Edison Seeks Restart of Shuttered Nuclear Reactor by June 1

Edison International, owner of California’s second-largest electric utility, wants to restart its crippled nuclear reactor in Southern California by June 1.

Edison may submit a formal license amendment request to operate the San Onofre Unit 2 at reduced power to try to get the plant running for the summer, when power demand is highest, said Richard St. Onge, director of regulatory affairs at Edison’s Southern California Edison utility.

“This is very important for our ability to return the unit to service to meet our customers’ needs,” St. Onge said today at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting in Rockville, Maryland.

Edison’s San Onofre nuclear plant, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, has been shut since January 2012 after the Rosemead, California-based company discovered unusual wear in steam-generator tubes. Edison will decide within seven days if it will submit an amendment request to operate the unit at 70 percent power, St. Onge said.

It will be “a challenge” to meet Edison’s deadline, Doug Broaddus, chief of the San Onofre special-projects branch at the NRC, said at today’s meeting. A decision on approving the license change would be made separately from deciding on whether the reactor is safe for a restart, Broaddus said.

Summer Supplies

The NRC may take a week to review Edison’s amendment application and a decision on it may be made 30 days later if the NRC’s staff agrees with the utility’s assessment that the change presents no significant hazard, said Michele Evans, director of the division of operating reactor licensing. The agency could make a final decision on a restart in June, Evans said.

Electricity supplies in Southern California “could be tight this summer” if the San Onofre plant remains out of service, U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said today during a meeting with reporters in Washington. “It’s certainly an area that needs to watched very closely.”

Wellinghoff said he doesn’t anticipate potential blackouts in the region. The FERC has two employees embedded with the California Independent System Operator, allowing the federal agency and the grid operator to monitor the issue closely.

The California ISO is planning for San Onofre to be offline this summer and has been making transmission upgrades to the grid to accommodate the loss, the state grid operator said last month.

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