San Onofre Nuke Plant Fight Moves to State Level

The factions warring over whether to restart the beleaguered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station take their battle before the California Public Utilities Commission.

Business groups and anti-nuclear activists squared off before a judge and commissioner from the California Public Utilities Commission Thursday over whether Southern California Edison can charge customers for costs related to its embattled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The forum is the latest in dozens of governmental hearings and meetings that over the past year that have spanned local, state and federal agencies. A January 2012 steam leak shuttered the plant and revealed thousands of faulty components -- problems related to design flaws in the plant's newly installed steam generators. Adding to the company’s troubles, a Massachusetts Congressman called on the Security and Exchange Commission Thursday to investigate whether Edison violated federal securities laws by withholding from investors information on the faulty steam generators.

The massive fight over the engineering failure and the safety and economic concerns surrounding the plant continued at the Costa Mesa Community Center Thursday.

Warring Factions

Business groups and organizations like the Orange County Business Council, Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce lined up in support of the partial and speedy restart of the plant as proposed by Edison. The plan is currently under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but no federal decision is expected until the end of April.

"Orange County enjoys some of the lowest unemployment in the state," said Bryan Starr, and executive with the Orange County Business Council. "If not SONGS, then what? What are the alternative sources of energy that could power our businesses immediately? Broad statements about alternative power aren't going to cut it."

Those fighting for a permanent shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station include activists from organizations like San Clemente Green, San Diego's Citizens Oversight Committee and the national Friends of the Earth group.

Safety and health concerns have dominated the anti-nuclear activists' public message to-date, but the individual groups have organized together and adapted their protests to focus on financial problems for the benefit of the CPUC hearings. Signs in the hearing audience read, "Cut our losses; not a penny more to Edison."

Grace VanThillo, a San Clemente resident demanded her money back.

"We ratepayers should not be paying hundreds of millions of dollars for Edison's mistakes," she said. "In fact, the ratepayers deserve hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds for Edison's mistakes we've already paid for."

Ratepayer advocate organizations like The Utility Reform Network are calling for refunds to ratepayers, who continue to pay for upkeep and replacement power purchasing for the shuttered plant.

"The Utility Reform Network stands for affordable bills and accountable utilities," said group spokeswoman Mindy Spatt. "That means accountable for their mistakes, and Edison made a colossal one. If Edison's steam tubes are faulty, then that's Edison's problem. Customers should not have to pay a single penny for costs incurred for an inoperable nuclear plant."

A Utility Reform Network press release states that Edison has collected $115 million from ratepayers since 2010 when the last of four new steam generators were installed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, "$46 million of which went to shareholder profits."

Local elected officials have split on the issue. Some city councils have adopted resolutions expressing grave concerns about the continued operation of the plant, such as the city of Del Mar and the San Diego Unified School District Board. Others, like the mayor of Newport Beach Kieth Curry and Fountain Valley Councilman Steve Nagel spoke in favor of a plan to reopen the plant.

Edison and Regulators Under Fire

The process to decide whether Edison owes customer refunds will likely take months, CPUC officials say. In the meantime, Mitsubishi, who nuclear inspectors determined made major design mistakes in constructing the faulty generators, has paid Edison back $45.5 million in connection with a product warranty, according to the Orange County Register.

It's likely, however, that Mitsubishi and Edison will be engaged in further financial wrangling as events at the plant develop.

Also on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent an open letter to the chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission, calling for an investigation into whether Edison hid vital information about the installation of the steam generators from shareholders.

Markey teamed up with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. earlier this month to reveal information from internal Edison documents, which prove Edison knowingly installed the faulty generators, they allege.

And the CPUC itself hasn't escaped recent public criticism: the California Legislative Analyst raised concerns about the agency's budgetary practices. Though only tangentially related to the oversight of San Onofre, the office raised concerns about how the CPUC is overseeing accounts of utilities like Edison, given they appear to be mismanaging hundreds of millions of ratepayer fees within their own agency, KPBS reported Friday.

The CPUC will hold another set of public input hearings in San Diego.

Tamara Tatich February 22, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Will someone subsidize the difference in my electricity bill?
CaptD February 22, 2013 at 06:23 PM
We have gone from being told about a tiny (radioactive) leak at SanO over a year ago to now being stuck with a 1.3 Billion Dollar Debacle that SoCal ratepayers are still paying for at over 54 Million Dollars a month, with no end in sight! Even the NRC and now subsets within the NRC like the NRR and others are still trying to understand exactly what happened to cause the damage which destroyed Unit 3's NEW steam generators in less than a year so that they can better evaluate the damage already done to Unit 2 steam generators. Edison is desperate to restart using they're poorly in-house designed steam generators at any power level so that they can claim that all this is just "part of doing business" and that the ratepayers should pay for this debacle instead of Edison's shareholders who have had record profits the last few years while SoCal ratepayers have seen their electric bills move ever upward! How bad does it has to get, before SoCal ratepayers can expect to get a fair and unbiased investigation into why all the checks and balances set up to protect CA ratepayers HAVE COMPLETELY FAILED TO WORK?
CaptD February 22, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Cont: It is past time for this ENERGY RIP OFF to end, San Onofre should be taken off the rate base immediately and a full unbiased investigation begun with public access to all relevant documentation going back to the original "up-rate" decision that set the stage for doing the replacement steam generator program in the first place. Until a REAL California LEADER steps forward and DEMANDS OPENNESS, SoCal ratepayers will continue to be subject to continued "energy enslavement" thanks to the too cozy relationship between the Utility and those that regulate them which has enabled thIS debacle to continue despite numerous attempts to sweep it under the rug and/or away from public scrutiny! Now is the time for our Public Servants to step forward and actually perform their sworn duty by SERVING THE PUBLIC and do what is best for the ratepayers not JUST Edison's shareholders, even at the risk of some of them losing their Nuclear Payback*. * http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nuclear+payback Those that support nuclear power because nuclear power somehow supports them; no matter what the health implications or other "costs" are for others.
CaptD February 22, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Who will subsidize SoCal for a nuclear incident and/or for the 1.3 Billion debacle? BTW: Ever more Solar (of all flavors) is being installed and if the CPUC stops dragging its regulatory feet, a huge number of solar installations could happen using money that ratepayers have already spent which would eliminate the need for SanO completely!
CaptD February 22, 2013 at 06:29 PM
To help readers learn more about how Steam Generators (SG) can “fail” here is a link to an amazing accurate animation that was done to illustrate San Onofre’s Replacement Steam Generators (RSG) problems (which included MULTIPLE SG tube failures) and the animation even illustrates a Main Steam Line Break (MSLB): http://www.acehoffman.org/sano/SanOnofreRSGsbyAceHoffman.swf
Note: By scrolling over the animation a large number of additional animations can be viewed! At San Onofre, it was one SG tube (as far as we know) that started to leak that caused their shutdown because what was leaking was radioactive core coolant which was first only monitored but then started increasing in volume so fast that Edison had no choice but to shut the reactor down. Later upon further inspection and testing, not one but 8 tubes failed in-situ testing (done in place under controlled conditions) which is something that has never happened before in the history of the entire US Nuclear “fleet”. Even the NRC called that a serious safety concern and they are still trying completely understand how that occurred. It is also is import to note that during this same period after Jan. 31, 2012, Unit 2 was also shutdown (for refueling). When they inspected its SG’s, one of its tubes had 90% wall wear which is well above the 35% safety standard and Edison did not even know it!
CaptD February 22, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Cont: More on that here: Nuclear Power Plant Basics https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0BweZ3c0aFXcFZGpvRlo4aXJCT2s/edit?pli=1&docId=0BweZ3c0aFXcFZDZJZWdESWJMYms snip: Important Note: The steam generator’s tubing wall thickness is thinner than a dime (0.043 inches) to help transfer heat, but it also serves as a vitally important boundary between the radioactive coolant circulating inside the tubing which must remain separated from the non-radioactive water/steam mixture which circulates outside the tubing. A leak, crack or worse, a complete failure of one or more of any of the tubes inside the steam generator would allow highly radioactive coolant to mix directly into the non-radioactive water/steam mixture which would then escape into the environment. Additionally, should a Main Steam Line Break or other similar problems occur, the rapid loss of core coolant that is needed to constantly cool the radioactive fuel rods in the reactor could lead to a catastrophic meltdown of the entire radioactive reactor core.
This MSLB event is also mentioned in previous ACRS reports (see our Response to NRR RAI -32 – Technical, page 49). https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0BweZ3c0aFXcFZGpvRlo4aXJCT2s/edit?pli=1&docId=0BweZ3c0aFXcFX05DMWxKNmZXUTA
CaptD February 22, 2013 at 07:22 PM
If the CPUC stopped dragging it's Bureaucratic feet by raising the fiscal qualification "bar" a huge number of additional ratepayers would qualify for energy upgrades which would help US all use less energy! We all have paid into an Upgrade Account that has many of Millions of dollars in it which is just collecting interest because the CPUC is limiting its use, which is also great for Edison because they make more profits on everyone that are not energy efficient!... And speaking about Energy waste, last year the CPUC paid out as much to administer their energy Upgrade Program as they spent for actual Energy Upgrades, which is shameful! How do you spell BOONDOGGLE?
Tamara Tatich February 22, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Wow...too many words and not enough pictures for this simpleton. So glad the Patch gave you a soap box!
Bruce Campbell February 22, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Whether or not San Onofre has had the worst safety problems (thus far) of any commercial nuclear facility in the nation is not necessarily clear. But, what is clear is that San Onofre has had the "worst safety culture" in regards to safety problems and retaliation against whistle-blowing workers of any nuclear power facility in the USA. In addition, San Onofre clearly has the worst steam generator problems of any nuke. The chief nuclear officer at San Onofre has notably clammed up when asked about the "anti-vibration bar design team." Since San Onofre was trying to get extra juice so to speak from the steam generators, they realized that there would be vibration problems. They got a team (likely well before the replacement steam generators were installed) to advise on how to remedy the vibration and tube wear problems with the replacement steam generators. They did give some recommendations -- but they were all rejected by decision-makers since they realized that it would have been clear that they needed to go through the somewhat time-consuming NRC license amendment process. So they ran the two remaining reactors with no fix installed, and got the tube wear which the rejected anti-vibration bar design team recommendations sought to avoid. SCE is about greed -- not safety. : /
Bruce Campbell February 22, 2013 at 09:54 PM
And then of course there is the little matter of seismic setting of the San Onofre nuclear reactors. Not only does the Cristanitos Fault run beneath a reactor, but the major southern California coastal area fault -- the Newport / Inglewood Fault -- is several miles offshore from San Onofre. When concern about the Newport / Inglewood Fault was mentioned, Chris Wills (Supervising Engineering Geologist with the California Geological Survey) mentioned that the Palos Verdes Fault further offshore has a higher slip rate than the Newport / Inglewood Fault. Then on December 14th, a quake struck the area around that Palos Verdes Fault. And while following up on that quake, a map was discovered showing the largest swarm of seismic events offshore in southern California to be offshore from Orange / San Diego County and in the area that is the junction where the Palos Verdes Fault and the Santa Cruz / Santa Catalina Faults meet. Plus, I've heard about a 7.5 quake in San Juan Capistrano in 1812 -- and San Onofre allegedly was designed to handle a 7.0 (even that claim I highly doubt)!
CaptD February 23, 2013 at 12:03 AM
T-Byrd I guess you would rather have small sound bites (pun intended) that don't explain anything out than someones personal bias's.
CaptD February 23, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Good Comments
CaptD February 23, 2013 at 12:24 AM
RE: The Anti Vibration Bar (AVB) "problems", when Edison's in-house design team designed the replacement steam generators (RSG) they tried to just copy the earlier Combustion Engineering (CE) design of the original steam generators (OSG's) at San Onofre BUT they made so many technical modifications that that original design no longer "worked" and that simply put, is why they failed to "last 18+ years and save the ratepayers a Billion Dollars" as Edison promised us when they asked for permission to replace the original CE steam generators. Instead they were designed so poorly that one RSG failed in less than a year (Unit 3) and the other RSG failed in less than two years (Unit 2). Here is an example of how things can go wrong when you don't know what you are doing: Try giving someone a great PROVEN family cake recipe, only to later learn that it turned out really bad; then when asked about what went wrong, you were told that the "cook" did not realize that "add 2 whole eggs" did not actually meant to add two eggs and their shells... In short, Edison's "cooks" did not know what they were doing and that is why we now have a 1.3 Billion dollar debacle at San Onofre!
Tamara Tatich February 23, 2013 at 01:15 AM
Forgive me...I forgot...this is the publication where everyone has to agree with the one that types the loudest or suffer the consequences...snark. Captain...I respect your position of solar, but are you saying to fill the dessert with panels or target the households. Because anyone that buys the proper solar system to live off the grid in San Clemente is a moron. I have a bridge to sell you. It doesn't make financial sense, unless you want to lose your ocean view and breezes. Most of us that read this blog enjoy the coast, but we don't have air conditioning. We also have a TON of ineffective days of marine layer. My hot water is heated by solar. GREAT in the summer. Best gas bill last year was $3. But, there are a lot of days the little gas lamp lights up the tank.
Tamara Tatich February 23, 2013 at 01:15 AM
I had my solar guy (yes I'm in new home construction) and his assessment supports what I'm saying AND he would LOVE to sell me a system. I chuckle every time I see someone buying into it, but if it makes you feel like you're contributing to a greener earth...have it. I guess we could buy up the desert and pay folks to keep the panels clean. That would at least generate jobs, right? And, make a shaded refuge for all those desert critters. Win-win! As for earthquakes, fires, airplane crashes, tsunamis, hurricanes and global thermonuclear war...NEWS FLASH...you're gonna die some day. All of us are one way or another. Death and taxes. Quit living in fear of the "end." I'm not dying to die (now THAT'S a pun worth typing, darling!), but it is the reality. If you choose to live out your life haggling over what you THINK you know, READ in the media (it's true...it's in print!I), but NEVER did anything but bitch...have fun with that and keep yourself as frustrated as humanly possible. Peace out!
CaptD February 23, 2013 at 03:29 PM
I guessed you missed the memo, when installing Solar, the secret is to install enough that will allow you to replace all the top tier usage you have plus a bit more for good luck NOT eliminate all your bill because the first tier (the lowest rate) is a bargain. + Another issue is that now the Utility does not pay you for your solar energy as much as it pays itself for the same amount of energy it generates from its own solar panels... This is yet another Energy Rip Off that is blessed by the CPUC and if changed would dramatically shorten the payback time of solar installations!
CaptD February 23, 2013 at 03:35 PM
I think you missed the point that San Onofre's replacement steam generators have major design flaws, they now have more damage than the rest of the US "fleet" combined and one is less than a year old and the other is less than two years old! Edison told ratepayers they would last 18+ years and save them over a Billion Dollars and now about two years later we have PAID 1.3 BILLION DOLLARS and are still paying 54 million dollars a month while Edison tries to figure out how to not get stuck with the bill! Edison is the one that has sold US a bridge, A Bridge To N☢ Energy!
Stan Jacobs February 24, 2013 at 11:03 PM
The banksters, now the utilities! Why do the politicians want to coddle those two sacred cows at taxpayer expense?
Bob D February 25, 2013 at 06:04 PM
CaptD - thanks for being the best Monday morning quarter back ever. The only problem is your not in reality when it comes to "base load". Put up all the solar panels you wish, but youll need to figure a way to make the sun shine 24 hrs a day and keep that wind blowing all the time for the wind turbines~ it just doesnt happen. And sorry, but there is no current technology that allows you to store all that peak sunshine without bankrupting the ratepayer. Now that SONGS is shut down we are burning Fossil Fuels, filling our kids lungs with cancer causing oxides, pumping out Ozone and adding CO2 green house gases. You think the 1.3B dollar solar problem is big? Hello? Heard of Global Warming? Read up and get educated on the realities on Solar/Wind and global warming and tell me how you plan to keep our state running with out Nuclear? For those of you that think that your nuclear free is San Onofre is shut down? Did you didnt know most of the US Navy's fleet is Nuclear and sits within miles of you?
Tamara Tatich February 25, 2013 at 10:29 PM
And...no use sniveling over what's been spent. It's done and there's no turning back. AND, I don't believe there were warranties and guarantees with that type of contract. It's not exactly shopping at Walmart. Kinda like making a bad investment, or buying high and selling low. It is what it is. We just need to get our utilities...and jobs, and taxes...etc, under control and not waste time and energy dissecting what's been done other than putting in the history books so we raise the ratio of not being repeated. Of course, history ALWAYS repeats itself.
San Juan February 26, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Bob D. why are the utilities building all them thar solar plants in the middle of the desert and wind turbinds in the hills if THEY didn't do their homework? Filling our kids lungs with what? Oh you mean the junk that every single car in the world produces, then add the fireplaces, oh and don't forget the natural stuff like volcanos. About the nuclear powered ships and subs, have you ever heard of "scuttling" (not sure how to spell that one), try doing that to SONGS... T-Byrd, your right, there is no turning back, the place needs to be Demolished ASAP, you being a new home contractor should know when it's time to rebuild. In the early day's of SONGS, do you know that they were filling the "voids" beneath the site with concrete, 24 hours a day (The Sun Post). I'm not against nuclear power, I'm against SONGS with their management. Hey it's just a big machine, it's how the machine is managed and maintained, that what makes them last. Capt. D. your a great quarterback, good info.
B Davis February 26, 2013 at 05:47 PM
San Juan- Why are the utilities building all them thar solar plants in the middle of the desert and wind turbinds in the hills if THEY didn't do their homework? - Because the state mandates a percentage of power be renewable BY LAW and not because they are cheap or a reliable source of power Of course they are placing the solar panels and wind where they are most likely to generate electricity, but that still does change the fact that the sun does not shine 24hrs/7days a week and the wind doesnt always blow. Im sorry, but your opinion about closing songs is fear based with no rational or logic about the realities on how you plan to replace it. Maybe songs needs to go away, but the reality is the generation needs to replaced first, then close it. We were very lucky for the mild summer last year with no blackouts. Go live in Columbia or Argentina for a year where blackouts last for days. I have, and I can tell you have never seen anarchy and chaos like I have caused by no power. The little San Diego blackout back in 2011 was a half a day and cost well over 100 millon.
CaptD February 27, 2013 at 01:13 AM
The NRC meeting on WED. Feb 27, 2013 at the NRC headquarters in Maryland will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and it will be webcast! http://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/doccontent.jsp?doc=%7B70C719BF-6DEE-4755-B6C6-D3CEE2551EA0%7D
San Juan February 27, 2013 at 04:17 PM
B D, The cost of Nuclear power in comparrison to solar or wind or oean "plungers" has got to be substantially cheaper if you look at the cost of erection, maintenance and management. I have "first hand knowledge" of the waste of our dollars by operating and maintaining SONGS. Closing songs is not "fear based" as you say. It is from "first hand experience and knowledge". I'm not sure if you know anything about the site, but if you do, then you can substaniate the massive amount of procedures that must be adhered to, let's just start with these, Fire Permits, opening and closing manways, confined space requirements, rigging (light and heavy), making lifts over critical plant equipment, welding, oxy acetelyne use, Health Physics requirements, man lifts, Radioactive Material Transport, Radioactive Material Handling, Radioactive Materials Storage, Greater than Class C Materials Storage, driving on site, ladder use, scaffold erection, Oh my goodness there are literally books of procedures that are so redundant in nature that it takes sometimes hours to accomplish a very simple task.
San Juan February 27, 2013 at 04:27 PM
B D, let me finish, Let me say this about "fear based" concernes, I was on a job for Unit 1 at SONGS in the early 80's where I witnessed a very high ranking individual telling a "concerned" worker to "screw a lightbulb up your a%% if your so concerned about radiation, if it lights up, get out of the hole". This is typical of SONGS management. What the worker was asking about was what were dealing with today,the current Steam Generators. His question was, If the Primary side of things go south and enters the Secondary System, which is in direct contact with ocean cooling water via condenser tubes that are always spring leaks, will it contaminate the Condensers, the outfall pipe and the ocean? When I heard the Supervisors comment I quit and about 10 others did as well.
San Juan February 27, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Still not done, were restricted to 1500 letters. I have lived in the area before the Dana Point Harbor was built and have had no desire to live anywhere else including, Columbia or Argentina and I can only imagine what would happen there without power, thus thats why I live here. Imagine you have a beautiful 8 cylinder engine, and your planning a trip to Columbia. But you realise that water has made it's way into the crankcase, or it's only running on 5 of them 8 cylinders. Your thinking to yourself, if I only run the vehicle at about 70% of it's designed power I might make it ...to Oceanside. Shut er down, let the Labor market DEMO it for the next 15 to 20 years and boost the economy for hundreds of employees and we can move on. Whew, got that off my chest!
CaptD March 02, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Judge Orders Edison To Show San Onofre Cost Is Reasonable http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/feb/22/judge-orders-southern-california-edison-show-gener/#c18368
Constance Calum October 16, 2013 at 10:04 PM
So amazing that a desalination plant is coming to San Onofre. Jobs guaranteed if the water tests pure to Scripps. No dumps or leaks and guaranteed jobs for that team. Yeah!


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