Senator Boxer calls for hearing on San Onofre nuclear plant during NRC chair's reconfirmation

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California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer told Nuclear Regulatory chairwoman Allison Macfarlane that she wants two things before the restart of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is considered: completion of an investigation and a public hearing.

Boxer made her comments Thursday as part of the Senate reconfirmation hearing for Macfarlane, who is seeking another term as chair of the NRC.

Boxer scoffed at Southern California Edison's (SCE) plan to change its operating license to restart the number two reactor at San Onofre at partial capacity.

She repeated the U.S. Atomic Safety Licensing Board's description of the plan as an "experiment."

Boxer commented on SCE's plan to operate the reactor at 70 percent.

"We'll see what happens, we'll see how it goes," Boxer said during the hearing.  "That's like saying I think I fixed the damaged brakes on your car, but don't drive it over 40 miles per hour." 

Boxer repeatedly brought up the 8 million people living within 50 miles of the nuclear plant,  saying if someone came to the NRC today and asked for a license to operate a nuclear power plant at that site, "in a seismic and a tsunami zone, we all know every single commissioner would say, ‘don’t you think you could find a better place for it?’"

The plant has been shut down since January 2012 after a radiation leak led to discovery of faulty steam generator tubes.

Earlier this week, the NRC delayed setting a specific date to make a decision on SCE's restart plan for the San Onofre nuclear plant.

There was one moment of levity during the reconfirmation hearing Thursday as Boxer tried to help Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter pronounce San Onofre. She gave up after two tries.

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