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Environmental Group Files NRC Petition To Keep San Onofre Shut Down

An environmental group filed a legal petition today with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in hopes of keeping the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station closed until it undergoes a trial-like public hearing on its problems and the proposed solutions.

The petition from Friends of the Earth comes after the group ran a television ad that contends the plant's operator, Southern California Edison, has been rushing to get the facility back into service since its two active units were shut down in January.

One of the plant's two active units went offline in early January for planned maintenance, then the second active unit was taken out of service Jan. 31 when a leak was detected in a steam generator tube. The tube problem resulted in a minor venting of radioactive gas, said Edison executives, insisting the leak posed no hazard to plant workers or the public.


The plant is likely to be shut down through August, according to SCE, the plant's majority owner. San Diego Gas & Electric owns 20 percent of the plant and receives one-fifth of the power it generates.

Friends of the Earth contends that when Edison replaced the plant's steam generators, it failed to report a series of design changes that should have been reviewed by the NRC, and sidestepped public scrutiny of the changes, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The group's petition also accuses the NRC of turning a blind eye toward the plant, saying that the agency ''willingly acceded'' to Edison's ''attempt to avoid any public review of its decision to install significantly different steam generators built by a company that was unfamiliar with the particular needs of a steam generator in the San Onofre type of reactor,'' according to the newspaper.

Edison has denied any wrongdoing.