Citing possible safety problems, federal regulators have ordered officials of 38 nuclear power plants, including San Onofre in north San Diego County, to inspect and, if necessary, replace piping materials on which the supplier allegedly falsified test reports.
Some of the suspect flanges and fittings are used in safety-related systems whose failure could thwart the shutdown of a reactor in an emergency, said Edward Baker, a section chief in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office of Reactor Regulation.
Other plants cited as receiving suspect carbon-steel pipings are Rancho Seco in Northern California and Palo Verde in Arizona.
"The fact that (the plants) are listed doesn't necessarily mean that the materials are not good. . . . The materials are suspect," Baker said.
Baker said inspecting and replacing the suspect materials could pose some difficulty for operating plants, where the materials could be in high-radiation areas. Plants generally must complete the inspections and make replacements during their next refueling outages.
In a bulletin sent to the plants this week, the NRC said the suspect piping came from Piping Supplies Inc. of Folsom, N.J., and West Jersey Manufacturing Co. of Williamstown, N.J. Piping supplied since 1976 is covered by the bulletin.
West Jersey and Piping Supplies claimed in test reports that the piping met standards set by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, but in many cases it could not provide supporting documentation, Baker said. Some piping material was traced to a foreign company, which required additional tests that were not done, he said.
Joseph Walker Sr., a man with ties to both companies, denied Friday that Piping Supplies falsified any information, but he acknowledged that West Jersey's reports were falsified. He said he brought that information to the NRC's attention.
Walker, who was West Jersey's president, said that company closed in December, 1986, after he and other top officials were indicted on mail fraud and tax fraud charges. Walker said his son, Joseph Walker Jr., helped open Piping Supplies the next month. "I don't work here, I help my son," the elder Walker said by telephone from Piping Supplies' offices.
Walker Sr. said he pleaded guilty to the charges, paid more than $400,000 in fines and served probation.