Initial San Onofre Refund Suspended Again

By Published On: January 17, 2014

California Public Utilities Commissioners questioned the ratepayer and utility impacts of a pending $94 million refund, which is part of $5.67 billion in ongoing San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station costs. It was debated during a special Jan. 15 “all party” hearing. The refund was set for a Jan. 16 vote, but was pulled off the commission business meeting agenda. Neither the operating utility for the nuclear plant, Southern California Edison, nor consumer advocates are pleased with the commission’s proposed decision. The partial refund also was delayed in December 2013. “We want [the proposed decision] set aside,” Ron Litzinger, Edison president, said. The initial $94 million proposed decision is part of an ongoing investigation into whether ratepayers should continue to pay for a power plant that has not been operating since January 2012. Commission president Mike Peevey questioned whether it was shrewd for Edison to consider that one unit of the facility could reasonably start up again and deliver electricity—and as such, keep ratepayers paying for the service. Consumer advocates, like The Utility Reform Network, sided with the “bumbling” scenario. “It was irrational exuberance,” said attorney Matt Freedman. Edison’s Litzinger maintained that the then-planned restart of unit 2 of the plant was “reasonable to pursue.” Part of the question for regulators is whether Edison, 79 percent owner of the plant, and San Diego Gas & Electric, with the remaining investment, “bumbled” management of the plant after it was shut down due to problems with new steam generators that led to a radioactive leak. Edison attempted to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve an open-ended partial start up for San Onofre unit 2 at 70 percent power. At first, Edison maintained it was a one-time trial restart. Then it left the reopening of the plant unrestricted at the federal level. The NRC did not decide on the restart because Edison permanently closed the plant in June 2013.

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