Locals Overwhelmingly Oppose SONGS Life Extension

By Published On: May 23, 2005

Community members and other stakeholders urged the California Public Utilities Commission to reject a $680 million plan to replace aging steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, in hopes that such an action would diminish the facility?s life span. During town hall?style meetings held May 17 in Oceanside and San Clemente, area residents and members of organizations such as the Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility urged the CPUC to reject owner Southern California Edison?s request to replace the 2,150 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station?s (SONGS) units 2 and 3 generators. ?What we need to do is pull out of this gracefully so that we can move on,? Oceanside City Council member and small business owner Jack Feller said. Nearly all the 25 speakers to address CPUC commissioner Geoffrey Brown at the Oceanside meeting opposed the replacement plan, with only four, including Edison?s representative, favoring it. Retired nuclear physicist and Encinitas resident Al Tschaeche testified during the three-hour meeting that there?s nothing wrong with nuclear power. ?I think we need to replace the steam generators so the plant can operate longer and be relicensed,? he said. Brown offered few opinions during the testimony, insisting that the replacement of the generators was not a done deal, as some speakers had implied. Replacement of the steam generators is considered necessary because hundreds of tubes that channel superheated water from San Onofre?s unit 2 reactor have begun to develop microscopic fissures. Replacing the generators would enable SONGS units 2 and 3 to stay operational until the end of the current terms of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses in 2022. However, unless repairs are made, the generators are predicted to reach the end of their operating life within the next several years. To replace all four heat exchangers before safety issues arise, Edison would need five years of lead time, said Ray Golden, Edison spokesperson. Parts would have to be ordered from Japan and then shipped in through the Port of Long Beach. San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns 20 percent of the nuclear facility, wants to sell its portion rather than paying an estimated $135 million for its share of the cost of upgrading the plant. The utility has proposed selling its ownership stake to Edison and entering into an agreement to buy the same amount of electricity it now receives as an owner, 430 MW. That proposal is now before the CPUC. Brown did not say when the full commission would be presented with the public comments, only that it would be ?soon.? A vote on whether to approve the replacement project is not expected until sometime in the fall, he said.

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