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Utilities Commissioners Comment on Edison’s Handling of San Onofre

Panel grapples with the question, should SCE have closed the nuclear plant down earlier?

Photo Credit: Alison St. John/KPBS
Photo Credit: Alison St. John/KPBS
Written by Alison St. John/KPBS


One of the main questions before a meeting of state utilities commissioners was whether the operator should have closed the nuclear plant down earlier.

San Onofre shut down initially after a small radiation leak in January 2012, and remained offline until the decision came to shut it down for good in June 2013.

The operator, Southern California Edison, contended at the meeting that it was not unreasonable to try to restart Unit Two at 70 percent power. Those unsuccessful efforts lasted months, during which time consumers continued to pay for the non-functioning nuclear plant.

During the meeting with consumer advocates and representatives from the power company, California’s PUC President Michael Peevey said Edison took too long to reach the decision to cut its losses and shut down permanently

“Many people could conclude reasonably that — setting aside politics and all the other things — that there was an economic decision that could’ve been made and should’ve been made much earlier than in fact it happened,” Peevey said.

Edison officials said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission took too long to respond to their proposals.

“I find this whole exercise a little frustrating,” CPUC Commissioner Michel Florio said. “We all know there’s an elephant in the room that is much bigger than the numbers we’re talking about in this proceeding. I feel a little bit like we’re asking when did the blindfolded man figure out that what he was touching was an elephant?”

Florio said the question of the reasonableness of Edison’s plan to restart Unit Two is not the main question of what is at stake.

“So I find it a little frustrating that this is what is in front of us first,” he said, “I guess we’ll just see how this evolves.”

No decision was made on the first phase of an investigation into whether consumers should get rebates. The first phase includes only costs incurred during 2012, and an administrative law judge has recommended rebates of $64 million. Consumer advocates argue that is a drop in the bucket, while the power company argues it is too much.

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