Emergency Plans for San Onofre Await Regulator Approval

By Published On: October 17, 2014

Exemptions for some emergency procedures at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station are six to nine months away from Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval, according to Joe Anderson, commission Office of Nuclear security branch chief Oct. 9. “The probability of an event is very low,” Tom Palmisano, Edison chief nuclear officer told the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel. An “event” can be a radioactive leak, or a fire, or anything not under normal operation. “What drives the requests” for emergency process exemptions “is the change in hazards,” Palmisano said to the community organization. “The fuel is significantly less radioactivite than when it was shut down—that’s not to [diminish the threat] of long-term radioactivity,” added Palmisano. The highly radioactive spent fuel is expected to take three or more years to cool down to the point that it can be off-loaded into dry cask storage, according to sources. During that time, a loss-of-cooling accident could occur, according to Edison and regulatory sources. “Once de-fueled, traditional accidents . . . are no longer applicable,” said Anderson. Those are some of the underlying assumptions for Southern California Edison—the operator and 80 percent owner of the plant—to apply for emergency process exemptions from federal regulators. While commission staff evaluates the exemption requests, Edison applied for a series of license amendments that would “essentially implement those suggestions,” according to commission spokesperson David McIntyre. Exemptions are opposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and several other Congressmembers.

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