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Edison Bills Faulty Nuclear Generator Builder for $45M

Southern California Edison officials are attempting to recover costs for the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station from both its outage insurance company and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Southern California Edison is billing Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for $45 million for faulty parts and seeking millions more from its insurance companies to pay for the 10-month shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Operators of the embattled nuclear plant are trying to get $3.5 million per week of closure from its Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited policy, minus a 12-week deductible, said SoCal Edison CFO Jim Scilacci.

He spoke to reporters and investors Thursday in the company's third-quarter earnings report teleconference.

In addition to the $45 million, company officials will bill Mitsubishi for ongoing inspection and repair costs, but Scilacci said there were no guarantees that Edison would actually get the cash, saying the invoices were "under review" by Mitsubishi.

The earnings report comes in the midst of a maelstrom of technical, regulatory and political activity surrounding the plant, a small January leak from which revealed its new steam generators were riddled with faulty components. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission implicated Mitsubishi in design and fabrication flaws that ruined thousands of internal heat-exchange tubes, the parts in question.

(The tubes carry superheated, high-pressure radioactive water. The tubes act like a radiator to boil pure water in a separate system, which runs steam turbines to make electricity.)

Technicians and consultants put together a plan to restart the plant's Unit 2 at partial power for a shortened operating period, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is scrutinizing.

Also in October, the California Public Utilities Commission has opened what it has called an "exhaustive" investigation about whether SCE needs to pay customers back for the rates they're paying to support a massive non-functioning plant.

On that count, Scilacci said he thinks the company should be able to recover the cash for ratepayers.

"We believe our actions surrounding SONGS have been reasonable," he said. "We will do everything we can to minimize the cost for all parties involved."

All the while, some local and federal elected officials and environmental groups have been hammering Edison, saying any restart plan is unsafe, asserting that San Onofre's problems run too deep to ever operate the generators safely again.

Edison scientists contend tubes in Unit 2 aren't nearly as damaged as the ones in Unit 3, for which there is no real option to restart under discussion. Furthermore, officials say the precautionary measures in reducing load on and operating time of the generators will negate any potential damage.

There is no timeline currently for the restart of any portion of the plant.

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