Representative Mike Levin Leads Letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission on San Onofre Investigation

January 18, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C.  – Today, Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) led a letter to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki raising concerns over its investigation into apparent violations at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station (SONGS). The apparent violations related to Holtec’s canister redesign process, and the handling of a canister on site, had potentially disastrous consequences given the high population density near the site.

The Members’ letter requests that the pre-decisional enforcement conference venue be relocated to a venue in the vicinity of SONGS; and that the NRC adopt appropriate enforcement actions that ensure involved parties change the processes that led to these incidents, as well as any processes that could lead to future safety violations.

“The Commission plays a critical oversight role for the decommissioning and spent fuel transfer process at SONGS, and we want to ensure the greatest level of safety at the site,” the Members wrote. “In March 2018, workers at SONGS discovered a broken, stainless steel shim pin at the bottom of a Holtec canister that was to be loaded with spent fuel assemblies. Four canisters of the same design had already been loaded with fuel prior to this discovery. NRC inspectors assessed Holtec’s actions, as well as the canister designs that led to the incident, and identified two apparent violations related to Holtec’s canister redesign process”

“The NRC identified two further apparent violations at SONGS in relation to the August 2018 incident, during which a canister being lowered into an underground storage vault was nearly dropped,” the Members added. “These apparent violations at SONGS are extremely concerning… The safety of our constituents depends on your close attentions to these issues.”

Representatives Juan Vargas (D-CA), Harley Rouda (D-CA), and Scott Peters (D-CA) joined Representative Levin in writing to Chairwoman Svinicki.

See below for the full text of the letter:

January 18, 2019

The Honorable Kristine Svinicki

Chairwoman

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Washington, DC 20555-0001

Dear Chairman Svinicki

We write today regarding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) investigation of the apparent violations that took place in March and August 2018, at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station (SONGS). As you know well, the Commission plays a critical oversight role for the decommissioning and spent fuel transfer process at SONGS, and we want to ensure the greatest level of safety at the site.

In March 2018, workers at SONGS discovered a broken, stainless steel shim pin at the bottom of a Holtec canister that was to be loaded with spent fuel assemblies. Four canisters of the same design had already been loaded with fuel prior to this discovery. NRC inspectors assessed Holtec’s actions, as well as the canister designs that led to the incident, and identified two apparent violations related to Holtec’s canister redesign process. In response, Holtec requested a pre-decisional enforcement conference, which was held on January 9, 2019. It is our understanding that the NRC will come to a final conclusion on Holtec’s violations within 60 days of the conference.

The NRC identified two further apparent violations at SONGS in relation to the August 2018 incident, during which a canister being lowered into an underground storage vault was nearly dropped. This near-miss event was caused by a lack of “redundant drop protection features” and inadequate training and procedures for canister loading processes.[1] At the request of Southern California Edison, the NRC has scheduled a January 24th pre-decisional enforcement conference to explore the apparent violations.

These apparent violations at SONGS are extremely concerning. Given the high population density near the site, a canister breach has the potential to be disastrous.

As a result, we request that you take the following actions:

  • Relocate the upcoming January 24th pre-decisional enforcement conference to a venue in the vicinity of SONGS, so that local communities have direct access to the proceedings.
  • Adopt appropriate enforcement actions that ensure involved parties change the processes that led to these incidents, as well as any processes that could lead to future safety violations.

The safety of our constituents depends on your close attentions to these issues. We look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

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[1] Pruett, Troy W. “NRC SPECIAL INSPECTION REPORT 050-00206/2018-005, 050-00361/2018-005, 050-00362/2018-005, 072 -00041/2018-001 AND NOTICE OF VIOLATION.” Received by Doug Bauder, San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, 28 Nov. 2018, San Clemente, CA. https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML18332A357