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San Onofre: Edison expects to shut down and restart reactor repeatedly over next two years

Posted Apr. 3, 2013 / Posted by: Adam Russell

‘Disgraceful’ scheme for risky nuclear experiment could begin June 1

WASHINGTON – In an extraordinary admission, Southern California Edison said today that as part of the experimental plan to restart one of the crippled San Onofre nuclear reactors, the utility expects to have to shut it down and restart it four or five times in the next two years.

Edison also confirmed that they will ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve an amendment to their operating license, which would mean a public hearing would be only held after the decision is made.

Friends of the Earth said the proposal is disgraceful -- another example of Edison putting profits before safety and treating legitimate public concerns, and those of independent nuclear engineers, about safety with disregard and contempt.

In a meeting at NRC headquarters, Edison announced that it wants the NRC to approve the request in time to restart the damaged unit 2 reactor by June 1 and wants the license to cover two years of operation. If those requests are granted, the NRC could approve the license before any public hearings.

NRC officials indicated their decision will rely on Edison's technical evidence as submitted. What it shows is that if the reactor is restarted, the already damaged steam tubes will vibrate, suffer further wear and potentially burst in 6 to 13 months -- well before the two year time frame Edison has proposed.

“Yet again Edison is putting profits before safety,” said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “To propose an experiment in which the damaged reactor is repeatedly turned on and off shows a disgraceful contempt for public safety. With more than 8 million people living near this reactor, the NRC must act to protect the public, reject this reckless request, and commit to a full public hearing process before they make any decision.”

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, released Tuesday and to be filed with the NRC, shows that Edison has yet to provide convincing evidence that it knows 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 NRC allows the reactor to be restarted. 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 and the time left before a tube burst accident.

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.

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Contact:
Kendra Ulrich, (202) 222-0715
Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911

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