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.
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.”
For its part, SCE issued a statement May 27 saying that said 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 notes that 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 NRC before it gave MHI the go-ahead to replace steam generators at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Units 2 and 3 a few years ago.
The units, which can together generate 2,100 MW, are important to the Southern California regional grid. Boxer and SCE critics claim the power utility misled NRC about the seriousness of the steam generator replacement project in order to get a less rigorous NRC review.
Both units have been idle since January 2012 due to unusual tube wear in the steam generators installed by MHI. SCE has proposed a plan to restart Unit 2 at 70% power for several months.
Boxer chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has oversight of NRC. During a recent confirmation hearing for current NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, the senator said she did not approve of how NRC was handling San Onofre.
Macfarlane said that neither San Onofre unit would be allowed to resume operation until all “technical” investigations are complete. Boxer said Macfarlane should not allow the unit to restart until all investigations, including a possible Justice probe are completed.