Last week, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) released a report showing that both that company and Southern California Edison (SCE) knew that replacement steam generators built by Mitsubishi for SCE's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station had major design problems as far back as 2005. The report further states that the companies chose to not make these findings public out of fear they would lead to costly public hearings and more rigorous oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
As it turned out, however, burying the information was probably the worst thing SCE could have done, as the faulty steam generators caused vital tubes to vibrate, producing such damage that the plant had to be shut down in January 2012
. A year later, San Onofre remains closed, and the release of MHI's bombshell report last week has only fueled demands it never be allowed to reopen.
Yesterday, for example, the environmental-watchdog nonprofit group Friends of the Earth called on SCE to release its own records on what it knew about the faulty replacement steam generators, when it knew it, and why it chose to bury the information.
"The MHI report appears to squarely place the cause of and responsibility for the outages at San Onofre at Edison's feet," S. David Freeman, former head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and a senior adviser to Friends of the Earth, says in the group's announcement yesterday. "It's urgent that the Public Utilities Commission prioritize this phase of the investigation, and the additional documents we've requested from Edison are important to answering these questions."
Another group monitoring the disaster at San Onofre is the World Business Academy, whose president, Rinaldo S. Brutoco, insists SCE must not pass on the cost--estimated to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars--of its misconduct to its customers. "The Academy, which believes that companies can generate profits while being good corporate citizens, concludes that Edison's actions, in circumventing federal nuclear-safety regulations and playing radioactive Russian roulette with the health of Californians, represent an unscrupulous way of doing business," he said.
Friends of the Earth has demanded SCE fork over its records in what the group describes as its role as an "official intervener" in the ongoing investigation of the plant by California's Public Utilities Commission. The company has 10 days to publicly respond to the group's request and will be required to do so in a way the public can easily gain access to the information, such as posting it online. If MHI's report is any indication, we could be in store for an even bigger document dump.