On May 13, 2013, an Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB) of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ruled in favor of Friends of the Earth (FoE) that the Southern California Edison's bid to restart its damaged Unit 2 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) limited to 70% of its power rating is an “experiment.”
The Board determined that such tests and experiments with public safety require a public hearing and an opportunity to intervene before the operator is allowed to start up the atomic reactor. In response to its own licensing board Order and Memorandum, NRC Office of Public Affairs spokesman Scott Burnell put their own spin on the practical effect of the Order by saying that the staff's current restart review is its own independent process.
The press office interpretation is that the staff could green light the restart of the nuke despite the Order.
The Licensing Board can appeal to the Commission. But, it would not be unprecedented for the five politically appointed Commissioners to overrule the judgment of its licensing board. SONGS Units 2 and 3 have been closed since January 2012 because of severe damage to $600 million in new steam generator replacements after just 10 months of operation following the installation of a botched power uprate design.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in the loss of company stockholder dividends and additional ratepayer charges are at stake.