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Residents speak up on San Onofre

Officials at hearing ponder whether troubled units should be reopened; businesses says yes.

February 21, 2013|By Jill Cowan
  • Portions of the Southern California Edison nuclear power plant in San Onofre have been shut down for more than seven months, and it is unclear whether the facility can operate at full capacity again.
Portions of the Southern California Edison nuclear power… (Luis Sinco, Los…)

Money and power were on the agenda Thursday afternoon, as dozens of area residents weighed in at a California Public Utilities Commission hearing in Costa Mesa on whether to reopen two troubled units at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, and to what extent ratepayers should foot the bills racked up by the outages.

The plant has been shuttered for more than a year because of unusual degradation of steam generator tubes carrying radioactive water. The commission launched an investigation in October into the costs of the outage at San Onofre, which could eventually result in some rates being refunded to customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. That investigation may not be completed until 2014, but a decision could be made on the first phase, which will examine the plant's 2012 costs, in July.

The commission will look at the costs of the faulty replacement steam generators that prompted the plant's shutdown at a later phase in the investigation.

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Thursday's hearing, which stretched over three hours, was the first of two that day aimed at gathering public input on what the commission called Edison's "operational and financial response" to the San Onofre outages. The commission is also planning a second set of hearings in San Diego County, but dates haven't yet been set.

Comments from the hearings, a CPUC news release said, will be filed as part of official investigation records.

Neon green signs reading, "Cut our losses. Not a penny more to Edison," bobbed in the audience as speakers demanded that Edison decommission the station and refund money collected for costs related to the outages.

"Customers should not be paying a dime for a nonfunctioning nuclear plant," said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for the ratepayer advocacy nonprofit, The Utility Reform Network (TURN).

Added Grace van Thillo, 68, of San Clemente, "We're depending on the [commission]."

She suggested that the more than $1 billion collected for the plant be put toward a decommissioning fund, and to increase long-term power grid reliability.

Others — many speaking on behalf of local business advocacy groups — urged the commission to work toward getting the plant back online as soon as possible.

Not having reliable access to energy for their businesses, they told Commissioner Mike Florio and Administrative Law Judge Melanie Darling, puts a damper on economic growth.

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