Monday, May 13, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Federal Judges Say No San Onofre Reboot Without Formal Hearings

San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Diego
In a rather unexpected rejection of Southern California Edison’s efforts to restart the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant north of San Diego, the Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB) ruled today that the two reactors can not go back online before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) holds a formal license amendment proceeding with full public participation.

A three-judge panel of the ASLB granted a petition from Friends of the Earth, an environmental organization, asking the NRC to require Edison to undergo a license amendment process before a judge, including public hearings, sworn testimony from expert witnesses and rules of evidence. 

Last month, Edison tried to get around that by asking the NRC for permission to restart one of the reactors by this summer and run it at partial power – a request the agency has indicated it would do with no prior public hearing. Today’s ruling, which was in response to a Friends of the Earth petition, prohibits the agency from taking that step. 

The ruling today is a clear and surprising victory for environmentalists who insist reopening the damaged plant could put the public at risk. The plant was shut down more than a year ago after a small amount of radiation leaked into the atmosphere from a recently installed steam-generator tube in the plant’s reactor Unit 3.

It was subsequently discovered that a large number of these tubes, which function like a car radiator and carry hot, pressurized radioactive water, were damaged in Unit 2, the other operating unit at the power plant.

“This ruling is a complete rejection of Edison’s plan to restart its damaged nuclear reactors without public review or inut,” Damon Moglen, energy and climate director for Friends of the Earth, said today in a statement. “The ASLB has announced that the restart plan is an 'experiment' and calls the tube wear at San Onofre’s defective steam generators 'unprecedented,' as we have asserted all along." 

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