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Last week, I wrote this story about a host of problems plaguing the San Onofre nuclear plant. Now, I’ll be hosting Cafe San Diego on Wednesday to continue the conversation. There’s more interesting stuff that didn’t make it into my story to talk about. And, I’m here to also answer your questions about the story and the plant.

So here we go with my first post:

Operational and management troubles at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station have made the plant — and its badly needed electricity output — less reliable and more expensive over the last year. But that hasn’t stopped the plant’s operator and majority owner, Southern California Edison, from pushing for a 20-year extension on the facility’s operating licenses.

The federal licenses for San Onofre’s two remaining reactors, prominently located on the coast between Oceanside and San Clemente, don’t expire until 2022, but the utility wants to start studying the possible extension now. As part of a still-pending state

proceeding on a massive hike in electricity rates, Southern California Edison has proposed spending $16.7 million over the next three years to study the feasibility of extending the site’s operations to 2042.

If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the cost of the study would be split among the three owners of the facility: SoCal Edison (78.21 percent), San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (20 percent) and the city of Riverside (1.79 percent). The owners’ customers would foot the bill through higher electricity rates.

In its regulatory filings, SoCal Edison said the 2009 cost of the study — $5.6 million — would be offset by $5.6 million in reductions in operations and maintenance costs at San Onofre. The utility said the savings would come from operational efficiencies in the wake of a massive software installation, but it didn’t explain how it could achieve those efficiencies at a plant where costs have been headed the other direction.

Last year, San Onofre’s extra expenses included remedial ethics training, two special inspections by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and a host of extra maintenance and outage costs. SoCal Edison spokesman Gil Alexander didn’t answer my e-mail seeking comment on the matter.

That gets us started. Please comment below this post or e-mail me directly at elizabeth_douglass@yahoo.com.

— ELIZABETH DOUGLASS

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