Analyst thinks SCE avoided ‘worst case,’ Boxer wants detailed review

A Wall Street analyst and at least one member of the Senate weighed in Oct. 4 on the Southern California Edison (SCE) decision to seek Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) permission to restart San Onofre 2 at reduced power.

The Edison International (NYSE: EIX) subsidiary wants NRC approval to restart the Unit 2 reactor at 70% power and run it for five months before taking it offline again to check to see how tubes in the steam generator are holding up.

If SCE is successful in adding perhaps 800 MW of the 1,100 MW unit’s output back to the grid, it will have likely avoided a worst case scenario, Bernstein Research Senior Analyst Hugh Wynne said.

“Given the uncertainty around the remedy for the outage at Unit 3, restoring Unit 2 to service in a timely manner was critical to ensure that the worst case scenario of a write-off of SONGS [San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station] and a permanent shutdown which we had estimated might have imposed unrecoverable shareholder costs,” according to the Bernstein analysis.

At this point it appears that the financial repercussions “can be contained,” according to the analysis.

But before San Onofre 2 can return to service, the NRC must agree that SCE has satisfied concerns outlined in the Confirmatory Action Letter (CAL) issued after the units were idled in January.

NRC’s new chairman, Allison Macfarlane, has said the commission review could take months.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a frequent nuclear industry critic who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, also told NRC it must not go easy on SCE.

“I want to make certain that the NRC fully understands the causes of the unusual tube deterioration, is confident that the plant can be safely restarted given the current condition of the tubes, and has determined that the facility can be safely operated in the future,” Boxer wrote in a letter to Macfarlane.

“I request that you respond to me in writing by October 12, 2012, that you will live up to the commitment you and your fellow Commissioners made to not restart the San Onofre reactors until the NRC completes its investigation and the public has been assured of the plant’s safety,” Boxer said.

As for NRC, it also said Oct. 4 that representatives from the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and local community organizations will participate in a panel discussion that NRC is holding Oct. 9 at Dana Point, Calif.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.