Calif. Utility Shuts Down the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

A leak of radioactive steam shut the plant down in January 2012, but the plant’s owners — Souther California Edison [SCE]– had been trying to reopen the plant ever since, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the plant open without generating any revenue. Well, management decided enough was enough:

[SCE] submitted a plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2012 to restart Unit 2 at 70 percent capacity for an initial period of five months.

That plan has been under review ever since, and several public meetings have been held on the matter.

However, a recent ruling by an arm of the NRC created further uncertainty about when a decision would be made on the restart plan, SCE officials said.

Additional administrative processes and appeals could result in delay of more than a year, according to SCE.

During that time, the costs of maintaining San Onofre and the costs to replace the power it previously provided would continue.

The company decided that the continuing uncertainty was not good for customers or investors, Edison International Chairman and CEO Ted Carver said.

“SCE has concluded that efforts are better focused on planning for the replacement generation and transmission resources which will be required for grid reliability,” according to the news release.

But don’t worry California. Just turn off the air conditioning:

Without that nuclear plant, which accounted for about 9% of the electricity generated in California, power supplies will be tight in parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties for at least the next three summers, officials said. That means periods of reduced use of air conditioners, lights and swimming pool pumps for customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

“Losing 2,250 megawatts from the system is a big deal, and if we ask for conservation, we need them to respond,” said Steve Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state’s long-distance electric transmission system from a control room in Folsom, east of Sacramento.

In the meantime, utilities, state energy officials and grid operators are looking for ways to compensate for San Onofre’s loss.

Those fixes are likely to include pushing for greater energy efficiency in existing buildings and homes; constructing more state-of-the-art natural gas power plants; adding new long-distance transmission lines and speeding up the shift to wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable forms of energy.

Experts and consumer advocates hope the costs of the new infrastructure will be equal to or lower than the hundreds of millions of dollars it would have taken to make San Onofre safe enough to start running again. Californians already pay some of the highest electricity rates in the nation.

Coincidentally, President Obama is in Rancho Mirage, Calif. today meeting with President of Xi Jinping of China. The expected high today in Rancho Mirage is 106°F. I wonder what they have the A.C. set to? 

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