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San Onofre Finds Nonradioactive Hydrogen Leak

Officials say the minor leak is unrelated to other problems at the plant, major components of which are now undergoing testing.

Workers at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station are set to replace a pipe fitting after routine maintenance turned up a small hydrogen gas leak in Unit 2 at the plant.

Southern California Edison officials said in a press release that the leak was unrelated to pressure testing of steam generators going on at the plant. According to the company, the leak isn’t a safety risk because the flammable gas is dissipating into the open air around the pipe, and the pipe is near the turbine building on the non-nuclear side of the plant. The leak set off a flurry of regulatory reports and provided fodder for critics of the plant who want to see it closed down.

“SCE submitted an event report Sunday to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” the release states. “The utility also notified the California Emergency Management Agency and the San Diego Department of Environmental Health.”

Anti-nuclear advocates are continuing to hammer the plant's safety record, citing this hydrogen leak as one more in a long line of problems.

“It just conjures up more images of corroded equipment at this facility,” said Gary Headrick of San Clemente Green. “Things like this come up and people like me and the general public are like, ‘what’s next?’ Moving forward (on the plan to restart the plant) is even more concerning when they have a hydrogen leak.”

Both units of the San Onofre plant are currently shut down. Unit 2 was taken out of service Jan. 9 for a planned outage. Unit 3 was taken offline Jan. 31 after station operators detected a leak in a steam generator tube. The small leak revealed that the generators at the plant were riddled with faulty tubes, and the entire plant has been offline since.

Regulators are currently reviewing a restart plan for Unit 2 to operate at partial strength for a shortened operating period, but there is no restart date set.

Click here for hundreds of articles in chronological order detailing the history of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station over the past three years.

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