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The California Public Utilities Commission late today (July 31) released a report that is devastating to both Southern California Edison and its protector, the commission.

The U-T today ran a story about the CPUC's refusal to release a letter penned by a nuclear expert, Dr. Robert Budnitz, about what went wrong at the now-shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant, 80 percent owned by Edison.

After the Los Angeles Times also requested the document, the CPUC reluctantly released it. It was a preliminary report by Budnitz, who said "one or more errors" had been made. Questions Budnitz posed included, "What errors led to the [steam generator] tube failures?" "Who made these errors?"

After Budnitz's preliminary letter, his study was suspended. "Somebody at the [CPUC] terminated the independent investigation as soon as it became obvious that Southern California Edison was guilty of violating nuclear safety rules," says attorney Mike Aguirre, who is fighting the attempt by Edison and part-plant-owner San Diego Gas & Electric to saddle ratepayers with $3.3 billion in payments for mistakes made by management.

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Comments

aardvark July 31, 2014 @ 6:18 p.m.

Since we are paying for it, I guess we did.

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Don Bauder July 31, 2014 @ 8:35 p.m.

aardvark: Hopefully, ratepayers of Edison and SDG&E will NOT have to cough up the $3.3 billion. This makes it very clear that it was a management screwup. Shareholders should pay, not consumers.

It's been a great week for ratepayers. First, evidence showed conclusively that the CPUC and its head, Mike Peevey, were favoring Pacific Gas & Electric in the San Bruno imbroglio. Strike one. Then today, it is clearly shown that the CPUC is clearly favoring Edison and SDG&E over the San Onofre closure. Strike two.

Gov. Brown, are you listening? Peevey may be an old friend of yours, but he has to go. And the CPUC must begin representing consumers, not utilities. Best, Don Bauder

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Diogenes Aug. 1, 2014 @ 3:09 p.m.

Don,

Old energy hacks never die, the just chair the PUC.

I remember Jerry Brown driving his old VW around Malibu, hanging out with Linda Ronstadt and Rita Coolidge, while the waves broke. No old VW for "Governor Brown!" He sold out to the "establishment." Hard to be a real hippie when Daddy was Governor.

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 3:56 p.m.

Diogenes: His daddy sold his soul, too, I believe, although I haven't researched that enough to make a definitive statement. I know that Jerry Brown dated Linda Ronstadt while he was governor; maybe he dated her before then, too. Best, Don Bauder

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eastlaker July 31, 2014 @ 8:20 p.m.

Wow, this really lets us know that people running things know what they are doing...

Why is it always preschool playtime here in San Diego? No accountability, massive problems, no one owns up, and the taxpayers get to pay, over and over.

Shouldn't the NRC get on these people, even though it is a bit late in the game? Make sure they know who is responsible for what, and make sure they aren't making the same mistakes somewhere else, to the great detriment of the citizenry?

Thank goodness this problem is being brought forward. It is unacceptable. Were people being paid for jobs they were completely unequipped to do? Would that be because they were friends, or because they lied on the applications, or what?

How does a situation get this dire? It doesn't happen overnight--it takes years of selfishly wasteful non-work to achieve this level of colossal mess-up.

Good thing that earthquake was in Japan, or we would have been in real trouble, right, guys?

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Don Bauder July 31, 2014 @ 8:38 p.m.

eastlaker: Exactly. This was colossal ineptitude, and a coverup in which the CPUC, Edison, and SDG&E participated. Utility ratepayers should be raising hell -- demanding Peevey's ouster as a starter. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 31, 2014 @ 8:41 p.m.

Dan Butler: Yes, as Aguirre has said all along, the $3.3 billion the CPUC and the utilities want ratepayers to cough up is outrageous. I think a criminal grand jury should start looking into the actions of the CPUC and the two utilities (Edison and SDG&E) in this action and the coverup. A criminal grand jury is making charges in the San Bruno disaster. It's time for a criminal grand jury in Southern California. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh July 31, 2014 @ 9:08 p.m.

Maybe, just maybe, this cascade of bad publicity will force Brownie to act and fire Peevey. But based on some other scandals in our local area, and at state level, I won't bet on it unless I get very good odds. What sort of US Attorney do we have here in So Cal? Is it someone who might actually investigate and charge Edison and SDGE with a coverup? Or is "the border, the border, the border" going to keep any such effort from going forward?

At least that report, what there is of it, has been released. It won't calm the tempest at all, but rather increase the doubt about the whole shutdown. Yes, Mike Aguirre deserves kudos from every resident of the county for his diligence on this case. (He's working on other things, too.)

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 7:28 a.m.

Visduh: Agreed. Aguirre deserves multi-kudos. And remember, he is doing this without remuneration. The CPUC has denied him intervenor fees. And here he has exposed them as crooks through his diligent work.

The first urgently necessary reform is the firing of Peevey. Then the system for granting intervenor fees has to be completely revised to be fair. Now the fees only go to those toadies who "intervene" -- not intervene -- while bowing to the CPUC's wishes and predilectios. San Diego's UCAN and San Francisco's TURN are in that category: fattening up on intervenor fees while doing what the CPUC tells them to do, instead of digging into the regulatory corruption, as Aguirre is doing. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Aug. 1, 2014 @ 3:49 a.m.

Don, this has gone way beyond who did it, what they did and who pays for it, it's time to put executives at the CPUC and utilities, and maybe even Brown, in jail for killing and threatening the lives of people throughout California.

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 7:32 a.m.

Anon92107: There is already a criminal grand jury looking into PG&E in the San Bruno case. That should be extended to the CPUC. Then, a grand jury should be convened in Southern California to look at how the CPUC arranged the San Onofre scam that would screw ratepayers if it goes through. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK Aug. 1, 2014 @ 8:15 a.m.

there should be some serious state prison time as an outcome of this for the scum bags that are responsible.

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 10:57 a.m.

Murphyjunk: If they go to a federal prison, they will probably get sent to a country club like Lompoc. So, as you point out, state prison should be preferable. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK Aug. 1, 2014 @ 12:55 p.m.

more likely to run into rate payers in state prison too, that would "discuss" how they felt about the situation.

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 1:35 p.m.

Murphyjunk: Good point. In state prison, the cozeners would be rubbing elbows with people whom they fleeced. Double punishment. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Aug. 1, 2014 @ 12:22 p.m.

Don, as we know CPUC and SCE are still covering up documents that will incriminate them like PG&E/CPUC covered up documents that are now proving they ignored gas pipeline threats to public safety that killed people in San Bruno.

Documents can be expected to prove SCE/CPUC risked lives because of executive acts of SONGS criminal negligence that occurred while it was still operating, we have already heard they ignored the warnings and recommendations of nuclear engineers and maximized their profits instead until they finally had no choice but to shut it down even though they should have spent money to make repairs earlier on.

Meanwhile, Brown and the legislature continue to look the other way instead of protecting public safety as their highest priority.

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 1:38 p.m.

Anon92107: This was a wonderful week. San Bruno documents came to light. Then San Onofre documents came to light. Those documents clearly show how the CPUC protects the utilities, rather than regulates them, at the expense of ratepayers.

Yes, I agree: they are still covering up documents. Best, Don Bauder

1

CaptD Aug. 1, 2014 @ 1:09 p.m.

SUPPRESSED PUC SAN ONOFRE REPORT RELEASED‏: https://snt153.mail.live.com/mail/ViewOfficePreview.aspx?messageid=mgoHLYy3cZ5BGTHgAjfeQYBg2&folderid=flinbox&attindex=0&cp=-1&attdepth=0&n=41816508

Notice: The CPUC's scope of work is slanted to protect SCE and also the CPUC

See analysis of Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) vs San Onofre (SONGS)

From the CPUC Scope of Work:

"Why the steam generators at DCPP and their design has been successful while the SGs design by Mitsubishi for SONGS resulted in excessive tube wear and tube failure"*

Since SCE was in charge of the joint SCE-MHI steam generator design team and had contractual agreements that Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) was in essence, to only follow orders from SCE, it is clearly evident that the CPUC was trying its best to cover for SCE by seeking this slanted report. Then when they found out that their own Expert started asking too many questions that neither SCE or the CPUC wanted answered, the CPUC terminated his contract which probably also keeps him from discussing any part of it with the public.

Luckily Michael Aguirre has had access to much more technical expert information, which is why they can now claim that the CPUC is refusing to allow discovery in the ongoing investigation into the reasonableness of the operation of San Onofre, because it will expose SCE's in-house design failures which not only will affect the proposed $3.4 Billion settlement at San Onofre but also the litigation between SCE and MHI; so it is very possible that SCE and their shareholders will get stung not once but twice! Once for trying to pull a fast one over on their ratepayers and a second time for publicly trying to shift the blame upon MHI when in fact, SCE was at fault for instructing MHI build the 4 huge replacement steam generators exactly as SCE designed them. SCE employees knew full well that they had serious design flaws in the proposed RSG which were responsible for their almost immediate failure, once they were placed into operation, which put millions of southern Californians at rick of a nuclear incident and/or nuclear accident.

If the CPUC does not shift all financial blame to SCE for the San Onofre RSG debacle then I expect that this matter will soon be out of the CPUC's hands as both SCE and the CPUC get investigated by groups higher up the legal food chain, because all the facts are available, even though many groups tried their best to cover them up, seeking favor from SCE.

  • I'd also like to add that DCPP RSG are of such a different design and are just as importantly operated differently than the SONGS RSG so any technical comparison is like comparing a Tesla to an Edsel because they both are vehicles that have 4 wheels.
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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 1:40 p.m.

CaptD: You make excellent points as usual, and there is one point that needs to be repeated and repeated and repeated: the head of the CPUC, which is clearly protecting Edison, is a former president of Edison. This can't be repeated enough. Best, Don Bauder

1

Diogenes Aug. 1, 2014 @ 3:13 p.m.

I found an honest man - CaptD! Don Bauder, too, of course.

I wish our politicians and their "experts" could pass the Diogenes' challenge.

1

Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 4 p.m.

Diogenes: CaptD is honest and, I believe, is an engineer. In any case, he knows the ins and outs of utility technology. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 1:58 p.m.

AGUIRRE ASKS FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO HOW UTILITIES ARE TRYING TO FLEECE RATEPAYERS OVER SAN ONOFRE. San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre today (Aug. 1) wrote a 16 page letter to the United States attorneys of the Los Angeles and San Diego districts, stating there is a "compelling need" for an investigation into whether criminal laws were violated in the handling of the failure of replacement steam generators at San Onofre.

Edison "agents, officers, and employees -- as well as those of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) -- have imposed hundreds of millions of dollars in charges for replacement steam generators that failed merely two years into their 40-year life spans," says Aguirre.

Dr. Robert Budnitz, a nuclear expert, was retained by the CPUC to determine why the steam generators failed. After he found that errors were made, "the CPUC declined to have Dr. Budnitz complete his work," notes Aguirre in the letter.

Aguirre points out that a grand jury indicted Pacific Gas & Electric this week for obstruction of justice, among other transgressions, in the San Bruno explosion of 2010. The Edison matter deserves similar grand jury action because of "the pervasiveness of wrongdoing within the corporation," as well as Edison's "history of similar misconduct," writes Aguirre.

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CaptD Aug. 1, 2014 @ 5:05 p.m.

Don - FYI Unit 3 at San Onofre failed in about a year of service while Unit 2 lasted just around 2 years, while the original steam generators had an expected 40 year design lifespan; so clearly the SCE in-house design team failed to design safe replacement steam generators as they promised ratepayers and the CPUC when they got approval to do the job.

When SEC was pushing for permission from the CPUC to design new replacement steam generators they told the CPUC they would last longer than the original steam generators and even bragged about how great a job they did on the replacement steam generator project.

Improving like-for-like RSGs http://www.neimagazine.com/features/featureimproving-like-for-like-rsgs/

Nuclear Karma: "This article was based on a paper published at ICAPP 2011, 2-5 May 2011, Nice, France, paper 11330. It was published in the January 2012 issue of Nuclear Engineering International", just two weeks after Unit 3 started leaking radioactivity and was shut down forever as was Unit 2 which was never restarted from it refueling shutdown condition...

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Don Bauder Aug. 1, 2014 @ 9:41 p.m.

CaptD: Aguirre makes those cases in his attempt to get a criminal investigation going. The steam generators were supposed to last 40 years and lasted two. Edison had boasted to the CPUC that the generators would have a long life.

The CPUC hired a distinguished nuclear scientist to see what went wrong at San Onofre. When he reported preliminarily that mistakes were made, the CPUC called off the study. It didn't want to hear that Edison was to blame. It wants to make ratepayers pay. This is all part of its bias: the CPUC exists to fatten utility profits at the expense of ratepayers. That is not its mission. Best, Don Bauder

1

Anon92107 Aug. 2, 2014 @ 4:59 a.m.

Don, the truly most inconvenient truth of all is that our energy, water, global warming and inequality problems could have been solved with fusion energy, but incompetence and corruption have made that the most impossible dream of all.

Edward Teller told members of my graduating class in the 60s that we would achieve nuclear power production by the end of the 20th century, but Berkeley and LLNL have since become the greatest scientific failures in history.

One of the greatest examples of the culture of failure is Steven Chu who went to WashDC to become Secretary of Energy in 2009, after having been head of LBNL, a Berkeley professor and Nobel Laureate, and has since resigned after having accomplished nothing.

So we are left to thrash around with hideous consequences of our political and intellectual failures to deal with the challenges of change that are overwhelming California, and the rest of humanity.

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Don Bauder Aug. 2, 2014 @ 9:29 a.m.

Anon92107: I don't denigrate those who go to Washington DC and don't accomplish anything. That's what happens in today's Washington: everything gets tied up. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Aug. 2, 2014 @ 11:47 a.m.

Don, the fact is, as we keep discussing, you cannot trust leaders of any institution, they are all corrupt and/or incompetent and that is why we keep talking about more and more threats to civilization that are out of control.

The CPUC, utilities, local, state and federal politicians, university academics, corporations, religions, etc. are all failing to protect the long-term future for our newest generations. All we can do is keep reporting and complaining about it, and things just keep getting worse because we have no leaders who are dedicated and capable of making the right things happen.

Before I retired and started reading your columns I assumed, naively, that almost everyone above me was working as hard as they could to improve quality of life. Since I started reading your column I have come to believe that the leaders of all institutions are guilty of gross criminal negligence and corruption that causes things like gas line deaths, nuclear power threats, and all the other things you document.

No one has an implementable solution to our inequality and environmental problems that are destroying the future.

1

Don Bauder Aug. 2, 2014 @ 10:27 p.m.

Anon92107: Except I don't say that ALL leaders are corrupt and incompetent. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Aug. 3, 2014 @ 5:24 a.m.

Don, I said "they are all corrupt and/or incompetent". They are ALL at least incompetent or we wouldn't have created all of the out of control threats to the long-term future that we are passing on as our legacy to the newest and all future generations.

Our legacy is totally unacceptable and no one has an implementable solution.

Indeed, "This is the propitious time to demand reform of" every establishment in the world.

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Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2014 @ 7:58 a.m.

Anon92107: OK, I read your post too quickly. But I still say that not ALL are corrupt and/or incompetent. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD Aug. 2, 2014 @ 10:03 a.m.

For a public institution that is chartered to serve the public good, it is outrageous that the CPUC is now in not one but two multi-billion dollar legal actions, neither of which should have never happened if the CPUC had been doing its job of protecting the public from Utility misconduct!

Therefore either one or both must lead to a complete over-haul of the CPUC and how it conducted business.

CPUC Mission http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/aboutus/pucmission.htm

The California Public Utilities Commission serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy. We regulate utility services, stimulate innovation, and promote competitive markets, where possible, in the communications, energy, transportation, and water industries. (Bolding added)

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Don Bauder Aug. 2, 2014 @ 10:29 p.m.

CaptD: This is the propitious time to demand reform of the CPUC. In both Northern and Southern California, the CPUC has been caught red-handed screwing the public and helping the utilities jack up their profits. This is the time to move. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Aug. 3, 2014 @ 8:10 p.m.

How to "move?" Vote Brown out of office for starters. As far as CPUC goes, could anyone do worse? There is still time before the election in November.

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Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2014 @ 10:26 p.m.

Visduh: Voting Brown out of office looks mighty difficult at this point. In re CPUC: the answer is no; nobody could do worse than Peevey (at least as ratepayers are concerned.) Best, Don Bauder

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