NRC issues timeline for decisions about San Onofre’s future

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SAN DIEGO — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Friday that it will decide in late April or May whether to allow Southern California Edison to restart one of two reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

In a timeline posted on its website, the agency said it would notify the Atomic Safety Licensing Board and other interested parties in late April of its intent to issue a decision on whether to restart Unit 2 at the power plant in northern San Diego County.

The decision would then come down in five to 30 days, according to the NRC.

Unit 2 was undergoing scheduled maintenance in January 2012 when a small leak was discovered in the other reactor, Unit 3, which was subsequently shut down. No one was hurt in the incident.

Neither reactor has operated since.

An investigation determined that vibrations caused steam generator tubes to degrade faster than expected. The steam generators in Unit 3 had only been operating for one year at the time. For Unit 2 — the one SCE wants to put back in operation — the generators had been working for about a year and a half.

Opponents of restart plans said federal regulators should put Edison through a license amendment process because the steam generators that failed were of a different design than their predecessors.

The NRC said it would hold a public meeting in Southern California before a decision is made. Another meeting is already scheduled for Feb. 12 in San Juan Capistrano, in Orange County.

“The NRC will not allow the plant to restart until we are satisfied that the licensee can operate the plant without undue risk to public health and safety,” the agency said on its website.

The NRC said it was reviewing actions the utility, which operates the plants and owns most of it, has taken to correct problems in Unit 2. The commission noted that SCE has not completed fixes in Unit 3.

San Diego Gas & Electric owns 20 percent of the nuclear plant and receives one-fifth of the power it produces.

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