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Sun Feb 5, 2012, 06:29 PM

Worn Pipes Shut California Reactors ( the pipes are relatively NEW!) [View all]

The two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear-power station near San Clemente, Calif., will remain shut down this weekend while federal safety officials investigate why critical—and relatively new—equipment is showing signs of premature wear.
The problem surfaced Jan. 31, when one of the units sprang a leak in a pipe called a steam tube, releasing small amounts of radioactive steam and tripping radiation alarms. Operators shut down the reactor four hours later.


get this:
San Onofre was built in the 1980s. Its owners, Edison International and Sempra Energy, spent more than $800 million replacing nearly 40,000 steam tubes and four giant steam generators in 2009 and 2010, buying the equipment from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The tubes are made of a metal called Inconel alloy 690, a state-of-the-art material intended to address a prior problem with cracking in tubes made of a different alloy, experts said.

Steam-tube leaks aren't unusual in older plants, experts said, "but I think such rapid degradation is clearly unusual," said Edwin Lyman, nuclear expert for the Union of Concerned Scientists. He added that it suggests manufacturing defects or operational issues.

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