The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made it official Oct. 25; the panel will investigate the outages at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), which is operated by Edison International (NYSE: EIX) subsidiary Southern California Edison (SCE).
CPUC indicated recently that it would consider whether to open a formal investigation of the unplanned outage at the 2,000-MW-plus nuclear station in San Diego County. Both San Onofre Units 2 and 3 have been idle since January when problems were discovered in tubes in the relatively new steam generators at the station.
The investigation will determine whether to remove all costs related to SONGS from the rates of SCE and a minority owner, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), which is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).
The commission will also look at whether to refund San Onofre-related costs already collected in rates back to Jan. 1, CPUC said in a news release.
The investigation will consider the causes of the outages, the utilities’ responses, the future of the units, and the resulting effects on the provision of safe and reliable electric service at just and reasonable.
“The CPUC realizes the importance of the San Onofre nuclear plant to the state of California and the consequences of the problems with the plant for ratepayers and for all affected,” said CPUC President Michael Peevey. “This investigation will allow us to address issues related to the outages as part of our responsibility to keep the lights on and keep rates just and reasonable. We will look very critically at the utilities’ financial responsibility for the prolonged outage and who should bear those costs.”
Various commissioners said CPUC would work closely the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the probe. A pre-hearing conference will be set in the coming weeks to establish the schedule for the proceeding.
SCE recently said that it was replying to the NRC’s confirmatory action letter (CAL) and submitting a restart plan for Unit 2 to NRC. NRC, however, has indicated it could take months for it to decide whether Unit 2 should be allowed to resume operation, even at reduced power.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has also been adamant that the nuclear station cannot be allowed to resume operation prematurely.