The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) has been in shut down mode since January 31, 2012, after a radioactive steam leak was discovered at one of the two units at the nuclear facility.
The nuclear plant, which sits on a coastal bluff on the border of Orange and San Diego counties – about three miles south of San Clemente – will remain shut down through at least the spring, because of problems with excessive wear in tubes carrying radioactive water. The problems with those tubes were discovered after the leak a year ago.
Since that time, there have been numerous public meetings, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has conducted inspections – there’s even a new head of the NRC.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is also investigating whether ratepayers – customers of Southern California Edison, which operates the facility – should foot the bill for repairs and costs related to the one-year (so far) shut down. Southern California Edison (SCE) had previously said those costs are $317 million.
To make up the loss of power generation, a natural gas-fired power plant in Huntington Beach was brought back to service in May 2012. The two “retired units” provide enough electricity for 400,000 homes. Southern California Edison previously said along with the Huntington Beach gas-fired power plant, added transmission lines and conservation would help make up the difference with SONGS not generating power.
The NRC recently said they have pushed consideration of a restart plan submitted by SCE to April or May. That plan would restart one of the plant’s two units – at limited power – for a . limited time. The assumption is the steam tubes could operate safely under that scenario. SCE has submitted no plan to restart the other unit.
Environmentalists have said they want the plant shut down permanently.