San Onofre To Be Permanently Closed
UPDATE 1:32 p.m. PST: The company behind the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's faulty steam generators said it is disappointed by the decision to retire the power plant on the Southern California coast, the AP reports.
Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems said in a statement Friday that it has been working with operator Southern California Edison and believes San Onofre could be operated safely and reliably.
UPDATE 12:44 p.m. PST: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a statement that it is aware of the plans to retire the San Onofre nuclear power plant but it is awaiting official notification from Southern California Edison.
"As has been the case with Crystal River and Kewaunee, once Southern California Edison formally notifies the NRC that it has permanently removed all fuel from the San Onofre reactor cores, the NRC will use its existing processes to move San Onofre to the agency's decommissioning oversight structure," the federal agency said in a statement.
Until then, the agency will continue to oversee the plant.
SAN DIEGO – The troubles at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) are coming to an end. Southern California Edison announced Friday the company is retiring the plant's two remaining reactors.
The power plant has been offline since January 2012, when premature tube wear in the station's steam generators caused a small radiation leak.
Ted Craver, Chairman and CEO of Edison International, parent company of SCE, said the uncertainty surrounding the plant's future led to the decision.
"SONGS has served this region for over 40 years," Craver said in a statement. "But we have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if SONGS might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors or the need to plan of your region's long-term electricity needs."
Craver said the retirement will lead to the dismissal of more than 1,000 employees later this year.
Rochelle Becker, executive director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, said she is delighted to hear the plant will be shutting down permanently.
"It was apparent that this process was going to go on for 5 years – if not longer – and it was going to be something that would not benefit ratepayers, the utility wouldn't benefit the state of California, so we are pleased that Edison has stopped the bleeding," she said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said she was also pleased to learn of the announcement.
"I am greatly relieved that the San Onofre nuclear plant will be closed permanently," the head of the Environment and Public Works Committee said in a statement. "This nuclear plant had a defective redesign and could no longer operate as intended," she said in a statement.
Boxer has been highly critical of the management at San Onofre, and recently released letters that she said proves SCE misled federal regulators when the company replaced the plant's reactors in 2011.
Boxer said the company did not properly notify the Nuclear Regulatory Committee of design changes. The NRC has maintained Edison followed the correct procedures. The cause of the premature tube wear in San Onofre's steam generators was determined to be a design flaw.
In a phone conversation with the media this morning, Craver said the company did question the manufacturer, Mitsubishi International, about the design fo the new steam generators before they were installed. However, he said after they were installed, they did not perform as specified.
Craver said the company is pursuing efforts to get cost recovery from Mitsubishi, the Nuclear Industry Insurance Program and California ratepayers. Shareholders will cover the rest.
Craver also said San Onofre's decommissioned fund is about $2.7 billion and is about 90 percent funded.
Stephanie Donovan, spokesperson for SDG&E, said ratepayers have always paid into the decommissioning fund on their monthly bills. Those fees total about $8 million each year.
Donovan also said SDG&E has reached an agreement with the Encina power plant in Carlsbad that will help bridge the gaps in service left by the shutdown of San Onofre.
"That will allow us to receive power from that plant and buy us some time as we, together as a region, figure out the best answer for the permanent loss of San Onofre," Donovan said.
According to Donovan, decommissioning the San Onofre power plant will take 40 years.
Follow the troubles at San Onofre beginning with the 'small leak' that started it all: