Edison's San Onofre nuclear power plant completes major steam generator retrofit

Source: Southern California Edison 

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Unit 3 was reconnected to the Southern California power grid Feb. 18, at 2:56 a.m. (Pacific). The milestone signals the safe, successful completion of a massive 10-year construction project – replacing the plant’s largest components, its steam generators. 

“This is a moment of pride for the men and women who maintain and operate the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,” said SCE Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich. “They have completed a project that spans the past decade and ensures that the plant’s contribution to Southern California will continue for another decade or more.” 

The project created roughly 1,300 construction jobs during 2009 and 2010, and generated about $300 million in local spending, including wages, equipment, material and services purchased from local businesses. 

SCE decided to replace the San Onofre plant’s steam generators when a cost-benefit assessment revealed the overhaul could save customers some $1 billion during the plant’s current license period, which runs through 2022. 

Each of the four new steam generators – two per reactor – is 65 feet tall, 22 feet in diameter and weighs 640 tons. The components produce steam that drives the plant’s huge turbines, generating enough total electricity to serve 1.4 million average homes. 

“Our highest priority during this project was to protect the health and safety of the public,” said Project Manager Mike Wharton. “Plant personnel and contractors achieved this goal by producing high quality work that resulted in no challenges to public safety.” 

Removing the original components and installing the replacement equipment required cutting a temporary opening in the side of each of two protective concrete domes. Measures were taken to ensure public safety during the process, including removal of all fuel from the unit. The construction process used to reseal the opening created domes of equal or greater strength. 

The plant’s steam generators were among the last in the U.S. nuclear power fleet to require replacement. Previously, the replacement process had been successfully and safely carried out on 52 of 58 pressurized water reactors. 

Related Facts 

• The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s ongoing contributions to communities near the plant include: more than $200 million annually in direct economic benefits through more than 2,000 quality jobs; approximately $20 million in property taxes supporting local services; and $300,000 in employee and corporate contributions to local charities.

• An application for steam generator replacement was filed with the California Public Utilities Commission in February 2004 and approved by the panel in December 2005, after a detailed review showed the project would benefit utility customers. 

• Total project costs of $671 million will be shared among plant co-owners SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside. 

• Construction work and other plant operations are monitored continuously by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

• The cost of the component replacement was found to be beneficial to customers based on the current license period – 2022. SCE’s final decision on whether to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for license renewal for San Onofre’s two units is pending. SCE expects to file an application with the CPUC during 2011, seeking approval to recover costs associated with the nuclear plant license renewal process. If SCE decides to move forward with the renewal, it anticipates filing its NRC application in 2013.

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