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Nuke crowd has OC hotel nervous, San Onofre meeting scrubbed

November 13, 2012 | 12:44 pm
A large crowd gathered at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Dana Point in October for a public meeting about the San Onofre nuclear plant. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

The prospect of hordes of pro- and anti-nuclear activists descending on the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Doheny Beach apparently made the operators of the upscale hotel in Dana Point nervous and prompted a meeting on the fate of the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant to be postponed indefinitely.

Officials with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had been scheduled to hold a public meeting with plant operator Southern California Edison at the hotel Friday to discuss Edison's proposed restart plan for one of San Onofre's shuttered reactors.

But on Tuesday, the NRC issued a statement saying the meeting had been postponed. No new date has been announced.

In a follow-up email, NRC spokesman Victor Dricks explained, "The Doubletree Hotel was concerned that the meeting might be disruptive to their other guests and declined to host the meeting."

The DoubleTree's general manager could not be immediately reached for comment.

[Updated at 12:07 p.m. Nov. 13: DoubleTree General Manager Rob Koscelnik said that upon reviewing an estimate of the attendance of the meeting -– around 500 –- and the size of the ballroom where it would be held, the hotel decided the gathering would exceed its capacity.]

At the most recent public meeting on the plant's ongoing troubles, hundreds of anti-nuclear activists and San Onofre workers -- some shuttled to the meeting by Edison -- packed into a Dana Point hotel where they formed warring cheering sections as a panel of regulators, ratepayer advocates and residents of nearby communities debated the merits of restarting one of the plant's two reactors at partial power.

San Onofre has been out of commission for more than nine months because of problems with excessive deterioration of tubes in its newly replaced steam generators. The situation has become the subject of scrutiny by state and federal regulators concerned about the safety of the plant and the potential cost to ratepayers from the long-running outage.

Edison has asked the NRC for permission to restart Unit 2 and run it at partial power for a five-month period in hopes that reducing the power generation will solve the problem with the tubes. No restart has been proposed for the more heavily damaged Unit 3.

Edison also disclosed last week that workers at the plant had found engine coolant in the oil system of a backup emergency diesel generator in Unit 3 while the generator was shut down for routine maintenance.

The coolant could have interfered with the generator's ability to function in an emergency, but since Unit 3 is defueled and expected to remain offline for the foreseeable future, Edison said in a statement that the situation posed "no safety risk."

The company said it was investigating how the coolant got into the oil system and "while the investigation has not resulted in any evidence of tampering, that scenario has not been ruled out."

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-- Abby Sewell

Photo: A large crowd gathered at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Dana Point in October for a public meeting about the San Onofre nuclear plant. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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