The memories of the disaster in Fukishima, Japan and the near meltdown of its nuclear reactor are still fresh in the minds of many Americans who live near nuclear plants.
No more so than in Southern California's Orange County, where the only nuclear plant designed as a sister to Fukishima - the San Onofre #2 & #3 plant - is situated on the edge of the Pacific Ocean ... on a fault line ... and still under-going temporary shut-down due to radiation leaks.
Today, the NRC is meeting in Baltimore to discuss the lessons learned from Fukishima.
Ironically, the NRC also met today at 1 p.m. today to discuss a plan by the San Onofre plant's operator - Southern California Edison - to re-activate San Onofre on a plan that would allow it to operate at what is considered 70% of its safety requirement plan.
Jump below for more.
Why is Southern California Edison submitting a plan to operate at 70% safety today and what does that mean?
All nuclear plants have to operate on a safety plan. This means that unless the plant can actuate 100% of the safety plan as stated, the plant is not allowed to operate. It is the public's safe-guard that a nuclear plant, operated by a private contractor, cannot subvert the public's interest in that plant's safe operation.
What Southern California Edison wants to do is apply for an amendment that would allow it to operate the only plant designed to mirror Fukishima at less than 100% of its safety plan ... 70% to be exact.
Why is this necessary? For almost two years now, San Onofre has been on "temprorary" shut down due to a radiation leak at the plant. This leak was caused by a retrofit of rod casings that don't actually fit right in the plant, which has led these rods to "rub" against each other in a manner that degrades the safety of the plant.
The result ... a radiation leak at a plant with a fall-out zone that encompasses one of the most heavily populated exurb areas in the nation: southern Orange County.
Presumably, at this application hearing, the members of the NRC and the public who were allowed to question this plan certainly wanted to know why a plant that is designed with a similar layout to the Fukishima plant should be allowed to operate at less than 100% of its safety plan.
We'll all know soon enough: the NRC posts webcasts of all public meetings on its website.
Check-in tomorrow (4/4/13) to see the 1 hour meeting. For those interested in nuclear safety - especially those in Southern California - we need to address this ticking nuclear time bomb in our backyards before the powerful interests of the energy lobby push this heinous plan through!
Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 9:25 AM PT: Wanted to post a quick update.
OC Register is reporting that the NRC was pretty skeptical of SCE's plans, though it doesn't mean this bid to operate San Onofre is dead.
And ... as some have pointed out in the comments, there is a bit of confusion over the whole 70% vs. 100% safety plan proposal. To put it in more clear terms, the proposal is to run the plant at 70% (which is against the rules that San Onofre operates under, which stipulate that if it can't run safely at 100% power, it can't run at all) and therefore their request is to bend the rules so they can run it in spite of not being able to operate the plant at 100% power safely.
There's a great discussion in the comments for this article as to whether the threat of tsunami to the plant is a statistical improbability vs. a once in a lifetime chance ... my argument would be that after seeing what happened in Japan, do we want to take ANY chance with a nuclear reactor being placed on the edge of the ocean in an earthquake zone where there is ANY possibility of a tsunami?
Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 9:29 AM PT: ONE MORE UPDATE:
Another great article posted today in the LA Times, pointing out the plan from SCE and the problem of the nuclear waste stored at the site.
Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 10:23 AM PT: ANOTHER GREAT ARTICLE JUST POPPED UP.
This one from Clear Technica on how absurd SCE's plan is from a technical standpoint.