San Onofre nuclear plant costs top $75 million for repairs and restart

San Onofre Nuclear Plant

Grant Slater/KPCC

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is seen on April 6, 2012.

Anti-nuclear activists say ratepayers should not have to pay repair costs for the damaged San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The reaction comes after the plant operator shared cost estimates to fix the facility Tuesday.

The nuclear plant has been offline since January 31, after a leak in a steam generator tube sent radioactive vapor into the atmosphere.

Since that time, there have been inspections, reports and finger-pointing about why and how the relatively new steam generator tubes, which carry radioactive water, are wearing thin at an accelerated rate.

Southern California Edison, which operates the seaside plant, says the cost is $48 million for the inspections and repair costs for the tubes.

The records released by Edison International (SoCal Edison's parent company) also estimate that it will cost $25 million to begin to restart the Unit 2 reactor at reduced power.

“This is just another example that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) needs to consider at their next meeting of how Southern California Edison is no longer able to operate the nuclear plant in a cost-effective manner,” said Gene Stone with San Clemente-based Residents Organized for a Safe Environment. “There is no way that these kinds of dollars can be added up and be passed on to ratepayers.”

The figures were included in a report on Edison's operations between April and June.

An earlier report indicated that Southern California Edison (SCE) had projected restarting the Unit 2 reactor in November and Unit 3 at the end of December. The utility said those are planning dates and could be changed.

But Southern California Edison has not yet sent a request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart either of the two reactors which straddle the coastal border of Orange and San Diego counties.

Stone wonders why the company is mentioning projected restart dates at all, when they have yet to file an application with federal regulators to restart either reactor.

“Edison's plan to start the reactors at a lower power to 'see' if there are still problems is completely unacceptable,” said Stone. "It is inconceivable that the government agencies in charge of assuring the safe operation of this nuclear power plant would allow [SoCal Edison] to experiment like this with the safety and health of our residents and communities.”

Stone and a coalition of environmental groups, including San Clemente Green and the Peace Resource Center of San Diego, want a full hearing before any of the plants reactors are restarted.

“We demand before any restart goes forward, that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state of California provide the opportunity for a full adjudicatory, evidentiary hearing, including full participation by independent experts and groups, for the purpose of deciding whether or not to issue a license amendment--without which the reactor cannot operate,” said Stone. “Had not Edison and the NRC evaded the requirement for an evidentiary hearing and license amendment when the new replacement steam generators were installed we would not be in the current situation.”

Stone said a restart of the reactors now, without an evidentiary hearing and license amendment, “puts our communities in Southern California at far greater risk.”

Southern California Edison, which operates the seaside plant, says the cost is $48 million for the inspections and repair costs for the tubes.

The records released by Edison International (SoCal Edison's parent company) also estimate that it will cost $25 million to begin to restart the Unit 2 reactor at reduced power.

Edison says it has paid $117 million to buy power to make up for energy not generated by the nuclear plant.

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