Nuclear Shutdown News May 2016 : Ripped Off California Ratepayers Struggle for Fairness Over San Onofre

by on June 1, 2016 · 0 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Energy, Environment, Health, History, Organizing, Politics, San Diego

San Onofre rally 3-11-12 pray

Anti-nuke protesters demonstrate near San Onofre on March 11, 2012 (Photo by Frank Gormlie)

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the US nuclear power industry at home and abroad, and highlights the efforts of those who are fighting to create a nuclear free future. Here is our May issue:

California Nuclear Ratepayers Still Struggling For Justice Over San Onofre Shutdown Costs

On May 17, the Orange County Register ran the story, “How much should consumers pay for the San Onofre shutdown?”

As previously reported by Nuclear Shutdown News, in June 2003, the San Onofre nuclear power plant, located in northern San Diego County, permanently shut down, 20 years ahead schedule.

This followed a scandal involving gross mismanagement and duplicity by its majority owner, Southern California Edison. The utility had replaced key components in San Onofre’s two remaining operating reactors (unit one shut down in 1990) called steam generators, to the tune of $680 million. The replacement steam generators were supposed to last for decades.

Instead they turned to junk in only a few years and released radiation into Southern California’s sunny skies.

Subsequently Edison tried to rush restart of the by now shutdown reactors , without offering evidence it could operate them safely.

As the utility’s credibility began to erode a groundswell of opposition to restart to developed in SoCal communities. Organizations such as San Clemente Greens persuaded school boards and other local public entities to endorse statements opposing Edison’s increasingly perceived reckless attempts to fire up San Onofre again.

The LA City Council voted unanimously to support such a policy, and environmental champion Friends of the Earth filed a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calling for a permanent shutdown of the beleaguered nuke plant.

These combined efforts eventually made Edison’s power plays untenable—and unprofitable– and three years ago Edison threw in the towel and closed down San Onofre for good.

At first it appeared this was a great victory for the “no nukes” movement. But that didn’t last long. Because not much time passed before San Onofre customers found themselves stuck with a multi-billion dollar debt directly related to the nuke plant’s shutdown costs.

As the Orange County Register reported, the same month San Onofre shut down, Edison executive Stephen Pickett and Michael Peavey, head of the California Public Utilities Commission decided to do lunch. The locale: well appointed Hotel Bristol inWarsaw, Poland. At this secret meeting, the Register reported recently, Pickett “scribbled on hotel stationary ‘ a possible resolution’ ” to divvying up San Onofre’s closure costs.

Thereafter, Edison decided this clandestine conspiracy “wasn’t important enough to mention”, the Register reported. In 2014, the CPUC, with Peavey at the helm, unanimously voted to stick San Onofre ratepayers with 3.3 billion of the nuke plant’s $4.7 billion shut down costs, including that of the failed steam generators, a debt that would take decades to pay off.

But last year evidence of this chicanery began to surface. The California Attorney General’s office sent agents armed with search warrants to raid Edison’s headquarters in SoCal, and the PUC’s in San Francisco. These searches revealed emails between Pickett and Peavey detailing the coverup, as well as others from Jerry Brown possibly implicating Governor Moonbeam in defrauding San Onore customers. The PUC subsequently fined Edison $16.7 million and and Michael Peavey was shitcanned.

Now, the Orange County Register reported:

“the CPUC has decided (on May 9) to reopen the settlement and reconsider these costs.”

According to the Register,

“Edison has until June 2 to file a status report, while the PUC has until June 21 “to make a decision.”

The Orange County Register quoted Mike Aguirre, a former San Diego City Attorney who has been representing outraged ratepayers in their legal battle for justice:

“The reopening of the hearing represents admission by the CPUC that the bailout wasn’t kosher, and that the CPUC failed to do its job of protecting electrical ratepayers.”

Source: Orange County Register;

Another nuke plant to shut down

One more name can be added to the list of decrepit troublesome nuclear plants that will be shutting down in the near future.

On May 12 the Omaha World Herald’s headline story was “Omaha Public Power District’s Ft. Calhoun nuclear plant has been too expensive to run, company says.”

The utility’s chief executive, Tim Burke, told “the utility’s Board of Directors it no longer makes sense to continue operations” at the nuke plant, the Herald reported.

“So it needs to be shut down by the end of the year.”

The Herald also reported:

“the costs of nuclear power are at a disadvantage compared to wind and natural gas, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.”

The Herald stated that a June 2015 EIA report said:

“the cost per megawatt-hour for nuclear was $95, for natural gas about $75 and for wind $74.”

The Herald reported as well that Fort Calhoun has experiencing “increased scrutiny by the NRC in recent years because of unsafe conditions st the plant forcing the utility to enter into $400 million contract with Exelon to run Ft. Calhoun.”

Exelon of Chicago is the nation’s largest owner of nuke plants. But it is considering shutting down a number of these, because they have become chronically unprofitable.

Ft. Calhoun is the smallest nuclear plant in the US. It started up in 1977, as the Watergate scandal was beginning to bring meltdown to to Nixon’s White House reign. It is located 15 miles north of downtown Omaha on the Missouri River.

Other nuke plants slated to shut down in coming years in coming years are Pilgrim on Cape Cod in Massachusetts (2019) and Fitzgerald in upstate New York (2017). Both are owned by Entergy of New Orleans, the nation’s second largest nuke plant company.

Source: Omaha World Herald;

With last month being the 30th anniversary of 1986’s Chernobyl catastrophe, it brought to mind Svetlana Alexievich, author of 1997’s Voices of Chernobyl:The Oral History Of A Nuclear Disaster.

In 2015 Aleixevich was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was born in the Ukraine and lives in Belarus.

An excerpt:

I’m not afraid of death anymore. Of death itself. But I don’t know how I’m going to die. My friend died. He got huge, fat, like a barrel. And my neighbor—he was also there, he worked a crane. He got black , like coal, and shrunk , so that he was wearing kids’ clothes. But I don’t know how I’m going to die. I do know this; you don’t last long with my diagnosis. But I’d like to feel it when it happens. Like I got a bullet in the head. I was in Afghanistan too. It was easier there. They just shot you.

I clipped an article from the newspaper. It’s about the operator Leonid Toptunov, he was on duty that night at the station and he pressed the red accident button a few minutes before the explosion. It didn’t work They took him to to the hospital in Moscow. The doctors said, “In order to fix him, we’d need a whole other body..” There was one tiny little non-radioactive spot on him, on his back. They buried him at at the Mytinskaya Cemetery [in Moscow], like they did the others. They insulated the coffin with foil. And then they poured half a meter of concrete on it, with a lead cover.His father came. “That was your bastard son who blew it up!”

We’re lonely. We’re strangers here. They even bury us separately, not like other people. It’s like we’re aliens from outer space. I’d have been better off dying in Afghanistan. Honest, I get thoughts like that. In Afghanistan death was a normal thing. You could understand it there.

Vladimir Shved, captain




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