California Power crisis: Fire damage delays reactor service : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Thursday, March 22, 2001 1:27 AM MST Power crisis: Fire damage delays reactor service Half of nuclear power plant now working

By the Associated Press

SAN CLEMENTE -- Extensive fire damage last month in a non-nuclear part of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant will delay bringing the Unit 3 reactor on line until mid-June, Southern California Edison said Wednesday.

The delay only stands to worsen the state's electricity crisis, which came to a new head this week after 3,000 megawatts of power generators went off line and spurred rolling blackouts.

San Onofre accounts for more than a third of that missing power.

"The repairs to the damaged equipment are going to take longer. It looks more now like mid-June," Edison spokesman Ray Golden said. The utility had earlier predicted a mid-May to mid-June target date.

The disclosure renewed fury among anti-nuclear activists convinced that the nation's 103 licensed nuclear plants are too old and too dangerous. Such plants are an increasing threat to consumer safety as pressure mounts to quash California's energy pressures.

"It is clear that profit margins are narrowing safety margins in general at nuclear power stations," said Paul Gunter, spokesman for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington.

Federal inspectors who visited the plant Wednesday said Edison took proper steps in fighting the fire and that the closure could not be avoided.

Edison, meanwhile, insisted that it is moving as fast as it can.

"We are working 24-7 to get it back on line. We will have both units operating through the summer," Golden said.

Only one of the northern San Diego County plant's reactors -- Unit 2 --has been in operation since the Feb. 3 fire. Each reactor produces 1,120 megawatts of power, enough to supply 1.1 million homes and businesses.

Unit 3 was shut down just 12 hours after it was restored to service following routine maintenance that began Jan. 2.

The fire in a room housing electrical distribution equipment damaged several equipment cabinets and a transformer, Golden said. The cost of repair totals "tens of millions of dollars," he said.

"We have an insurance policy that pays after we pay a $2.5 million deductible," Golden said.

A short in the power supply used to run the plant was apparently the cause of the fire. The blaze damaged the unit's turbine, requiring that its bearings be replaced. The bearings are made in Germany.

San Onofre's Unit 1 reactor was taken out of service in 1992 and is the process of being decommissioned.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 22, 2001

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