Environmentalists praise fed ruling on San Onofre

By Michael R. Blood
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Environmentalists celebrated a federal order Monday that they said opened the way for a more detailed review of a plan to restart the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant in California.

The ruling by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing board had the potential to lead to further delays in a possible restart.

The twin-reactor plant between San Diego and Los Angeles hasn’t produced power since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

Friends of the Earth, an advocacy group critical of the nuclear power industry, had argued that the federal process set up to consider a restart of the plant’s Unit 2 reactor was in fact a change to the plant’s operating license that would require a court-like hearing. The board agreed.

However, there were conflicting assessments on the meaning of the ruling.

Environmentalists said the decision was a watershed moment that would force operator Southern California Edison to face a new, extensive review of the restart plan.

Edison had no immediate comment.

An NRC statement characterized the ruling as a partial win for the environmental group. NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said the board found the group hadn’t provided enough information for the three-member panel to consider in a lengthy hearing. Accordingly, they ended the case.

“They didn’t give enough meat for the board to chew on,” said NRC spokesman Scott Burnell. “At the same time the board says, ‘Yes, there should be a hearing,’ … they said the hearing is terminated.”

But the group will have the opportunity to submit additional materials in an appeal.

Edison wants to run the Unit 2 reactor at reduced power for five months, which it projects will stop damage to tubing in its steam generators.