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Plans for restarting one of the two reactors at San Onofre Nuclear Generating station took a step forward yesterday, as the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that plant operator Southern California Edison’s license amendment proposal to allow the plant to operate at 70% power does not create a significant new safety hazard.

The ruling is far from a green light to resume power generating activities – there is still a 30 day public comment period, and members of the public have 60 days to request a public hearing, almost a certainty given the numerous nuclear and environmental watchdog groups heavily involved in the ongoing situation at San Onofre. While the Commission could rule on the amendment before these time frames expire, investigators are still examining the causes of wear to steam generator tubes that failed, initially taking the plant offline.

The Commission reiterated yesterday that it doesn’t anticipate that all of the necessary approvals will be in place quickly enough to meet Edison’s timeline that would have the Unit 2 reactor up and running by June 1.

Meanwhile, a new study from central California suggests that there may be a tie between the 1989 decommissioning of the Rancho Seco nuclear facility outside Sacramento and a nearly across-the-board reduction in various types of cancer reported by local residents. The report stops short of establishing a causal relationship, but recommends further study.

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