Senator Boxer's battle with NRC heats up over San Onofre documents

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) charges that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is purposefully withholding documents related to the San Onofre nuclear plant. Mae Ryan/KPCC

They’ve been at loggerheads for months. Now, Senator Barbara Boxer is escalating her battle with the agency that oversees the San Onofre nuclear power plant. 

In a biting letter send Tuesday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Boxer accuses the NRC of unilaterally instituting a “controversial” and “obstructive” new policy that justifies withholding information from Congress.  Boxer is examining a mountain of documents related to San Onofre, which has ceased operation because of safety issues.

Last week, at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Boxer accused the NRC of intimidation, saying agency representatives threatened to search Boxer’s staff to make sure they hadn’t taken any documents they had been allowed to review. "They’re not an independent agency that doesn’t have to answer to the Congress," Boxer said.

NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane has described the dispute as a misunderstanding and the policy change as a revision. The agency leader last week confirmed there are "a couple" of investigations related to San Onofre underway at the NRC, but said she couldn't comment on them.

The NRC declined to comment on the latest Boxer letter, saying the agency will communicate directly with the Senator, not the media. Boxer’s staff said, so far, the NRC hasn’t responded at all.