Expert On Power Plant Security Speaks to KPBS

Uploaded by KPBSSanDiego on 02.02.2012

Tonight we look at the leak at the San Onofre's nuclear plant at the round table.
>> JOANNE: Officials are trying to figure out what went wrong Tuesday when a steam generator
began leaking gallons of radioactive water, joining me now is Murray Jennex, with expertise
in nuclear containment testing and he works for San Onofre for several years.
>>> I'm also with the college of business, butハ
>> JOANNE: Several credentials! Let's start with a brief explanation on what
it means when there is a leak like this. >>> In this case when they say there is a
leak to protect the public we have barriers against a release of radiation and products
that might have radiation in them. We have a coolant and it can carry the heat
away, we pass that through a steam generator and we use clean water on the other side to
power the turbine, that's where this leak is, the primary coolant water coming off the
react tore and the water going into the turbine. >> JOANNE: I want to read from the NRC report
and it says at 3:05 unit 3 entered abnormal coolant leak, leak exceeding 5 gallons per
day, and they realized it was 82 gallons per day, and later it goes into a stage of a leakage
exceeding 30 gallons per when our. Is that a lot?
>> It sounds like a lot but it actual isn't. They use over 16,000 gallons of water a day
just to run the plant so we're talk bug a very small amount of water and the volumes
that we're looking at are huge so it's not something that's easily detected.
The way it was detected is primarily by a radiation monitor, otherwise they probably
wouldn't have noticed for quite a while. >> JOANNE: The consequence of a leak like
this, aren't we worried about what escapes into our atmosphere?
>> We are, and in this case, the leak is inside the containment building so there is your
first barrier and they noticed that the gas that came out was in the auxiliary building,
also keep in mind this is primary coolant, it's not spent fuel, it's gas.
This gas doesn't stay radioactive for very long, it has a short lifetime within an hour
it's gone so that's why they can't tell us how much leaked because it's difficult to
measure something that disappears that fast. >> JOANNE: This is a new steam generator,
this was installed recently, does it surprise you that something so new is leaking?
>> Absolutely as an engineer I would have liked to have seen it go a few years before
a tube leak occurred. They occur on a regular basis, we can't predict
when they will occur but we have had several over the last severe years so it's an incident,
not an accident. The fact that it happened so early makes people
wonder perhaps if there is a manufacturing problem or not.
I think that's why they're being careful about what they say is the cause, they want to analyze
it and see if it's because there is a weird flow condition, that could cause excessive
vibration on areas of the tubes, and I suspect that's what the case is here.
>> JOANNE: What is your biggest concern when you look at an incident like this?
As somebody who has worked there, you're an expert, what would be the biggest question
that you would have? >> My biggest question is why did it occur
within a year of this new generator being online and to me that says that perhaps we
they'd to make sure that we're taking care of the generator in the right way, we have
the right chemistry, we're not exceeding temperature limits or flow limits, making sure that everything
is being done according to procedure and making sure we know how it's behaving inside.
They're going to do inspections, some inspections that measure the thickness of the wall and
cease if there is problem, it will see if there is an area of concern.
>> JOANNE: We know they aren't generating power because of this and we know unit 2 it
says is in shutdown in a refueling outage, are they generating any power and if they
are not, are they losing money? >> They are not generating power at San Onofre
and yes, southern Cal Edison is losing money unless they're able to make up the power from
their own sources, otherwise they have to buy it off the market and we get power from
the northwest, hydro plants up there and, again rate tors of power, Arizona and so forth.
Right now, this time of year power is relatively cheap compared to in the summer when it's
hot. >> JOANNE: If you had to put a dollar amount
on what they're losing what would you guess? >> $600,000 to a million a day
>> JOANNE: Dr.ハMurray Jennex thank you for being here.
>>> You're welcome.
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