Cost of CA Nuke Outage Growing

Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 06:02 PM gHale

The costs of the yearlong outage at the San Onofre nuclear plant was over $400 million by the end of 2012.

The price tag for the darkened plant includes inspections, repairs and purchasing replacement power.

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Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, officials said the company has looked into what repairs could be done to restore both units to full power, and was told by the steam generator manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the job of replacing “significant portions” of the system could take more than five years to complete.

The facility, one of two nuclear power plants in California, shut down just over a year ago because of unusual wear on steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water. One tube leaked in January 2012, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam.

Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — which has a 20% stake in the plant — spent more than $780 million replacing the steam generators, which ratepayers are now repaying.

Edison proposed restarting the less-damaged of the plant’s two units and operating it at 70 percent power, which the company argued would alleviate the conditions that led to the wear. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the proposal.

The plant powered about 1.4 million households in Southern California before the outage.

The report also heralded a potentially protracted dispute between Edison and Mitsubishi over the warranty on the equipment that limited payouts to $138 million, of which the company has paid out $45 million to date. Edison contends that the warranty cap should not apply because of unusual circumstances at San Onofre. Mitsubishi disagrees.

NRC asked Edison to demonstrate the unit proposed for restart can operate safely at its full licensed power, raising the possibility the commission would require a license amendment for it to operate at 70 percent power.

Edison said 70 percent power is, in fact “normal steady state full power.”

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