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NRC Collects More Technical Details in Lengthy San Onofre Review

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission grilled Southern California Edison officials in Maryland Tuesday.

Operators of the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which has been shuttered for almost a year, continued Tuesday in their attempt to convince regulators it was safe to partially restart.

The meeting, held in Maryland and broadcast over the web, was more technical than the last one in Laguna Hills in November. Southern California Officials said they will allow them to safely restart part of the plant at partial power.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors, however, demanded a more detailed analysis through formal requests for additional information.

Inspectors asked for in-depth explanations of partiuclar nuances and functions of equations that predicted the thermodynamic environment inside the plant's steam generators—the site of a leak in January that shut the plant down all year.

Other requests included equations that calculated how long it took for a steam tube inside a generator to start to wear out, and how long from the start of wear until complete failure.

A lot of the regulators' questions surrounded the operational assessments, that is, the forensic studies of what happened to the generators from several independent manufacturers of nuclear plant components who sent consulting scientists to San Onofre in the wake of the leak.

Others questions were more clerical in nature. For example, regulators asked for a certain piece of information to be presented in graph form, rather than in a table.

Many of the subjects discussed were all but incomprehensible to the layman, which it why anti-nuclear activists who spoke at the meeting criticized the review process.

Gary Headrick of San Clemente Green, who spoke at the meeting via telephone, said the meetings should host independent experts chosen from the ranks of the anti-nuclear community, like consultant Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, or someone from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"[It] would give the public a level of confidence that we really don't have right now," he said.

A representative of the national environmental group Friends of the Earth mentioned that the anti-nuclear movement had a petition before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to have a formal hearing before a judge about whether Edison should have applied for a license amendment when it installed the new generators.

Regulators said at the Tuesday meeting they wouldn't be deciding whether to allow San Onofre to move forward until at least mid February, and perhaps longer.

Shripathi Kamath December 18, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Cut to the chase, Adam, and tell us what does your journalistic gut say about when they'd restart San Onofre? Oh c'mon, you are not falling for this "tough grilling" dog-n-pony show, are you? (My ulterior motive is to just see Jolene froth a little at the thought)
Dan Avery December 19, 2012 at 04:31 AM
remember that "glow in the dark" stuff we had as kids, Shri. Think along those lines.
Adam Townsend December 19, 2012 at 08:29 AM
The NRC said Tuesday they won't make a decision until at least mid February, perhaps longer. The anti-nuke faction has talked a lot about a supposed cozy relationship between the industry and the NRC -- and that may be a valid criticism -- but you have to remember that every elected official and her mother is angling to get votes out of needling SCE on this blunder, probably one of the biggest engineering mistakes in the history of the industry (obviously, excepting the disasters that forced evacuations as in Fukushima and Chernobyl). In my opinion, one of the reasons this review has taken so long is that the political system is more or less working, if for reasons much more cynical than we think it should. Interest groups are holding national politicians -- and in turn, the NRC whose checks they pay -- to account. Not to mention the CPUC. Plus, look at all the pressure from city councils throughout Southern California, orchestrated by anti-nuke groups. If the NRC had really already decided they were going to let San O. restart, they would have whipped up a justification for the decision and done it a long time ago. From a technological standpoint, SCE could start firing up its Unit 2 tomorrow. Since you asked, this is just my analysis of the situation based on journalistic research. I'm expressing no opinion either way on nuclear power as an issue. Just commenting on the nuts and bolts of the process.
San Juan December 19, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Did any of you think the outcome would be any different? I have heard that they are laying off folks like crazy down there, a lot of clerical and the labor organizations have taken a big hit. If this restart plan fails and damages the enviornment and the citizens then what? I'm telling you all the arrogance of SCE Management and the NRC is what's gonna kill us.
Shripathi Kamath December 19, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Thanks, Adam.
Rhen Kohan December 19, 2012 at 06:14 PM
At this hearing, there were many allowed to question at the end from those on teleconference to those present. Wide ranging feedback was represented ranging from those carefully questioning the procedures and reports done with response that some of them were not for the public to see, those asking again for an adjudicated hearing-request not met, to those pointedly noting their take that the NRC and SCE are focused on opening the plant, not decommissioning it. The storage of fuel and where to take it remains an issue for SONGS inasmuch as citizens in Yucca Mountain in Nevada do not want fuel stored there. Isn't that understandable? So seems it again boils down to this - nuclear power may have been a great idea but is messy and prohibitive and should be decommissioned, thank you Dr. Goffman for saying so. I predict this view will be scoffed at...but can you argue with the desire of not dying from radiation exposure for those of us in the Emergency Planning Zone of a 10 mile radius, let alone the entire state of California and surrounding states who will be impacted with a substantial leak. There are too many IF's!

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