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Santa Monica Council urges probe of San Onofre reactors

Posted Aug. 15, 2012 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Council unanimously votes for state investigation of San Onofre costs, reliability and alternative energy resources and urges federal license amendment hearing

SANTA MONICA, CALIF. -- Last night, the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to urge the state to fully investigate the costs and reliability of the crippled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and to compare it to other available energy sources. The council also voted unanimously to urge federal regulators to hold a transparent and public license amendment procedure for the plant’s twin reactors.

The reactors at San Onofre have been shut down since January, when one of the thousands of thin, tightly packed tubes in the newly replaced steam generators failed and leaked radioactive steam into the environment. Further testing revealed unprecedented, accelerated wear in thousands of these tubes, less than two years after the steam generators were replaced. 

In a decision filed on December 15, 2005, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a plan under which Southern California Edison could bill ratepayers up to $680 million for the costs of four replacement steam generators ($569 million for replacement steam generator installation and $111 million for removal and disposal of the original steam generators). The CPUC required a reasonableness review for expenses beyond this amount and set a maximum ratepayer collection cap of $782 million. A technical report commissioned by Friends of the Earth estimated the cost of repairing or replacing the faulty generators at San Onofre at $400 million to $800 million. This estimate does not include the costs of replacement power, inspections and preliminary repairs, which according to recent reports by Edison have already reached $165 million. 

Under state law, Edison can ask the California Public Utilities Commission to allow it to recover its costs through rate increases to its customers. An investigation by the CPUC, such as the one called for by the Santa Monica City Council, could end in a ruling that Edison, not its customers, is liable for the costs. Such a ruling could push Edison to  permanently shut down the reactors rather than incur additional expenses.

The Council vote also directs the City of Santa Monica to urge the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct a public, transparent license amendment hearing on San Onofre. A license amendment is a formal, open and legally adjudicated procedure that would allow for independent expert review of the significant modifications to the replacement steam generators. Under NRC rules, a license amendment is required for major design changes to replacement equipment like those Edison made to these replacement components. In a petition before the NRC, Friends of the Earth and other public interest groups charge that the replacement generators were not “like for like” as Edison presented them to regulators, but instead were substantially altered.

Santa Monica's action is similar to the resolution unanimously adopted last week by the Laguna Beach City Council.

Contact:

Kendra Ulrich: (216) 571-7340, kulrich@foe.org

Diane Moss: (310) 463-1355

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