Unlike their federal counterparts who are investigating continued nuclear power plant operations, state senators delved into the ramifications of shutting down California\u2019s nuclear power plants ahead of schedule. Replacement power for the baseload nuclear facilities is estimated to cost more than $1 billion, according to one witness. It would take about 10 years for supply replacement, according to another witness testifying April 14 before the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee. Committee chair Senator Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley) and Senator Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) asked new questions of utilities and regulators in light of the Japanese nuclear unit meltdowns. At the federal level, lawmakers are concerned with shoring up existing plants, relicensing, and emergency evacuations. At the state hearing, legislators asked the question of what to do when plants are shut down--because of planned or unplanned circumstances. The plants at issue are Pacific Gas & Electric\u2019s Diablo Canyon, and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station owned mainly by Southern California Edison, but also by San Diego Gas & Electric. Together, they can feed in over 4,000 MW of baseload power to the grid. Senators delved into both economic and reliability implications of possible shut downs. As long as the state declares that closed nuclear plants are \u201cstranded assets,\u201d California still has \u201ccontrol and jurisdiction\u201d to decide to decommission a nuclear power plant, Wright said. Stranded assets are ones not fully amortized--in this scenario because the plants would be shut down before the end of their licenses. If a utility asset is \u201cstranded\u201d it means that ratepayers, in theory, are expected to pay for the unrealized amortization. State lawmakers are seeking to stake claim on in-state nuclear power and oversight of continued operation of California\u2019s nukes. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission maintains health and safety obligations, but the state holds the purse strings. One of those purse strings is the ability to pay for burying a radioactive facility once it shuts down. \u201cSo if plants are shut down early, are there insufficient funds to decommission them?\u201d asked Padilla. \u201cWe\u2019d have to collect those monies at a higher rate over a shorter time,\u201d said Gurbux Kahlon, California Public Utilities Commission program manager. California has been collecting decommissioning funds for decades--more than any other state. They are held in a trust not controlled by the utilities. None of the witnesses claimed the state lacked the authority to shut nuclear plants down if it wishes. The CPUC estimates that for each of the operating nuclear power plants in California--San Onofre and Diablo Canyon--it would cost $650 million to replace the power, according to Kahlon. Stern also noted that the timeline for replacing nuclear power includes planning new transmission and finding new pollution credits. \u201cWhile it might be nice to consider, we cannot replace the power of San Onofre with renewables,\u201d said Gary Stern, Edison director of market strategy and resource planning. \u201cThe thought of trying to replace San Onofre power is daunting,\u201d he added.