San Onofre: Laguna Hills meeting no substitute for formal court hearings

San Onofre: Laguna Hills meeting no substitute for formal court hearings

Friends of the Earth: Public safety must be priority, not securing restart of nuclear reactor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tonight Southern California Edison will present to federal regulators its controversial plan to restart one of the crippled reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Friends of the Earth, which is seeking a formal hearing on the reactors’ future, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must put the safety of Southern Californians ahead of Edison’s reckless restart plan.

Tonight’s meeting in Laguna Hills, Calif., promises to be a tightly choreographed exchange of highly technical information between Edison and the NRC, with severely limited opportunity for public comment and no room for meaningful questioning.  Such a meeting is no substitute for a public adjudicatory hearing with presentation of evidence and an opportunity to cross-examine  expert witnesses, which is what should result from two official proceedings opened by the NRC earlier this month in response to a petition by Friends of the Earth.

“Edison is pushing hard to get NRC approval for what amounts to a reckless experiment with the lives and livelihoods of the 8.4 million people who live within 50 miles of San Onofre,” said Damon Moglen, energy and climate director for Friends of the Earth. “This critical matter should not be considered in another informal meeting, in which the audience is silenced and removed from the real process despite their demands for independent public input and oversight.  This matter should be considered in NRC proceedings designed to thoroughly examine the important questions:

  • Should the design changes Edison made that resulted in the failure of San Onofre’s steam generators have been allowed without an amendment to the plant’s operating license; and,
  • Should this experimental restart plan be allowed to go ahead without subjecting it to the rigorous license amendment process which would have in all likelihood caught these design failures in the first place?”

In response to a petition from Friends of the Earth, on Nov. 8 NRC commissioners directed the agency’s staff to consider whether Edison should have been required to seek a license amendment before installing replacement steam generators that were of a dramatically different design than those the plant is licensed for. The commissioners also directed the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to consider whether Edison’s restart plan requires a license amendment.

San Onofre’s reactors have been closed since January, after a leak of radioactive steam led to the discovery of widespread and unprecedented damage to the steam generator tubes. Edison is now proposing to restart reactor Unit 2 at partial power, even though it has made no repairs and has not detailed plans for future repair.  The controversial restart proposal has been widely criticized as a reckless experiment which could lead to a nuclear disaster.

Damon Moglen, (202) 222-0708
Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911

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