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State to Investigate San Onofre

At an Irvine meeting packed with public commenters, the state agency decides to study whether it makes financial sense to reopen the nuclear power plant.

California officials decided Thursday to investigate the financial viability of San Onofre's troubled nuclear power plant.

"I welcome this investigation," Public Utilities Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon said before the agency's unanimous vote. "This is probably, to some extent, overdue. It will bring clarity to questions surrounding the inoperability of the facility."

Meeting in Irvine, the state Public Utilities Commission listened to a slew of comments before approving the study of whether San Onofre is worth the cost.

Anti-nuclear advocate Gary Headrick called the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's plan to restart one of its damaged generators a "bad investment."

"Edison's plan to restart -- even at partial power -- defective and damaged equipment is unacceptable," Headrick said.

By 10 a.m., the PUC had limited public comments to one minute each because so many people were on the list to voice opinions about the beleaguered nuclear power plant.

On the pro-nuke side, the business community appeared to line up behind Southern California Edison. Jim Leach of the South Orange County Economic Coalition, for example, called anti-nuclear advocates a "vocal minority" using "scare tactics."

Business owners and representatives said they needed the plant to help protect the area's energy grid from overload.

Anti-nuclear groups criticized the cost to ratepayers for the plant, which has been closed since revealed the steam generators were riddled with broken components.

According to an Edison earnings press conference this summer, the shutdown cost the company $165 million in the first half of 2012. Many at the Irvine meeting displayed signs reading "Cut our Losses, Not a Penny More."

The investigation will focus on the financial aspect of the shutdown, and whether Edison customers or shareholders should bear the cost of the shutdown. The CPUC is empowered to examine only the finances and rates of utilities in the state. Safety investigations fall under the purview of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval pointed out the investigation would be complicated by ongoing legal proceedings between Southern California Edison and steam generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The two parties are in mediation talks now to decide how much Mitsubishi should pay for the debacle.

NRC investigators have implicated Mitsubishi for manufacturing mistakes and design miscalculations in building the generators.

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