Anti-Nuke Activists Claim Victory as PUC Orders Finanical Probe of San Onofre

by on October 26, 2012 · 2 comments

in Civil Rights

Anti-nuke rally at San Onofre on March 11, 2012. (Photo by Frank Gormlie.)

On the facebook page of a well-known anti-nuke activist was this:

VICTORY! Financial probe of San Onofre nuclear power plant approved!

 The California Public Utilities Commission voted 5-0 today (Thursday) to institute an “OII” instituting a an “order of investigation” into costs and issues raised by the extended outage of San Onofre Nuclear Plant Units 2 and 3. Congratulations to all who turned out today to urge the PUC to take this action! The Scope and extent of the OII was/is NOT a foregone conclusion—our grassroots spotlight on this is building the momentum for REAL investigation and substantive action. Our coalition’s press conference was well attended.

It is all true, of course. The California Public Utilities Commission did decide on Thursday, Oct. 25, to launch an “exhaustive” investigation into the nine-month outage at the San Onofre nuclear plant. The investigation and subsequent changes could result in lowered rates for consumers or having money refunded.  And the five commissioners voted unanimously to launch the probe at its meeting in Irvine earlier this week.

Their vote is just the first step in a potentially long process, which may not end until after July of 2014.  State law does requires the commission to investigate a power generating facility if it has been out of commission for nine months.

According to the LA Times:

The probe will look at the costs of the long-running outage, which resulted from defective replacement steam generators at the plant, and at the potential cost to ratepayers from repairs as well as scenarios in which one or both reactors never come back online.

According to the order adopted by the commission, ratepayers are paying more than $1.1 billion a year in costs related to the troubled plant.

The outage could add to that tab with the cost of studying the problem, repairs, replacement power and potential litigation between plant operator Southern California Edison and steam generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The San Clemente Times adds:

According to the PUC’s draft order, the investigation will consider, “the causes of the outages, the utilities’ responses, the future of the SONGS units and the resulting effects on the provision of safe and reliable electric service at just and reasonable rates.”

 By ordering the investigation, the Commission is also requiring Edison and SDG&E to track costs related to SONGS incurred after January 1. Expenditures for replacement energy related to the SONGS outages and for restarting the Huntington Beach plant in the wake of SONGS’ shut down, will also be tracked. All costs are also subject to audit by the commission

 There will also be a determination as to whether rate adjustments should be made for customers, whether the utilities acted reasonably and prudently with regard to the replacement of the steam generators and ultimately, the cost effectiveness of the various options for repairing or replacing both units.   The schedule adopted by the PUC require the utilities to respond within 30 days.

Before the nuke plant can restart again, the NRC must give its approval. Edison, one of the co-owners of San Onofre along with SDG&E,  has proposed that it be allowed to restart one reactor, where the issues were less severe, at partial power.

The LA Times did also comment on other investigations launched by the Commission:

The most recent case, involving an outage at a hydroelectric project that was knocked out of commission by a New Year?s Day storm in 1997, was decided in 2002, with the commission approving a settlement between PG&E and PUC’s ratepayer advocate division. The final decision reduced electric rates by $810,000 plus interest.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Terrie Leigh Relf October 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I learned something new today. . .Thank you, Frank. I didn’t know the reactor was down. So, since I don’t understand how “all this” works, do you think, since it’s nuclear, that “we” should shut it down permanently?

Sorry to be so uninformed.


dave rice October 27, 2012 at 12:33 am

Hi Terrie:

Both reactors at San Onofre have been in a state of emergency shutdown since January. I’ve been following the issues surrounding the plants for a little while now, a (somewhat) brief history was compiled for me here if you’re interested (going to the Reader site and searching ‘San Onofre’ will probably net a hundred or so brief yet pertinent articles):

Frank – not trying to steal thunder here at all, and thanks for all of the coverage the Rag and Free Press have provided as well on this important manner. Feel free to take this comment down if you think it might detract from your coverage. Thanks.


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