NRC tries to ignore hearing requirement for San Onofre nuke restart

Maybe the ASLB was referring to some other NRC that should hold public hearings? The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) agreed with Friends of the Earth (FOE) when it ruled that restarting either San Onofre unit requires a full public hearing like a trial, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) interprets that as having nothing to do with its own staff decision process. This is after the city of Los Angeles (and numerous other southern California cities and the San Diego Unified School District) said it didn’t want any decision about restarting any San Onofre reactor/ without a full, transparent, public decision process. The L.A. Times says all this is creating “confusion”. Just last week I heard Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers say confusion was bad for business. Maybe it will be bad not just for Southern California Edison and its San Onofre nukes, but also for Georgia Power and Southern Company’s 19-month-late and billion-over-budget nuclear boondoggle at Plant Vogtle.

Abby Sewell wrote for the L.A. Times yesterday 7:24 PM, San Onofre ruling creates confusion,

Edison in October proposed to restart one of the plant’s two units at 70% power, saying that the reduced power would alleviate conditions that caused the tubes to vibrate excessively and knock against support structures and adjacent tubes. NRC staff are still reviewing the proposal.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth argued that Edison misled the NRC about the extent of design changes in the new steam generators and that it should be required to go through a formal license amendment process with trial-like public hearings before being allowed to restart the plant.

A panel of judges with the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board — which is independent of NRC staff — was asked to decide whether the commission’s order last March constituted a de facto license amendment proceeding that would require an opporunity for public hearings.

The board ruled Monday that the proceedings intiated by the NRC order did constitute a de facto license amendment process “subject to a hearing opportunity.”

The panel also said in its decision and that restarting the plant would constitute an “experiment,” which would require a license amendment.

The board found that the environmental group’s contention that San Onofre “cannot be allowed to restart without a license amendment and attendant adjudicatory public hearing,” was moot and declined to rule on it.

Friends of the Earth claimed victory, saying that the panel’s decision means the NRC may not allow restart of the plant before conducting hearings on a broad range of issues, and called it a “devastating” blow to Edison’s hopes of restarting the plant.

But NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said the board’s decision is separate from staff’s review of the restart plan and does not necessarily require a hearing before restarting the plant.

Burnell said the NRC intended to continue with its current process:

“It is possible that the staff could reach a restart decision before a hearing on the license amendment request is completed,” he said. “…We have yet to see if anyone requests a hearing on the license amendment application, and the staff’s reviews continue as before.”

Friends of the Earth’s Energy and Climate Director Damon Moglen said the NRC’s contention that the panel ruling does not require hearings before a restart was “kind of like saying that the chairs moving on the deck of the Titanic don’t mean that the boat is going down.”

He also suggested that a move by the NRC to allow a restart before a hearing could lead to litigation.

My translation of FOE to NRC: go ahead, try it; see what happens.

Meanwhile, this is happening:

Meanwhile, in a separate proceeding in San Francisco, state regulators held a first day of hearings in a process that could eventually lead to customers’ rates being lowered due to the plant’s extended outage.

My translation: the state of California is considering cutting off Socal Edison’s slush fund for San Onofre. If that happens, San Onofre will never restart.

Hm, maybe the state of Georgia should consider not just capping cost overrun charges to Georgia ratepayers for Plant Vogtle and simply revoke the Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) gravy train like New Hampshire did with the Seabrook nuke. That Seabrook decision, in the form of a one-paragraph law and a state Supreme Court ruling upholding it, made Seabrook the last nuke permitted in the United States for thirty years. Until Plant Vogtle. Nuclear power was a bad big baseload idea than, and the broken concrete problems like at Seabrook have already cropped up at Vogtle after they permanently shut down Crystal River. And now we have solar power at grid parity with nuclear, coal, or natural gas (according to Bloomberg), and wind power that can supply the night.

All that plus solar power keeps getting cheaper by Moore’s Law, and Edison Electric has spelled out to the utilities that distributed solar is going to disrupt their cozy antique big-baseload business models. Unless they get on with ‘a more “distributed” system of small-scale generators, renewable energy installations and energy-efficiency strategies’ they face a “train wreck”, as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff put it.

By trying to ignore solar power going up like a rocket, are Georgia Power and Southern Company setting course for the most titanic train wreck of all?


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