Southern California Edison (SCE), which operates the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), has apparently acknowledged for the first time that it may have no choice but to shutter the aging plant later this year.
SCE is hoping that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will approve its application to restart a reactor at the plant which has been shut down since January 2012 at 70 percent power. The NRC is expected to make a decision about this proposal, which is being strongly opposed by environmental groups, within the next month or so. Now, the company is acknowledging that if the NRC denies its request, it will likely close the plant–and may even be forced to do so regardless of how the NRC proceeds.
The news came in the form of a conference call between company officials and analysts, and is bolstered by reports SCE has filed with the NRC, according to a CNS news report yesterday. Officials are blaming hundreds of millions of dollars in costs associated with San Onofre's 15-month shutdown. Specifically, SCE says, repairs and inspections have so far cost $109 million, with an additional replacement power cost of $444 million.
San Onofre is one of the oldest nuclear power plants in the country. Its Unit 1 reactor was shut down after 25 years in 1992. As Southern California's population has exploded in recent decades, questions have lingered about just how safe it is to have a nuclear power plant in such a highly populated area. The plant also sits atop an earthquake fault. Safety issues have plagued the plant in the last several years, with regulators complaining of everything from failing emergency generators to faulty wiring and falsified data.