Public sounds off on San Onofre shutdown costs

Customers Deserve Refunds for San Onofre Boondoogle

Southern California Edison fired another salvo at its former contractor, demanding that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries pay it $140 million for the cost of investigating the failure of steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Edison on Tuesday released a Sept. 27 letter that accused Mitsubishi of “stonewalling” by continuing to seek more documentation about the cost of the utility’s probes.

“Your letter makes clear that Mitsubishi has no intention of meeting its contractual obligations to reimburse expenses incurred as a result of the defective replacement steam generators,” Edison wrote.

Mitsubishi, now involved in a legal dispute with Edison, declined to respond to the accusations.

The failure of the $769-million steam generators, which leaked small amounts of radioactivity at the San Diego County complex, led to Edison’s decision in July to permanently shutter the 2,200-megawatt generating station. The 30-year-old plant is slated for a lengthy decommissioning process overseen by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission

San Onofre was the largest single source of power for 1.4 million households in Southern California.

Edison’s public lambasting of Mitsubishi came as the Rosemead-based company was being pilloried by consumer and ratepayer advocates as well as residents, who live near the plant on the coast in the northwestern corner of San Diego County south of San Clemente.

Critics testified at a California Public Utilities Commission hearing in San Diego that customers of Edison and its minority partners, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and the Riverside municipal utility, should not be forced to pay for the failed steam generators or for the purchase of replacement power to make up for San Onofre’s loss.

Jon Fox, a consumer advocate with the California Public Interest Research Group, stressed that shareholders, not ratepayers, must pay the cost of Edison’s “mishandling” of the steam generator project.

Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco ratepayers group, asked the commission to order rate cuts or rebates so customers can recoup some of the money they’ve been paying for the failed upgrade at San Onofre.

“San Onofre is down and rates should be too,” Toney said.

Edison in a full-page advertisement published in the Los Angeles Times and other Southern California newspapers last summer, argued that its customers should be prepared to share of the cost of shutting down San Onofre.

“[If] a utility asset must be retired before the end of its expected life, the utility recovers from customers its reasonable investment costs,” Edison wrote.

Permanently closing and decommissioning San Onofre is estimated to cost as much as $4.1 billion.