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Regulatory panel delivers setback to restart plans for San Onofre nuclear plant

A runner passes by the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant on April 6, 2012.
Grant Slater/KPCC
A runner passes by the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant on April 6, 2012.

Southern California Edison's plan to restart the San Onofre nuclear power plant was dealt a setback today by federal regulators when it recommended the utility must go through a licensing review process before the plant can be restarted. Read the findings below.

The decision – if it stands – could potentially delay a restart of the facility for years.

Ever since San Onofre closed in January 2012, Edison has been trying to get the plant re-started as quickly as possible.

Environmental groups have wanted the opposite. And now they may have gotten their wish of grinding the process to a halt.

"This is a complete victory," said Bill Walker, spokesman for Friends of the Earth. That's the environmental group that petitioned regulators to require Edison to go through a lengthy judicial-style license review before restarting the plant.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board – part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – sided with the group Monday.

"The ruling assures there will be a trial-like formal process with a judge where we and the public will have our day in court," said Walker.

Edison would only say it's reviewing the decision. It will most certainly file an appeal.

And, the NRC cautions that environmental groups shouldn't pop the champagne yet. The agency's staff could still approve Edison's re-start plan, before any judicial hearings.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel