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Group says consumers should not be charged for San Onofre closure

October 01, 2013|By Stuart Pfeifer | A clarification has been added to this post. See note below.
  • Southern California Edison says ratepayers need to share the costs of closing the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County.
Southern California Edison says ratepayers need to share the costs of closing… (Gregory Bull / Associated…)

A consumer group on Tuesday urged the California Public Utilities Commission to prohibit Southern California Edison from charging consumers for costs related to the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Edison, which operated San Onofre in a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and the Riverside municipal power utility, announced in June that it would permanently close the plant, ending a four-decade venture into nuclear energy production.

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John Fox of the California Public Interest Research Group said the utilities should not pass along the costs of closing the facility to consumers.

"California’s ratepayers played no part in the decision to upgrade the San Onofre nuclear power plant, how to deal with the unsafe steam generators once cracks were discovered, or the verdict to kill the plant for good," Fox said.

"California ratepayers should bear no financial liability for SONGS operation costs and attempted repairs since SONGS was shut down in early 2012. Those expenses sit squarely with the plant’s operators and their shareholders."

Maureen Brown, an Edison spokeswoman, said the company has set aside money through the years that would cover most of the costs of decommissioning the facility. She said the utility does not plan to raise rates to cover the closure.

In an advertisement published in August in The Times and other Southern California newspapers, Edison said  ratepayers need to share the costs of closing the plant.

"The American utility system works because everybody is in it together. Everyone shares the benefits and the costs. These private investment and cost recovery principles have worked for decades, providing customers safe, reliable and affordable power," the company said. 

The decision to close the north San Diego County facility came after the utility was unable to repair a steam generator system, which had leaked radioactive steam into the atmosphere. The leak led to the discovery that hundreds of tubes were wearing out at an unusual rate.

Clarification, 4:05 p.m. PDT Oct. 1: An earlier version of this post said closure costs were estimated at more than $1 billion. In fact, permanently closing and decommissioning San Onofre is estimated to cost as much as $4.1 billion.


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