Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Beginning of the end for San Onofre?
Plant operator say it could decide by year-end whether to permanently shutter nuclear reactors
Last November, we reported that the costs piling up related to the ongoing emergency shutdown at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station along San Diego’s northern coast had topped $300 million, and by February the total had reached $400 million. By yesterday afternoon (April 30), those costs had jumped to a newly reported total of $553 million, according to the Associated Press.
The big news breaking late Tuesday, however, was the first indication from plant operator Southern California Edison that the utility might consider ending their quest to resume operation of the troubled plant should the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission fail to sign off on its request to redefine “full power” as “70 percent of reactor capacity” in order to speed the plant’s return to service.
In a conference call with investors, Edison International (Southern California Edison’s parent) told Wall Street investors and analysts that, absent a restart approval, a decision on whether to permanently shutter the plant’s twin Unit 2 and 3 reactors could be made by year-end.
Unit 1, the first reactor opened at San Onofre in 1968, was decommissioned in 1992 due to similar concerns about wear in the plant’s steam generator tubes. It had been designed to last until at least 2004. The building that housed the reactor is now used to store radioactive waste generated from the operation of all three of the plant’s reactors, which has been accumulating on the site for 45 years.
The extensive mounting costs of keeping the reactors offline, as well as costs related to testing of the generators and repairs, are making the proposition of resuming operations at San Onofre a risky one for Edison as well as minority partners Riverside County and San Diego Gas & Electric (the local utility holds about a 20 percent stake in the plant), since it has not yet been determined whether the utilities or their ratepayers will be held responsible for the $670 million price tag of the defective steam generators and the ongoing costs of the outage. A warranty provided by generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries caps their liability at $138 million.
Edison had asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rule on its restart plan by June 1, but the government body quickly countered that such a time frame was unrealistic.
More like this:
- Ratepayers should pick up the tab for San Onofre closure, utility says — Aug. 13, 2013
- San Onofre closed permanently, says plant operator — June 7, 2013
- San Onofre costs top $300 million — Nov. 2, 2012
- Plan out for San Onofre restart, action still months away — Oct. 5, 2012
- Will San Onofre Return to Service This November? — Aug. 1, 2012