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California’s Troubled San Onofre Nuclear Plant to Permanently Close

Closed for good. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Closed for good. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A controversial and troubled California nuclear power plant that was leaking radioactive steam will be permanently closed, its operator announced Friday.

The Los Angeles Times reports the San Onofre nuclear plant, operated by Southern California Edison (SCE), will not reopen as originally planned. Activists argued that the plant, which has been inactive since January 2012 when it was discovered that a tube in a newly-installed steam generator was leaking small amounts of radioactive steam, was too damaged to operate safely. In addition to the radioactive leak, the tubes, which were part of a $670 million refurbishment, were wearing down at an alarming rate.

“We have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if [the plant] might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors or the need to plan for our region’s long-term electricity needs,” Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of Edison International (the parent company of SCE), said in a statement.

Environmental and anti-nuclear activists, as well as some progressive lawmakers and local leaders, hailed the news as a major victory.

“This is very good for the people of southern California,” Erich Pica, president of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison agrees. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind.”

“I am greatly relieved that the San Onofre nuclear plant will be closed permanently,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said in a statement. “This nuclear plant had a defective redesign and could no longer operate as intended.”

Toni Iseman, a city councilwoman in Laguna Beach, which is 20 miles north of San Onofre, told the Associated Press that “there’s a huge sense of relief.”

“We were just sitting with a time bomb just to the south of us,” Iseman said.

But the closure means that around 1,100 people will lose their jobs. The plant once employed more than 1,500 people and provided power to 1.4 million homes.

Federal officials said that San Onofre, which is located on the Pacific Ocean roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, is the largest nuclear plant in the US to permanently shut down in the past 50 years.

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