Friends of the Earth's expert Arnie Gundersen defends emergency enforcement petition on San Onofre 2 & 3 steam generator failures
Friends of the Earth's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, addressed a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Petition Review Board yesterday, regarding the premature, severe degradation of Replacement Steam Generator tubes at San Onofre nuclear power plant a year ago. The damage resulted in a tube failure and radioactive steam release, as well as the year-long and counting shutdown of San Onofre Units 2 and 3.
Arnie's slide presentation can be viewed online. He concluded that "San Onofre was a 'near miss.' The tube failures at San Onofre are the worst nuclear equipment failures since the near miss at Davis-Besse in 2002." (slide #36). He quoted NRC's own Augmented Inspection Team report: "Although in this case the degraded condition of the tubes was manifested as a small primary to secondary leak, it is possible that a full blown rupture could have been the first indication."
While the Feb. 2000 Indian Point old steam generator tube rupture, and the Feb./March 2002 Davis-Besse lid corrosion hole, were "break-down phase" accidents, San Onofre 2 & 3's Jan. 2012 steam generator tube degradation is actually a "break-in phase" accident. The replacement steam generators were only a year or two old (see the Bath Tub Curve for Nuclear Accidents, above left).
KPBS covered this story, reporting:
'...In a question and answer session at the end of the hearing, Daniel Hirsch of the nuclear safety group, Committee to Bridge the Gap, told the NRC the hearings are Kafkaesque, because Edison won’t release some very pertinent documents.
“You are placing the burden on Friends of the Earth to tell you what’s wrong with a document you will not permit them so see,” he said. “So I’m asking you for the rationale behind a public agency keeping those documents secret from the public, and then demanding that the public critique something they do not have access to.”
Doug Broaddus of the NRC said it has no authority to make the documents relating to the development of the new steam generators public.
“It’s something that the licensee has control over,” Broaddus said. “It’s not something that is submitted to us, so it’s not something that we could make available." '
OC Weekly also covered this story, reporting:
'According to [Friends of the Earth], these errors suggest that Edison officials are incompetent and can't be trusted to continue operating SONGS. "Edison played fast and loose by making radical design changes and ducking the rules," claims the group's nuclear campaigner Kendra Ulrich. "The result was the most rapid breakdown of such replacement steam generators in the history of the U.S. nuclear industry. If Edison had followed the rules, an NRC license review would have found these glaring defects, and the lives and livelihoods of millions of people would not have been put at risk nor would hundreds of millions of dollars have been squandered." '
The Los Angeles Times has also reported on this story, including this quote from Arnie Gundersen:
"In the past 10 years, nobody has screwed up a piece of equipment more than the steam generators at San Onofre," Gundersen told the [NRC petition review] board.