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Citizen Activist Challenges License Amendment For San Onofre

A San Diego citizen activist is challenging Southern California Edison’s attempt to change San Onofre’s operating license agreement.

It’s a David and Goliath situation, but a panel of independent judges at the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is considering a challenge to Southern California Edison’s petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license amendment.

Ray Lutz, an engineer with a group called the Citizens Oversight Project, said Edison wants to remove from public documents how frequently it’s required to monitor certain equipment.

“We’re talking about critical surveillances within the reactor containment building, for example, the reactor core coolant system,“ Lutz said, “whether or not you are checking that. This is stuff that we are demanding that they check and on a timely basis and remains all public because, no, we do not trust the utility to monitor themselves.“

San Onofre is currently offline after a small radiation leak in January. Southern California Edison filed the request for a license amendment in 2011 before the trouble with the new steam generators emerged. But Lutz said the issue is all the more important because, if Unit 2 comes back online as Edison is proposing, the change would make operating procedures less transparent.

Both Edison and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission argued Lutz is not eligible to fight the issue because he lives more than 50 miles from the plant. He lives near El Cajon, about 60 miles away.

Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the NRC, said the judges must decide if the issue warrants a full public hearing.

“There was a discussion,” he said, “of whether or not the public’s ability to know how often a measurement is being taken has any real bearing on whether the requirement to take that measurement is being kept.“

Lutz said the plant has the worst safety record of any nuclear facility in the nation and any move away from transparency is a move in the wrong direction.

The issue is separate from a Friends of the Earth suit arguing that the NRC should require a license amendment before allowing Edison to bring Unit 2 back online. That would open the process up to more public hearings. Edison replaced the steam generators, arguing they were so similar to the old generators they did not need a license amendment.

So Friends of the Earth argues the NRC should have required Edison to apply for a license amendment for the new steam generators, while Lutz argues the NRC should not grant the license amendment Edison applied for to give it increased flexibility.

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