Sen. Barbara Boxer has accused Southern California Edison and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of knowingly installing faulty steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, resulting in a leak that revealed widespread damage and has kept the plant offline for more than a year.
In a letter to the Nuclear Regulator Commission released Wednesday, Boxer called for an investigation of both companies.
“All people in our nation, including the 8.7 million people who live within 50 miles of the San Onofre plant, must have confidence in the NRC’s commitment to put safety before any other concern,” Boxer wrote.
Edison released a statement today saying the company takes the accusations seriously. The utility reiterated that it was cooperating fully with regulators.
"SCE is fully cooperating with the NRC review process and is complying with all requests for information and documents related to the company’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. SCE leadership takes very seriously all allegations raised by the letter," officials said in the release.
"The plant has provided voluminous records, data, information and other accurate reports as requested in the months since the plant was safely shut down," the statement continues. "SCE will continue its own internal work and we respect the NRC's inspection process. SCE is strongly committed to the transparent review of its operations at San Onofre and the safety of the public and its employees."
Citing a report by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on the cause of the failure, Boxer said the document "indicates that Southern California Edison (SCE) and MHI were aware of serious problems with the design of San Onofre nuclear power plant’s replacement steam generators before they were installed. Further, the Report asserts that SCE and MHI rejected enhanced safety modifications and avoided triggering a more rigorous license amendment and safety review process.”
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has not yet responded to calls for comment.
A January 2012 radioactive steam leak in the plant’s Unit 3 revealed generators were riddled with that had to be taken out of service. The plant has been shuttered since, as inspectors comb data related to the leak and unprecedented wear of steam tubes.
Meanwhile, local and national anti-nuclear activists continue to call for the plant's permanent shutdown.
Boxer's letter didn't go that far, but said: “This newly obtained information concerns us greatly, and we urge the NRC to immediately conduct a thorough investigation into whether SCE and MHI did in fact fail to make needed safety enhancements to avoid the license amendment process. We believe this alarming Report raises serious concerns about SCE’s and MHI’s past actions. Safety, not regulatory shortcuts, must be the driving factor in the design of nuclear facilities, as well as NRC’s determination on whether Units 2 and 3 can be restarted.”