continuous monitoring and conditioning of loose parts accelerometer signals. Two separate accelerometers were installed on each of the steam generators. The location of these instruments are on the steam generators’ lower supporting structures and provide acoustic information about loose parts impacts specifically on the reactor coolant or primary side of the steam generators. The vibration and loose parts monitoring system [provides data in] real time.”


Dan Johnson March 6, 2016 at 9:27 am

Correct, I can remember MO’s being written against valid alarms all the time. These included radiation alarms. They would be removed from service for quite some time, and on occasion, left OSS FOR SEVERAL WEEKS. Same for the VLPM. “Don’t shut down, slap a work order on it and leave the darn mess in alarm defeat”


CaptD March 5, 2016 at 8:14 am

Here is a great graphic that lists all the “unprecedented” damage discovered at SanO after the radioactive leak on 01/31/12. It is important to note that SCE did not even have a clue that anything was amiss, have failed to realize that the “dings and dents” signals were indicating that the 9,727 tubes inside each of the four replacement steam generators were destroying themselves because of SCE in-house design.


CaptD March 5, 2016 at 8:15 am

Sorry the graphic did not appear, try this instead:


CaptD March 5, 2016 at 8:17 am
Dan Johnson March 6, 2016 at 9:31 am

I have looked at that. The bulk of the tube damage is in the AVB area in both RSG’s and OSG’s. It even gets clearer as you subtract out all the tubes that had to be plugged in the OSG’s prior to power operation because they were not annealed properly. Then the picture clears up. SCE never sued CE for that mess, but may have gotten some perks in startup issues.


Dan Johnson March 6, 2016 at 3:11 pm

They got the perks, but the consumer gets the shaft on the OSG’s. It all needs to be considered.


Dan Johnson March 7, 2016 at 9:16 am

You got to understand, my talk here on the OSG’s is nearly 35 years old. So all you foaming rabid lawyers should know that these are of no use to you guys. Just good experience and I tell ya, you want the party to pay for all this incompetence, you sue Bechtel.


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