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Failure of generator at San Onofre is investigated

January 09, 2008|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

Federal inspectors are investigating the failure of an emergency generator at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station during three tests in late December.

The diesel generator is one of two that provide electricity to safety systems in the event of a power outage at the plant near San Clemente. Emergency generators are tested monthly.

Inspectors from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission arrived at San Onofre on Tuesday and will spend several days looking at what caused the failure and how plant managers responded.

Southern California Edison, which operates the plant, "corrected the problem," NRC Regional Administrator Elmo E. Collins said in a statement. "But it appears they were slow to understand the implications of what happened and we want to know why."

Edison officials disputed that characterization of its response.

"We believe the plant staff responded in an appropriate and timely manner to identify and fix this problem," the company said in a statement.

Edison said the generator failed because of a faulty speed sensor, which was replaced. Why it failed is under investigation.

"There was no risk to the public at all when the test was run," said Eliot Brenner, director of public affairs for the NRC. San Onofre -- jointly owned by Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside -- provides enough power for 2.75 million Southern California homes.

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mike.anton@latimes.com

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