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NRC Meeting Offers Status Update On Restart Plan For San Onofre

KPBS North County Bureau Chief Alison St John and Kendra Ulrich with Friends of the Earth talk to KPBS about the NRC meeting on San Onofre.

Guests

Alison St John, KPBS Senior Metro Reporter

Kendra Ulrich, Friends of the Earth

Transcript

The NRC panel said they still have “a lot of work to do” before deciding whether to approve Southern California Edison’s plant to bring San Onofre's Unit Two back on line at 70 percent power. The plant has been offline since a radiation leak in Unit 3 shut the plant down a year ago.

The agency has issued 32 “Requests for Additional Information,” and is waiting for some final answers from Edison.

Art Howell, NRC’s team manager for the oversight panel, said one of the most important questions Edison has yet to answer is whether the plant can operate at 100 percent power, as specified in the license. Another question, he said, is whether the different support structures in the new steam generator design that led to the current problems actually constituted a design change. These questions relate to whether the company needs to go through a license amendment.

A number of elected officials from San Diego and Los Angeles addressed the NRC panel, including a representative from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s office.

Rob Wilder described himself as the mayor’s Public Advocate for Energy and Sustainability. He read a letter from the mayor into the record.

“The restart of Unit 2, even at reduced power, is a dangerous experiment,” he said, “that threatens the safety of 8.2 million Southern California residents living within a fifty mile radius, including much of San Diego.”

The mayor’s letter said any decision to restart San Onofre should consider reliability and cost, "compared to a future based on alternatives, including load management, renewable energy and energy storage."

Newly-elected San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts also spoke and said until the agency can answer the question, "Is the plant safe?" the NRC should not restart it.

The moderator asked if there were any elected officials in the audience who wanted to speak in favor of the restart. None did.

However, several hundred construction union members in the audience cheered when their spokesperson said he hoped the plant can restart.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Union members at the NRC public meeting on restart plan for San Onofre, Feb 13th 2013

“We want you guys to do your jobs to protect us as workers, to protect the community,” Tom Lemon of San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council told the panel, “and if there is way to get the plant up and running, let’s do it expeditiously.”

Lemon said about 300 of those in the meeting were members of San Diego’s Union Local 89. Many of them were bused in to the meeting from San Diego. He said some of the union members who drove to the meeting were reimbursed for gas money in the form of Costco cards.

A number of audience members asked about the document referred to in a letter from the California Senator Barbara Boxer to the NRC, that suggests Edison knew about the problems in the steam generators before the equipment was installed, but rejected suggested fixes.

“We have a hard time,” Gary Headrick of San Clemente Green told the panel, ”as common citizens, understanding why the agency that is supposed to protect the public is withholding a document that shows there is serious wrongdoing. You are guilty by association in that. We want that document released, and we want the data, so that independent experts can understand and help you solve this problem.”

Art Howell of the NRC said NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane has responded to Boxer and there is nothing more he can say. Peter Dietrich, chief nuclear officer for Edison, said the company is continuing its causal analysis and will continue to cooperate with all the investigations.

NRC panelists said they have more questions for Edison and they will have at least one more meeting before making a decision on the restart plan. The decision will come no sooner than the end of April.

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