kunc-header-1440x90.png
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

California Nuclear Plant Slated For Permanent Shut Down

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach in a 2012 photo.
David McNew
/
Getty Images
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach in a 2012 photo.

California's San Onofre nuclear power plant will be shut down for good amid concerns as to whether it could be safely restarted after being offline since early last year because of a radiation leak.

The plant's operator, Southern California Edison, said in a statement Friday that San Onofre's twin reactors "had served the region for over 40 years" but that the 16 months of uncertainty about whether they would or wouldn't go back online "was not good for our customers, our investors or the need to plan for our region's long-term electricity needs."

SCE President Ron Litzinger said in a statement: "Looking ahead, we think that our decision to retire the units will eliminate uncertainty and facilitate orderly planning for California's energy future."

SCE has spent more than $500 million on repairs and replacement power since the plant went idle, according to The Associated Press.

The AP says about 7.4 million Californians live within 50 miles of the nuclear plant, which can power 1.4 million homes.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"San Onofre was shuttered after a tube in the plant's replacement steam generator system leaked a small amount of radioactive steam on Jan. 31, 2012. Eight other tubes in the same reactor unit later failed pressure tests, an unprecedented number in the industry, and thousands more tubes in both of the plant's units showed signs of wear.

"The wear was blamed on tube vibration caused by excessively dry and high-velocity steam and inadequate support structures, particularly in one of the plant's two units. Tube vibration and wear has been a problem at other plants, but the specific type of vibration at San Onofre had not been experienced in the industry.

"Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — which has a 20% stake in the plant — spent more than $780 million replacing the steam generators several years ago, which ratepayers are now repaying."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Related Content
  • One of California's two nuclear power plants has been closed since the discovery of a radioactive leak in late January. With summer here — and increased energy use with it — the state is bracing for the possibility of rolling blackouts in San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County. L.A. Times reporter Abby Sewell talks with Melissa Block about what's being done to stave off an energy calamity.
  • The prefabricated nuclear reactors, which would be small enough to build in a factory and ship on trucks, would generate about one-tenth the power of a typical nuclear power plant. It's potentially a growth opportunity for American industry, but critics say the reactors carry a host of safety, security, environmental and economic concerns.
  • The Palisades Power Plant, one of Van Buren County's biggest employers, has one of the worst safety records in the country. After five unplanned shutdowns in 2011, the plant is now trying to prove to federal regulators that it's up to their standards.
  • It's longer than a football field, has 192 wheels and is hauling "slightly radioactive" steel from California to Utah. You can't exactly hide it, but the exact route isn't being disclosed.