SAN DIEGO - For the first time, a source from inside the San Onofre nuclear power plant has come forward to warn that restarting the power plant is too dangerous.
"There is something grossly wrong," said the inside source, a safety engineer who worked at San Onofre and has 25 years in the nuclear field.
The source, who requested anonymity, is not alone in concerns over the safety San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
*Click here for a timeline of San Onofre incidents
"The tubes operate under very high pressure," Hopenfeld said, adding there is no protection provided between the tubes, which are placed in rows, to keep them from hitting each other.
Our sources said the redesign of the generators had unintended consequences. Tubes began hitting each other, creating cracks.
"These tubes were hitting each other -- that's dangerous," said Team 10's anonymous source.
He wants to remain anonymous because he told Team 10 he fears for his safety.
"When they made these changes, they did not look at the academic research nor use critical question and an investigative attitude," said the source.
Hopenfeld and the inside source said the tubes' movement -- banging into each other -- led to unprecedented tube failures.
Of 19,400 tubes, a NRC report found more than 17 percent were damaged.
Hopenfeld said the worst case scenario is a main steam line break, which he says could be caused by tubes cracking, the tube walls thinning or metal fatigue.
The anonymous insider and Hopenfeld said if there is a main steam line break, there is potential for the reactor core to overheat - which could mean a full or partial meltdown.
"Many tubes, and I don't know how many, have exhausted their fatigue life - they have no fatigue life left," Hopefeld said.
Just like the airline industry, the effect of fatigue on metal is something of concern in the nuclear industry.
Operators of the concrete-domed San Onofre nuclear plant Monday were trying to reassure jittery Southern California residents that the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan won't happen here.
The 84-acre generating station in the northern corner of San Diego County is built to withstand a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, said Gil Alexander, a spokesman for the generation station's operator, Southern California Edison. That is greater than the 6.5 shaker that scientists predicted could strike the plant before it was built 42 years ago, he said. But it's less than the 8.9 quake that hit Japan last week.
A 25-foot-high "tsunami wall" of reinforced concete was also erected between the plant and the adjacent ocean, a height based on scientists' best estimates of the potential threat, he said. The geological fault most likely to directly threaten San Onofre lies about 5 miles offshore, Alexander said.
Nelson Mar, PhD (former Senior Engineer for the original design of San Onofre Units 2 & 3), said San Onofre is not designed for current earthquake or tsunami risks. See 3/27/12 Irvine City Council meeting video.
San Onofre represents an unacceptable risk to public health and safety and we need a safer more reliable energy future. “We need to plan the quickest possible solution”, said Councilman Larry Agran in his compelling remarks at the 3/27/2012 City Council meeting.