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Decision On Restarting San Onofre Still Months Away, NRC Says

A decision on when -- or whether to -- restart the reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is still months away, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced today.

A couple stands near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach on March 15, 2012 south of San Clemente, California.
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Above: A couple stands near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach on March 15, 2012 south of San Clemente, California.

NRC staff has asked the plant's operator, Southern California Edison, technical questions about the utility's plan to restart the reactors, which have been shut down since the end of January, according to a post on the federal agency's blog.

Some of the staff questions were posed to Rosemead-based SCE as recently as Monday, according to the NRC.

"It's important to remember the NRC's review will take many months to complete -- we're still in the early stages of that process,'' Scott Burnell, an NRC public affairs officer, wrote. "The NRC wants to be perfectly clear here -- this is only one step in a long process, and a final decision on whether San Onofre can restart is months away.''

The agency has scheduled a public meeting for next week in Rockville, Md., to discuss restart plans at San Onofre, where a leak prompted SCE to shut down one of the reactors. The other one was offline for scheduled maintenance -- and neither has operated since.

Anti-nuclear activists are opposed to any plans to restart the seaside facility.

A group called Friends of the Earth contends that new steam generators installed at San Onofre in 2010 were of such a different design that SCE should have to go through rigorous procedure to amend its license before the plant returns to service.

The utility is the majority owner and operator of the plant. San Diego Gas & Electric owns a 20 percent share and receives 20 percent of the power it creates.

NRC staff plans to take questions from the public at the Dec. 18 meeting, which will begin at 10 a.m. Pacific Time in Rockville, Md. The meeting will also be webcast.

Burnell said the NRC would hold one more public meeting near San Onofre, and there would be several more opportunities for public input before a restart decision is made.

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