The San Onofre nuclear power plant that has been running for 24 years on a temporary federal license soon will get its full operating license, but state regulators already are thinking it might be time to shut it down.
The plant off Interstate 5 near Camp Pendleton is the nation's third-oldest operating nuclear power facility. It's the last one still running on a temporary or "provisional operating license," which first was issued in 1967 for 18 months.
For years, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission withheld a "full-term operating license" while it required $360-million worth of safety improvements at the reactor, which cost $89 million to build. More safety modifications are needed, but the NRC decided this summer it will issue the full license by the end of this month, said George Kalman, the agency's project manager for San Onofre.
But California's Public Utility Commission will open hearings next month on whether it is worth charging consumers $125 million for the improvements the NRC wants.
The commission doesn't have direct authority to force Southern California Edison to junk the reactor, but it could do so by denying the rate increase.
If the rate increase were rejected, Southern California Edison would run the reactor until at least late 1993, when it would need refueling, utility company spokesman Steve Hansen said Monday.
"To be honest, we don't know what we would do after that," Hansen said.