David McNew/Getty Images
A couple stands near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach on March 15, 2012 south of San Clemente, California. Plant operator Southern California Edison has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart one of the two reactor units, at 70 percent of power for a limited time. The nuclear plant has been shut down a leak in generator tubes sent a small amount of radioactive steam into the atmosphere on January 31, 2012. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Can a nuclear reactor operating at 70 percent power actually be running at full power?
The answer might be yes, in the case of the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County.
The nuclear plant, about three miles south of San Clemente, has been shut down since January 31, 2012, after the discovery of accelerated wear that damaged tubes which carry radioactive water.
Southern California Edison wants to restart one of the reactors and run it at 70 percent power for five months, hoping the tube damage stops.
However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told the utility it must show the plant can operate safely during a "full range" of conditions, including full power.
An Edison response Tuesday argues that for the trial-run period, 70 percent is full power and meets the federal requirement.
The NRC has scheduled a meeting Wednesday, February 27, to consider the NRC staff's review of SCE'sOctober 3,2012, response to the NRC's March 27, 2012, ConfirmatoryAction Letter for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Unit 2.
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.