L.A. City Council jumps into San Onofre debate

A steady flow of traffic on Interstate 5 runs past the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente. The Los Angeles City Council called on federal regulators to take more time before making a decision on the plant's fate.
(Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)
<i>This post has been updated. See the note below for details.</i>

Los Angeles became the latest -- and largest -- city to weigh in on the fate of the San Onofre nuclear plant Tuesday, with the City Council unanimously passing a resolution calling on federal regulators to hold off on deciding whether the plant can restart.

The plant has been out of service for more than a year because of unusual wear on steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water. One tube leaked a small amount of radioactive steam last January, prompting the plant’s shutdown.

After the shutdown, San Onofre’s operator, Southern California Edison, discovered hundreds of tubes that either showed damage or excessive wear.

The company has proposed to restart one of the plant’s two units at 70% power in time for the summer, when energy demand peaks in California. It argues that the reduced power will alleviate conditions that led to the wear.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still weighing the proposal.


But the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution 11 to 0 calling on the NRC to wait on a decision until it has “fully reviewed public safety through a prudent, transparent, and precautionary process, has allowed independent experts and the public ample opportunity to comment, and has confirmed that Southern California Edison has completed any resulting mandated repairs, replacements, or other actions necessary to guarantee both short and long-term safe operation of San Onofre.”

A number of other cities and school districts, mostly in Orange and San Diego counties, have passed similar resolutions. Los Angeles first considered the resolution, which was introduced by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl, in December, but deferred action.

[Updated 6:41 p.m. PST April 21: The resolution the council initially considered in December specifically called for a license amendment process and hearing before restart, but the resolution passed Tuesday did not include that wording.]

S. David Freeman, a former head of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, has been working as a consultant for environmental group Friends of the Earth and has been outspoken in favor of keeping the plant shuttered.

Friends of the Earth is pushing for the NRC to require a license amendment with courtroom-like public hearings before deciding on the restart proposal.

San Onofre once produced power for about 20% of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric customers, but it did not generally supply power to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Most of the city is also outside a 50-mile radiation “danger zone” around the plant, but the Port of Los Angeles lies within it.

Andy Shrader, environment deputy to Koretz, said previously that a shutdown at the port prompted by a disaster at the plant would impact “not just the city but the whole country, and the economic impacts would be devastating.”


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