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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant in California operated for decades with equipment that might have temporarily severed the plant's emergency power supply in the event of an earthquake, government filings revealed Tuesday.
The disclosure by Southern California Edison about a possible backup power problem comes amid a probe into excessive wear on tubing that has kept the seaside plant sidelined for nearly four months.
The company disabled the equipment — a vibration sensor — and reported the power issue to federal regulators as "an unanalyzed condition that significantly degraded plant safety."
Edison said other back-up systems were in place during that time.
"Engineers are continuing to analyze the condition and have not reached a final conclusion if the sensor would actually cause a shutdown during an earthquake," a company statement said.
A steady supply of electricity is a critical issue at nuclear plants, which need power to control heat in the reactors. A tsunami destroyed backup generators at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant — setting off the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
At issue at San Onofre is a vibration sensor in use since 1981 on emergency diesel generators, which start if the plant's outside power is cut — a possibility during an earthquake.
Engineers found the sensor — designed to protect components inside the generators during operation — might incorrectly stop them during an earthquake.
According to records filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Edison engineers are looking into whether "high vibration ... could interrupt the onsite electrical generation" during a temblor.
If the generators fail, the plant can use battery power for up to four hours to operate the steam generators to cool the twin reactors.
The plant between Los Angeles and San Diego has been idle since January while investigators try to determine why tubing that carries radioactive water in relatively new steam generators eroded at an unusual rate, in some cases rapidly.
Gradual wear is common in such tubing, but the rate of erosion in some tubes at San Onofre alarmed officials since the equipment is relatively new. The company has said 1,300 tubes will be taken out of service, although the number is well within the margin to allow the generators to keep operating.
Edison initially targeted a June restart for at least one of the twin reactors, but that appears increasingly unlikely as investigators continue to review the widespread problem.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Hundreds of statewide faith leaders will march Saturday afternoon to the Otay Mesa Detention Center, where they will protest immigration policies that separated more than 2,300 children from their parents.
A 325-acre blaze burning at Camp Pendleton Saturday was described as a ``training fire'' by a base official.
The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego County dropped today for the 16th consecutive day, decreasing nine-tenths of a cent to $3.697.
A crash on an Oceanside freeway Saturday morning left two cars on their roofs and sent one person to a hospital, a fire official
Cooler weekend for the County due to a low pressure trough moving through the Great Basin. Weak and shallow marine layer may still be slow to clear.
A stretch of road in National City was shut down briefly after a large crowd took to the streets to celebrate the Mexico national soccer team's 2-1 victory over South Korea today in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The San Diego Humane Society today urged residents to volunteer their homes as foster spaces for the influx of animals typically lost after Fourth of July.
A man was critically injured Friday night when he chased a ball into the street and was hit by a car.
Clayton Richard pitched three-hit ball over six innings for his fourth consecutive win and the San Diego Padres beat the San Francisco Giants 6-2 on Friday night.
A powerful show of support for migrants being held in detention facilities has hundreds of interfaith leaders gathered Friday night for a vigil and demonstration at the border.