Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009 | Mistakes and management problems continue to mount at the San Onofre nuclear plant, despite an unprecedented executive shake-up and a year-long effort to convince federal regulators and an industry ratings group that things are improving.
Federal regulators stress that the coastal facility south of San Clemente remains safe, and that nearby residents in San Diego and Orange counties have nothing to fear.
Southern California Edison, the utility that operates San Onofre, has acknowledged its performance weaknesses, but executives there say the plant “is operated in a safe and reliable manner.”
Still, internal reports and Nuclear Regulatory Commission assessments indicate that the plant’s shortcomings include a degraded safety culture; falling behind on preventive maintenance; allowing equipment to become less reliable; not finding, analyzing and fixing problems adequately; not providing employees with sufficient training and written procedures to prevent mistakes; and lagging well behind its peers in worker safety.
Those problems have led to falsified fire watch records and caused such problems as a loose battery connection on a safety system to go undiscovered for years.
“People should be concerned about this,” nuclear engineer David Lochbaum said in an interview before he became a trainer for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission in mid-February.