Nuclear Regulatory Commission Urged To Review Procedures

Wednesday, April 1, 2015
By Alison St John

An environmental group is calling on the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reverse a staff decision and review the installation of faulty steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff took almost three years to respond to a petition filed by Friends of the Earth. The petition was filed in 2012 when the problems at San Onofre surfaced. It asked for an examination of regulatory procedures leading up to the installation of faulty steam generators at the nuclear plant.

Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth said the plant’s operator, Southern California Edison, should have applied for a license amendment. Instead the company told the NRC the new steam generators were not significantly different from the old ones.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that overseas nuclear power, has also asked for more review of NRC procedures.

This week NRC staff issued a draft decision saying that because the plant is now closed a more thorough review is not necessary.

Moglen said the new chair of the NRC, Stephen Burns, should reconsider that decision.

“I think that this is going to be one of his first challenges,” Moglen said. “He has an opportunity to pick this document up and all of the comments made by Senator Barbara Boxer and other parties involved, and decide for himself whether he thinks the staff of the commission have done their job.”

NRC spokesman David McIntyre said the commissioners may decide to review the staff’s final decision once it’s made, but not in response to requests.

“Staff will now review comments received from the petitioner and the licensee and work on a final director’s decision. The commission may, on its own initiative, review the director’s decision within 25 days of the date of the decision, although it will not entertain a request for review of the director’s decision," he said.

Meanwhile staff at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said Sen. Boxer is expected to follow up on the issue at an NRC oversight hearing in two weeks.