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San Onofre nuclear plant outage costs top $300 million

Inspection and repair costs total $96 million as of Sept. 30 and the costs of replacing lost power has reached $221 million, Edison International says.

November 02, 2012|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • Children frolic in the surf and David Kim of Anaheim fishes in the surf near the idle San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach. Costs of the long-running outage at the plant have topped $300 million.
Children frolic in the surf and David Kim of Anaheim fishes in the surf near… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

The cost of the long-running outage at the San Onofre nuclear plant now tops $300 million, but it remains unclear who will ultimately foot the bill.

Edison International, the parent company of plant operator and majority owner Southern California Edison, reported its third quarter earnings Thursday, including new details on the costs of the plant's troubles.

The company reported that inspection and repair costs relating to the outage totaled $96 million as of Sept. 30, and the costs of replacing the plant's power had risen to $221 million. The costs of both have roughly doubled since Edison's last report, which covered the period through June 30.

The plant has been out of service since Jan. 31, when a steam generator tube sprung a leak, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam and leading to the discovery that tubes in the newly replaced steam generators were wearing out much more quickly than expected.

Edison has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the less heavily damaged Unit 2 and run it at partial power. The NRC will decide whether to allow a restart after a review process that could take months.

The fuel has been removed from Unit 3, where the radioactive steam was released, and Edison's filing said "it is uncertain when or whether a restart plan will be submitted."

Edison chief executive Ted Craver told investors: "It is not clear at this time if the units can be repaired [to run at full power], and it appears complete replacement of the steam generators would take some years."

Craver declined to say whether the company ultimately hopes to replace the steam generators, saying it was "way too early at this point for speculation" regarding whether the equipment would ultimately be repaired or replaced or whether the units would continue to run at partial power.

Who will pay for the outage costs also remains uncertain. Edison reported that it had submitted an initial bill of $45 million to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the steam generator manufacturer, for repair costs, and is trying to recover other costs through insurance.

The California Public Utilities Commission has launched an investigation into the potential costs to ratepayers from the extended outage, which could eventually lead to some or all of San Onofre's costs being removed from customers' rates.

Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said San Onofre-related costs make up about 8.2% of an average residential customer's bill. Edison customers will pay $820 million for the plant this year, including $170 million in nuclear fuel and decommissioning costs and $650 million in operating and maintenance costs, depreciation and return on investment.

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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