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Boxer Pushes NRC For Assurances On Nuclear Safety

Senator Barbara Boxer calls on the NRC to push more aggressively for safety improvements at nuclear power plants, specifically San Onofre

California Senator Barbara Boxer is calling on Allison Macfarlane, the new head of the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to push for safety improvements at the nation’s nuclear power plants, and specifically at San Onofre north of San Diego.

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Boxer's comments

Boxer's comments

Boxer addressing the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works, which she chairs.

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Boxer said she has concerns that the NRC is allowing some nuclear plants to delay safety improvements. At a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer urged the NRC to address safety concerns at San Onofre in an “open and transparent way.” She said San Onofre’s reactors must not be started until the NRC’s investigation is complete and the results made public.

San Onofre has been offline since January when a small radiation leak from Unit 3 resulted in the unit being shut down. Unit 2 was already offline for maintenance.

The steam generators in both units were replaced in recent years at a cost of almost $700 million.

At a public meeting in San Juan Capistrano in June, NRC officials said the problems stemmed from inaccurate computer codes designed to predict how changes to the steam generator would function.

Macfarlane told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today that San Onofre’s operator, Southern California Edison, has told the NRC it will send a letter by the end of the first week in October outlining the “root causes “ of the problems with the steam generators. She said it will take the NRC a matter of months rather than weeks to determine whether the root cause of the problems are properly understood.

Edison has said Unit 3 is offline indefinitely, but it hopes to bring Unit 2 back on line by the end of the year.

Meanwhile a new report put out today by the anti-nuclear group the Committee to Bridge the Gap, said data on the steam generators in both Units 2 and 3 show the damage to both units far exceeds the norm of damage recorded in steam generators at other plants around the nation.

Edison has not responded to requests from KPBS for information about the difference between Units 2 and 3.

Boxer asked for assurances that the NRC’s plans to hold a public meeting in October are on track. NRC spokesperson Victor Dricks said the agency will announce a public meeting on its investigations into San Onofre when plans are finalized.

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