NRC chair says to stay tuned on ASLB, San Onofre

NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane issued a statement May 17 essentially saying that regulatory review continues on the idle San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) and that the public should stay tuned on the issue of whether a hearing will be held.

On May 13, a three-judge Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel ruled in favor of a Friends of the Earth petition that the NRC Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL) process against Southern California Edison (SCE) should be treated as a license amendment proceeding.

SCE, an Edison International (NYSE:EIX) subsidiary, is the operator and largest owner of the 2,200-MW dual unit nuclear plant in San Diego County. Both Units 2 and 3 have been offline since January 2012.

If a party, including the NRC staff, Southern California Edison, or Friends of the Earth, wishes to file an appeal of the ASLB’s decision with the commission, it must do so by June 7, Macfarlane said. “Under NRC’s regulations, the Commission itself may also opt to review the decision. Until the time for appeal or Commission review expires, the Commission serves in an adjudicatory capacity, similar to a court of appeals, and must remain neutral to preserve the fairness and transparency of the adjudicatory process. For this reason, my Commission colleagues and I are restricted in our ability to comment on this decision,” Macfarlane said.

The NRC understands that there is significant public interest in the opportunity for a hearing and we will provide more information about the ASLB decision after further review of that decision and after the appeal period has elapsed.

The ASLB ruled that FOE has the right to a public hearing before NRC could approve restart of Unit 2 at 70% power. This lack of ability to run normally at 100% should trigger a license agreement, ASLB said.

It should be noted that the utility eventually filed a license amendment request prior to the recent ASLB decision. SCE is hoping for expedited consideration of the Unit 2 restart, saying the facts have been before NRC for months already.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.