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Group Fighting San Onofre Restart Deserves Hearing, Licensing Board Rules

An anti-nuclear group fighting plans to restart the idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station deserves a hearing over a license amendment for the northern San Diego County plant's operator and majority owner, Southern California Edison, the Atomic Safety Licensing Board ruled today.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

San Onofre from the State Park, April 2013

The ASLB, a panel of three independent judges for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, suspended NRC board proceedings on San Onofre for now.

Rosemead-based SCE had hoped to restart one of San Onofre's two reactors at 70 percent by June 1. That reactor was undergoing maintenance in January 2012 when a small, non-injury leak was discovered in the other unit.

An investigation subsequently found that sonic vibrations caused premature wearing of steam generator tubes in the reactors. Edison contends that the vibrations would not occur at the lowered power level.

The utility issued a statement this afternoon saying that SCE would have no comment until it completed a review of the ruling.

The ASLB judges determined that the process the utility is going through to restart the reactor is "effectively a license amendment proceeding,'' which gives the public a right to an "adjudicated hearing.''

The Friends of the Earth organization believes SCE should have to go through an extensive license amendment procedure.

The ASLB took arguments from Edison, FOE and NRC legal staff on March 22 over whether the hearing is warranted. The decision can be appealed to the NRC board.

"This ruling is a complete rejection of Edison's plan to restart its damaged nuclear reactors without public review or input,'' said Damon Moglen, energy and climate director for Friends of the Earth.

"The ASLB has announced that the restart plan is an 'experiment' and calls the tube wear at San Onofre's defective steam generators 'unprecedented,' as we have asserted all along."

The commission has previously promised a public meeting in Southern California before a restart decision is made, but no date has been set.

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