NRC leaves lump of coal in San Onofre’s stocking

NRC leaves lump of coal in San Onofre’s stocking

 

San Onofre electricity station, wikimediaThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week cited Southern California Edison for failing to check the design of steam generators that led to the permanent shutdown of its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Chaired by Allison Macfarlane, the five-member commission determined that “design control measures were not established to provide for verifying and checking the adequacy of certain designs.” Yet NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said the commission’s citation carries no penalties or sanctions.

What it does is make it all the more daunting for SCE to recover the costs of prematurely shuttering San Onofre. And while that could prove quite costly to the utility’s shareholders, it also would be “a disaster for the state,” as UC San Diego professor David Victor recently explained.

In an essay published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Victor noted that the construction of San Onofre, the seaside plant between Los Angeles and San Diego, was the product of a “regulatory compact” between SCE, its partners San Diego Gas & Electric and the City of Riverside, and electricity users in Southern California.

SCE, the 2200-megawatt nuclear plant’s majority owner, SDG&E and Riverside financed San Onofre’s $4.6 billion construction costs, $2 billion of which so far has been recovered from their electricity ratepayers. But that leaves the remaining $2.6 billion unrecovered.

Ratepayers

The five-member California Public Utilities Commission will decide in the months to come how much of that $2.6 billion will be borne by electricity ratepayers in Southern California. As it is, the state regulatory agency actually is considering “refunding” ratepayers $94 million for the months San Onofre’s two nuclear reactors were offline before SCE finally decided to decommission the facility.

Dr. Victor, author of the book, “Global Warming Gridlock,” warns that, if the CPUC breaks the regulatory compact between the owners of San Onofre and their electricity customers, it will “undermine the state’s ability to raise private investment for all infrastructure – not just nuclear power, but also transforming the electric grid, revitalizing the state’s water supply network and other worthy goals.”

That’s not just speculation by the UCSD professor, who previously served as director of Stanford University’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. He has studied regulatory compacts around the world. And he has found that, “[W]hen governments break these deals, the initial euphoria of sticking it to big companies usually ends in a nightmare.”

The nightmare here in California, Dr. Victor suggested, is that the investor community will be so “spooked” by the CPUC’s abrogation of the San Onofre regulatory compact that it will be unwilling to invest in solar energy and wind power, the alternatives to nuclear energy advocated by the interest groups that succeeded in pressuring SCE to retire San Onofre.

That would almost certainly guarantee that California fails to meet its ambitious goal, under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

11 comments

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  1. Howard
    Howard 28 December, 2013, 18:07

    Are they saying that coal is safer and less polluting than nuclear energy? Some people think of the fact that uranium and plutonium atoms split the same way Victorians thought about how babies are made.

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  2. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 29 December, 2013, 16:16

    Good Job NRC– AGAIN—– Songs was run like this for decades and conservatyives applauded every watt, safety violkation and unlawful discharge—- pathetic.

    Reply this comment
  3. Ace Hoffman
    Ace Hoffman 31 December, 2013, 08:58

    I wonder why Mr. Perkins chose to interview the UCSD professor that wrote that book, talking about the CPUC breaking a “regulatory compact” with SCE. Perhaps it is getting difficult to find anyone with any “credentials” with anything good to say for SCE, so the columnist had to settle for Dr. Victor and Victor Dricks, who has spent years honing his skills as chief apologist for the NRC on SanO. If the CPUC decides SoCal cheated to get the money, as they should, that’s not a black mark on the CPUC’s control of the nuclear industry or any other industry. No industry should expect regulators to let them get away with creating an unsolvable environmental problem or acting negligently — both of which SoCal Edison undoubtedly did. If the CPUC does its job, wind and solar power companies in California should expect fair treatment and proper regulation, which means their competitors will not be able to get a leg up by cheating the customer and the system. Everybody wins with proper regulation. California regulators have ignored the dangers of our nuclear power plants for too long — and the waste problem they have been creating. The NRC does not provide proper regulation at ANY nuclear power plant and forbid state agencies from even discussing “safety” issues entirely. They are a “captured” agency: a lap-dog of the industry they regulate.

    Ace

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  4. Ray Lutz
    Ray Lutz 31 December, 2013, 17:15

    The original cost of the San Onofre plant was completely recovered by the original investors as of 2002. Between then and now, the investors have been making bets that the plant could be relicensed and that the steam generator project would be success. When a company fails to perform, it is proper and good policy to make investment in the project unrecoverable, to incentivize good management. The dirty secret is that these nuclear plants are economic disasters. The San Onofre plant was shut down in 2012, and so prices should have been a bit higher as a result. There were only 16 16-hour periods in the entirety of 2012 when the San Onofre plant would have beat the market for energy. We actually will save money if we can get away from these fiscal blunders, as politically correct as they may be for the pro-nuke crowd.

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  5. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 1 January, 2014, 10:22

    Meanwhile we all wait the results of the longitudinal cancer study to see how many victims live around its historic chronic unlawful discharging locale.

    Reply this comment
  6. Rick Morgal
    Rick Morgal 2 January, 2014, 22:54

    One would assume that the regulatory compact would include SCE being a responsible party to the safe operation and professional re-design of the flawed steam generators. Hiding behind Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s flawed software as the cause of the failure demonstrates how incapable SCE’s Nuclear Plant Design Staff really is at supervising the design of the steam generators. Its about time the NRC put some responsibility on SCE which then adds economic creditability to the State’s emphasis on renewable alternatives. Plus once the price tag associated with storing the spent nuclear fuel (aka nuclear waste) on-site is determined it will be a boon for the state and ratepayers to have shut San Onofre down early, reducing the amount of waste to be stored on-site. Private investment knows we need water, renewable power, and grid updates. Its about time private investors understand we can’t afford nuclear power and there is no money to be made in this ill fated industry.

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  7. Bill - San Jose
    Bill - San Jose 13 January, 2014, 09:30

    Powerplants on this coast will have to be cooled by fresh water instead of ocean water before getting new PPAs. San Onofre was going to cost 4.5B to switch to fresh water so this is the dog and pony show to keep the feelgooders busy while rates will increase and possible outages are the new norm.

    GGs SoCal.

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