Suspect Gear Went Unused at San Onofre

Times Staff Writer

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant purchased 16 circuit breakers manufactured by one of six California companies suspected of labeling used breakers as new, but none of the devices was ever installed, a Southern California Edison spokesman said Wednesday.

The breakers, which had been designated for use near the plant's reactors, were bought from the North Hollywood-based California Breakers, said Richard Rosenblum, manager of quality assurance for Southern California Edison, majority owner of the San Onofre plant.

Rosenblum said a review of recent purchases shows that the breakers were bought by an independent distributor and later sold to the San Onofre plant.

"We have since specifically excluded the companies under investigation from selling to San Onofre," Rosenblum said. "We bought nothing from them directly, only through our distributor."

He said he did not know when the San Onofre plant bought the devices, which are safety devices used to cut off power.

Warehouses Raided

California Breakers is one of half a dozen Southern California companies under investigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allegedly labeling and selling an unknown number of used breakers as new.

The other companies named by NRC investigators are General Circuit Breakers and Electric Supply Inc. of Arcadia; HLC Electric Supply Co. of Baldwin Park; General Magnetics/Electric Wholesale of Commerce, Calif.; AC Circuit Breaker-Electrical Supply of Los Angeles, and Electro Components Distributors of Orange County Inc., based in Anaheim.

California Breakers and Electro Components Distributors are alternate names for one operation, Anti-Theft Systems Inc., NRC spokesman Greg Cook said.

NRC agents raided the companies' offices and warehouses on July 7 after obtaining a search warrant in federal court in Los Angeles.

Notices were sent to nuclear power plants throughout the country a day after the raids, warning that they may have purchased faulty breakers.

The first batch of mislabeled breakers turned up at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, near San Luis Obispo. The equipment had failed tests four months ago and was in the warehouse at the power station when it was turned over to the NRC.

The Diablo Canyon breakers had been earmarked for use in a non-safety-related area, an area separate from the nuclear reactors.

Cook said he did not know whether any other plants have discovered mislabeled circuit breakers.

NRC agents noted that it is not illegal to produce rebuilt circuit breakers as long as the equipment is labeled appropriately.

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