Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Ben Davis Jr. is continuing on his quest to place an initiative on the ballot that would effectively shutter the state’s two remaining nuclear power plants despite a lack of support he alleges stems from inaccurate cost assessments of the measure by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, Sacramento’s NewsReview.com reports.
Davis’ California Nuclear Initiative group says that the Office’s assessment contains “unsubstantiated, false and misleading statements,” including claims that closing nuclear facilities at San Onofre in northern San Diego and Diablo Canyon on the central coast subject residents to potential rolling blackouts and added costs totaling “tens of billions of dollars annually.”
“We lost huge amounts of group support because of the LAO’s misleading report,” Davis told NewsReview, saying that “there no evidence for the LAO’s claim that there would be rolling blackouts.”
Davis points to figures from the California Energy Commission indicating the state would have an energy surplus of 21 percent even if San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, in emergency shutdown since January, were to remain offline. Officials at the California Independent Systems Operator, a public agency that manages the bulk of the state’s energy needs, says that even though a surplus exists in some parts of the state, infrastructure is lacking to move that power to areas that need it most, including San Diego and the Los Angeles basin.
Meanwhile, the question is being raised of whether the escalating costs surrounds San Onofre’s continued shutdown and needed repairs justify re-activating the plant.
The Unit 1 reactor at San Onofre was decommissioned in 1992 when the plant’s operator was faced with a $125 million bill for repairs and upgrades. Another plant in Oregon was shuttered the following year when its operator weighed the cost of replacing leaky tubes in its steam generators against potential benefits.
San Onofre plant operator spent as much as $782 million replacing its steam generators just three years ago, passing the costs on to utility ratepayers. Costs for repairs to those defective generators have been estimated at another $400-800 million, an expense which would likely again be passed on to utility customers rather than absorbed from the considerably higher than average profits reaped by Sempra Energy shareholders. Sempra owns San Diego Gas & Electric, which holds a 20 percent stake in San Onofre.
While costs of nuclear power, once celebrated as exceptionally cheap, continue to climb along with the safety concerns surrounding its use, the California Public Utilities Commission reports that individual solar arrays are being installed by state homeowners at such a rapid clip that their electricity generating capabilities are expanding at a rate that would make San Onofre obsolete in as little as five years.