HOUSTON, April 10 Nuclear regulators on
Wednesday said a license request change submitted by operators
of the damaged San Onofre nuclear station in California may not
represent an increased safety risk, according to a release.
Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International
, seeks to amend the operating license of the San Onofre
Unit 2 reactor so it can restart the unit this summer, but at a
reduced operating level.
Both units at the 2,150-megawatt San Onofre nuclear station,
located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, have been
shut since January 2012 following a small radioactive steam leak
which indicated a serious problem with accelerated degradation
of tubes in the units' new steam generators.
The preliminary "no significant hazards" recommendation from
the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission means the reactor might
be able to restart in advance of a public hearing sought by
The reactor can only restart if the NRC deems the unit can
SCE submitted a license amendment request late last week as
part of its effort to accelerate the restarting of San Onofre
Unit 2. SCE wants to run the reactor for five months at 70
percent power, then shut it to inspect for additional tube wear.
Loss of San Onofre's output has strained southern
California's power grid and state agencies are planning for a
second summer without the plant.
Nuclear regulators are considering the licensing amendment
along with the utility's separate restart plan. Granting of the
license change will not guarantee San Onofre 2 can restart, the
Once the NRC notice is published in the Federal Register,
the public will have 30 days to file comments and 60 days to
request a public hearing.
But if the NRC finalizes its "no significant hazard"
finding, nuclear critics are concerned a public hearing would
not be scheduled until after the reactor is restarted - if the
NRC approves the utility's restart plan.
On Tuesday, two Democratic lawmakers asked the NRC to
confirm that it would take no action that would lead to the
restart of San Onofre before it completes its investigation and
allows the opportunity for participation from the public.
In a joint letter to the NRC, Senator Barbara Boxer and Rep.
Edward Markey said granting SCE's request for a declaration that
the restart of the power plant at 70 percent power involves no
significant hazards "would put public safety at risk."
The NRC outlined three criteria it considers for a "no
significant hazard" determination.
The finding means operating the facility under the proposed
amendment would not involve a significant increase in the
probability of an accident previously evaluated; create the
possibility of a new or different type of accident; or involve a
significant reduction in a margin of safety.
SCE operates San Onofre for its owners: SCE (78.21 percent),
Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas & Electric (20 percent)
and the city of Riverside (1.79 percent).