The operator of the offline San Onofre nuclear power plant has submitted a draft license amendment request to federal regulators that could help open the way to restart one reactor by summer.
The plant between Los Angeles and San Diego has been shut down since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to many tubes that carry radioactive water.
Southern California Edison (SCE) wants to run the Unit 2 reactor at no more than 70 percent power, which company engineers believe will limit tube wear.
Edison submitted a tentative request Monday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that, if approved, would allow Unit 2 run at no more than 70 percent capacity, down from the required 100 percent.
Nuclear power critics say the plant is unsafe.
"The [SCE] request to restart one of the crippled reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) without a safety review or public hearings is further proof that the utility cares more about profit than the lives and livelihoods of millions of Southern Californians," said Friends of the Earth Monday in a news release.
The Friends of the Earth release said operating any nuclear reactor at reduced power impacts the safety of the entire reactor, so all related safety issues must be considered in a review of the operating license.
But SCE said it can restart the reactor safely.
“Since last fall, SCE has provided the public and the NRC with detailed analyses from global experts that support safe restart of Unit 2,” said Ron Litzinger, SCE president. “We are considering the proposed voluntary amendment as the best path to get Unit 2 safely up and running before the hottest months of the year hit our region.”
In a news release, SCE said it is considering submitting a final amendment request to restart the nuclear plant after discussing it with the NRC staff at a public meeting Wednesday, April 3 in Rockville, Maryland.