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Nuclear safety regulators cite now-closed San Onofre power plant

SAN CLEMENTE — Nuclear safety regulators cited the operator of the shuttered San Onofre power plant for failing to check the design of steam generators that eventually led to the plant's closure.

The citation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not carry specific penalties, but it could complicate financial recovery efforts by Southern California Edison, the U-T San Diego reported in Wednesday's editions.

The California Public Utilities Commission is weighing $94 million in refunds to customers of Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns a minority share of the plant.

The utility has 30 days to appeal the NRC's violation notice. Edison spokeswoman Maureen Brown told the newspaper in an email that the utility will respond "with appropriate corrective actions."

The citation could undermine Edison's assertion to the utility commission that it made no specific mistakes, said Matthew Freedman, an attorney with the San Francisco-based consumer advocacy group, the Utility Reform Network.

"Edison is arguing with every fiber of their being that they are the victims and did nothing wrong," he said. "This kind of contradicts their version of events."

The seaside plant between San Diego and Los Angeles was shut down in January 2012 after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of virtually new tubes that carry radioactive water. Edison shuttered the plant for good earlier this year.

The violation notice, first outlined in September, does not carry penalties or sanctions, NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said.

Edison has been fighting with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the Japanese company that built the generators, over who gets the blame and pays the bill for the problems that centered on how steam flows inside the huge machines. Mitsubishi has said it could not have anticipated the type of tube vibrations that occurred.

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