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NRC Could Alter Rules For San Onofre Restart

February 13, 2013 1:24 p.m.

Guests

Alison St John, KPBS Senior Metro Reporter

Kendra Ulrich, Friends of the Earth

Related Story: NRC Meeting Offers Status Update On Restart Plan For San Onofre

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: OUR TOP STORY ON MIDDAY EDITION. LOTS OF QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC LAST NIGHT AT THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY MEETING ON THE STATUS OF THE SAN ONOFRE POWER PLANT. THE PLANT WENT OFF-LINE AFTER A SMALL RADIATION LEAK LAST YEAR AND HAS REMAINED OFF-LINE. THE MEETING WAS AN UPDATE ON WHAT THE NRC THINKS ABOUT THE RESTART RULES, AND IT WAS HINTED THE GROUND RULES MAY CHANGE.

ALISON ST. JOHN, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE. KENDRA ULRICH, FROM FRIENDS OF THE EARTH, AN ACTIVIST, ATTENDING THE MEETING LAST NIGHT. WELCOME.

ST. JOHN: THANK YOU.

CAVANAUGH: WE ASKED A REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON TO ATTEND. ALISON, DID THIS PROVIDE AN UPDATE ON THE NRC'S REVIEW?

ST. JOHN: YES, I THINK THE MEETING WAS DESIGNED TO MAKE THE PUBLIC FEEL THEY ARE INCLUDED IN THE
PROCESS. WE DIDN'T LEARN DRAMATIC INFORMATION LIKE WE HAVE AT PREVIOUS MEETINGS. WE LEARNED THAT EDISON, THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION HAS ASKED EDISON FOR CERTAIN THINGS.

EDISON HAS RESPONDED AND COME UP WITH A PLAN TO START A REACTOR AT 70% POWER FOR FIVE MONTHS. THE NRC HAS COME BACK WITH A SERIES OF QUESTIONS WITH A REQUEST OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION THEY HAVE ANSWERED ABOUT 28 QUESTIONS OUT OF 32.

A COUPLE OF IMPORTANT QUESTIONS HAVEN'T BEEN ANSWERED. ONE IS WOULD THE PLANT BE ABLE
TO OPERATE AT FULL POWER, WHICH IS WHAT THE LICENSE SAYS. THIS IS A EXTREMELY IMPORTANT QUESTION FROM THE NRC’S PERSPECTIVE.

OTHERWISE IT MAY REQUIRE A DIFFERENT KIND OF LICENSE. THEN THE SECOND QUESTION, HE MENTIONED WAS IMPORTANT, AND NOT YET ANSWERED.

WAS THE DIFFERENT SUPPORT STRUCTURE IN THE STEAM GENERATORS, THE ONE THAT WASN'T AS GOOD, ALLOWING THE TUBES TO RATTLE? DID THAT CONSTITUTE A DESIGN CHANGE, WHICH IT SHOULD HAVE
GONE THROUGH A MORE RIGOROUS REVIEW AT THE TIME.

THAT'S AN EXAMPLE OF THE QUESTIONS ON THE TABLE BEFORE THE NRC MAKES A DECISION.

CAVANAUGH: YOU BROUGHT US A CLIP OF THE TECHNICAL LANGUAGE USED DURING THIS MEETING.

ST JOHN: YES, THAT'S RIGHT. I WANTED TO SAY YES THIS IS CRAIG WARNER A TEAM LEADER, HEAD
INSPECTOR. IT'S AN EXAMPLE OF THE TECHNICAL STUFF COMING OUT OF THE MEETING:

WARNER: TUBE TO TUBE WEAR WAS CAUSED BY INSTABILITY DUE TO ACCESSIBLY ADVERSE THERMAL ENVIRONMENT,DAMPENING OF THE FORCES CAUSING RAPID TUBE VIBRATION.

THAT'S THE THING. YOU'RE LISTENING TO IT, BUT IT'S DIFFICULT TO MAKE HEAD OR TAILS OF IF YOU'RE NOT AN ENGINEER.

CAVANAUGH: TO FIND OUT IF THERE IS ANYTHING NEW OR SALIENT TO WHETHER IT WILL REOPEN OR NOT.

ST. JOHN: YES.

CAVANAUGH: HOW MANY PEOPLE ATTENDED? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THE MOOD WAS?

ST. JOHN: IT HELD OVER A THOUSAND, 1100 PEOPLE. I WOULD SAY HIGHLY STRUNG MOOD. MORE THAN HALF WERE UNION MEMBERS. THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE, CITIZENS THAT WERE CONCERNED. A LOT OF ELECTED OFFICIALS. A LOT PEOPLE FROM SAN DIEGO. THIS MEETING, I NOTICED MORE REPRESENTATION FROM SAN DIEGO.

WE HAVE HAD PEOPLE FROM SAN CLEMENTE BEFORE AND CLOSER TO THE PLANT. MANY OF THE ELECTED OFFICIALS, FOR EXAMPLE, WERE FROM SAN DIEGO.

ONE OF THEM WAS A REPRESENTATIVE OF MAYOR BOB FILNER. HIS NAME IS ROB WILDER. HE IS HIS PUBLIC ADVOCATE FOR PUBLIC ENERGY AND SUSTAINABILITY. HE READ A LETTER FROM MAYOR FILNER. THIS IS WHAT HE HAD TO SAY:

WILDER: THE RESTART OF UNIT 2 EVEN AT REDUCED POWER IS A DANGEROUS EXPERIMENT THREATENING THE SAFETY OF 8.2 MILLION SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, 8.2 MILLION SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA IN A 50-MILE RADIUS,
INCLUDING MUCH OF SAN DIEGO. WE HEARD FROM NEWLY ELECTED SUPERVISOR DAVE ROBERTS AND FORMER MAYOR OF DEL MAR AND COUNCIL MEMBERS OF SOLANA BEACH. THERE WAS A REPRESENTATIVE FROM
L.A. THERE IS MOUNTING CONCERN AMONG ELECTED OFFICIALS IN THE REGION.

CAVANAUGH: KENDRICK, YOU ARE WITH FRIENDS OF THE EARTH. WHAT DID FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
WANT TO HEAR FROM THE MEETING?

ULRICH: I WAS THERE MONITORING AND LISTENING TO THE PROCESS. RIGHT NOW FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
HAVE TWO DIFFERENT PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE NRC AS A RESULT OF A PETITION WE FILED IN JUNE OF
LAST YEAR. THAT PETITION ASKED FOR A LICENSED AMENDMENT AND AJUDICATORY PROCESS. WE'RE REALLY ADDRESSING THE ISSUES THROUGH SWORN TESTIMONY OF INDEPENDENT NUCLEAR EXPERTS BEFORE THE NRC STAFF AND THE ATOMIC LICENSING BOARD.

THAT'S AN ADMINISTRATIVE JUDICIAL PANEL. REALLY, MY ROLE THERE WAS TO LISTEN IN AND HEAR WHAT THE NRC IS SAYING. WHAT THE QUESTIONS ARE FROM THE PUBLIC ARE AS WELL.

CAVANAUGH: WHAT WAS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE MEETING LAST NIGHT?

ULRICH: IT CERTAINLY GAVE THE PUBLIC A SENSE OF WHERE THE MEETING WAS AT. I THINK THE MOST INTERESTING THING YESTERDAY, WASN'T SAID AT THE MEETING ITSELF, BUT WAS SAID BY REGIONAL DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR ART HOWELL.

CAVANAUGH: HE'S WITH THE NRC?

ULRICH: HE'S WITH THE NRC. HE INDICATED ONE OF THE REQUESTS FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION THAT
ALISON REFERRED TO, THIS QUESTION OF WHETHER THEY CAN GOTO 100% MA,Y IN FACT TRIGGER THE LICENSE AMENDMENT. THAT IS A KEY COMPONENT TO OUR ARGUMENTS BEFORE THE ATOMIC SAFETY AND LICENSING BOARD, WHICH WE HAVE CONTENDED THIS RESTART PLAN IS OUTSIDE OF THE
OPERATING LICENSE AND THEY NEED TO GO THROUGH THE PROPER PROCESS, THE LICENSE AMENDMENT
PROCESS TO RESTART.

CAVANAUGH: IS THERE ANYONE AT THE MEETING THAT SPOKE OUT IN FAVOR OF A SAFE BUT A RAPID RESTART OF SAN ONOFRE?

ULRICH: IN PREVIOUS MEETINGS THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW PUBLIC OFFICIALS SAYING WE NEED THE ENERGY AND
IT'S IMPORTANT FOR THE PLANT TO COME ON-LINE.

LAST NIGHT THE NRC ASKED IF THERE WERE ELECTED OFFICIALS SPEAKING OUT IN FAVOR OF A RESTART.
THERE WAS NOBODY. HALF A DOZEN AGAINST IT, NOBODY FOR IT AGAIN HALF OF THE ROOM
WERE IN ORANGE SHIRTS, MEMBERS OF THE CONSTRUCTION TRADES. MANY FROM SAN DIEGO, THEY WERE
BUSSED UP IN BIG BUSES. THEY SPOKE MORE ALONG THE LINES THAT WE HAVE FATHERS AND BROTHERS WORKING AT THE PLANTS FOR YEARS. WE TRUST THE SAFETY PROCEDURES. WE HOPE YOU CAN START AGAIN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. THEY WOULD LIKE SOME JOBS.

CAVANAUGH: CAN YOU, ALISON, GIVE US A BRIEF SYNOPSIS, A REMINDER WHAT EDISON IS PROPOSING. HOW IT'S PROPOSING TO RESTART UNIT TWO AT SAN ONOFRE.

ST. JOHN: IT WOULD BE AT 70% POWER FOR FIVE MONTHS. THEN THEY WOULD SHUT IT DOWN AND
HAVE A LOOK. I THINK IT'S INTERESTING. THEY HAVE PLUGGED A LOT OF TUBES IN UNIT TWO, THOSE AT RISK OF RUPTURING.

THEY HAVEN'T FIXED THE SYSTEM. THEY SAY IF WE RUN IT AT LOWER POWER THE STEAM VELOCITY MIGHT
BE LESS, IT MAYBE SAFER, AND WE HAVE BETTER MONITORING SYSTEMS TO CATCH A LEAK EARLIER IF SUCH
A THING WERE TO HAPPEN.

SO, THAT'S WHERE IT'S AT. THEY'RE NOT EVEN TALKING ABOUT OPENING UNIT THREE. THEY SAY THAT'S SAFELY OFF-LINE FOR NOW.THERE ARE STILL A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU
THINK WE CAN OPEN UNIT TWO IF YOU CAN'T OPEN UNIT THREE?

THERE ARE QUITE A FEW EXPLANATIONS FOR THAT. I HAVEN'T HEARD ONE SOLID REASON
WHY UNIT TWO COULD BE OPENED WITH UNIT THREE'S CONDITION.

CAVANAUGH: FORMER CITY ATTORNEY MICHAEL GEARY HAS APPARENTLY BECOME INVOLVED AND WAS AT THE MEETING LAST NIGHT. WHY IS THAT?

ST. JOHN: HE HAS A INTEREST IN A LOT OF THE LEGAL ASPECTS OF THIS. HE IS FINDING PLACES, I THINK, WHERE THE PROCEDURE,S THAT IS WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, THE PROCEDURE TO BE TRUSTED. MICHAEL GEARY IS LOOKING AT THE SMALL SPRINT. AS A LAWYER AND ATTORNEY THAT'S WHAT HE'S GOOD AT. FINDING INCONSISTENTCIES.

LAST NIGHT HE RAISED THE QUESTION, THE NRC REQUIRED EDISON TO PROVIDE AN EXPLANATION FOR WHAT WENT WRONG IN UNIT THREE, BUT THEY DIDN'T IN PRINT ASK FOR AN EXPLANATION FOR WHAT WENT WRONG IN UNIT TWO. IF THEY'RE ASKING FOR UNIT TWO TO BE RESTARTED SURELY THE NRC SHOULD MAKE THAT REQUEST. THESE ARE THE KINDS OF WAYS HE'S INTERVENING TO GET MORE ACCOUNTABILITY.

CAVANAUGH: I THINK ONE OF THE SURPRISING THINGS TO PEOPLE FOLLOWING THIS, IN NEWS REPORTS
AND SO FORTH, THE -- THERE WAS A BIG ISSUE NOT DISCUSSED LAST NIGHT. THAT WAS THE LETTER RELEASED BY SENATOR BOXER THAT ALLEGES AMONG OTHER THINGS AS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON KNEW ABOUT THE PROBLEMS WITH THE STEAM GENERATORS BEFORE THEY WERE INSTALLED.

ALISON, WHY WASN'T THAT PART OFTHE AGENDA LAST NIGHT? THAT WAS BIG NEWS.

ST. JOHN: YES, IT IS BECAUSE THE NRC HAS A PROCEDURE. THIS IS A MEETING. THIS ITEM WAS NOT ON THE AGENDA FOR THE MEETING. ACCORDING TO THE ART HOWELL, WHO WE JUST MENTIONED. THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NRC HAS RESPONDED TO THE LETTER. WHEN ASKED ABOUT IT HE SAID I CAN NOT SAY MORE BUT SHE HAS RESPONDED. IT WAS FRUSTRATING.

THE QUESTION WAS RAISED ON MANY OCCASIONS. AT ONE POINT THE CHIEF NUCLEAR OFFICER FOR EDISON STOOD UP AND SAID I WANT TO RESPOND TO THIS. HE DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING BUT WE HAVE COOPERATED, OUR ANALYSIS CONTINUES. WE WILL CONTINUE TO COOPERATE.

CAVANAUGH: YOU BROUGHT A CLIP OF ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO ASKED THE FULL LETTER TO BE RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC TO TAKE A LOOK AT IT:

HEDRICK: WE HAVE A HARD TIME AS COMMON CITIZENS UNDERSTANDING WHY THE AGENCY THAT IS SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC IS WITHHOLDING A DOCUMENT SHOWING THERE IS SERIOUS WRONGDOING. YOU'RE GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION IN THAT. WE WANT TO HAVE THAT DOCUMENT RELEASED. WE ALSO WANT TO HAVE THE DATA, SO INDEPENDENT EXPERTS CAN UNDERSTAND AND HELP YOU SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

CAVANAUGH: THAT WAS GARY HEDRICK OF SAN CLEMENTE GREEN, VOICING WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE
VOICED: WE WANT TO SEE THAT DOCUMENT.

NOW, KENDRA, YOUR GROUP FRIENDS OF THE EARTH. YOU SPOKE ABOUT PRESSING FOR A FULL EVIDENTIARY HEARING BEFORE THERE IS A RESTART AT SAN ONOFRE. WHAT WOULD A HEARING LIKE THAT ACTUALLY ENTAIL?

ULRICH: A HEARING LIKE THAT WOULD ENTAIL HAVING EXPERT TESTIMONY BEFORE A PANEL OF JUDGES. IT WOULD ENTAIL DISCOVERY. IT WOULD ALLOW US TO HAVE CROSS EXAMINATION. TRULY INDEPENDENT EXPERTS LOOKING AT THE ISSUES. ONE OF THE REASONS THE PUBLIC IS SO CRITICAL OF THIS, IS BECAUSE THE NRC IN THE PAST IMPROVED THIS INCREDIBLY DEFECTIVE DESIGN TO BE INSTALLED.

EDISON SAID IT WAS SAFE. NOW THERE ARE SERIOUS QUESTIONS. PARTICULARLY WITH THE MHI DOCUMENT RAISING THE ISSUE OR WHETHER OR NOT THEY SAY CAN BE TRUSTED. TO HAVE THE TRANSPARENCY TO INSURE THE REACTORS, EITHER ONE OF THEM, UNIT TWO ON THE TABLE NOW, ARE SAFE TO RESTART.

WE NEED TO HAVE INDEPENDENT EXPERT REVIEW THAT'S SWORN TESTIMONY BEFORE JUDGES.

CAVANAUGH: IF THE NRC WERE TO SAY OKAY, WE NEED TO HAVE THIS FULL AJUDICATED HEARING.
PEOPLE KNOW HOW SLOWLY THE WHEELS OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM TURNS. DOES THAT MEAN IT WOULD BE YEARS BEFORE WE KNOW IF SAN ONOFRE COULD OPEN AGAIN?

ULRICH: IT WILL TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS IT TAKES. IT CAN BE A VERY LONG PROCESS. IT COULD BE A SHORTER PROCESS. BECAUSE THEY GO THROUGH THE LICENSE AMENDMENT PROCESS DOESN'T MEAN THEY WOULD BE GRANTED ONE.

THIS INSURES IF THEY'RE GRANTED A LICENSE TO OPERATE THE REACTORS IT IS TRULY SAFE.IT'S TRULY SAFE, VERIFIED BY INDEPENDENT EXPERTS. THAT'S WHY IT'S SO CRITICAL.

CAVANAUGH: ALISON, WHERE IS THENUCLEAR REGULARATORY COMMISSION IN DECIDING TO HAVE A
HEARING LIKE THAT?

ST. JOHN: WELL, THEY SAY THEY HAVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS STILL TO GET ANSWERED. I THINK WE HAVE DISCUSSED THE FACT THAT SOME OF THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS MAY ACTUALLY LEAD TO A CONCLUSION THEY NEED A EVIDENTIARY HEARING BEFORE GOING AHEAD.

HOWEVER, MANY OF THE OBSERVERS FEELTHE PROCEDURE IS SORT OF ROCEEDING ALONG, ACCORDING TO
THE CURRENT RULES OF THE NRC, THAT THERE IS A POSSIBILITY WE WILL LEARN IN APRIL THAT THEY
HAVE BEEN REASSURED BY EVERYTHING AND THAT THEY WILL SAY IN APRIL THAT POSSIBLY THE PLANT COULD BE RESTARTED.

I THINK THE CONCERN OF PEOPLE WATCHING IS THEY DO NOT WANT TO SEE THAT DECISION REACHED UNTIL
SOME OF THE OTHER DOCUMENTS LIKE WE HAVE DISCUSSED ARE REVEALED. IN OTHER WORDS, THERE IS A LACK OF TRUST IN THE PROCEDURES BECAUSE THEY HAVE FAILED IN THE PAST.

CAVANAUGH: LET ME SEE IF I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU HAVE TOLD ME SO FAR ABOUT THE COMPLICATED
HEARING LAST NIGHT. THE MAJOR THING THAT CAME OUT IS EDISON HAS TO ANSWER TWO NEW
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.

ST. JOHN: AND THERE ARE FIVE MORE APPARENTLY IN THE WORKS. THE NRC HAVE FIVE MORE.

CAVANAUGH: TWO NEW IMPORTANT QUESTIONS. THEY HAVE TO REVIEW THE ANSWERS, BE SATISFIED WITH THE ANSWERSBEFORE THEY WILL SAY YEA OR NAY AS TO WHETHER EDISON CAN RESTART UNIT TWO AT SAN ONOFRE AT 70% POWER.

ST. JOHN: THAT'S CORRECT, FOR FIVE MONTHS.

CAVANAUGH: WHEN WILL THAT BE MADE?

ST. JOHN: END OF APRIL OFFICIALLY AND ANNOUNCED EARLY MAY.

CAVANAUGH: OKAY. I WANT TO THANK MY GUESTS. ALISON ST. JOHN AND KENDRICK ULRICH, THANK YOU FOR COMING IN.

ULRICH: THANK YOU.


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