Consultant Says It’s Cheaper to Keep San Onofre Closed and Buy Power Elsewhere

Friday, March 22, 2013
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station


Using Southern California Edison’s own numbers, an independent analysis estimates that restarting the San Onofre Nuclear Power Generating Station this summer would cost customers three times as much money as keeping it shut and buying energy elsewhere.

The analysis, conducted by M.Cubed of San Francisco for the Friends of the Earth, was filed with the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as part of an emergency motion contesting Edison’s request for a partial restart of the reactors that have been closed since radioactive steam was found leaking from damaged tubes 14 months ago.

Edison is seeking permission to restart one of the two damaged reactor units at 70% power and is hoping for a decision from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in May. The NRC is considering whether Edison should have to undergo a formal license amendment for the repairs it is making. That is an elaborate process which Edison sought to avoid when it signed off on a plant upgrade by Mitsubishi that replaced thousands of tubes in two of the power generating units.

Those tubes suffered rapid degradation from unprecedented vibration. Edison blamed Mitsubishi, which blamed computer problems and bad math for the misdesigned equipment.

The San Onofre closure cost $640 million last year, a growing tab that will be fought over by ratepayers, taxpayers and utility shareholders. The M.Cubed analysis says that replacement power would cost about one-third that amount. “Their data would seem to imply that running the plant is far more expensive than just simply purchasing power from other sources,” M.Cubed partner Steve Moss wrote in his analysis.

Edison dismissed the consultant’s calculations. Noting that Friends of the Earth is an anti-nuclear activist group that wants San Onofre permanently shuttered, a press release from spokesperson Jennifer Manfre said, “The analysis is misleading and devoid of any rational understanding of the costs and assets needed to provide reliable energy to Southern California that meets California's clean energy goals this summer and into the future.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Restarting San Onofre Isn’t Cost Effective, New Study Suggests (by Alison St. John, KPBS)

San Onofre: Restart Plan Would Cost Customers $150M More than Replacement Power (Friends of the Earth)

Redacted San Onofre Report Indicates Early Desire to Avoid Full NRC Review (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Emergency Motion of Friends of the Earth (pdf)

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