*See end of post for an update.
Original Post, March 22, 12:41 p.m.: For months, Southern California Edison has been trying to avoid having to go through a lengthy regulatory process that would force the company to prove that continued operation of the company's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station would pose no threat to the public. The plant has been offline for more than a year after substantial wear and tear was discovered in cooling tubes that keep the reactor from overheating
Today, however, SCE announced that it is considering sending a voluntary license amendment request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)," with the hopes of restarting the plant's Unit 2 reactor. "The amendment is consistent with SCE's plan to operate the unit's steam generators at 70 percent power as a conservative safety measure," according to a company press release issued today.
"SCE would like to restart Unit 2 by the summer to meet peak customer demand for electricity," the release states. "The San Onofre nuclear plant is the largest source of baseload generation and voltage support in the region and is a critical asset for reliability and in meeting California's clean energy goals."
Anti-nuke group Friends of the Earth was quick to blast SCE's announcement as further proof that the company is still trying to avoid a full investigation of the plant's possible danger to the the public. In a release issued today, the group claimed that SCE's request would require the NRC to sign off that the plant poses "No Significant Hazards" to the surrounding community--something that would short-circuit a full safety review.
"Edison has finally admitted they are wrong. They claimed for months that they did not need an amended license for their experimental restart plan. Now these claims have been shown to be as unreliable as their reactors," said Kendra Ulrich, nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
"But the devil is in the details," she added. "The key issue will be whether they're willing to address the multiple unresolved safety issues with San Onofre's steam generators. In the past, Edison has requested minor amendments as a PR ploy to claim they're complying with the process. It looks like they're trying the same trick again."
Update, March 25, 3:08 p.m.: In response to SCE's request to receive a finding that restarting its San Onofre nuclear power plant at 70 percent power would pose no threat to the public, the NRC is holding a public hearing on the issue scheduled for April 3. But not in Orange County, or even San Diego, or even California.
Stumped? Try Rockville, Maryland.
In response to this news, Friends of the Earth issued the following statement today:
"Operation of either crippled San Onofre nuclear reactor threatens the lives and livelihoods of over 8.7 million people in Southern California. Any meeting between Edison and the NRC to discuss revising the license for San Onofre must be held in California so that members of the public most at risk from the damaged reactor can participate . . . [I]t appears that this experimental restart plan is solely in the interest of Edison's bottom line: putting profits and time before the safety of the public, again. The idea that operating San Onofre in its present crippled condition presents no real hazard is a dangerous delusion.