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CPUC Considers What Ratepayers Will Pay For San Onofre

California’s Public Utilities Commission is considering whether Edison's costs to maintain San Onofre while it is offline are reasonable to charge ratepayers.

Who pays the costs of trying to fix the San Onofre nuclear power plant? That’s the question California’s Public Utilities Commission is considering at hearings in San Francisco this week.

The CPUC hearings are focused on whether hundreds of millions of dollars spent on San Onofre in 2012 are “reasonable” to charge ratepayers.

The plant has been offline since January 2012 because of a radiation leak in faulty new steam generators, so it produced no electricity for 11 of 12 months

“You are not supposed to charge electricity rate payers for a plant that is not operating,” said attorney John Geesman, who represents the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

Geesman was one of several people who questioned employees of Southern California Edison about what the company did last year to try to fix the problems with the newly-installed steam generators.

Answers given by Tom Palmisano, vice president of nuclear engineering for Edison, suggested the company decided in July of last year to focus on short-term fixes for Units Two and Three before considering long-term fixes. It did not appear that the company had moved beyond considering a possible short-term fix for Unit Two.

Geesman said Southern California ratepayers are on the hook for almost $1 billion in 2012 alone and that does not include costs incurred in 2013.

He said recent remarks by Ted Craver, the chairman of Southern California Edison, may be prompting regulatory agencies to delay making any decisions.

“I think both the PUC and the NRC would prefer Mr. Craver say he’s sick and tired of waiting,” Geesman said, “and he’s just going to give up.“

Craver told investors April 30th that he may shut down San Onofre by the end of this year if Edison’s application to restart Unit Two at lower power is not granted by the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A ruling by the Atomic Licensing Board this week would require an adjudicated public hearing before allowing the plant to restart. The ALB is an arm of the NRC but NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane has not yet said if she will endorse that ruling.

California’s Public Utilities Commission has not yet issued a timeline for when it will decide what’s reasonable to charge ratepayers for 2012.

The CPUC will consider during hearings this summer who should pay the additional costs of finding alternative power to replace the power not generated by San Onofre.

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