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American Scene: NRC chair says no timetable for nuke plant restart

- - Monday, May 7, 2012

LOS ANGELES — The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday there is no timetable for restarting the sidelined San Onofre nuclear plant on the Southern California coast and a federal review of its troubled tubing will take whatever time is necessary to complete.

The statement from Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko came just days after a senior executive for operator Southern California Edison disclosed that the company was hoping for a possible June restart.

The twin reactors have been offline for more than three months while investigators look into excessive wear on tubing in the plant's steam generators.

The agency is waiting for documentation on repairs and other work at the plant.

"Any discussion of a date for the restart of Unit 2 or Unit 3 is clearly premature," Mr. Jaczko said. "We will take whatever time is necessary to conduct a thorough safety review."

A restart would require federal approval.

Last week, Edison Executive Vice President Stephen E. Pickett said the company was looking at the possible June restart. The company is drafting a plan under which the twin reactors would run at reduced power, at least for several months, because engineers think that will solve a problem with vibration that has been causing unusual wear in alloy tubing.

Costs related to the long-running shutdown could climb over $100 million, company officials said, and state officials have warned about possible rotating blackouts in Southern California with the reactors offline.

PENNSYLVANIA

AG changes Sandusky shower allegation date to '01

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania prosecutors in Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse case say they now think the alleged assault that ultimately led to football coach Joe Paterno's firing took place a year earlier than they first claimed.

The attorney general's office said in a Monday filing that investigators concluded the alleged attack on a young boy in the football team showers took place around Feb. 9, 2001.

A grand jury report issued before the former Penn State assistant coach's arrest in November dated it March 1, 2002.

A graduate assistant complained to Paterno of seeing the boy in the shower naked with Mr. Sandusky. Trustees fired Paterno partly because he didn't notify police after hearing about the encounter.

Prosecutors have said they don't know who the boy was. Mr. Sandusky has denied the charges.

ILLINOIS

Official pleads not guilty to taking $53M from city

ROCKFORD — The former comptroller of a small northern Illinois city pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that she stole more than $53 million of the public's money to fund a lavish lifestyle and create one of the nation's foremost horse-breeding operations.

Rita Crundwell and her attorney, Paul Gaziano, refused to comment after leaving the federal courthouse in Rockford, where she pleaded not guilty to a single count of wire fraud. Ms. Crundwell, who is free on a recognizance bond, could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors allege that from 1990, the 58-year-old Ms. Crundwell stole more than $53 million from Dixon, where she oversaw public finances as the city comptroller since the 1980s, by diverting it to an account she had set up for personal use and misleading city officials.

Authorities say Ms. Crundwell bought luxury homes and vehicles and spent millions on her horse-breeding operation, which produced 52 world champions in exhibitions run by the American Quarter Horse Association.

Prosecutors said her scheme unraveled only when a co-worker filling in for Ms. Crundwell while she was on an extended vacation stumbled upon the secret bank account.

Her arrest stunned tiny Dixon, a small city along a picturesque vein of the Mississippi River about a two-hour drive west of Chicago in Illinois farm country. Its 16,000 people are largely lower-middle-class, working at factories, grain farms, the local prison and a hospital, among other places.

OHIO

5 charged in bomb plot plead not guilty

CLEVELAND — Five men described by the government as self-proclaimed anarchists entered not guilty pleas Monday to charges of plotting to bomb a highway bridge near Cleveland.

The five will remain in jail until their next hearing, a federal magistrate said. A detention hearing scheduled for Monday was postponed.

The men were arrested last week when they allegedly tried to detonate what turned out to be a dud bomb provided by an FBI undercover informant.

The five had been associated with Occupy Cleveland, but organizers of the movement have tried to distance the group from the men. They said the five didn't represent it or its nonviolent philosophy.

The men were indicted last week on three counts each, including a charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property in interstate commerce.

Those charged, all jailed a week ago, are Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of nearby Lakewood; Connor C. Stevens, 20, of suburban Berea; and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and Anthony Hayne, 35, both of Cleveland.

One defense attorney called it a case of entrapment, with the informant guiding the way. Mr. Stafford's lawyer told U.S. Magistrate Greg White on Monday that his client had been duped and asked that the charges be dismissed, The Plain Dealer reported.

The men could face life in prison if convicted of trying to bomb the soaring bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park at Brecksville, south of Cleveland. The bridge crosses a scenic railway line and a canal towpath popular with joggers and bikers.

The men allegedly acted out of anger against corporate America and the government, authorities said. They considered blowing up the bridge at night or clearing it of traffic by pretending to be a construction crew to limit casualties, authorities said in court papers.

CALIFORNIA

Wayward dolphin leaves wetlands for open sea

HUNTINGTON BEACH — A wayward dolphin that spent more than a week in a Southern California wetlands channel has made its way back to sea.

Marine mammal rescue specialist Peter Wallerstein said a volunteer watched the dolphin leave the Bolsa Chica wetlands and swim into adjacent Huntington Harbour on Friday. It hasn't been seen since.

The 5-foot-long, 250-pound common dolphin was spotted circling in the shallow waters of Bolsa Chica on April 27. Experts said it appeared healthy and may have entered the channel while chasing fish.

A day after it was spotted, the animal was coaxed toward the ocean but apparently became spooked by a pair of fellow dolphins and swam back into the channel.

However, Mr. Wallerstein said the dolphin has left - and he thinks it will do just fine.

TENNESSEE

Mother seeking return of child from Dubai

CLARKSVILLE — A woman in Tennessee is asking that her husband return their 14-month-old daughter to the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates, where he is living.

Stacy Peters went to a court in Clarksville to argue Monday that her husband, a former Army officer who had been stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., should be held in contempt for ignoring a court order to bring her child home to Tennessee.

An attorney representing Charles David Peters argued in court that Mrs. Peters moved with her husband last year for his job with a military training contractor and then fled the country when he accused her of adultery.

Mrs. Peters said she hasn't seen her daughter since March and she is worried about her safety.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Another testicle ticket written for bumper display

SPARTANBURG — For the second time in a year, a motorist has been ticketed in South Carolina for displaying a replica of testicles on a vehicle.

A Spartanburg County sheriff's deputy stopped a truck Sunday evening after noticing the "anatomically correct" display on the rear bumper. The incident report says the driver removed the display after being stopped, but he was arrested for driving without a license. He also was given a warning ticket for having an obscene display.

Last July, a Berkeley County woman was ticketed for having a similar display on the back of her truck.

That case is to go to trial in municipal court in the town of Bonneau. That trial has been delayed three times, and no new trial date has been set.

From wire dispatches and staff reports