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Citizen Activist Challenges License Amendment For San Onofre

Aired 12/7/12 on KPBS News.

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.

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
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Above: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

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.


Avatar for user 'jeffhammett'

jeffhammett | December 7, 2012 at 9:22 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

What sort of justification are Edison and NRC offering in defense of their view that Lutz is in eligible because he lives more than 50 miles away? How did they come up with 50 miles as the magic number? It seems a bit arbitrary to me, and somewhat absurd given where the plant is located.

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Avatar for user 'sanonofregoaway'

sanonofregoaway | December 7, 2012 at 11:22 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

The last thing Orange and San Diego County need is to neighboring a dysfunctional and risky nuclear facility haunted by faulty reactors owned/operated by some greedy utility companies. San Onofre's any possible release of radioactive material to our environment would be a huge catastrophe to ALL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA! Unfortunately, these things happen right under our nose while we trust regulatory agencies in what they do to protecting us! Their poor judgments, like what they argued in this article about Lutz, are as absurd and unreasonable as one could be! How we could really trust them!? Let me inform you readers, specially all residents of southern California: Our safety and health would be at stake besides that of our future generation in case sth goes wrong in SanOnofre. We need to do something about it. Literally, any forms of possible radiation leak in SanOnofre would directly affect all southern California, from its underground water to its surface, to its atmosphere, plants, people, and animals and etcetera. Unlike storms, tsunamis, floods or chemical spills, a nuclear disaster ruins any forms of life and resources FOREVER. If radioactive material release happens at San Onofre station by any chance, southern California becomes history! So wake up and do something about it!

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Avatar for user 'Ray Lutz'

Ray Lutz | December 10, 2012 at 9:24 a.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

The 50-mile limit we have soundly refuted. First, it does not say statute miles. Because we are talking about radiation blowing in the air, meteorologists use nautical miles. I am 46 nautical miles away. But the 50 mile radius is also ridiculous in other ways. The Executive Order 13579 by President Obama says independent agencies should be open to involvement by "interested" members of the public, not people who have an interest, which they say means I have to have been "actually injured". Second, a study was done on the impact of a Fukushima-like event at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is just north of Santa Barbara. The winds carry the radiation all the way to LA and San Diego, 225 miles away. I would be clearly impacted if they had to declare a 50-mile radius an evacuation area around the plant. But we also have a number of members of Citizens Oversight (See and they live within the 50-mile radius. I honestly think our challenge will be allowed to proceed to a hearing.

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