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NRC To Hear Environmental Protests Over San Onofre Thursday

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was scheduled Thursday to consider a demand by an environmental group to keep the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station inoperative until its license is amended.

The group Friends of the Earth contends the license granted to plant operator Southern California Edison should have been amended when new steam generators were installed two years ago, since they were of a different design from what was in the original permit.

A leak in one of the reactors at the end of January led to the nuclear plant on the northern San Diego County coastline being shut down. The other reactor was already offline for maintenance.

An investigation found an unusual amount of wear in many of the thousands of steam tubes in the plant's generating systems. SCE has been conducting tests on the two units at San Onofre.

The environmental group has been fighting for months to keep the reactors from restarting. The utility and NRC have both said there will be no restart until the plant is deemed to be safe.

FOE plans to ask the commission, meeting in Maryland, for a stay, which would keep the plant shut down until SCE's operating permit is amended. That wouldn't happen until after a public hearing takes place that includes expert testimony.

The California Public Utilities Commission is also investigating the nuclear plant, including the issue of whether ratepayers should receive refunds for the time it has been out of service. San Diego Gas & Electric owns one-fifth of the facility and receives 20 percent of its power.

SCE did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment.