By Jim Shilander
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a petition by an environmental group for a license amendment review at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, but left the door open to revisit the issue in the future.
The decision was made Thursday morning at a public meeting in Rockville, Md.
The license amendment review process had been championed by anti-nuclear activists as a way to get an outside review of the plant’s safety record and viability.
The petition was made by environmental group Friends of the Earth.
The Commission rejected FOE’s argument that a license amendment process should have been undertaken when the steam generators at Units 2 and 3 were replaced in 2010 and 2011. However, it did provide FOE with the ability to petition the chief administrative judge of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel to consider whether the confirmatory action letter sent to Edison by the NRC constituted a de facto license amendment, and subject to a hearing.
The decision also stated “Restart of SONGS was not imminent.”
Southern California Edison released a statement Thursday morning, stating, “SCE had opposed the FOE petition on the ground that granting it would violate well-established procedural practices at the commission. Specifically, the NRC-established review process for Unit 2 restart, which will include a thorough investigation by the NRC and public meetings, is the appropriate process for confirming that SCE’s restart plan is fully consistent with protecting public safety.
“SCE notes that two license amendments for the replacement steam generators were filed and approved in 2008, at which time there were no petitions to intervene or requests for hearings by FOE or others, despite being publicly noticed in the Federal Register on September 23, 2008. Additionally, the NRC has verified that SCE followed applicable regulations regarding the modifications in the replacement steam generator process, and that SCE fully informed the NRC of all changes, including the number of additional tubes and changes to the support structures.”
In its own release, Friends of the Earth expressed disappointment with the decision.
“We believe that the Commission could, and should, have made a decision on its own to convene an adjudicatory hearing now about Edison’s plans to restart San Onofre. A hearing would provide assurance to the 8.4 million people of Southern California who live within 50 miles of the crippled plant that it will not be reopened unless it is entirely safe. Further administrative process unnecessarily leaves the public in limbo.”
FOR did, however, express hope about the directive the commission’s staff would reexamine whether a license amendment review should have taken place, and noted that the commission was also examining whether a future license amendment review should be undertaken in light of past actions by Edison.