Congressman Henry Waxman on San Onofre Shutdown

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is build in an earthquake and tsunami zone, right next to the main north/south freeway between Los Angles and San Diego, 8.5 million people in the evacuation zone, in the middle of Camp Pendleton, a strategically vital U.S. military base. What could possibly go wrong?

Public Risks v. Corporate Profits
California U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman responds to questions from Myla Reson and Roger Johnson about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) handling of Southern California Edison’s push to fasttrack the restart of one of San Onofre’s faulty reactors without fully assessing the major risks to the region’s 8.7 million residents a restart poses.

Thanks to Myla Reson for the following transcript:

My question: Southern California Edison is seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart one o its badly damaged nuclear reactors in a matter of weeks.

As you know, the aging power plant is located on our fragile coastline in a tsunami zone riddled with earthquake faults.

A senior San Onofre engineer recently testified that the facility is not designed to withstand current earthquake risks.

What is wrong with a regulatory process that can result in restart two years before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has completed it ongoing work of promulgating regulations based on from Fukushima tsunami and earthquake hazards?

Waxman: There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s exactly what we ought to insist on. We want a full review of the lessons learned from Fukushima. That San Onofre power plant – one of the power plants there was fairly new – I don’t remember exact details but it wasn’t that old and yet it wasn’t operating appropriately.

And when the head of the NRC testified before our committee, I asked, “why didn’t you know about it? How did this happen without the NRC reviewing it?”

And they said they’re aware of it now and they pledged to us that they’re not going to allow San Onofre to start those power plants again – any of them until they’ve done a complete and thorough review.

It’s not going to be a matter of weeks. It may not happen at all.

But as a result of that I wrote a letter along with the other Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee to the Cal ISO [California Independent System Operator] to tell them that they ought to be sure that we’re ready for the summer. Because if we don’t have the electricity from San Onofre and I don’t expect we will better make sure we have the ISO looking at the grid so that we don’t have energy black outs.

My follow up: Congressman I was told by the NRC that they will not wait [to complete] their analysis of tsunami and seismic risks before they make their decision on restart. They’re two years away from [fully] analyzing [those risks] and promulgating those regulations – and they said they will not wait those two years. They’re going to base [restart] on answers to a confirmatory action letter and [Edison’s restart plan] and [restart] can happen in a matter of weeks according to a recent NRC public meeting that I witnessed and asked questions at.

Waxman: I appreciate that clarification. I don’t know that it’s tied to their review of lessons learned from Fukushima. But they are going to have to come in and show us that based on all the science and inspections and all the bells and whistles that we need for protection that they’re not going to let the nuclear power plant reopen. And we’ll call them before the committee and find out if they’re going to make a decision without fully vetting all the concerns that they out to be looking at.

Cara Robin reads Roger Johnson’s question:

“Why is the NRC allowed to list radiation as a privileged pollutant? It is a known carcinogen, and the allowable limits for radiation are hundreds of times higher than for other carcinogens. Why do you allow the NRC to establish a standard for low level radiation called “whatever is reasonably achievable.” Why is the NRC allowed to specifypermissible standards rather than safe standards? Why does the NRC and the nuclear industry run roughshod over the US Congress and particularly the Energy and Environment Committee?

Waxman: Let me hold on to this question because I don’t want to give you an answer when I don’t know the answer. So I’m going to find out more about it and see what the NRC has to say about it.

Produced by EON in cooperation with Womens Energy Matters (WEM).

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