October 2012 home page

San Onofre Sins
Don Mosier | City Council Member


Several important events have happened in the summer without SONGS (the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station).

First, we have survived a hot summer without the 2,200 megawatts per day that SONGS would have normally provided. This is important. SONGS is not essential to the Southern California grid.

Second, Unit 3 is unlikely to be restarted. Fuel rods are being removed from Unit 3, and 750 workers have been laid off. Unit 2 has less damage than Unit 3, but more steam generator problems than any other nuclear generating station in the U.S. Unit 2 cannot be restarted until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approves the proposed repairs. Unit 2 and Unit 3 have identical steam generators installed only 2 years ago, so it is possible that the application to restart Unit 2 will be denied.

Third, ratepayers (you and me) have continued to pay $54 million a month for a plant that is generating no electricity. The Director of the Division of Ratepayer Advocates of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has requested the CPUC Commissioners to remove these rate charges now instead of waiting the 9 months until November when review is mandated. The CPUC has yet to take action on this request.

Fourth, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the current NRC policy for disposal of spent fuel rods, which remain radioactive for thousands of years, violates the Environmental Policy Act. This decision means that no new or renewal licenses for nuclear power plants can be issued. Renewal of the SONGS license is due in 2022.

Fifth, the seismic survey offshore of SONGS commissioned by the CPUC and paid for by ratepayers (you and me, again) at a cost of $64 million is being challenged by environmental groups concerned with the impacts of high energy sonar pulses on marine mammals and fish. These impacts include death, deafness, and permanent disorientation. While more detailed information about fault zones close to SONGS may be useful, earthquake prediction remains an inexact science. It is not clear that this survey is worth the environmental cost or the dollars ratepayers have contributed.

Even if SONGS were to be decommissioned, ratepayers (you and me) are still on the hook for the estimated $3.7 billion it will cost. The Nuclear Trust Fund that we contribute to may be underfunded, and has requested a change in investment guidelines to allow higher return
(= more risky) investments.



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