Oceans & Forests Blog

San Onofre: Nuclear Regulatory Commission will try to erase record of judge's ruling that led to shutdown

Posted Jun. 14, 2013 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Friends of the Earth: Atomic Safety Licensing Board ruling must not be vacated

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just one week after Southern California Edison announced the permanent shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear reactors in the face of a devastating ruling by a panel of judges, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will launch a desperate attempt to erase the ruling from the record, Friends of the Earth warned today.

Friends of the Earth, which brought the case that led to the ruling by the Atomic Safety Licensing Board, was informed by NRC lawyers that the commission staff will file a motion later today (Friday, June 14) to vacate, or set aside, the ASLB's ruling.

Last month the three expert judges of the ASLB issued a unanimous verdict agreeing with Friends of the Earth and the Natural Resources Defense Council, that restarting San Onofre reactor Unit 2 would violate terms of its existing operating license and would therefore require an formal adjudicated license amendment process, including public hearing and expert testimony. On June 7 Edison announced that in the face of the ASLB ruling -- which would have led to legal challenges that would delay any restart until 2014 or beyond -- the utility will keep both the plant's reactors closed for good.

"The NRC staff wants to pretend that the ruling that led to the shutdown never happened," said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "But this decisive ruling can not be unwritten and the facts can’t be maneuvered away -- in a case involving reactor safety, citizens have the right to public hearings and a formal legal process. Friends of the Earth will vigorously oppose any attempt by the NRC to rewrite history."

The NRC's Office of General Counsel has notified attorneys for Friends of the Earth by email that they intend to file a motion to vacate the ASLB ruling no later than Friday, June 14, 2013. The move by the NRC to wipe the ASLB ruling from the record is yet another instance of how the agency has aggressively resisted efforts to make Edison play by the rules in its bid to restart the reactors.

The ASLB panel was convened last November by a unanimous decision of the NRC Commissioners to rule on Friends of the Earth's petition charging that restart would require a formal process in a court-like setting with public hearings, sworn testimony and expert witnesses. But after the ASLB ruled in Friends of the Earth's favor on May 13, the NRC staff downplayed the decision, saying an adjudicated hearing was not necessary and that it might allow restart first and hold meaningless hearings later.

"It's shameful enough that the NRC staff was willing to go along with Edison's attempt to deny citizens the right to a hearing and legal process," said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "Now, after the judges' ruling went against them, they're trying to make it disappear. If the federal agency overseeing nuclear reactors isn't on the side of public safety, who are they working for?"

“The decision closed two reactors forever," said Burnie. "It is a lesson that should not -- and will not -- be forgotten. The idea that it can be vacated is an NRC staff daydream.”

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Contact:
Kendra Ulrich, (216) 571-7340, kulrich@foe.org
Shaun Burnie, (202) 701-6962, sburnie@foe.org

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