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San Onofre: NRC opens public comment on Edison's dangerous nuclear experiment

Posted Apr. 16, 2013 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Friends of the Earth: ‘No significant hazard’ ruling proves regulator ‘in the pocket’ of utility

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today's Federal Register notice of a public comment period on Southern California Edison’s request for a license amendment to pave the way for a fast-track restart of the crippled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shows how deeply the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s reactor regulation division is in Edison’s pocket, said Friends of the Earth.

In a preliminary ruling that Edison’s proposal to run one of the San Onofre reactors at partial power poses no significant hazard, the NRC has rubber-stamped Edison's flawed and threadbare safety analysis. The Federal Register notice fails to even acknowledge that San Onofre has suffered unprecedented levels of tube damage to its steam generators. If the preliminary ruling stands, the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, a division of the NRC, can grant a license amendment before a formal public hearing of the evidence that the reactors are dangerously damaged.

“The problems that have kept San Onofre shut down for more than 15 months remain unresolved and unrepaired, and the damage will continue if the reactor is allowed to restart,” said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Edison's own experts disagree with one another as to the cause of the damage, but agree that the reactor’s steam tubes will be in danger of bursting in a matter of months. And the Nuclear Reactor Regulator says this poses no hazard?”

Edison is seeking an amendment -- literally a footnote to its current operating license -- to operate reactor Unit 2 at 70 percent power for up to 24 months and has admitted that it plans to shut down and restart the reactor four or five times during this time period. However, Edison has failed to complete a root cause analysis of the cause of the severe tube damage at the reactor. Its own consultants report that tube damage will continue with restart and that it could be only months before tubes rupture -- well within the time frame of this license amendment.

“Both Edison and the Nuclear Reactor Regulator have failed to address the multiple safety issues with San Onofre and this experimental plan. Now they’ve launched a public consultation on Edison's terms,” said Ulrich. “Despite this stacked deck, all those concerned with the state of this dangerous nuclear reactor and the threat it poses to millions of people in California will continue to demand that all investigations must be completed, and that an adjudicatory hearing must be held, before any decisions are made that could pave the way for restart,” said Ulrich.

The public comment period runs for 30 days. Friends of the Earth is working with its consulting nuclear engineers to challenge the many flaws in Edison's proposal and the Nuclear Reactor Regulator’s s review of the evidence.

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 understands the  root cause of the severe wear damage or how to fix the problems in its steam generators.

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

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