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The California Public Utilities Commission is moving toward opening a formal investigation into the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, with a vote scheduled for next Thursday, October 25. Such a probe has reportedly been in the works for nearly four months.

The move could result in reduced electrical bills for San Diego Gas & Electric customers, who have been footing part of the bill for maintaining and operating the nuclear plant, even though it hasn’t actually generated electricity in nearly nine months. The Commission first suggested in August that ratepayers shouldn’t be on the hook for operations costs at a non-operational power plant.

The inquiry, in addition to examining the original $671 million cost of the four steam generators at the plant that prematurely failed and forced the reactors into emergency shutdown, would examine “causes of the outages, the utilities' responses, the future of [San Onofre] and the resulting effects on the provision of safe and reliable electric service at just and reasonable rates,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.

There are also questions about how much responsibility Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, manufacturers of the defective generators, may bear for losses related to the plant’s failure to operate. We’ve previously reported that Mitsubishi’s liability is said to be capped at $137 million through a 20 year warranty on their equipment, which does not cover the cost of any replacement power local utilities have had to purchase as a result of the shutdown.

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