The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is seen on April 6, 2012.
UPDATE 3:15p.m.: Senator Barbara Boxer is asking federal regulators to open a new investigation on San Onofre because she says she’s uncovered new information showing the plant’s operator was aware of serious design problems with faulty steam generators before they were installed.
In a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Boxer and U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) said they obtained an “alarming” report from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the manufacturer of the two steam generators that last year inspectors found were worn down, despite being almost brand new.
The document shows both Mitsubishi and plant operator Edison’s decision to reject safety modifications contributed to the shutdown of the plant, according to the letter, which suggests Edison might have shortchanged safety to avoid a judicial-style license review process when the new generators were installed.
“The letter from Senator Boxer is an absolute bombshell,” said Damon Moglen, Director of the Climate and Energy Program at Friends of the Earth.
The environmental group has petitioned the NRC to force Edison to go through a license review before re-starting the plant.
He says Boxer’s letter confirms the need for the review, while also raising troubling questions.
“Is it really the case that Edison knew that they had defective equipment and did they go ahead and install that equipment and endanger the lives of millions of people in Southern California? Did the NRC know that Edison knew that the equipment was flawed? If they did why didn’t they act, and if they didn’t know, how is it possible they didn’t know given that independent analysts have been saying all along the equipment was flawed?”
Boxer’s office hasn’t released the full document it obtained from Mitsubishi.
Neither Mitsubishi nor Edison responded to requests for comment.
The NRC responded in a statement: “We have received the letter from Sen. Boxer and Congressman Markey and will respond in the normal course of business. As an independent safety agency, we will review all available information in making a judgment as to whether the plant would meet our safety standards if restart were permitted.”
This story has been updated.