Irvine council approves letter for safety, licensing


The Irvine City Council approved an advocacy letter this week lending its support to increased safety regulation and licensing measures surrounding the reopening of San Onofre.

The letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) called for new measures in re-licensing the facility, including regulations surrounding “seismic and tsunami hazards, operational issues, plant security, emergency preparedness, spent fuel storage options and other elements,” according to a staff report citing a similar letter sent out by Sen. Dianne Feinstein last year.

The nuclear power plant south of San Clemente along the San Diego (5) Freeway was closed in late January when degenerative wear was discovered in the tubes that transport radioactive water to the station’s steam generators, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“It appears the situation is even more serious than we had been lead to believe,” Councilman Larry Agran said during the packed council meeting. “And the prospects for restarting units two and three for this summer appear to be zero now, if we are indeed to believe our own words about public safety and assuring ourselves and the public at large in those regards.”

More than 30 civic leaders, citizens and nuclear operators provided comments to the council.

“My request is that as you look to these answers, don’t allow fear to be the driver,” said Rob Howard, a licensed nuclear operator at San Onofre.

He urged people to “get the facts” and understand the importance of the station, and other ways to both generate and conserve power in Southern California.

Southern California Edison will not restart the plant until plant officials and the NRC determine that it is safe to do so, said Veronica Gutierrez, vice president of local public affairs for Edison, on Tuesday night.

Other provisions in the letter called for a permanent off-site storage solution for spent nuclear fuel and an increase in the Emergency Planning Zone from 10 miles to 50 miles.

“Recognizing that [San Onofre’s] emergency plan does not include the city of Irvine within its Emergency Planning Zone, there is no plan to evacuate Irvine residents,” according to a staff report.

The council unanimously approved the letter; however, city staff was directed to bring San Onofre back as a discussion item on May 8.

“Fukushima is the canary in the coal mine,” Councilwoman Beth Krom said. “We have seen what could happen and we no longer have the blessing of ignorance.”

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