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Troubles at San Onofre

Defective steam generators have caused a long-running outage at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

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SAN DIEGO — Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre described being cursed at and bullied during a hearing over the defunct San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.

Aguirre fought back in the war of words Thursday and filed legal documents protesting what he called the fraudulent bailout of the plant.

san-onofre-plantAguirre’s concerned over how much Californians will pay for shutting down the nuke plant after a leak in one of the reactors.

The exchange happened during a May 14 hearing in San Francisco where Aguirre, now a ratepayer advocate, asked the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Peevey, about his possible role in the settlement.

“I’m not here to answer your goddamned questions,” Peevey told Aguirre. “Now shut up — shut up!”

Aguirre said it was shocking.  He doesn’t believe the ratepayer should be on the hook for the $3.3 billion shutdown.

“It’s bad enough that they’re charging ratepayers unreasonable amounts of money and they’re not protecting them,” said Aguirre. “Now, they’re basically saying to the ratepayers, and I’m an advocate for the rate payers, ‘We don’t have to answer any of your questions. We can just do whatever we want,’ and that’s tyranny.”

Aguirre specifically wanted to know if Peevey met with plant owner Southern California Edison which would be inappropriate since the commission is supposed to be an impartial decider on whether the settlement is fair.

“We think this should come out of the investors side and not the ratepayers side,” said Aguirre.

Fox 5 asked Peevey for an interview, but received a written statement from the Public Utilities Commission stating Aguirre’s questions during the hearing were improper.  No comment was offered about Peevey’s outburst.

The commission is expected to make a decision over the summer about the fairness of the settlement.

SAN DIEGO — A proposed settlement reached Monday would relieve customers of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison of paying $1.4 billion in utility charges related to steam generators that caused the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station.

sanOnofre2The settlement agreed upon by The Utility Reform Network, state Office of Ratepayer Advocates and the two utility companies still needs approval from the state Public Utilities Commission.

According to TURN and the state ORA, the deal would retroactively prevent the utilities’ customers from having to pay for the steam generators from the time of the shutdown in late January 2012. The financial burden would be shifted to the utilities’ shareholders.

For Rosemead-based SCE, that works out to $1.12 billion, according to the ORA. For San Diego Gas & Electric, the total is $286 million.

SDG&E owned 20 percent of the plant on the northern San Diego County shoreline, and received one-fifth of the power it generated.

“This settlement agreement is an extremely good deal for customers who will see a refund of hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years,” said Joe Como, ORA’s acting director.

The ORA also announced that the utilities’ customers could share in additional savings, depending on whether Edison is successful in litigation against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Japanese firm that manufactured the steam generators.

According to TURN, SCE and SDG&E would also refund any money collected from ratepayers since the beginning of last year in excess of the actual operational costs of the plant, and would refund to customers any money resulting from the sale of extra materials and supplies along with unused nuclear fuel.

A small, non-injury leak forced the closure of one of San Onofre’s reactors two years ago. The other unit was undergoing scheduled maintenance at the time, and was never restarted.

Edison shelved restart plans last June and decided to retire the reactors.

“This proposed settlement means that customers don’t pay for the steam generator project after the tube leak at San Onofre, leaving SCE financially responsible for its ownership share in the project,” said Edison President Ron Litzinger. “Our customers will pay for replacement power they received. The settlement, if approved by state regulators, provides certainty regarding the appropriate cost recovery for the remaining investment in the San Onofre nuclear plant, replacement power costs and authorized revenues.”

He said the deal provides a “clear road map” for SCE to pursue claims against Mitsubishi.

SDG&E President Jeffrey Martin called the proposed settlement “fair and reasonable” for balancing the interests of customers and shareholders.

“The settlement ensures that customers will not have to pay for San Onofre’s faulty steam generators post-shutdown and also allows shareholders to recoup the majority of their non-steam generator investment in the plant, which provided clean, reliable, low-cost energy to the region for more than 40 years,” Martin said.

SDG&E said it would “vigorously” pursue claims against Mitsubishi.

CPUC President Michael Peevey said the settlement will come before the commissioners for approval after a public hearing is held.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. – An auction at the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Plant will get underway Wednesday.

Southern California Edison is teaming up with MRI Auctions Inc. to auction off various items including heavy machinery, testing equipment, hammers, file cabinets and more.

san-onofreSoCal Edison spokeswoman, Maureen Brown, said selling equipment of this nature is standard procedure at decommissioning industrial sites.

“It’s a really efficient way for us to reuse inventory and put this equipment in the hands of other companies that can put it to very good use,” Brown said. “Typically, the experts tell us at an auction like this, we would get cents on the dollar for the value of this equipment.”

Several companies have shown interest in some of the products including the computerized milling machine.

The three-day auction starting March 26 can also be accessed online where pictures and videos of the items are posted. To take part in the auction, contenders need to be pre-qualified and have cash.

Items left behind will likely be donated to the community and a company would haul the larger pieces of machinery if necessary.

“None of these components were involved in what the public would consider the radioactive side of the plant,” Brown said.

The controversial nuclear plant was permanently shut down in June 2013.

SAN DIEGO — The California Public Utilities Commission Thursday ordered Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to procure energy supplies to meet Southern California power needs to make up for the loss of the retired San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

SCE was ordered to acquire between 500 and 700 megawatts, and SDG&E between 500 and 800 megawatts by 2022 to meet local capacity needs. The power should include renewable energy, according to the CPUC.

San Diego Gas and ElectricSDG&E said 200 megawatts will come from renewable resources such as solar, wind and other alternative resources.  The remainder will likely come from natural gas.

“To maintain the reliability of the system, we do need natural gas,” said Jennifer Ramp of SDG&E.

The Sierra Club of San Diego already wants to pull the plug on the utility’s plan.

“The problem is SDG&E will automatically pursue gas plants,” said Pete Hasapopoulos, a community organizer.  “They don’t favor clean energy.  They favor more and more gas plants, it fits their business model, and it fits their bottom line.”

Hasapopoulos said the utility has it’s eye on Carlsbad for a new plant.

“It’s the last thing San Diego needs,” said Hasapopoulos. “These plants are terrible in emitting greenhouse gasses and they emit lots of pollution.”

He said new plants are extremely expensive.

“They cost anywhere from $1 to $5 billion and it’s the rate payers footing the bill,” said Hasapopoulos.

SDG&E said they have no plans to build a new plant, but Ramp pointed out the energy must come from somewhere.

“We’ll really look at all the tools in the toolbox,” said Ramp.  “It’s the state’s decision and we do need to keep the lights on.”

“This action helps us move forward in meeting the electricity needs of Southern California now that the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is permanently closed,” CPUC President Michael Peevey said. “Our combination of preferred resources and some more conventional generation will help in making a more secure energy future for Southern California consumers.”

Commissioner Mike Florio said the utilities and commission will work together to ensure the renewable energy will not only add capacity but reliability.

According to the CPUC, the commission decided previously that it was not feasible to rely solely on renewable resources to meet local energy needs, so conventional gas-fired resources must also be used to ensure reliability.

The agency said it plans to “continue pursuing preferred resources to the greatest extent possible, but must always ensure that grid operations are not potentially compromised by excessive reliance on intermittent resources and resources with uncertain ability to meet need.”

onofreCAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Emergency sirens will sound on Camp Pendleton and in cities in southern Orange County Wednesday as the siren system for the recently retired San Onofre nuclear plant is tested.

The annual test involves the cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, as well as other areas of southern Orange County, nearby state parks and the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base.

The siren test remains a regulatory requirement even though the plant is retired, according to Pete Dietrich, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Rosemead-based Southern California Edison. In a real emergency, the siren system would alert residents to turn on their radio or television for emergency response information from public officials.

Fifty sirens will sound several times in the communities around the San Onofre nuclear plant from 10 a.m. to noon and will last about three minutes each time. The sirens sound a continuous, steady tone, making them noticeably different from those used by fire and police departments.

Fliers explaining the test have been distributed to residents, businesses and schools in the area. Before and during the siren test, broadcasts on Orange County’s primary Emergency Alert System radio station, KWVE 107.9, will inform the public of the test.

The sirens are activated by Orange County, the cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, state parks officials and Camp Pendleton. The sirens also could be used by local government officials to inform residents of a non-nuclear emergency.

SCE announced June 7 that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3, and begin the process to decommission the facility, which is jointly owned by SCE (78.21 percent), San Diego Gas & Electric (20 percent) and the city of Riverside (1.79 percent).

SAN DIEGO – San Onofre may be shut down, but the debate over who pays continues.

Residents gathered Tuesday to protest San Diego Gas & Electric rate hikes prior to a California Public Utilities Commission public hearing in San Diego.

Protestors held signs reading “You Break It, You Buy it” and urged commissioners to put the cost of decommissioning the plant with the utility, Southern California Edison.

“We shouldn’t have to pay a dime for this,” said Donna Gilmore, San Clemente resident. “If the PUC rewards Edison for this boondoggle what kind of message does that send?”

The Commission held a public hearing in the afternoon and evening, giving residents an opportunity to voice their concerns.

“For everyday people it’s really hard, these rate increases that are being proposed,” said Derek Casady, La Jolla resident. “I hope they do the right thing.”

Ratepayers are also concerned the utility is trying to charge for the power plants that are being used to replace San Onofre. CPUC chairman Mike Florio said a vote will take place on that issue next month.

“People do have to pay for the energy they use, but they shouldn’t have to pay twice for it,” said Florio. “That’s what we’re concerned about is that the utilities are asking for recovery of the plant that’s not running and the plants that are running to replace the one that’s not running. That’s overreaching in my view.”

Ray Lutz, spokesman for the Coalition to Decommission San Onofre, a grassroots organization, said he will be asking the CPUC to develop a Citizens’ Oversight Panel for the $4 billion decommission fund.

“We need a citizen panel there to watch every single dollar that’s spent,” said Lutz. “And make sure it’s spent wisely and that there’s no waste, fraud and abuse that goes on.”

Critics said documents prove Southern California Edison and the manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, were aware of problems with the replacement steam generators and chose not to make changes. They said Tuesday that’s reason enough to lack trust.

San OnofreSAN DIEGO — The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to hold public meetings today on rate-setting issues related to outages at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and its eventual closure.

The agency is investigating the extended outages and the subsequent retirement of San Onofre’s reactors as it tries to determine whether any refunds to ratepayers or rate reductions are warranted. The meetings will allow the CPUC to hear from the public about how rates should be set as a result of the non-operation of the plant.

The facility along the northern San Diego County coastline has been idle since a small non-injury leak was discovered in one of the reactors in January 2012. The other reactor was undergoing scheduled maintenance at the time.

Southern California Edison, the plant’s operator and majority owner, decided in June to retire the reactors, prompting questions over whether costs should be borne by ratepayers or shareholders.

San Diego Gas & Electric owned 20 percent of the nuclear plant and received one-fifth of its power.

The CPUC meetings are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Al Bahr Shriners Building, 5440 Kearny Mesa Road. Members of the public who wish to speak are urged to arrive a half-hour early.

The public can also submit written comments to the CPUC Public Advisor, 505 Van Ness Ave., Room 2103, San Francisco, Calif., 94102 or via email to public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov. The agency asks that all written or email comments refer to the proceeding number I.12-10-013.

Public comments received are provided to the CPUC’s commissioners and the administrative law judge assigned to the case.

CARLSBAD, Calif. — A public meeting on the decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County will be held by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Thursday night in Carlsbad.

San-Onofre-1The 6 p.m. hearing at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa will delve into issues brought about by the decision of Southern California Edison — the plant’s operator and majority-owner — to shutter the two reactors.

The NRC’s technical staff is scheduled to deliver a 45-minute presentation on the decommissioning process and regulations, and will then take questions from the public.

Troubles at the plant, which delivered 20 percent of its power to San Diego Gas & Electric, began in January 2012 when a small, non-injury leak was discovered in one of the two reactors. The other unit was shut down for maintenance at the time.

A subsequent investigation by Edison revealed excessive wearing of pressure tubes caused by vibrations in massive steam generators manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and installed in 2010 and 2011.

The NRC on Monday cited Edison for the failure. The utility is taking legal action against Mitsubishi.

Rosemead-based SCE announced in early June that it would retire both reactors, after a plan to restart the unit where the leak did not occur ran into opposition.

According to the NRC, the doors to the hearing room will open at 5 p.m. to allow for security screening. The hotel is located at 2100 Costa del Mar Road.

San OnofreSAN DIEGO — A public meeting on the decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County will be held Sept. 26 , the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday.

The hearing at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa will focus issues surrounding the decision by Southern California Edison — the plant’s operator and majority-owner — to close the two reactors.

The NRC’s technical staff will give a 45-minute presentation on the decommissioning process and regulations and will then take questions from the public.

Troubles at the plant, which delivered 20 percent of its power to San Diego Gas & Electric, began in January 2012 when a small, non-injury leak was discovered in one of the two reactors. The other unit was shut down for maintenance at the time.

A subsequent investigation by Edison revealed excessive wearing of pressure tubes caused by vibrations in massive steam generators manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and installed in 2010 and 2011. The utility is taking legal action against Mitsubishi.

Rosemead-based SCE announced in early June that it would retire both reactors, after a plan to restart the unit where the leak did not occur ran into opposition.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the hotel at 2100 Costa del Mar Road. The doors will open at 5 p.m. to allow for security screening.

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