Barbara Zaragoza 4:30 p.m., May 25
While Southern California Edison pushes forward with a revised plan to restart operations at one of the two San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station reactors that have been in emergency shutdown since January, state energy officials are bracing for a potential scenario that envisions the plant remaining shut down through 2013 and beyond.
“In talking to the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and Edison, it was pretty clear that as we implement this summer's plan, it was time to start working on a plan for 2013 and 2014,” Robert Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy Commission, told the North County Times. “That plan will be based on having neither unit of San Onofre available. That's a worst-case assumption.”
Suggestions from local utility San Diego Gas & Electric as to how to make up future shortfalls include encouraging further energy conservation by customers, upgrading transmission lines to import more power (the massive Sunrise Powerlink connecting to the Imperial Valley recently came online), and potentially bringing new generators online locally.
One proposed new plant, however, has drawn opposition from Santee locals and was recently shot down by the local planning commission. Another proposed plant in Carlsbad seems more likely to be approved, but in the short term it’s unlikely that either of these would provide an immediate stopgap for the loss of San Onofre.
Meanwhile, public radio station KPCC reports that Edison plans to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart one of its two reactors and operate at 70 percent power for a six-month trial. A spokesperson for the utility cautioned that dates were only established for planning purposes and reiterated the company line that no action would be taken until all parties involved had deemed the reactors safe for operation.
Edison backed away from a similar proposal in May, and the idea of operating under reduced power has been roundly panned by nuclear industry critics, including former Sacramento Municipal Utilities District general manager S. David Freeman.
Meanwhile, Riverside’s Press-Enterprise reports some confusion over whether San Onofre sits on a portion of coastline considered to be in a “tsunami zone.”
Press-Enterprise writer Alicia Robinson reported difficulty in obtaining an official statement from Edison on the matter, but was able to pose the question to Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesperson Victor Dricks.
“I wouldn’t use that terminology . . . The plant is located in an area that could be affected by earthquakes and tsunamis, and it’s designed to be able to operate and safely shut down if one were to occur,” Dricks told Robinson.