Sen. Boxer vs. The NRC RE The San Onofre Nuclear Plant

I also want to talk about an urgent matter in my home state of california that is extremely close to my heart the san onofre nuclear generating station is located near san clemente and 8.7 million people live within 50 miles of that site this nuclear plant which is currently offline as experienced unexpected deterioration with the tubes.

That carry radioactive water in the plants new steam generators this situation could pose health and safety risks because if those tubes leak or rupture they could release radiation at levels that exceed safety standards I'm pleased that the NRC has undertaken an investigation regarding the problems at San Onofre today I want to make certain.

And I will be asking all of you want to make certain that the Commission continues to pay serious attention to this nuclear facility let me be clear it is your duty to ensure that the appropriate actions are taken to address safety concerns related to the compromised tubes before Santa no freeze reactors are permitted to go back online.

The San Onofre reactors must not be restarted until the NRC's investigation is completed and the public has been assured of the plant safety the NRC was created and I quote to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials while protecting people and the environment unquote and the millions of people who live near San Onofre deserve to have.

Peace of mind it is critical that the NRC conduct this investigation at San Onofre in an open and transparent way I'm very pleased that the Commission has scheduled a public meeting in California in October today I want assurances that this meeting is on track and will take place I also want to remind the commissioners sitting here today about.

Their commitments to me that the NRC will determine whether socal edison was in full compliance with the regulations regarding the redesigned steam generators we also need to evaluate whether the NRC regulation should be changed to avoid a similar situation in the future I will continue to work with the NRC to ensure safety issues at San.

Onofre and other plants across the nation and I do look forward to hearing from the commissioners about the progress that has been made to implement safety changes resulting from the lessons learned from Fukushima now i'm going to ask some questions that are related to the experience that were going through in california with the.

Shutdown of San Onofre chair McFarland the tubes on steam generators act as a barrier to the release of radioactivity that could endanger workers and the public if the tubes were to burst nuclear facilities have other systems that if they fail could also release radioactive material does the NRC automatically require a plant to amend.

Its license if the plant makes a major structural change to one of these systems would you support the NRC examining whether plant should go through a license amendment process when they make such major structural changes to a plant the NRC has a an oversight program that validates the day-to-day safety at the site in terms of the steam.

Generators it's generally a licensees business decision whether or not to change the generator and I'll note that 55 out of 69 pressurized water reactor in this country have actually changed their steam generators I guess my question I know we can't commit yeah but because it sorted to quite the first question is does that.

Does the NRC automatically require a plant to amend its license if the plant makes a major structural change to one of these systems if a esteem Jenner is under our 5059 process we allow licensees to change their steam generators without a license amendment as long as they assure us that they have not introduced any accident scenarios.

Additional different accident scenarios into the into the system then we and we don't do a design review of the steam jet you well my concern is you have this plant that made this huge change and it's it's it's it's led to a shutdown so would you support the NRC examining whether plant.

Should go through a license amendment process when they make such a major structural change because right now you've said you don't have to under your rules would you take a look at that you and your fellow commissioners I think we certainly and the staff will certainly do usually do this kind of thing after a situation like this mm-hmm that we have.

At the San Onofre plant we do reflect and and it won't happen right way right away we have to continue through the process but we will look and see what lessons we can learn from this and whether we do need to implement any changes so we will consider this you well let me humbly suggest that this not.

Be something that's put on the back burner commissioners because what's happening now in California's we've lost an important source of power very important source the community and I have to compliment Commissioner Magwood when he said what happens when the community loses faith we can't let that happen and and I'll tell you it's been.

Terrible on the utility I mean they feel terrible about what's happening and they spent a fortune how much that they spent I do remember it was hundreds of millions several hundred million dollars were spent and is a problem so I would like to ask you to not give me an answer today but at our next oversight hearing I'm going to ask if you would consider.

Examining the lessons learned already we already know it happened we're didn't know that they didn't have to get a new license to make structural change and we already know what happened and it was it was terrible for the people in the community was terrible for the utility and we still don't know exactly why this occurred but I don't think you should.

Wait in in respect i would say out of concern for others in our nation including the utilities themselves the business people themselves everybody because it's already clear that they should have had your expertise take a look at this change now maybe they wouldn't have found anything maybe you're a great staff wouldn't defend it.

But i have a lot of confidence in them as you do and you all do that they might have said just a minute you know this is a problem so I'm going to ask you not now to commit to anything because I want you to think about it maybe I'm being too cautious but I feel or we know enough about San Onofre how many months has been closed down already since the.

Beginning of the year and this is I forget the percent of power that comes out is not insignificant it's pretty significant in the area so we're missing that ten percent maybe and nuclear's 20 so in that area could be as much as ten percent so this is serious business and I think it underscores you know i would.

Say on this committee i'm one of the people that really is pressing hard every minute to make sure their safety because i do agree with what senator Alexander said for sure that if people he says every time we have a meeting people get more confidence in you know nuclear power I would say if they were listening to this committee hearing they.

Would I don't think it's true about all the meetings we've haven't passed but I think we're in a different ground now we're different leadership now we're in a different circumstance here I somehow feel we're all pulling for the same thing this is important and I just would like to see us not sit back when we've already had this problem in California.

It's real and I hope you all of you talk about it at your next meeting when you talk to each other maybe there's something you could put in place right now an oversight review to see when somebody is making a real change that you get to have your good staff look at it they may not catch a problem but they may well catch so I think Commissioner.

Magwood really said something important before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July he was asked what design and manufacturing flaws with San Onofre steam generators were not detective to deck detected before the generators were turned on and you said quote so when you have an outcome that's not satisfactory you have to take a look.

At the process and I think we should take a look at the process and see if there's something we can improve and I appreciate that and so I want to bring that to the Chairman's attention because you know as you look at because I didn't ask you today for your answer but it seems to me you could avoid a lot of these problems of when there's a major.

Change to a plant before the utilities invest 100 a millions of dollars there there really should be a new new rig so I hope you'll take a look at that and we'll discuss it the next time chair McFarland I in my opening statement I talked about the fact that there's an open meeting scheduled in the San Onofre community.

For October is that firm and is that happening and who do you expect we'll be there leading that open process the meeting is set for October ninth we are ironing out the final details of that and the way that the meeting will go it will be in two parts there will be a roundtable discussion with 10 or 12 representatives from a variety of groups.

And then there will the second half will be a public comment period public guy and who the commissioners will be there the commissioners will not be there we will have it will be facilitated by to NRC staff people there will be the region for regional administrator I believe will be there and there will be a representative from my office as well.

Okay i am very dedicated to ensuring that the agency communicates very well with the public okay so who will brief all the commissioners about the results of that hearing who will do that whose responsibility with that big the the staff is responsible to do that and we will have either somebody from region for the region for office who was at the.

Meeting come for example yesterday the Regional Administrator from region for came by my office to give me the latest update on the San Onofre facility so and I asked him specifically what was going to happen at this meeting so we are in very close communication on this issue so can I just ask commissioners as a group would you commit to being briefed.

By the staff all of you not to go but to be briefed by the staffs everybody say yes yes yes good the other point I made in my opening statement is that I want to make sure that your investigation into the problems has been completed and that you are convinced that it is safe to to operate that plant do I have your.

Commitment that that is your aim that you will not restart that plant until you believe it is safe yes absolutely and that all the commissioners if any Commissioner has a problem with the safety that you will listen to those commissioners as well absolutely okay chair McFarland in February I wrote to the NRC about safety issues at San.

Onofre plant including the rapid deterioration of tubes that carry radioactive water I asked the NRC to comprehensively review and address safety concerns at the plant in July the NRC issued an interim report that you were augmenting inspection of the San Onofre plant what is the NRC's understanding of the causes of the.

Problems at San Onofre and how will the NRC address all of the safety issues at the plant the NRC is still working to understand the causes and we are waiting for the licensee to respond to our confirmatory action letter that explained what you mean by confirmatory action when these problems occurred with the plant we issued in with agreement.

From the licensee a confirmatory action letter saying that they would shut down the facility and work on understanding the root causes of this problem and then develop a way forward mm-hmm and so we are awaiting their response to this letter where they tell us their understanding of the root causes of this problem and they have not said Sekulow.

Know and we understand and talking with the licensee I talked with them two days ago they came by and visited they told me that they will be sending this letter by the end of the first week in October have you heard that they want to start up parts of this plant I understand that there are two reactors there unit 2 and unit 3 I understand that unit 3 will.

Likely be shut down for some time unspecified I know that they are the licensee is planning to remove the fuel from the reactor at unit three this month so unit 2 is the reactor that is in play at the moment and for which they will respond to the confirmatory action letter with their explanation of what caused the problem with the steam.

Generator tubes and a way forward it's are my steps understanding that two and three have similar problems is that your understanding yes there are similar problems with the tubes one the tubes and three were had more problems more significant damage than the tubes into but is your understanding they have similar problems yes I'm assuming.

Because the rumors that we're hearing is that they plan to start up in October but you haven't even gotten the letter back no no no no that's that's not correct so unit so you're you can say unequivocally that unit 2 is not going to be restarted by October oh yes absolutely when we were seeing let me let me explain the process when we.

Receive that letter from them then we will it will take us some time I can't tell you how long it will be longer than days and weeks it will be on the order of months to understand whether they have understood well enough the root causes of the problem and to understand whether what their plan forward is if it is going to provide the adequate safety.

We will not let this plant start up unless we are absolutely convinced that it is safe to operate let me please assure you well that is music to the ears of the people in California and I'm very appreciative is any dissension from that by commissioners well that's that's very important um chairman MacFarlane the union of I'm.

Sorry did you did you wish to comment thank you cheering I just want to add one comment I agree with everything chairman Farland said but I want to highlight this is a very complex technical problem yeah an interior hornoff your staff join me on visit the plan july twenty second we spent several hours they're looking at what they're.

Trying to do to bracket this flow instability problem and i just want to highlight and echoing chairman franz response this is a very complex problem it's one that we've not seen before plans the United States and its once we require significant NRC staff technical evaluation depending upon what the NRC receives from the licensee but we don't.

Know what that is the stage that's well I so appreciate the caution here and it makes me feel comfortable that you are doing everything to make sure this is safe I that's why I I so believe that doing what Commissioner Magwood suggested in four in front of the house that you take another look at your regulations because what a shame that.

This money was invested in a way that would turned out to be so wrong for the for the plant hundreds of millions of dollars and that could have been maybe maybe it could have been stopped had the NRC staff taking a look at this we don't know all the details but it's a puzzle and you know again as I think about everything that's happened since.

Fukushima the almost the irony of this situation and I know that the mindset of the commissioners I believe this today is that this culture of safety has to be the centerpiece of what you do before you restart this plant and it just means everything and I think at the end of the day it's going to give confidence to people going forward we all.

Want the same thing you know we want safety first and you do I do everybody does whether you love nuclear power whether you hate wind power you know wherever you're coming to President Obama has an all-of-the-above strategy so it's all got to be safe and I think most people have an all-of-the-above strategy and it all has.

To be safe whatever the weather its natural gas or nuclear solar or whatever so thank you thank you i hope you feel as I do that we're on the same page for now may not always be but we are now my people in California are counting on you you stand in such an important place in their lives right now I mean it because I don't have the expertise that you are.

Going to have on this California plan and I'm going to monitor the public meeting my staff will be out there and I really want to thank my staff and all the staffs hear both sides of the aisle for helping us get ready for today and we stand in a German and we'll see you soon thank you very much

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