The Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission meets today to consider a request from the operator of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which has been shut down for more than a year.
The operator, Southern California Edison, is asking for a license amendment that would allow it to restart the plant this summer.
Today’s public meeting in Maryland is significant in that it tests Edison’s strategy to bring one reactor at the plant back online at lower power.
The NRC has pointed out that the current license for the plant requires it to run safely at 100 percent power.
An Edison consultant concluded it would not meet safety standards to run the Unit 2 reactor at 100 percent power for more than 11 months. So the company is asking for a voluntary license amendment to run Unit 2 at 70 percent power. The plan is to operate at 70 percent power for five months and shut down again for further inspections.
Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposes the restart, said the company has “reduced safety to a footnote.” The group said Edison is sidestepping federal regulations by applying for a category of amendment that would not involve a public hearing because it is classified as “not a significant hazard.”
No decision will be reached today but Edison has asked the NRC for a decision by May 24. The company said it wants to bring the plant back online to help meet peak electricity demands this summer.
California’s Independent System Operator is responsible for keeping the lights on in the state. The agency has already begun planning for a summer without San Onofre and said customer conservation will be a key to making it through the peak demand times.