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Edison, Scripps join to study offshore faults near San Onofre

The underwater seismic research project will be used to help determine the future of the nuclear power plant.

April 28, 2012|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • San Onofre is out of service while Southern California Edison tries to determine what is causing steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water to wear out prematurely.
San Onofre is out of service while Southern California Edison tries to determine… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

Southern California Edison announced Friday that it will collaborate with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on seismic studies looking at offshore faults near the San Onofre nuclear plant, beginning later this year.

Edison requested approval last year from the California Public Utilities Commission to recover $64 million from ratepayers for seismic studies that will help to determine the future of the plant.

Caroline McAndrews, Edison's director of nuclear strategic projects, said the collaboration with Scripps will account for about half of that. A PUC administrative law judge issued a proposed decision last month granting the request, but it is still pending final commission approval.

Scripps scientists will take the lead on the offshore studies using specially equipped boats towing underwater microphones to collect data that will be made available to other experts and to the public. The surveys will evaluate existing and potential faults as well as imaging the underwater terrain.

Scripps professor Neal Driscoll, one of the lead scientists on the offshore studies, said the effort will mark the first time in 20 or 30 years that this type of data has been aggregated off the coast of Southern California.

Edison said the involvement of Scripps will add "objective and world-class expertise in geophysics" to the studies.

The group Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility has argued that the PUC should require an independent peer review panel to oversee and review the studies at San Onofre, like the one created for similar studies at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

The judge's proposed decision on Edison's funding request found that the panel at Diablo Canyon had been "too cumbersome for prompt and efficient action" and did not recommend the same measure at San Onofre.

San Onofre is currently out of service while Edison tries to determine what is causing steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water to wear out prematurely.

One tube sprang a leak Jan. 31, prompting the plant to be taken offline. Since then, 509 out of about 39,000 tubes in the two working reactor units have been taken out of service because of excessive wear.

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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