Edison Seeks to Restart San Onofre Reactor

Proposal filed with federal regulatory commission to restart one of its twin reactors

The operator of California's troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant is proposing to restart one of the plant's twin reactors.

Southern California Edison says in a statement Thursday it's filed the proposal with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is expected to take months to review.

The plant that is a major source of power in Southern California. In January, the Unit 3 reactor was shut down as a precaution after a tube leak. Unit 2 was taken offline earlier that month. Neither units have been operational since.

In the proposal, Peter Dietrich, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer for SCE said the plant has addressed all the concerns raised by the NRC in March and taken the appropriate action. 

As part of the agreement SCE hopes to make with the federal commission, Unit 2 would be turned on, but only operating with a limit of 70 percent power. Within 150 days, experts will check and make sure the reactor is operating safely.

Met with uncertainty over its future as an energy supplier and high operational costs, the troubled plant announced in August it would be cutting over 700 jobs, effective this month.

“The reality is that the Unit 3 reactor will not be operating for some time,” SCE, which manages the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, stated at the time of the announcement.

Federal regulators probed the plant to determine what happened to Unit 3 and how it could have been prevented. While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission commended the staff for their handling of the leak, they expressed concern over the design flaw that caused it.

Meanwhile, environmental activists have come out strongly against the plant and the risks involved in operating the reactors. Citizens Oversight and Friends of the Earth urged regulators to permanently decommission the plant over safety and environmental concerns.

Southern California Edison also pointed to the high costs of running the plant as a reason for downsizing its staff. Compared to similar plants, the staffing and costs are much higher. The company will also reduce costs by “improving plant processes while fully maintaining all safety commitments,” they stated in August.

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