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California nuclear plant denies knowing about faulty equipment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The utility that runs the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant on the California coast sharply denied Thursday that it was aware of equipment problems linked to a 2012 tube break that released a trace of radiation.

Sen. Barbara Boxer pressed federal regulators to open an investigation at the plant after uncovering documents that she said suggest that Southern California Edison took engineering shortcuts and compromised safety.

The Democratic senator said in a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Allison Macfarlane that a confidential report obtained by her office shows Edison and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the company that built the plant’s steam generators, were aware of design problems before the equipment was installed.

But Edison said in a statement “it is simply not accurate” to suggest the company was aware of design problems, and pointed out the equipment carried a 20-year warranty against defects.

“SCE would never, and did not, install steam generators that it believed would not perform safely,” the company said. Edison “sought to purchase replacement steam generators that would meet or improve upon the safety standards and performance of the original steam generators.”

The seaside plant located between San Diego and Los Angeles hasn’t produced electricity in more than a year, after a tiny radiation leak in January 2012 led to the discovery of damage to hundreds of steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water.

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