Calif. energy officials plan for longer San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown

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California energy officials are preparing for the possibility the San Onofre nuclear power plant could be offline through 2013 or 2014.

While there is no timetable for restarting the plant, the “planning dates” have been pushed forward.

Published reports said state energy officials are preparing for the worst case scenario: that the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) will remain offline longer than expected and they're planning to find additional sources of power.

California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller told the North County Times the agency is working on a plan for 2013 and 2014 based on conversations with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and plant operator, Southern California Edison.

He said the plans will be based on having neither of San Onofre’s two units operating.

Southern California Edison (SCE) planned to send its plan for restarting the plant to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in July. But Weisenmiller said the utility plans to apply to the NRC in September to restart one of the two generators at 70 percent capacity for a six-month trial period.

Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfrè says those dates are for planning purposes and could be changed.

“The company is currently focused on preparing our response to the NRC's Confirmatory Action Letter using conservative decision-making, wherein safety, and not timelines, is the priority," said Manfrè.

The nuclear plant on the seaside border of Orange and San Diego counties has been offline since January due to problems with steam generator tubes in both of its new generators.

While Edison hopes to restart one or both of the units at the plant, energy officials have to act now to find additional energy sources.

With the plant offline this summer, state energy officials ordered retired units at a Huntington Beach gas-fired power plant back to action and stepped up conservation messages on TV and radio. They are also importing additional power through a new high-energy transmission line between San Diego and Imperial counties.

Energy officials said additional sources of renewable energy are coming on line in the future, such as solar and wind power.

SONGS is jointly owned by SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the city of Riverside. The two units can generate 2,200 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of 1.4 million average homes at a point in time.

The electricity primarily supplies customers in Southern Orange and Northern San Diego counties.

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