Fires Near Nuclear Reactors, but No Imminent Danger

Wednesday, 24 Oct 2007 | 12:19 PM ET

Southern California wildfires moved 6 miles closer Wednesday to two nuclear reactors at the San Onofre power plant in northern San Diego County, but the utility that operates it says it is not in imminent danger.

"The fire does not pose a threat to the plant itself," said Gil Alexander, spokesman for Southern California Edison.

A fire at Camp Pendleton to the south of the only nuclear power plant in Southern California is about a mile from offices on the outskirts of the San Onofre property, but it is not that close to the two reactors, Alexander said.

Both of the reactors at the plant are not in operation due to maintenance work that began before the fires sparked on Sunday.

Some 1,300 homes have been lost in San Diego County, the most critical area, and an official estimated damages would exceed $1 billion.

The two reactors at San Onofre can make about 2,250 megawatts of power, enough to serve about 1.4 million homes.

All nonessential office workers at San Onofre were told not to come to work on Wednesday but maintenance work on the two reactors continued and the schedule for their return has not been changed, Alexander said.

Transmission lines from the San Onofre plant into the SCE service area to the north of the plant are operating and not under imminent threat from fire, he said.

San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns 20 percent of San Onofre and therefore owns 20 percent of the power generated there, had not returned phone calls on Wednesday morning to determine whether the lines from San Onofre to its service area to the south of the plant were working.

SDG&E is owned by Sempra Energy.

On a Web site posting Wednesday morning, SDG&E said, "There is currently a fire burning under our transmission lines in Camp Pendleton. This line is critical to our region's energy supply. Those lines are now out of service."

Unit 2 at the plant went down on Sunday and is expected to be out for a short period. Power market traders guessed it would be back this weekend.

Unit 3 at the plant went down on Oct. 9 and is expected to be back in service about Nov. 9.

Unit 2 is then expected to go into a refueling outage from late November to mid-January.

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