Slight San Onofre Rate Reduction Proposed

By Published On: November 21, 2013

Ratepayers may get a refund of $94 million from $5.67 billion in ongoing San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station costs in ratebase if a California Public Utilities Commission proposed decision issued Nov. 19 is approved. If it is, ratepayers are set to continue to pay for the non-operational facility while regulators continue to review whether to remove the ongoing cost of the plant from rates. That review began in November 2012. Southern California Edison “is disappointed in portions of a proposed decision,” the utility noted. “The proposed decision’s refund is based on a finding that [Edison] did not adequately consider putting San Onofre’s Unit 2 in preservation mode after May 2012, and laying off employees then.” Edison supports “other elements of the decision,” according to Pete Dietrich, utility senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. They include notes from the proposal that Edison acted prudently in responding to a leak at San Onofre that led to the shutdown, that unit 2 refueling outage costs were reasonable, and that the utility acted appropriately in placing fuel in unit 2 during that outage. “The proposed decision shows considerable knowledge of what's wrong, but very little follow-through,” noted Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility executive director Rochelle Becker. “With ratepayers still paying $80 million/month for a plant that's been abandoned, for the commission to only [initially] refund $94 million, it falls pretty short.” The proposed decision found that Edison has been “reasonable” in its 2012 spending for operation and maintenance, and capital expenditures on the facility. “However,” the administrative law judge noted, the utility spent too much effort on a failed plan to restart unit 2 at 70 percent power, and was “slow to understand the technical challenges and regulatory timeframe required to implement it.” The proposed decision compels new public outreach by both Edison, and 20 percent owner San Diego Gas & Electric about the plant’s planned decommissioning. It does not specify how the utilities are to implement that requirement. It also allows continued spending on seismic data collection near the plant. In related developments, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a public in-person-only meeting in Carlsbad Nov. 18 to hear comments on San Onofre radioactive waste disposal. Attendees expressed dismay at federal regulators’ generic, rather than site-specific waste plans, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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