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Modifications To San Onofre Settlement Would Provide $1.3B In Savings, Credits

The California Public Utilities Commission Thursday issued proposed modifications to a settlement between utilities and ratepayer groups regarding the financial responsibilities in shutting down the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The proposal — set to go before the commissioners next month for approval — comes in response to September comments by Commissioner Mike Florio that the original deal was flawed.

He said consumers would bear too much of the burden of paying for the shutdown of the nuclear plant on the northern San Diego County coastline and the cost of replacement power.

The plant has been idle since a small, non-injury leak in January 2012. Subsequent investigations placed the blame on steam generators made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan installed only a few years earlier.

The majority owner of the facility, Southern California Edison, shelved restart plans in June 2013 in favor of retiring the reactors.

SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, Office of Ratepayer Advocates and The Utility Reform Network negotiated a settlement that has since drawn stiff opposition for its costs.

The CPUC said the proposal presented Thursday would provide $1.3 billion in savings and credits to customers of the utilities.

"After careful consideration, I believe the settlement results in just and reasonable rates, is consistent with the law, reasonable in light of the whole record, and in the public interest," Florio said. "The settlement allows SCE sufficient funds to safely and securely monitor many types of potential risks and contamination, particularly to maintain the safe management of nuclear fuel assemblies in the wet pool and the later transition to dry cask storage."

Under the proposed settlement, SDG&E and Edison would stop further collection of the steam generator replacement project costs in rates, return all such costs collected after Jan. 31, 2012, to ratepayers, and accept a substantially lower return on other prematurely retired San Onofre assets, according to a commission statement.

Consumers would pay about $3.3 billion over 10 years, including the costs of power the utilities purchased for customers after the outage.

Southern California Edison held a community meeting in San Juan Capistrano Thursday night to talk about emergency planning changes at San Onofre. It was part of the ongoing Community Engagement Panel meetings. The panel was formed to advise the owners of the San Onofre plant on its decommissioning.

Gene Stone, a member of the panel and Residents Organized for a Safe Environment, told KPBS before the meeting that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not being held responsible for emergency response now that the plant is being decommissioned.

"The counties and the states are ultimately the ones responsible for evacuations while Edison has to have it approved, an evacuation plan by the NRC in place, the NRC is not responsible for the evacuations," he said.

The change comes because potential accidents relating to an operating plant are primarily no longer possible at a shutdown plant. Stone says this changes when the plant is being used as a disposal site.

"Granted we have zero chance of an operating reactor having an accident at this point, but we are still going to be having over 16 tons of nuclear waste, and that is more than Fukushima, on site," he said.

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