Report Cites N-Plant's High Repair Costs

Times Staff Writer

Repair costs for San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant's Unit 1 electric generating facility were the highest in the nation from 1982 to 1986, according to a report issued by Public Citizen, a Washington-based public interest group.

Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric spent $362 million to repair the 21-year-old unit during that four-year period, according to the report published by Public Citizen's Critical Mass Project, which consumer activist Ralph Nader founded in 1974.

Unit 1 at San Onofre also ranked eighth on a list of plants that paid the most fines for violations of Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations from 1985 to 1987, according to the report.

And San Onofre's three nuclear units recorded the highest operating and maintenance costs of plants operating during 1985 and 1986, according to the report.

Report Questioned

A spokesman for SCE, which owns about 75% of San Onofre's generating capacity and operates the nuclear plant, questioned the report's accuracy. A spokesman for SDG&E;, which owns about 20% of the plant's capacity, echoed SCE's concerns.

SCE Vice President Charles McCarthy, who is site manager at the nuclear plant, suggested that the report erroneously referred to more than $400 million that the utilities have spent to bring Unit 1 into line with "today's nuclear standards."

Public Citizen's report evidently included money spent for NRC-ordered upgrades rather than repairs, according to McCarthy, who argued that less than 10% of the total "could be classified as for repairs."

The utilities have spent heavily to "bring Unit 1 up to the seismic criteria that Units 2 and 3 were built to," McCarthy said. "There were also post-Three Mile Island changes ordered for all nuclear plants and money spent on fire protection that the NRC required," McCarthy said.

Rancho Seco nuclear plant near Sacramento and the Pilgrim nuclear plant near Plymouth, Mass., have the worst overall safety and economic records of the 105 nuclear plants holding NRC licenses, according to the report. San Onofre finished about halfway down the list of the nation's most troubled nuclear plants, according to the group.

10 Classifications

Public Citizen used 10 classifications to determine which plants had the worst overall economic and safety records.

The Rancho Seco plant appeared on six lists, more than any other reactor. San Onofre appeared on three lists: highest operation and maintenance costs (for all three units), highest repair costs (Unit 1) and total NRC fines (Unit 1).

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