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San Onofre: Friends of the Earth to NRC -- Operating unsafe reactor as a nuclear experiment is not an option

Posted May. 24, 2013 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Motion calls for convening hearing panel on license amendments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Friends of the Earth has filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requesting that a Licensing Board be convened to review license amendments that are required for Southern California Edison’s crippled San Onofre reactors, and provide an opportunity for an adjudicatory public hearing before any decision on restart. 

The motion calls on the NRC to implement the decision of its own Atomic Safety Licensing Board, which ruled last week that the current process for evaluating and approving restart of the San Onofre reactor Unit 2 is a de facto license amendment proceeding. The ASLB ruled that without making formal changes in San Onofre's license to address major safety issues Edison would be in violation of NRC regulations. The licensing board also ruled that a public hearing should be held prior to any decision on a new license.

Friends of the Earth’s motion, filed jointly with the Natural Resources Defense Council, calls on the NRC to convene an ASLB panel to preside over an adjudicatory license amendment proceeding. If the motion is accepted by the NRC, it would require Edison to submit a new license amendment that addresses unresolved safety issues. It would also consolidate the existing and newly required license amendment into one proceeding. 

“The ASLB was very clear that operating San Onofre in its present uniquely damaged state would be an ‘experiment’ and outside its safety license requirements. Our motion makes clear to the NRC that moving forward on the current plan without further license amendments is not an option for them or Edison,” said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

“It’s not that complicated,” Ulrich continued. “An unprecedented safety flaw is found at a nuclear reactor  located in a highly active earthquake zone, and the agency’s own judicial safety board says it’s not legal to operate. The ASLB’s order confirms that all the major safety issues that Edison and the NRC have failed to acknowledge, never mind resolve, must be considered by a full license amendment process with an adjudicatory public hearing prior to restart.”

Established by the NRC Commissioners in late 2012 to hear a case brought by Friends of the Earth, the ASLB ruled last week that the current proposal from Edison to restart the reactor was an “experiment” with a reactor that had suffered “unique” phenomenon of steam generator tube damage. Edison has provided no data to prove that it can operate San Onofre without further damage -- in fact, its own consultants acknowledge that steam tubes will continue to incur further damage even if the reactor operates at only 70 percent power. Last week nuclear engineers for Friends of the Earth provided evidence to the NRC that operating San Onofre will not only lead to further tube damage and failure but risk a major nuclear accident potentially affecting the lives of millions of people in Southern California.

Both the NRC and Edison in all of their assessments and proceedings have failed to address and resolve important safety issues. These include the vulnerability of the San Onofre steam generators and the nuclear reactor to seismic impact, which could lead to a significant accident and radiation dosage for the public. San Onofre lies within 50 miles of 8.7 million people in Southern California. 

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Contact:
Kendra Ulrich, (216) 571-7340, kulrich@foe.org 
Shaun Burnie, (202) 251-1862, sburnie@foe.org

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