California commission to hold June 19 workshop on nuclear issues

The California Energy Commission’s Lead Commissioner on the 2013 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) will conduct a June 19 workshop to review the California utilities’ progress in completing studies and actions in response to Energy commission recommendations and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) directives.

Commissioner Andrew McAllister, the 2013 IEPR Lead Commissioner, and Chair Robert Weisenmiller, State Liaison Officer to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), will participate in the workshop. CPUC Commissioner Michel Peter Florio and other CPUC staff may also attend and participate. The workshop will be held at the Energy Commission offices in Sacramento.

The workshop will contribute to the development of the Energy Commission’s 2013 IEPR proceeding. In particular, the workshop responds to the 2013 IEPR Scoping Order, dated March 7, which directs Energy Commission staff and commissioners to hold a public workshop to facilitate discussion of issues relating to California’s nuclear power plants and to provide the utilities an opportunity to report on their progress in implementing Assembly Bill 1632.

Workshop topics include nuclear plant seismic safety, spent fuel storage, station blackouts, and liability coverage. The workshop will include updates on ongoing seismic hazard analyses including the NRC Senior Seismic Hazard Analysis Committee process, state review of the utilities’ seismic projects via the Independent Peer Review Panel for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and the Independent Peer Review Group for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, and discussion about uncertainties and implications for California’s nuclear power plants.

The workshop will also include discussion regarding the progress and the path forward in implementing lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, where low-lying parts of the coastal plant were flooded by a giant, earthquake-induced wave.

In 2006, the California Legislature enacted AB 1632, which directed the Energy Commission to assess the vulnerabilities of large baseload power plants greater than 1,700 MW to a major disruption due to a seismic event or plant aging, the potential impacts of such a disruption, the costs and impacts from waste accumulating at these plants, and major issues related to the future role of these plants in the state. California’s two operating nuclear power plants, Diablo Canyon and San Onofre, are the only two plants that meet the 1,700-MW baseload criterion.

San Onofre has been much in the public eye lately

Of the two plants, San Onofre has been the subject of the most contention lately. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said May 28 that correspondence between an Edison International (NYSE:EIX) subsidiary and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) leads her to believe there was “misrepresentation and safety lapses” by the power company related to San Onofre. As a result, Boxer said she has provided the letters to government officials, including the U.S. Justice Department, so Justice can determine if Southern California Edison (SCE) “engaged in willful wrongdoing.”

SCE issued a statement May 27 saying that the two letters from 2004 and 2005 show nothing of the kind. SCE also said it submitted the letters in question to NRC months ago.

Boxer said the SCE letters to MHI note concerns about San Onofre being located in a seismic zone and identify other potential problem issues.

“Recognizing that SCE was not the designer of the steam generators and that there were limitations on the assistance SCE could provide, the letters identify a number of design issues that SCE asked MHI to focus on to ensure that design flaws were not inadvertently introduced,” SCE said in its statement. 

Boxer and various groups, including Friends of the Earth, have argued that SCE should have been required to seek a license amendment from the NRC before it gave MHI the go-ahead to replace steam generators at San Onofre Units 2 and 3 a few years ago.

Boxer chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has oversees the NRC. During a recent confirmation hearing for a new term for current NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, the senator said she did not approve of how NRC was handling San Onofre.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.