Eva Knott 4:04 a.m., May 23
New Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair visits San Onofre
Allison Macfarlane also meets with local environmental group about safety concerns
Allison Macfarlane, the new head of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, made her first visit to the idle San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station earlier this week, meeting with officials while on site. Macfarlane replaced outgoing chairman Gregory Jaczko, who resigned in May amid controversy over his management of the agency.
Macfarlane’s background includes expertise in both geology and nuclear waste, both issues significant at the San Onofre facility, considering that no plan exists for the eventual disposal of three decades’ worth of radioactive waste the plant has already generated, and the discovery of previously uncharted fault lines running near the plant.
“I’m interested in the technical aspects of what went wrong, whether we really understand whether the licensee understands what created the problem, and therefore whether we can be assured that it will [be] OK if the plant restarts," Macfarlane told Southern California Public Radio following the visit.
While in California, Macfarlane also met with environmental group Friends of the Earth, which has argued that new steam generators installed at a cost of at least $671 million were so different in design from their predecessors that they should have triggered a license amendment process before they were installed. The group was unsuccessful in a prior request for full public hearings before making a decision on whether or not to allow San Onofre to resume power generation activities.
A decision from the Commission on whether to grant plant operator Southern California Edison to restart one of the two idled nuclear reactors could come as early as March.