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Nuclear Regulatory Commission Invites Communuty Leaders to San Onofre Discussions

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced today it is sending invitations to community leaders to participate in small group discussions on the future of the idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The letters are going out to dozens of state and local government officials around the state, environmental groups and business leaders, who would meet with NRC staff, according to an agency blog post.

The discussions will focus on the processes and activities used by the agency to evaluate a possible restart of San Onofre's Unit 2. The reactor was undergoing scheduled maintenance in January 2012, when a small, non-injury leak occurred in the other unit. Neither reactor has operated since.

"The NRC is offering these small group meetings as opportunities for productive discussions on how the NRC fulfills its regulatory mandate for protecting public safety and the environment,'' agency spokesman Victor Dricks wrote in the blog post. "Those invited to participate are recognized as community leaders, who could then share the information with their constituency and the public at large.''

Dricks said the small group discussions, which will be closed to the public, will focus on process issues concerning the NRC's review, rather than specific areas of the staff's technical analysis.

The NRC has promised a separate public meeting in Southern California before a restart decision is made, which will occur after NRC inspections and technical evaluations, he said.

Rosemead-based Southern California Edison, the majority owner and operator of the facility on the northern San Diego County coastline, has proposed restarting Unit 2 for the summer months at 70 percent power.

According to SCE, that power level does not cause vibrations that resulted in premature wearing of steam pressure tubes in the reactors -- found to be the cause of the leak.

The restart is opposed by the anti-nuclear group Friends of the Earth and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who contend that Edison executives were not forthright in how they characterized replacement steam generators installed in 2009 and 2010.

Opponents have released a series of communications they believe demonstrate that Edison officials knew the generators were of a radically different design than their predecessors, which they think should have undergone tighter regulatory scrutiny.

The utility's response has been that the documents show how careful they were.

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