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Restarting San Onofre Isn’t Cost Effective, New Study Suggests

Above: The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach on March 15, 2012 south of San Clemente, California.

San Onofre may be offline for another summer, and a new analysis suggests this will be cheaper than restarting the plant.

Aired 3/22/13 on KPBS News.

San Onofre may be offline for another summer, and a new analysis suggests this will be cheaper than restarting the plant.

California’s Public Utilities Commission is investigating how much Southern California Edison, the operator of San Onofre, is charging ratepayers for the plant, and whether those costs are reasonable. But the PUC will not decide until next year if ratepayers should be reimbursed.

Friends of the Earth, which is among many parties signed up to be a part of the investigation, wants the PUC to consider right away whether it is cost effective to restart the plant this summer at 70 percent power. This is what Edison has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve. The NRC could make a decision by May or June.

Steve Moss is with M.Cubed, the consulting firm that did a cost analysis for Friends of the Earth. He said the analysis uses figures cited by Edison.

"Their data would seem to imply that running the plant is far more expensive than just simply purchasing power from other sources," he said.

The figures used by M.Cubed are the reported cost of operating the plant in 2012 when the plant was offline, and the reported cost of purchasing replacement power. When prorated for five months - the length of time Edison proposes to restart the plant - the replacement power is calculated to be $150 million less.

Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth said the analysis is a first stab at the question of whether restarting the plant at 70 percent power would be cost effective for ratepayers, but more analysis is warranted.

Southern California Edison's Jennifer Manfre responded in a statement.

"Friends of the Earth's sole purpose is to shut down San Onofre permanently because of their anti-nuclear ideology," the statement said. "The analysis is misleading and devoid of any rational understanding of the costs and assets needed to provide reliable energy to Southern California that meets California's clean energy goals this summer and into the future."

"The San Onofre nuclear plant is the largest source of baseload generation and voltage support in the region," the statement continued, "and is a critical asset in meeting California’s summer electricity and clean energy needs.”

The agency responsible for keeping the lights on in California, the Independent System Operator, or ISO, said this week that Southern California will make it through the coming summer without San Onofre, though consumers will have to conserve energy at peak times.

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Avatar for user 'marasmom'

marasmom | March 29, 2013 at 5:16 a.m. ― 3 years, 12 months ago

Note to SCE's Jennifer Manfre: San Onofre hasn't been "the largest source of baseload generation and voltage support in the region" for 14 months and counting, and the CA ISO says we'll do just fine w/o it for the 2nd summer upcoming. Voltage support will be provided by retrofitting the retired Huntington Beach power plant to be a "synchronous condenser" -- although SCE as owner of that plant has no doubt put JP Morgan up to obtructing that very wise plan by the ISO and other CA energy officials. Thankfully, CA pushed through that obstruction and that plan is being carried out.

Per the CA Energy Commission, despite increased population and more appliances consuming power in homes and businesses, energy efficiency standards have helped keep per capita electricity consumption in California flat for the past 30 years. California's per capita electricity consumption has remained constant at approximately 7,000 kilowatt-hours/year (kWh) for the last 30 years due in large part to strict standards for homes and appliances. The rest of the U.S. has increased 40 percent (to roughly 12,000 kWh/year per person). And there is even more savings to be gained through additional advances in energy efficiency as well as conservation by users. Not to mention the boom in rooftop solar installations!

Edison needs to stop the Chicken Little routine -- the sky is NOT falling. The 21st Century is just moving forward.

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