San Onofre: Feds stonewall nuclear watchdogs petition for legal hearing on reactor restart

San Onofre: Feds stonewall nuclear watchdogs petition for legal hearing on reactor restart

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s continued refusal to consider a legally binding hearing on the future of the San Onofre nuclear plant has prompted Friends of the Earth to accuse the agency of failing to protect the public and of failing to follow its own rules and procedures.

More than three months have passed since Friends of the Earth petitioned the NRC for a legally binding hearing on the future of the crippled plant. In that time, the NRC has failed to even schedule a discussion of the petition. Now that Southern California Edison has submitted a plan to restart one of San Onofre’s reactors, Friends of the Earth is reiterating its request that the NRC begin a license amendment process to determine if San Onofre is safe to operate and is asking for an emergency stay to keep the plant closed in the meantime.

In a letter to the NRC , Friends of the Earth said: “Time is being wasted.” The organization argued that that the Commission is not only ignoring the law but precedent in a strikingly similar case.

In 2002, the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona – partly owned by Edison – replaced two steam generators of similar design to those used at San Onofre. Under NRC rules, when utilities replace major equipment with a revised design that affects the unit’s safe operation, the licensee must obtain a license amendment. Palo Verde’s operators did so.

In contrast, when Edison replaced the steam generators at San Onofre, the utility claimed it was “like for like” – so similar to the units it was replacing that no license amendment was required.  But Edison in fact made major design changes to the new steam generators that caused the equipment to degrade and fail after less than two years of operation.  These errors in design and the steam generators’ failure are now critical to the question as to whether it’s safe to operate either of the San Onofre reactors.

“It cannot be lawful for utilities to pick and choose the process they undergo,” Friends of the Earth wrote to the NRC. Friends of the Earth “seeks only that this Commission enforce its own rules in an even-handed manner. . . .  We submit that, consistent with its decision on the Palo Verde plant, its own regulations, and the Atomic Energy Act, the Commission, not the staff, must decide the point and must grant the petition filed by Friends of the Earth and convene a licensing proceeding to amend formally the license for San Onofre.”

To read the letter to the NRC: /wp-content/uploads/2017/legacy/12-10-16_Letter_to_the_NRC.pdf

Damon Moglen, (202) 222-0708
Dave Freeman, (310) 902-2147

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