The majority owner-operator of one of two major California nuclear generating plants is seeking a short cut to restart at least partially one of two 1,100 MW units this summer at the same time the state grid operator is publicly expressing growing concerns about the idle plant.
Southern California Edison Co. (SCE) said last Friday it will consider seeking a license amendment from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that would allow partial operation of one of two units that have been shut down for more than a year at its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (Songs). The move to restart and operate Unit 2 at 70% capacity would bypass the need for public hearings.
Separately, officials with the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) said that they are concerned about summer reliability in parts of San Diego and southern Orange Counties if Songs remains completely offline. Oppositions of natural gas-fired generation available last year are not possible this summer.
SCE’s latest moves were outlined during a special NRC panel convened Friday to hear arguments from the majority nuclear plant owner-operator and the environmental group Friends of the Earth, which is urging the NRC to require a trial-like process before either of the downed Songs units can be restarted.
Before the ill-fated generators were installed, officials at both SCE and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) considered but rejected design changes, allegedly because they would require more time for regulatory review, according to one NRC report (see Daily GPI, March 12).
SCE said that the Mitsubishi unit “repeatedly reassured” the operator at Songs of the “efficacy of its design.” SCE said in a statement Friday that MHI advised its plant operators that the Songs steam generators did not require additional design changes or measures.
Late last month, top executives from the companies that own and operate the idle Songs indicated that the plant’s fate remains uncertain, along with the 2,200 MW associated with it, which puts uncertainty into the state’s summer energy plans (see Daily GPI, Feb. 28).
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