March 22 (Bloomberg) -- Edison International, owner of the second-largest California electric utility, is considering voluntarily amending the license for Unit 2 at its idled San Onofre nuclear power plant in an attempt to speed the reactor’s return to service.
The changes would address Edison’s plans to resume operating Unit 2 at 70 percent of capacity, the Rosemead, California-based company said in a statement today. An amendment would be done alongside a separate regulatory evaluation of plans to operate the reactor, since it “may take substantial time to review this operational assessment,” Edison said.
The nuclear plant has been shut since the company discovered unusual wear on steam generator tubes in January 2012. San Onofre, the largest source of round-the-clock power in Southern California, needs regulatory approval to resume operating. Environmental groups and some lawmakers have said Edison must amend its license in order to run the plant at reduced rates, because the original permission was based on the reactor running at full capacity.
“We want to do every responsible thing we can do to get Unit 2 up and running safely before the summer heat hits our region,” Ron Litzinger, president of the company’s Southern California Edison utility, said in the statement. “While the NRC continues to review the technical materials we’ve submitted, we’re considering a request for a license amendment so that we can pursue the best path to safe restart while avoiding unnecessary delays.”
Edison is requesting a meeting with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would be open to the public, the company said. The atomic agency’s decision whether to restart the unit would be made separately from its review of the license amendment request, Victor Dricks, a commission spokesman, said in a phone interview.
It’s too soon to say whether a license amendment would affect timing of the plant’s restart, he said.
Edison told federal regulators during a hearing today that it’s considering using an expedited review process that “involves a simpler staff review,” Scott Burnell, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail. The company has previously said it didn’t think a license amendment is required for plants to run at lower levels.
Agency staff haven’t yet decided whether a license amendment is needed, David E. Roth, a staff attorney, said at the hearing.
“In the past, Edison has requested minor amendments as a PR ploy to claim they’re complying with the process,” Kendra Ulrich, a nuclear campaigner with environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in an e-mailed statement. “It looks like they’re trying the same trick again.”
A report on the causes of the equipment failure by Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Inc., supplier of the steam generators, fueled debate over whether Edison properly disclosed design changes and potential flaws to federal regulators.
Friends of the Earth and two Democratic lawmakers said the report, released by the atomic agency March 8, showed Edison and Mitsubishi rejected safety modifications to the steam generators to avoid a license amendment and safety review of the plant.
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