Climate & Energy Blog

SAN ONOFRE: Edison’s restart request reduces safety to a footnote

Posted Apr. 1, 2013 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Friends of the Earth briefing Tuesday on utility’s plan to circumvent full license review and public hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Southern California Edison’s draft request for a license amendment for one of the crippled reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station would  ignore major safety issues and circumvent a public hearing process, warned Friends of the Earth said today.

Edison released a draft of a license amendment request that they will discuss on Wednesday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The document makes clear they consider their experimental scheme to restart reactor Unit 2 and run it at 70 percent power as only a minor administrative issue that can be handled with a footnote to their current operating license. If the NRC grants Edison its request, hearings could be held after the reactor is restarted.

Friends of the Earth will hold a telephone briefing Tuesday with John Large, a London-based expert on nuclear reactors, who will provide a detailed analysis of Edison’s request. The briefing will be at 10 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday. The call-in number is (661) 673-8600 and the access code is 231985#.

Friends of the Earth said operating any nuclear reactor 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. In addition to ignoring these major safety issues, Edison is seeking to fast track the licensing process and block public oversight and participation by submitting a request to the NRC for a finding of no significant hazard.

“The NRC must stand firm and demand a comprehensive license amendment process that includes all safety issues, and the opportunity for full public hearing,” said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “It must also reject Edison's demand for a no hazard finding. This is not a footnote in a license as Edison claims but a severely damaged reactor that is unsafe to operate.”

In Tuesday’s briefing, in addition to analysis on the licensing process Edison is planning to submit, John Large will detail how Edison was involved in the design of the flawed replacement steam generators from the very beginning of the process. He will discuss the clear evidence of Edison's prior knowledge of significant design failures with the steam generators at least as early as 2005, and how its failure to correct these problems led to unprecedented rapid tube wear.

Also today, public interest groups from across the country urged Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to block Edison’s scheme. The letter asks Sen. Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. Waxman, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to exercise their authority to require that Edison undergo the rigors of a thorough license amendment and public adjudicatory hearing on all the San Onofre safety issues before a decision is made on restarting the reactors, and to deny any request from Edison for a No Significant Hazards consideration. A coalition of grassroots organizations also sent a similar letter today to Sen. Boxer and Rep. Waxman echoing these requests.

“The fact that Edison is, yet again, attempting to sidestep federal regulation and deny the public a meaningful hearing in the interest of expediency and its bottom line is wholly unacceptable,” says the letter, whose signatories include Terry Tamminen, former secretary of the California EPA, now president of Seventh Generation Advisors, the Sierra Club, Public Citizen and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The letter further asks Sen. Boxer and Rep. Waxman to make sure that any discussion of Edison’s scheme be held in Southern California, where 8.7 million people live within 50 miles of the reactors. Wednesday’s meeting will be at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md.

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

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