San Onofre nuke shutdown shocks consumers

San Onofre nuke shutdown shocks consumers


San Onofre electricity station, wikimedia“This is very good news for the people of Southern California.” So said Erich Pica, president of the outspoken environmental group Friends of the Earth, celebrating in June 2013 the announced closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

A year and a half later, the people of Southern California are to be forgiven for thinking the decommissioning of San Onofre anything but very good news. That’s because it will cost them $3.3 billion in higher electricity rates under a settlement approved recently by the California Public Utilities Commission.

And here’s what most business and residential customers of Southern California Edison, San Onofre’s majority owner, and San Diego Gas & Electric, the nuclear plant’s minority owner, don’t know. Friends of the Earth in April this year joined the settlement with Edison and SDG&E that will saddle the utilities’ ratepayers with 75 percent of the total $4.4 billion cost of mothballing San Onofre, with Edison and SDGE shareholders footing the other 25 percent.

That’s not the result Friends of the Earth suggested to Edison and SDG&E ratepayers when they began their campaign in 2012 to Mau-Mau the utilities into decommissioning the nuclear plant.

Indeed, in Jan. 2012, a small radiation leak in one of San Onofre’s twin reactors prompted a temporary shutdown of the plant, during which it was discovered there had been certain wear and tear on tubing within the newly installed steam generators made by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.


Edison eventually repaired the problems and sought the permission of federal regulators to restart the nuclear plant. But Friends of the Earth insisted San Onofre was inherently unsafe, that it posed “a unique threat to 8 million Californians living within 50 miles” of the nuclear plant just south of San Clemente, and that it should be permanently shut down.

Friends of the Earth’s alarmist campaign ultimately succeeded. San Onofre sat idle for 16 month, costing Edison more than $550 million in repairs and loss of plant revenue.

In October 2012, the anti-nuke activist group argued that “continued operation of San Onofre is not cost effective.”

Edison agreed, with continued uncertainty as to if and when federal regulators would allow San Onofre to start producing electricity again, the utility decided to decommission the plant.


Friends of the Earth declared “Victory!” on its Facebook page, hailing Edison’s capitulation.

FOE suggested that the 2,200 megawatts San Onofre generated when fully operational – which accounted for roughly 20 percent of Edison’s total electricity production – could easily be replaced by a solar power and wind energy. It linked to a statement from Pica:

“We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind.”

But that hasn’t happened yet.

More, as has reported, there often is a delay between when daytime solar power ramps down and evening wind power ramps up. That delay forces the electricity companies to buy costly natural-gas generated electricity on the spot market – another shock to ratepayers. That problem didn’t occur with San Onofre’s electricity because generation was continuous.

FOE also suggested the cost of San Onofre’s permanent shutdown wouldn’t be felt by customers of Edison and SDG&E.

The people of Southern California now know the shocking truth: They were misled to the tune of $3.3 billion in higher electricity rates, plus higher rates during the solar-wind power transition.


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  1. Ronald Stein
    Ronald Stein 1 December, 2014, 09:23

    Yes, the public got its wish, to shutdown SONGS. Now those same folks will pick up the tab to mothball SONGS to the tune of $3.3 billion in higher electricity rates, plus higher rates to import energy from remote sources to where it’s needed, and then wait for the solar-wind power transition if and when it occurs. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the greatest tool available for the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and the BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). CEQA makes local group more powerful than any politician. A few people with picket signs and a CEQA lawsuit can stop virtually any project from getting off the ground.

    Reply this comment
  2. Sean
    Sean 1 December, 2014, 12:02

    I saw an interesting plot of power generation by type over the last couple of decades. It seems renewables like wind and solar are not displacing fossil fuels, rather they are replacing non-CO2 emitting sources like nuclear when the facilities operating license is up. Considering that most wind and solar do not exceed 20 percent of nameplate power generation (total MW-hrs) it is going to take a lot of renewable capacity to replace SONGS. One good thing, the high electric prices from this fiasco will likely push electricity consumption down. I’m sure more than a couple energy intensive manufacturing firms are already looking to relocate where power is cheaper.

    Here in Maryland, our nuclear power plants are still going strong but the governor and legislature passed a law that applies a 1.5% surcharge to electricity in the state to pay for offshore wind that won’t be installed until 2018 at the earliest. We are all wondering if the “pain at the plug” will get worse or better when these wind resources come on-line. Either way, our utility providers are expected to collect $3 billion over the next 30 years to pay for feeling good they way we make power.

    Reply this comment
  3. Dork
    Dork 1 December, 2014, 14:54

    Wind and Solar are pipe dreams that have no basis in reality as a useable stable source of energy. There is not enough LAND in the US to put Wind or Solar Farms on, to generate even 50% of the Electricity we use today.
    Every last person in these groups should be Proudly displayed on All Utility Customers Bills, Their pictures should be in the paper,internet,hanging on poles in neighborhoods, and most importantly on Milk Cartons.


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  4. Itachee
    Itachee 1 December, 2014, 16:10

    And about 6 years ago about 1/2 of the wind turbines on Altamont Pass in the Bay area had to be removed because of enviro protests over birds being killed by the whirling turbine blades. And there have been similar protests about turbines killing birds in other areas of the State and US. And let us not forget that hydro electric dams on several rivers are being removed due to fishery issues

    Enviro groups won’t be happy until we are forced to light our homes with candles and oil lamps. Oh wait, can’t do that – CO2 emissions.

    Reply this comment
  5. T Mind of Ted Your God
    T Mind of Ted Your God 1 December, 2014, 19:08

    When I lived in So Cal I lived for 5 years very near that leaky, violating, discharging old pile of crap—- so glad it is shut down and not working the dynamic pressures as once before!

    God Bless FOE and the other enviro groups!

    Reply this comment
  6. Hondo
    Hondo 1 December, 2014, 22:51

    I used to surf at San Onofre all the time and my pee still doesn’t glow in the dark ( that would be so cool if it did). I still don’t have cancer and someone please show me any health problems that the plant caused.
    Radiation has been fantastically over rated as a health problem. You only have to look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see. The Japs rebuilt those cities directly on the sites of the bomb blasts. Yes, there was some cancer and problems in the early days when the radiation levels were sky hi. But as not too many years past, the illness levels of those too cities quickly became similar to cities who hadn’t been nuked.
    The same at Chernobyl. As years past, they can’t find any sign of three legged wolves or bats with 9 eyes. Even with high (according to the experts)levels of radiation that still exist in some places there, they have found no real health problems in the animals that live on the site.
    There have been no worse radiation disasters than Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl. Yet those instances prove that radiation poisoning is profoundly over rated.
    So, surfs up!!!!!

    Reply this comment
    • T Mind of Ted Your God
      T Mind of Ted Your God 2 December, 2014, 14:21

      LOL Honda— you live in denial! Edison LOVES tools like you! Good boy!!!

      Hey, the cancer is a coincidence……why even bring it up at all?

      Reply this comment
  7. Ealesglen
    Ealesglen 2 December, 2014, 08:52

    All 3 plants at that location?
    Owners do not have cash saved for these economic alternatives discussed in the article?

    Reply this comment
  8. T Mind of Ted Your God
    T Mind of Ted Your God 2 December, 2014, 14:23

    San Clemente IS a nuke waste dump–literally—— over time property values in south OC will reflect same! LMAO

    Reply this comment
  9. joanbob
    joanbob 31 December, 2014, 12:41

    FOE needs to get sued by ratepayers to force FOE to pay for the decommissioning.

    Reply this comment

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