Beginning of the end for San Onofre?

Plant operator say it could decide by year-end whether to permanently shutter nuclear reactors

Last November, http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2012/nov/02/san-onofre-costs-top-300-million/">we reported that the costs piling up related to the ongoing emergency shutdown at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station along San Diego’s northern coast had topped $300 million, and by February the total http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2013/feb/27/san-onofre-shutdown-costs-now-over-400-million/">had reached $400 million. By yesterday afternoon (April 30), those costs had jumped to a newly reported total of $553 million, according to the Associated Press.

The big news breaking late Tuesday, however, was the first indication from plant operator Southern California Edison that the utility might consider ending their quest to resume operation of the troubled plant should the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission fail to sign off on its request to http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2013/apr/02/southern-california-edison-prepares-draft-license-/">redefine “full power” as “70 percent of reactor capacity” in order to speed the plant’s return to service.

In a conference call with investors, Edison International (Southern California Edison’s parent) told Wall Street investors and analysts that, absent a restart approval, a decision on whether to permanently shutter the plant’s twin Unit 2 and 3 reactors could be made by year-end.

Unit 1, the first reactor opened at San Onofre in 1968, was decommissioned in 1992 due to similar concerns about wear in the plant’s steam generator tubes. It had been designed to last until at least 2004. The building that housed the reactor is now used to store radioactive waste generated from the operation of all three of the plant’s reactors, which has been accumulating on the site for 45 years.

The extensive mounting costs of keeping the reactors offline, as well as costs related to testing of the generators and repairs, are making the proposition of resuming operations at San Onofre a risky one for Edison as well as minority partners Riverside County and San Diego Gas & Electric (the local utility holds about a 20 percent stake in the plant), since it has not yet been determined whether the utilities or their ratepayers will be held responsible for the $670 million price tag of the defective steam generators and the ongoing costs of the outage. A warranty provided by generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries caps their liability at $138 million.

Edison had http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2013/apr/09/edison-pushes-for-quick-approval-of-plan-for-june-/">asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rule on its restart plan by June 1, but the government body quickly countered that such a time frame was unrealistic.


From the Web:

Bye Bye Nuclear, Hello HUGE SCE and SDG&E refunds...

Think over $1.5 Billion + Interest ;^)

Seriously?? Seriously??!! Do you really think that ANY refunds are going to happen? Over the past 2 yrs the CPUC, especially it's 3 "new" members have constantly and consistently shown and proven that the CPUC is in the pocket of the utilities. You would be extremely naive to think that the CPUC will not in some way aid them in NOT issuing any refunds.

I agree with tomjohnston that there will be no refunds. SCE is now sweating just how long the CPUC will allow them to keep charging the ratepayers to "operate" reactors that are not in operation. If the CPUC would go along with them charging the full cost to ratepayers, SCE would be content to wait forever, if necessary, for approval to restart, or to replace the steam generators. But they know that cannot happen, and part of this is a show for Wall Street to reassure the investors that they will act decisively if the restart is delayed.

This is a bit amusing, because of SCE shutters the operation, it is not as if they can just lock the doors and walk away. There is the decommissioning process which is very costly, and then still a need to keep that spent fuel storage secure in perpetuity. So, SCE will have to try to get the CPUC to allow them to cover the ongoing costs of a decommissioned plant on into an uncertain future.

BINGO. And I would be extremely surprised if the "costs" of decommissioning and then storage don't far exceed these current "operational" costs. It was 10 yrs before the reactor pressure vessel was removed and you might remember the old steam generators being moved, thru San Diego County at one point, just 2 summers ago. At the time of closure, the cost to decommission Unit 1 was estimated at $460 million. In today's dollars, that would be somewhere north of $750 million. Most figures I have read indicate the actual cost ended up being close to double the original estimate. That means something in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion today....x2!!!. Yeah, even if they decide to decom both of them, anyone who pays SDG&E or SCE, especially SCE will continue to take it in the shorts for a very very long time. Hey, who knows maybe an unintended consequence of the closure and or decom wil be a boost to rooftop solar PV. When people actually think about how much more there electricity will cost them over the next 20 or so yrs, they might decide it's a lot cheaper in the long run to bite the bullet now, by their own choice, than be bent over later by the utilities later.

Agreed in the main. The only point I would quibble about is those steam generators that were recently moved down the beach a distance and then either put on ships or on rail cars to haul to a repository. I think they were the old generators from either Unit 2 or Unit 3 or both, and not part of the decommissioning of Unit 1.

Like you I would prefer to have individuals make their own choices about installing solar, based on their own economic situations. But the price that SDGE is obliged to pay is the sticking point. It should be a price equal to the avoided cost of having to go out and buy surplus power on those days when the home systems are providing power to the grid. The current price doesn't really reflect that, and is less. But with all the "smart meters", it would be an easy thing to measure just how much each solar facility (no matter how small) put into the grid, and reimburse the owner for it. Since the SDGE peak power loads are for AC on days when the sun is beating down at or near its peak, the value of rooftop systems is obvious, because that is exactly when they are producing the most power.

Yeah, my bad on that. I was trying to say they sat for a couple of years or so before being hauled away and just screwed it up. However, they didn't move down the beach a bit. They were hauled via truck to a low level radiation processor in Clive, Utah. Unless you and I are referring to 2 different things. I agree that a higher price for residential generated solar would be nice. But look at it from this point of view. A poster on another thread pointed out that he spent $18K to install solar 7 yrs ago. He just made his annual payment to the tune of $55.91 and he estimates that his system is half paid for. A couple of years ago, I did a rough calculation with some numbers another poster put out. He was willing to spend the money to install solar, but his complaint was that without getting more for what he generated back to the grid, it wasn't worth. By my rough estimate, he was talking about an amount over the course of a year that was the equivalent to a one month bill. So instead of installing solar and paying less for the year than he was currently paying for a month, he continues paying over $15K a year in electric charges. Doesn't make sense to me.

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