Summer is here. Can San Onofre Nuclear Plants Produce Enough Power?


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A Tube Leak at San Onofre: What’s All The Fuss?

Pressurized Water Reactor in a Nuclear Facility: Image courtesy of the US NRC

On January 31, 2012, a tube in the steam generator of Unit 3 at San Onofre Nuclear Facility sprung a leak and released a small amount of radioactive steam. SCE immediately searched for more tube wear, and found more than 300 tubes with unexpected wear in Unit 3.

These steam generators were manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2009 and 2010, so are relatively new. Due to the unexpected wear in Unit 3, with additional similar wear found in Unit 2, the plants were shut down indefinitely. The question is, what is causing the wear? There’s still no definitive answer, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is keeping a close watch on this – the NRC has toured the plants, and has assured the public that the plants will remain shut down until the problems are thoroughly investigated and fixed.

What is the Future of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station?

That is the question, isn’t it? Until the issue is completely resolved, Unit 2 and 3 will remain down. The summer is coming, and peak demand for electricity in a highly populated area is just around the corner. San Onofre services nearly 14 million residents in Central and Southern California – with both units off line, residents may experience power blackouts/rolling power outages. Authorities in California are hurrying to find alternatives, but whether they’ll be in time is anyone’s guess.


KTLA News. Electrical Fire Reported at San Onofre Reactor. (2012). Accessed April 22, 2012.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NRC Issues Confirmatory Action Letter for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Restart Preparation. (2012). Accessed April 22, 2012.

Times Live. US regulators promise thorough San Onofre nuclear plant review. (2012). Accessed April 22, 2012.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Pressurized Water Reactors. Accessed April 22, 2012.

World Nuclear News. New steam generators for SONGS 3.  (2010). Accessed April 22, 2012.

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