NRC chair meeting Monday with environmental groups on San Onofre nuclear plant

Evening sets on the San Onofre nuclear power plant in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California. The facility has been shutdown nearly one year. The Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission meets Monday with environmental groups concerned about restarting the damaged plant.
Evening sets on the San Onofre nuclear power plant in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California. The facility has been shutdown nearly one year. The Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission meets Monday with environmental groups concerned about restarting the damaged plant. David McNew/Getty Images

The head of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to meet with several environmental groups Monday in Orange County. The groups are concerned about the restart of the damaged San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

The nuclear plant, along the seaside border of San Diego and Orange counties, has been shut down since January 31, 2012 after a radioactive steam leak.

At the time of the leak, one of the two units was offline for maintenance. When the unit in operation had a radioactive steam leak, Southern California Edison shut down the reactor. Inspections later discovered that steam generator tubes, which carry radioactive water, had unusual or accelerated wear.

Southern California Edison has submitted a plan to restart one of the two reactor units, Unit 2, and operate it for a limited time – about five months – at 70 percent capacity. The idea is to see how it operates.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane, is meeting with five environmental groups Monday afternoon in San Juan Capistrano about issues related to the restart of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.  Gene Stone with Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE) met with Macfarlane last September. He said the groups will ask Macfarlane if a real-time online radiation monitoring system, available to the public, will be created for SONGS.

Stone said the groups also want a public hearing in San Clemente to allow an open discussion about problems at San Onofre, and they want Southern California Edison to release test information about the steam generators.

The generators are at the crux of several problems at the plant and the focus of a challenge by a national environmental group.

Friends of the Earth has sent a petition to the NRC, charging that Edison’s installation of new and redesigned steam generators in 2009 and 2010 and should have been subject to a formal hearing. After the radiation leak a year ago, inspections found steam generator tubes had unusual or accelerated wear in both reactor units. And on Wednesday, the NRC plans a hearing to consider the Friend’s petition.

Southern California Edison has submitted a plan to restart one of the two units at San Onofre on reduced power for a limited time. The NRC is considering the request and has said it won’t have a decision until at least the spring. Meantime, the California Public Utilities Commission is investigating whether ratepayers should get refunds for all the months the plant has not been generating electricity. 

The Monday meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Residence Inn San Juan Capistrano, 33711 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675.

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