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Federal judges: No San Onofre restart without formal relicensing hearings

Posted May. 14, 2013 / Posted by: Shajuti Hossain

Atomic Safety Licensing Board grants Friends of the Earth’s petition

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a stunning rebuke to Southern California Edison’s bid to start up the crippled San Onofre nuclear power plant, the U.S. Atomic Safety Licensing Board ruled today that the reactors can not be restarted before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds a formal license amendment proceeding with full public participation. The prospects for Edison's plans to restart the San Onofre nuclear reactor unit two this summer have been dealt a major blow by this important decision.

A three-judge panel of the ASLB granted a petition from Friends of the Earth asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to require Edison to undergo a trial-like license amendment process before a judge, including public hearings, sworn testimony from expert witnesses and rules of evidence.

Last month, Edison asked the NRC for permission to restart one of the reactors by this summer and run it at partial power – a request the agency has indicated it would do with no prior public hearing. Today’s ruling, which was in response to a Friends of the Earth petition arguing that a March 2012 Confirmatory Action Letter from the NRC to Edison marked the start of a de facto license amendment process, prohibits the agency from taking that step.

“This ruling is a complete rejection of Edison’s plan to restart its damaged nuclear reactors without public review or input,” said Damon Moglen, energy and climate director for Friends of the Earth. “The ASLB has announced that the restart plan is an 'experiment' and calls the tube wear at San Onofre’s defective steam generators 'unprecedented,' as we have asserted all along."

The ruling by the ASLB requires a license amendment because the restart plan is an 'experiment' under Section 5090(ii) of NRC regulations, which would allow the unit to operate beyond the scope of the existing license and without compiling with applicable technical specifications.
Senator Barbara Boxer in a statement said the order sets “a legal framework for a full public hearing before any final decision on the restart of the San Onofre nuclear power plant is made by the NRC.”

"Given that the NRC commissioners asked the (Atomic Safety and Licensing) Board to undertake this review and given that these judges were appointed by the NRC, I expect the commissioners to follow their lead,” said the California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees the NRC.

Read the ASLB's ruling.

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Contact:

Damon Moglen, (202) 222-0708 or (202) 352-4223
Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911

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