CONTACT: Charles Langley (858) 752-4600, or Langley@publicwatchdogs.org
NUKE PLANT OPERATORS PUSHED SONGS PAST PERFORMANCE REDLINES
NRC documents show Southern California Edison’s nuclear plant failed because it ran its generators too hot, too hard, and too fast in order to maximize profits
July 19, 2016 — A new analysis into what went wrong at the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) asserts that plant operators intentionally “redlined” the system beyond its breaking point until it was overloaded and began to shake itself to pieces.
The analysis, which was conducted by a former Southern California Edison (SCE) fire protection engineer, is based on internal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) documents. The confidential documents were disclosed as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request.
Shaking steam tubes, or what SCE called “critical in-plane vibrations” from tubes filled with superheated pressurized radioactive water, caused the tubes to bang together violently as a result of dry steam. The impact of the abrasion and metal fatigue from the tube collisions ultimately created dangerous leaks.
Vinod Arora is a Mechanical (California Professional), Chemical, Fire Protection and Emergency Planning Engineer. He is also a Nuclear Oversight Auditor. Mr. Arora performed his analysis with the guidance of five anonymous INPO Plant 1 Reactor/Nuclear Steam Supply System and Ph.D. Chemical Engineers. According to Vinod Arora, the former SCE Engineer who secured the NRC’s internal investigation documents, SCE’s operators attempted to minimize the tube shaking by pushing the system beyond its design limits with higher-than-allowable steam pressures and primary energy in San Onofres’ Unit 3 generators.
The data in the newly disclosed documents, and the analyses by Arora, show that Southern California Edison was also operating its Unit 3 nuclear generators well beyond the primary reactor coolant temperatures specified by Edison’s design team.
Southern California Edison is therefore 100% responsible for the failure of the “Replacement Steam Generators” (RSGs) that were supposed to last 40 years, but failed after 11 months.
According to Mr. Arora, “The data suggests that Southern California Edison was running the generators outside of the original design and functional testing specifications for the replacement steam generators. They redlined the generators to increase SCE’s profits and to reduce tube wear to minimize dings and dents. They ran them too hard and too fast, and they broke.”
“Edison knew they were pushing San Onofre’s steam generators past the original design limit, but did it anyway for the sake of short term profits and to correct other design deficiencies as a result of SCE’s unverified analytical assumptions. SCE was forced to make those assumptions because of time pressures to deploy the generators quickly. As a result, SCE failed to perform the necessary research or ask the critical questions required to understand the impact of their design changes between the original and replacement steam generators. SCE successfully covered up the fact that it dodged a required NRC License review for safety” says Arora.
According to Mr. Arora: “Southern California Edison’s replacement steam generators were being operated outside the tested configurations that were approved jointly by both SCE and Mitsubishi’s Engineers. Higher primary reactor coolant temperatures and higher steam pressure caused tube-to-tube contact resulting in dangerous and potentially deadly tube ruptures.”
Specific Findings in the report include the following:
- SCE ran the generators at higher-than allowable
pressure and temperatures in Unit 3.SCE’s Unit 3 generators failed faster than the nearly identical generators in Unit 2 because the operators were forcing more “primary energy” (heat) into the system than it could handle. The operators did this in the mistaken belief that higher steam pressures would prevent tube vibrations and rupturing.
- Unit 2 experienced less wear because of lower steam pressures and lower primary reactor coolant temperatures.
- The excess heat created “dry steam” which increased steam velocities and void fractions, making the tubes vibrate violently.The additional heat that was generated by the dry steam pockets in the Unit 3 generators made the reactor coolant tubes shake (“vibrate”) rapidly. The vibrating tubes began to slide along SCE’s untested “anti-vibration bars” causing them to crash into each other. The constant shaking and collisions resulted in tube ruptures. Prior to installation, SCE changed the design of the anti-vibration bars on the new generators and removed other vital safety features required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
- Unit 2 had a different set of problems that would have eventually resulted in additional tube ruptures*
The generators at Unit 2 did not fail as quickly as those at Unit 3 because Unit 2 was operated at lower temperatures, with lower steam velocity and with “wetter” steam. Although Unit 2 also had design flaws that would have lead to dangerous tube ruptures, the Unit 2 generators experienced less tube wear because they weren’t redlined.
- Southern California Edison is deceiving the NRC and
Utility Fraud Investigators
Although the evidence in the recently disclosed NRC documents strongly suggests that SCE was running its Unit 3 generators beyond their design limits, SCE is claiming that that it ran both units with equal amounts of primary energy. According to Mr. Arora, the new NRC investigation documents show that SCE isn’t telling the truth.
- Units 2 & 3 replacement steam generators had more primary energy than the original Units 2 & 3 steam generators.
Did SCE commit fraud? What are they hiding?
The proof of whether or not Edison was intentionally redlining its Unit 3 Generators at San Onofre will be found in its daily San Onofre Control Room Operations Log and Plant Computer System.
“If those logs have not been destroyed,” says Arora, “they will show immediately whether or not Edison risked the lives of 8.5 million Southern Californians by redlining the Unit 3 Generators.”
SCE has denied access to its Daily Operating Logs
The daily Operating Logs from Unit 3 will show definitively if Southern California Edison was recklessly operating its nuclear reactors outside of the generators
design limits, but SCE has refused to divulge them on the grounds that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has completed its investigation.
SCE’s shareholders, not customers, must pay for the failure
Once SCE’s Operating Logs for Units 2 and 3 are secured, they will show that the ratepayer funded bailout of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) should never have occurred. SCE was entirely responsible for the steam generators’ redesign and acted recklessly in their deployment and operation.
The findings in the report were sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for review yesterday, 7-18-16.
* The law firm of Aguirre & Severson LLP, and three judges from the NRC Atomic Licensing Safety Board, have unanimously argued that removal of the old anti-vibration bars, stay cylinder and other design changes — which involved the addition of 377 tubes — were done without a legally required NRC license amendment by SCE. As such, SCE’s generators are unlicensed, making Southern California Edison 100% financially responsible for the failure.
For background, to arrange an interview, or to receive a copy of the report, contact Charles Langley at (858) 752-4600, or Langley@publicwatchdogs.org