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San Onofre’s Future Still Hangs In The Balance

Martha Sullivan, a former staffer for the California Public Utilities Commission, and now a citizen activist, talks to KPBS.

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The U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission held another public hearing yesterday on a question that touches all of our lives in a very significant way: whether we can safely resume generating electricity at the San Onofre Nuclear Power plant.

This is a story that has been percolating all year and the future of the plant is still hanging in the balance.

San Onofre was abruptly shut down in January after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unprecedented tube wear in the units' steam generators.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's meeting Tuesday reviewed Southern California Edison's proposal to partially restart the plant.

The meeting was rather technical and focused on a retooled monitoring system for the damaged steam generators.

Martha Sullivan, a former staffer for the California Public Utilities Commission, now a citizen activist, told KPBS the NRC's major concern is safety, but said they are also "very concerned with protecting the nation's nuclear power industry."

Staff at the last two NRC public meetings have asked questions that have been raised by citizen activists, Sullivan said.

"So it's actually kind of heartening that they seem to be paying attention," she said.

But John Geesman with the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility and a former California Energy Commissioner, told KPBS he thinks the NRC "is systematically going through a process that will result in an approval of Edison's proposal."

"I didn't hear anything yesterday despite several gestures of attentiveness by the inspectors that suggests they're prepared to reject the plan," he said.

It will still be months before the NRC decides whether to allow San Onofre to restart. This week, it released a tentative timeline showing that a decision could come as early as March.

Southern California Edison and a spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission declined to come on our program, but sent a statement saying safety is their top priority.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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