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CPUC Official: Edison Customers Shouldn't Pay for San Onofre

Ratepayers shouldn't be on the hook for the plant while it's shut down, says the head ratepayer advocate for the California Public Utilities Commission.

customers shouldn't have to pay for continued expenses incurred by the beleaguered (SONGS), said one high-ranking official at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Joseph P. Como, the head of the CPUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates sent a letter to the commissioners this week stating they should "remove SONGS from Southern California Edison's... and San Diego Gas & Electric's... rate base now instead of waiting several more months and allowing hundreds of millions of dollars in needless costs to be borne by customers."

An investigation into whether it's worth it to the ratepayers to keep the plant open would automatically trigger after nine months of non-operation. That would be in November for Unit 3 and December for Unit 2.

But that section of the code "is not intended to be a free pass for utilities to earn a return on nonfunctioning hardware for nine months," Como wrote. "The commission has a responsibility to act sooner when the facts before it demonstrate that a major part of a jurisdictional utility's plant is out of service."

The commission has twice postponed voting on whether to start such an early investigation.

The San Onofre plant . The leak, though minor itself, revealed widespread wear in crucial heat exchanger tubes unprecedented in the industry.

The outage cost Southern California Edison

Edison officials want to restart Unit 2, where there were fewer worn-out tubes, at partial strength for a shorter-than-normal operating period.

Unit 3, where there was the most severe damage, has engineers scratching their heads about how to fix the problems.

Como in his letter referred to a 1982 decision against the nuclear plant operators to support his point.

"The commission followed its staff recommendation that SONGS 2 [Unit 2] should not be included in [the] rate base until it was in commercial operation," Como writes. "The commission did not think it reasonable for ratepayers to bear the full cost of the plant without receiving commensurate benefits of generation and reliable service."

Como says the California Supreme Court also upheld the part of the code that states the utility must be functioning to be included in the rate base, stating that a plant in question must be "used and useful."

"It seems very obviously that a fundamental prerequisite for a power generator to be considered "used and useful" is that it actually be generating power," Como writes. "SONGS does not meet this test."

Southern California Edison officials said in a statement that they are aware of the letter and want to work with the commission.

"We are currently focused on our planning for the repairs of Unit 2, which we will submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as soon as plans are complete," said San Onofre Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich in the Edison release. "We recognize that the extended outage has been a challenge for customers, and we will work with the commission to meet the regulatory framework as designed."

Visit our Patch topic page for almost 400 news stories chronicling the last few years in the history of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Rochelle Becker August 16, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Rochelle Becker The CPUC is also looking at adequate decommissioning funds should SONGS not open - Mr. Dietrich is being optimistic. Can SCE afford to make repairs or replace without ratepayer funding? A question the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility is asking all oversight agencies in California.
george gregory August 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM
so they are being paid even if they dont produce power crooks
Carole Levers August 23, 2012 at 05:28 PM
The facility is so dangerous...it should be permanently closed and decommissioned by SCE...not the taxpayers dime. They have milked enough from us while putting our well being at risk.

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