04/03/2013 MD NRC meeting: Edison request to lower San Onofre safety standards

UPDATE: The NRC announced plans to approve Edison’s request to lower San Onofre’s safety standards and may do so in less than the normal 30 day comment period –removing obstacles to a restart of the seriously defective San Onofre Unit 2 nuclear reactor. This could mean a restart in May or June 2013. The NRC ignored Senator Barbara Boxer’s and Rep. Ed Markey’s request to complete the safety investigation before taking any action that could lead to restart.

Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued the following statements.

Senator Boxer said:

“The NRC staff proposal, which could pave the way for the restart of the San Onofre nuclear power plant before the investigations of the crippled plant are completed, is dangerous and premature. It makes absolutely no sense to even consider taking any steps to reopen San Onofre until these investigations look at every aspect of reopening the plant given the failure of the tubes that carry radioactive water. In addition, the damaged plant is located in an area at risk of earthquake and tsunami. With eight million people living within 50 miles of this plant, the staff proposal is beyond irresponsible.”

Rep. Markey said:

“Today, the NRC showed blatant disregard for the safety of tens of millions of people who live near the San Onofre nuclear plant. It is absurd for NRC to say that Southern California Edison’s license amendment is entirely unrelated to a future decision to allow the restart of the reactor; it is like saying that giving someone a driver’s license has nothing to do with allowing them to drive a car.”


Southern California Edison wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve lowering San Onofre safety standards in May 2013 in order to expedite a restart of their defective Unit 2 nuclear reactor by June 1, 2013.  Currently, San Onofre must be able to run at 100% power for two years before it is considered safe to operate.  Edison wants their operating license amended to lower this to 70% percent power during Cycle 17.

If approved by the NRC, Edison would be able to restart their defective Unit 2 nuclear reactor without the rigors of a thorough license amendment and public adjudicatory hearing on the San Onofre safety issues.  Contact Senator Barbara Boxer and NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane and tell them to stop the NRC from lowering safety standards at San Onofre. 

Friends of the Earth (FOE) held a telephone briefing April 2nd with John Large, a London-based expert on nuclear reactors. He provided an excellent detailed analysis of Edison’s request, explaining why Unit 2 should not be restarted. And Edison knew there were problems with the steam generator design, but had them built anyway. See John Large’s 3/27/2013 report: Review of Tube Wear Identified in the San Onofre Replacement Steam Generators – Mitsubishi Reports UES-20120254 Rev.0 (3/64) and L5-04GA588(0) together with Other Relevant Information, R3218-A2. See also FOE’s 4/1/2013 press release and 4/1/2013 letter to Senator Boxer and Rep. Waxman.

Both Unit 2 and 3 show decades of wear in critical steam generator tubes after less than two years of operation. Edison only discovered this after a radiation leak in Unit 3 (less than one year of operation).  Edison’s nuclear “experts” had promised these replacement steam generators would last decades.  Instead, thousands of defective tubes needed plugging — unprecedented in NRC history (see Plugged Tubes Chart with NRC data and summary of steam generator problems).

NRC SONGS Lead Inspector, Greg Werner, said no technology exists to detect steam generator tube radiation leaks until AFTER they occurs, and there is no way to test an operating steam generator (only computer simulations are done).  

Edison implies San Onofre may be needed before this summer, so wants approval for restart in May 2013.  However, California’s electric grid operator has plans to avoid blackouts this summer just as they did last summer (one of the hottest summers on record).

Watch this video of the 4/3/2013 meeting to hear critical comments and questions from David Freeman, Kendra Ulrich (FOE), Dan Hirsch, Ace Hoffman, John Geesman, Ray Lutz, Gary Headrick, and Myla Reson.  (Video courtesy of EON.)  For full audio and video of this meeting go to NRC video archives at:  http://video.nrc.gov/


April 3rd pre-application NRC meeting to discuss Edison’s plan to submit a license amendment request (LAR) claiming “no significant hazard” for Unit 2. The proposed LAR would address compliance with the San Onofre Unit 2, Technical Specifications, discussed in the NRC staff’s request for additional information (RAI), question number 32, transmitted to SCE on December 26, 2012.  Edison has not been able to adequately address NRC RAI question 32 regarding the ability to successfully operate Unit 2 at all ranges of power.

…All in-service steam generator tubes shall retain structural integrity over the full range of normal operating conditions (including startup, operation in the power range, hot standby, cool down and all anticipated transients­ included in the design specification) and design basis accidents…

DATE: Wednesday, April 3, 2013
TIME: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PDT (1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT)
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
One White Flint North
Commissioners’ Hearing Room
11555 Rockville Pike
Rockville, Maryland 20852

This is a Category 1 meeting. The public is invited to participate in this meeting and will have one or more opportunities to communicate with the NRC after the business portion, but before the meeting is adjourned. Proprietary information may be discussed at certain times during the meeting. These portions of the meeting will be closed to members of the public who have not been granted access to the information by the owner of the information.  Participants from the NRC include staff members from the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR).

Interested members of the public can participate in this meeting via Webcast link or toll-free audio teleconference.

    • Webcast link: http://video.nrc.gov. This link to the NRC webcast page will permit the user to select the meeting to be viewed and the viewing speed. The meeting link will become active approximately one hour prior to meeting start.
    • Teleconference bridge number: 888-677-3916; passcode 2670631. [approximately 400 caller maximum]. Callers will initially be placed in a “listen only” status. At the designated point in the agenda, two-way calling will be enabled, so that the public may ask questions of the NRC staff regarding the meeting discussions.

Individuals interested in attending the meeting in person are requested to contact one of the meeting contacts listed below in advance of the meeting, as seating may be limited. [Note: requests to have NRC hold all San Onofre public meetings in Southern California have been denied.]

Randy Hall, NRR
Jason Paige, NRR

About Donna Gilmore

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2 Responses to 04/03/2013 MD NRC meeting: Edison request to lower San Onofre safety standards

  1. MajorTom says:

    I believe that all of the accident analyses performed to date (for purposes of obtaining a nuclear power plant operating license) typically make the assumption that postulated accidents occur while operating the power plant at 100% rated power (102% rated power with SONGS Unit 2 & 3 with operating license amendment). The reason for this is that nuclear power plants are intended to operate as base load plants at full power conditions and that is the most likely operating condition.

    Now we have a situation where SCE wants to operate SONGS Unit 2 at 70 percent power for an extended period of time with crippled Steam Generators.

    Since the power plant operating conditions (temperatures, pressures, flow rates, liquid inventories, etc.) at 70 percent power are significantly different than they are at full power operating conditions, it seems that at least some or perhaps all of safety analyses calculations that comprise the Updated Final Safety Analysis Report would not be valid for this new operating condition.

    Conditions in the Reactor Coolant System and Secondary System are much different at 70 percent power than they are at 102 percent power. In particular, there is more liquid inventory (mass basis) in the secondary side of the Steam Generators and the steam pressure operating pressure is somewhat higher. Also, the average temperature of the Primary System is reduced, so there is a greater amount liquid inventory (mass basis) in the Reactor Coolant System, due to the greater average density of the liquid. These increased liquid inventories in the Primary System and Secondary System would theoretically result in accidents which are more severe (LOCA, MSLB, MSLB plus consequential LOCA, multiple SGTR), due to increased mass/energy release into the Containment Building. It is an open question as to whether the Containment Building is adequately designed to accommodate these more severe accidents.

    Redoing all of the accident analyses work for off-design operating conditions at 70 percent power would be a monumental task, and it would take a lot of resources and time. However, in redoing all of the analysis work, one would need to make a lot of unverifiable assumptions about the integrity of the steam generator tubes during these postulated accidents.

    Obviously SCE does not want to think about having to redo all of the safety analyses work and does not want to be required to resubmit a revised UFSAR for public comment and review by the NRC. Do they really think that they can pull the wool over everyones eyes?

    Houston, we have a problem!
    Can you hear me Houston?

  2. MajorTom says:

    The NRC has disclosed additional safety violations at SONGS Unit 2 for 4Q of 2012

    What other potential safety violations might be lurking at SONGS Units 2 & 3?

    Is the Containment Building adequately designed for a hypothetical worst case accident scenario (MSLB plus consequential LOCA) occurring at 70% power operating conditions?

    Have Containment Building Pressure and Temperature calculations ever been performed for a worst case Main Steam Line Break inside containment at 70% power operating conditions, with a design basis earthquake and consequential loss of offsite power at end of reactor core life?

    Where are the Containment Building Pressure and Temperature calculations for the worst case scenario for a Main Steam Line Break accident occurring at 100% power, 102% power, 70% power, and STANDBY conditions? Why haven’t these calculations been made available for public scrutiny?

    And what about calculations for a worst case MSLB at 70% power plus consequential LOCA’s of various flavors, including multiple steam generator tube ruptures? Where are these calculations located, and why are they available for public scrutiny?

    Are all of these calculations for various operating power levels (including 70% power ) presented in the UFSAR? If not, then why not? And how could SCE or anyone else conclude that it is safe to operate SONGS Unit 2 (or Unit 3) at 70% power for extended periods of time if these calculations have never been done and are not presented in the UFSAR?

    How can SCE and the NRC even entertain the idea of dismissing these legitimate safety concerns on a technicality? What about the 8.5 million people who live within a 50 mile radius of SONGS?
    Don’t they count as persons too? Or is it just powerful corporations who are counted as persons?

    Houston, we have a really big problem here!
    It is pervasive and it extends across the globe well beyond the borders of California.
    I don’t know if our leaders have the courage or willpower to try to fix it.
    God help us all!

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