SoCal Edison begins talks with NRC to restart San Onofre nuclear plant

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Southern California Edison tested the waters Wednesday at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Maryland headquarters to restart one generator at the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant at reduced power during the summer months.

But there is opposition to Edison's plan; at the hearing, the public asked more questions than did NRC officials.

The utility sent the NRC a draft of the operating license amendment last week. Now Edison is asking regulatory officials what else should go into its application.

NRC staff appeared satisfied with most of the paperwork, but urged Edison to get the actual amendment request in for review as soon as possible if its goal is to get the plant running this summer.

RELATED: Edison submits plan to feds to restart San Onofre nuclear plant

Edison spokeswoman Maureen Brown says it’s normal to meet with the NRC prior to formally submitting an application, but she says most pre-submittal conferences don't get this much attention. "It is unusual I think to have this level of public interest," she said, "which we invite and encourage."

More than half the meeting was devoted to taking questions from the public — both on the phone and in the hearing room. One of those posing questions from the audience was the former head of L.A.'s Department of Water and Power, David Freeman.

Kendra Ulrich of the environmental group Friends of the Earth also asked the NRC questions about the process of  approving Edison's request. She says the problems of tube wear at San Onofre are unique, since there’s never been a problem like this at plants anywhere in the world.

Edison wants to run Unit 2 at 70 percent power for five months to prove it’s safe. Ulrich says that will put 8.7 million lives at risk: "So essentially they’re asking the NRC to approve a very large experiment with Southern California."

A public hearing will be held in May or June after the NRC has finished its review of Edison’s application. Members of the public complained that’s too late in the process.

Doug Broaddus, the NRC official in charge of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station,  says the agency will not allow the plant to restart until it is "confident" the unit can be operated safely.

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