Feds: Orange County meeting in Feb. on San Onofre nuclear plant restart plan

View of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County. The nuclear plant has been offline since January 31, 2012. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting February 12 in San Juan Capistrano to talk about restarting one of the plant's two units. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plans a public meeting Feb. 12 in Orange County to talk about plants to restart the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The plant has been offline since January 31, 2012, after a faulty steam tube leaked radiation into the atmosphere. Investigators determined the leak was due to vibrations which caused the tubes to wear faster than expected. Degradation was discovered in tubes in both of the plants two units. 

Southern California Edison (SCE) submitted plans to the NRC to restart one of the plants two reactors, Unit 2, for a limited time on reduced power. The leak in the steam generator tube was discovered in Unit 3, but inspections later found accelerated tube wear in Unit 2. 

The NRC is reviewing the restart plan and has said it would be at least sometime in the spring before the agency would issue a response to SCE. 

As part of the meeting next month, the NRC staff is expected to talk about the status of its inspection and technical evaluation of SCE’s response to the NRC Confirmatory Action Letter of March 27, concerning  actions required to be taken by the company to address steam generator tube degradation at the San Onofre nuclear plant. 

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the Capo Beach Church in San Juan Capistrano.The church seats 1,100 and parking will be free.

Anti-nuclear groups, including Friends of the Earth, want the NRC to put the utility through a rigorous operating license amendment process, since steam generators installed a few years ago were of a different design than their predecessors. Some anti-nuclear groups say the nuclear plant has a long history of safety and operating problems and should be shut down permanently. 

"The San Onofre nuclear plant should be decommissioned now," said Gene Stone with San Clemente-based Residents Organized for a Safe Environment. "I would add that any restart is a dangerous experiment by SCE and an act of complicity by the NRC with no regard for the safety of southern Californians and the state economy." 

The NRC said members of the public who attend the meeting will have the opportunity to submit comments and question staff and SCE executives.

"We want to provide the public with a status report on the NRC's inspection activities at San Onofre and our ongoing evaluation of Southern California Edison's proposal for restarting Unit 2," said NRC Region IV Administrator Elmo Collins. "We encourage interested members of the public to attend the meeting, ask questions and provide comments to the NRC staff about our ongoing review."

The meeting will also be streamed online by the NRC.