NRC Board Ruling Seen Slowing Restart of Edison Nuclear Plant

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing board ruling has called into question whether Edison International (EIX)’s shuttered San Onofre plant in California will resume operations in the coming months.

The agency’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board yesterday determined that the NRC’s process for approving a re-start of the plant amounts to a license amendment proceeding.

The decision provides the environmental group Friends of the Earth “with the relief it requested -- namely, the opportunity for a hearing on the license amendment,” the agency said in a statement.

Both reactors at the San Onofre plant, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Long Beach, California, have been out of service since January 2012, after the company discovered unusual wear on steam-generator tubes. Edison, owner of the state’s second-largest utility, has said it may decide by the end of the year whether to retire at least one of the units if the plant can’t resume operations for one of the reactors at reduced power. It is seeking a license amendment to do so.

Washington-based Friends of the Earth has said the plant shouldn’t be allowed to resume operations without a public hearing. The board’s ruling “is a tidal wave that is rammed into the re-start plan,” Damon Moglen, energy and climate director for the group, said in a phone interview.

Jennifer Manfre, a spokeswoman for Southern California Edison, a subsidiary of Rosemead, California-based Edison, said in an e-mail that the company is reviewing the board’s decision. The company operates the state’s second-largest utility.

The NRC won’t make a decision regarding the license amendment until at least 60 days after publication of an April 16 notice for a public hearing on the matter, which included a deadline for a public-hearing request, agency Chairman Allison Macfarlane said in an April 26 letter to Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Wingfield in Washington at bwingfield3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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