Ailing San Onofre nuclear power plant eyes summer restart

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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.

In a reversal, the operator of the San Onofre nuclear plant says it might ask for changes to its license. The goal is to get the plant running by when it’s most needed — the hot summer months.
Last fall, Southern California Edison proposed re-starting San Onofre at 70 percent power for five months. They said operating at reduced power would make the tube-to-tube wear that shut down the plant less likely.
But federal regulators questioned whether the plant could run at a level it was neither designed nor licensed for. For months, Edison has maintained it is allowed to run San Onofre at reduced power.
Company spokesman Jennifer Manfre says that hasn’t changed, but in the interest of getting the plant re-started as quickly as possible it’s now considering another tack: asking for a license change.
“Because we want to be responsible to our customers, particularly with the summer heat coming, we’re looking to pursue the right path that has the least amount of delay and uses resources wisely,” said Manfre.
The environmental group Friends of Earth has long argued that Edison should have applied for a new operating license when it installed its new steam generators.
Spokesman Damon Moglen says what Edison is thinking about doing now amounts to a dangerous shortcut.
“It’s clear to everybody that running damaged nuclear nuclear reactors is a terrible idea and what we need is a full, thorough public review and not some expedited process for them to go online to make profits during the summer months,” said Moglen.
Moglen’s group wants San Onofre scrutinized by judges, witnesses under oath and public hearings — just the sort of drawn out process Edison badly wants to avoid.

— Ben Bergman

Previously: The operator of the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant in California is considering a new strategy to get one of the shuttered reactors back in service by summer.

Southern California Edison says it might seek a rewrite of the plant's operating rules that, if approved, would allow the Unit 2 reactor to run at reduced power.

Edison said in a statement Friday that if it seeks that change, it will also argue that running the reactor at 70 percent power would pose no significant safety risk.

The company needs the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the plant.

San Onofre has been shut down since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

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