There’s a long way to go on San Onofre restart review

sanoGiven the interest in the NRC’s San Onofre-related meeting in Maryland next week, it’s a good time to step back and see where things stand in reviewing the plant’s restart request.

Of course, the San Onofre nuclear power plant has been safely shut down for almost a year now, after the plant discovered unexpectedly advanced wear in its steam generators. In March of this year the NRC told Southern California Edison the plant will remain safely shut down until the utility does several things to show an appropriate response to what’s caused the wear.

A vital part of SCE’s response is a detailed plan on safely restarting the plant in light of the steam generator wear. SCE delivered that restart plan about two months ago, and the NRC’s experts have begun reviewing the plan and have repeatedly discussed the situation publicly in meetings near the plant.

It’s important to remember the NRC’s review will take many months to complete — we’re still in the early stages of that process. That brings us to next week’s meeting.

The staff, as part of their usual process, isn’t accepting SCE’s plan at face value. The staff has provided additional technical questions on Nov. 30 and Dec. 10 for the utility to answer; the meeting allows a public, open discussion of both the staff’s understanding of the plan and their new questions. While SCE might need to discuss some information in a non-public part of the meeting, all the staff’s questions will be part of the public session.

The NRC wants to be perfectly clear here – this is only one step in a long process, and a final decision on whether San Onofre can restart is months away.

Each year, the NRC’s well-established review process includes having hundreds of this sort of public meeting on a variety of highly technical matters at agency headquarters. It’s not possible to bring all these meetings to the communities near the plants in question, but the staff is making sure a webcast and phone line are available for this meeting so that people near San Onofre can observe the review process in action and ask the NRC staff questions.

The NRC expects to hold at least one more meeting near the plant and there will be additional opportunities for input prior to any final restart decision.

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer