San Onofre: Friends of the Earth: Edison's license request a risky red herring that NRC must reject

San Onofre: Friends of the Earth: Edison’s license request a risky red herring that NRC must reject

WASHINGTON – Southern California Edison’s request for a license amendment for one of its crippled San Onofre nuclear reactors treats major safety issues as a minor footnote and seeks to strip the public of the right to a meaningful public hearing, warned Friends of the Earth. Edison has told the NRC that they want to restart San Onofre reactor unit 2 June 1.

“Edison’s idea of a license amendment is a rubber stamp from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “Its request is a red herring to divert attention from major unresolved safety issues and circumvent meaningful public participation. It would be an outrage and a betrayal of the public’s trust if the NRC were to concede to Edison’s demands.”

In the license amendment request filed April 5 with the NRC, Edison treats its risky and experimental scheme to restart reactor Unit 2 and run it at 70 percent power as a minor administrative issue that can be literally relegated to a footnote in its current operating license. If the agency grants Edison’s request for a “No Significant Hazard” finding, public hearings could be held after the reactor is restarted — even if independent experts testified that there was a greater risk of accident, the public would have no means to redress this issue through the NRC.

San Onofre’s steam generators are so damaged that they should never have been granted a license in the first place. Operating them at reduced power impacts the safety of the entire reactor, so all related safety issues must be considered in a review of the operating license.

“This is not about nuclear safety — it’s about Edison trying to salvage some revenue from San Onofre this summer,” said Ulrich. “The safest and cheapest option is to keep both reactors shut down. Restarting San Onofre is too risky and Edison’s request for a no hazard finding must be rejected by the NRC.”

The NRC is currently conducting an expansive investigation of Edison — what the utility knew years ago about the major safety design problems in the replacement steam generators and why those problems were not addressed before the $671 million generators were installed. The NRC is also still assessing Edison’s incomplete and flawed analysis of the information the utility filed to secure an experimental restart of San Onofre reactor Unit 2. Two panels of the NRC, after hearing months of evidence, are still considering Edison’s compliance with its operating license. Despite all of the unresolved issues, Edison is attempting to fast-track approval for restart.

Friends of the Earth commissioned an in-depth technical analysis from a world-renowned nuclear engineer, John Large of Large & Associates in London. The analysis, filed with the NRC, shows that Edison has yet to provide convincing evidence that it knew the full reasons or root cause of the severe wear damage in its steam generators. The problems remain unresolved and un-repaired, and the damage will continue if the reactor is allowed by the NRC to restart. In fact, Edison’s own experts hired by the utility to examine the problems disagree with one another as to the cause of the damage.

Letters from a coalition of grassroots organizations in Southern California, as well as national organizations, have been sent to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), calling on them to use their influential positions on committees overseeing the NRC to demand a comprehensive license amendment process that includes all safety issues and the opportunity for full public hearing.


Kendra Ulrich, (216) 571-7340
Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911

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