Edison pushed San Onofre beyond breaking point

The short-term profit motive likely has Thomas spinning in his grave

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
  • San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Based on internal documents of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Southern California Edison, operators of the now-shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant, deliberately pushed the system beyond its breaking point, causing tubes filled with superheated pressurized radioactive water to bang together violently; this led to its shutdown, and Edison — with the clandestine help of the California Public Utilities Commission — foisting most of the decommissioning expense on ratepayers.

Since the failure was the fault of management, shareholders should have borne the entire financial burden.

Credit this disclosure in part to Vinod Arora, a former Edison engineer whose Freedom of Information Act request was granted, providing the information for this conclusion. Arora was assisted in his analysis by five engineers.

Replacement steam generators that were supposed to last 40 years failed after less than a year. Edison ran the steam generators "too hard and too fast, and they broke," says Arora.

Edison knew it was "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 [Edison's] unverified assumptions," says Arora.

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Yet with this documentation and other facts uncovered by Mike Aguirre, Kamala Harris, our Attorney General for the State of California, does and will do nothing about this fraud. You want to believe Harris would jump on the opportunity to show she's a law and order champion, but it's just the opposite because she bought just like all the other corrupt politicians.

Then to make matters worse, the lemmings of California, will send her to Washington D.C. as one of our two U.S. Senators.

What will it take to get Californians to wake up?

JustWondering: Well, the legislature passed some fairly good -- not great, but adequate -- legislation to reform the CPUC. Then Gov. Brown, Peevey's longtime buddy, vetoed it. There should have been screams from the electorate, but there was no such thing. Silence.

Yes, Harris sat on the information about Peevey and Edison so she could get Brown's backing and get elected. Disgusting. Best, Don Bauder

This situation is exacerbated by the de facto one-party system in the state. It has been a long time since there was any effective opposition to the Dems in state-level elections. So, since the Dem nominee for U S Senate is part of the party elite, what's in it for her to prosecute these abuses? Ans: nothing. That's what she's doing. Nothing. If you want some real representation, look beyond the (D) after the name of the pol. You might find some real justice. We know what a single party system does to a country or nation. Look at the Soviet Union, East Germany, Albania, Cuba, China . . . and you have your answer.

Visduh: There is an applicable observation: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Best, Don Bauder

Thomas Weller: Give the ratepayer some relief, do a thorough housecleaning of the corrupt CPUC, and put some of the major offenders in prison. But I'm dreaming. Best, Don Bauder

One simple minded way to describe the failure and destruction of the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine was that it was pushed beyond its design limits. (There was a lot more to the whole story than just that, but it started out exactly that way.) After decades of the nuclear power industry claims, and those of nuclear advocates across the board, about how those plants could not fail, SONGS did just that, and with new components installed yet. All it took was someone deciding to push it to the max and maybe beyond, and disaster followed.

If this is true, it isn't just a matter of who pays for it--although that's a fine place to start--it is a matter of criminal negligence, or out-and-out endangerment of the public. If/when all this gets out to the public, it will really sink the prospects for nuclear power in the US, and perhaps around the world. That's too bad, in that I still think that if properly handled nuclear power can be a good thing. Chernobyl was easy to blame on the Soviet Union, Brezhnev, and a design that lacked redundant safety systems. This one isn't so easy to ignore.

Visduh — RE: "If/when all this gets out to the public" That time is now, since this report is saying exactly what what caused the destruction of the replacement steam generators to happen and it is the result of over 4 years of work behind the scenes.

SCE has charged ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars trying to coverup what happened by giving different "experts" different data sets about San Onofre so that their reports would not make SCE look bad but the actual data shows that SCE caused the failure themselves by both their poor design and their operational experiments which exceeded the approved NRC "redline" of the Unit 3 steam generators. Note Unit 2 steam generators were also destroying themselves but SCE did not have a clue; and after Unit 3's leak was discovered, one tube in one of Unit 2's steam generator (there are 2 steam generators for each reactor at San Onofre) was found to have almost no remaining wall thickness, where the NRC safety limitation was about 35%. That is scary!


Visduh: Edison's handling of San Onofre could have been a human disaster in Southern California. But Peevey and certain Edison officials and ex-officials have gotten away with this.

I can remember when utilities were considered more public-minded than other companies. But Edison is one of the most corrupt companies I have come across in 52 years of financial/business reporting. And much of my reporting has been about companies controlled by organized crime. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh: Right you are. Best, Don Bauder

The main goal of Edison's (SCE) in-house design of the 4 Replacement Steam Generators (RSG's) was to build them quickly without a through NRC technical review that also included public review (called a NRC 50.90 review) so they chose to do it using a NRC 50.59 review which was designed for "like for like" replacement of parts that would not affect safety (like replacing one fan motor with another fan motor, of the same specifications). Since SCE's engineers knew they were doing it on the sly, they not only cut corners but they also failed to get their in-house design reviewed by credible outside steam engineers that had prior experience in large RSG design/fabrication (which none of the SCE engineers had). SCE chose MHI as their manufacturer knowing they had never built large RSG's before and therefore would not talk to the NRC about the project or ask to many questions, which would allow SCE to take care of everything!

By using actual meeting notes, posted on SCE's website, the enormity of this debacle becomes easier to understand. In their rush to make more money, by generating additional power from the new larger RSG's SCE became fixated on profits instead of safety! Employees that raised concerns were given the cold shoulder or worse.

Once the leak occurred, SCE tried its best to downplay what occurred while at the same time they tried to use MHI as their escape goat. SCE's documents show that MHI was following SCE's orders and constructed the RSG's as SCE's engineers directed. It is also important to note that SCE "accepted" all the RSG's after installation and startup testing, as meeting all contractual criteria! SCE had no idea that while they were operating their RSG's, they were destroying themselves because of their design; instead they were telling the CPUC and ratepayers that they were so good that the service life of San Onofre should be extended!

In hindsight, it was pure luck that Southern California only had a small radioactive leak instead of a nuclear incident or even much worse a nuclear accident. BTW: If either of those had occurred, SCE would now be making additional Billions in cleanup just like TEPCO is doing after their triple meltdown at Fukushima which is still polluting the Pacific Ocean.

NOTE: The above was posted on the UT site but it was removed for some reason...

CaptD: Why was your post removed from the U-T website? Remember that the U-T is owned by a company named tronc (formerly Tribune). The Los Angeles Times is in charge of the U-T. The Times has basically ignored the Edison debacle from the beginning. I would guess the reason is that Edison advertises heavily in the Times. Best, Don Bauder

I believe that both the CPUC investigation and the CA AG investigation are being delayed until after the election, to better shield many of our elected and/or appointed leaders from the fallout from #SanOnofreGate since far too many of them looked the other way after receiving specific information about what was happening at San Onofre.

CaptD: No doubt -- the investigation is being delayed until after the election. But will anything be done after the election? That is the question. Best, Don Bauder

Much more information compiled over 4+ years here:


The hashtag that will allow you to keep up to date on the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff.

Why is a public utility under corporate ownership? In the United States, a corporation has one duty above all- provide a profit for shareholders. Does it have a duty to perform efficiently for customers? No. Does it have a duty to be environmentally friendly? No. Does it have a duty to offer competitive pricing? No. Do elected officials oversee the operation of the corporation? No; in California at least, the ratepayers have no voice.

Private companies don't generally own highways or national forests or port authorities or water districts or school districts. Where they do own highways they are thoroughly hated by travelers who pay the toll on those roads.

Whose bright idea was it to give a monopoly to SDGE/Sempra?

swell: Municipally-owned utilities provide more reliable service for much lower rater than investor-owned utilities such as Edison and Sempra. Best, Don Bauder

The preponderance of public utilities in the US are investor owned. We have a power grid that is the envy of much of the world. Do our neighbors (Canada and Mexico) have anything like it? Uh, no, theirs are not first world at all. Bringing in private capital has been the difference.

The model requires regulation, and in most states it works most of the time. In California the regulatory system is broken, and it seems that it has been a mess for decades. It should be a simple matter to reform the commission, but while it may be simple, is not going to happen without some real leadership and political reform.

While the public systems seem to have a strong record, I have one contrary example to mention. That is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The kindliest way to describe it is a rogue operation, a long-running scandal, and a huge blot on the record of the slobberin' city to our north. Be careful of what you wish for; you might just get it.

Visduh: Canada and Mexico do not have the economic strength that the U.S. has.

In California, the investor-owned utilities are corrupt because the CPUC encourages corruption. For many years, San Diegans' utility costs were below the national average. There was only one reason: the mild weather. Now, with San Diego Gas & Electric having the highest rates in the nation -- by far -- San Diego's utility costs are well above the national average, despite the mild weather. Meanwhile, Sempra, parent of SDG&E, is one of the hottest stocks among blue chips. The company's profits are huge. San Diegans are getting raped. Best, Don Bauder

Walter Blevins: Absolutely. If there were any justice, ratepayers would pay nothing for the San Onofre debacle. But with the CPUC calling the shots, there will be no justice.

I get a kick out of looking at Wall Street analysts' reports on Edison. Analysts just assume that the San Onofre/CPUC thievery/corruption will not affect the company's stock. In part, that's because Peevey entertained Wall Street analysts, and assured them that Edison would not have to pick up its fair share of the tab. The same goes for PG&E and the San Bruno explosion, and Sempra and the gas leak. Best, Don Bauder

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