PUC poised to investigate rates at troubled San Onofre

The California Public Utilities Commission is poised to open an investigation into the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant, a process that could result in ratepayers getting reduced utility bills in the future.

Some Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric ratepayers have complained that it's unfair for them to be paying to operate a plant that is not functioning.

Commissioners will vote next Thursday on a proposal to open an investigation into the unexpected outage at the plant, which by then will have stretched on for nearly nine months.

If approved, the investigation would provide a single means by which the commission could consider the various complex issues of costs and energy planning related to the plant’s plight, including the “causes of the outages, the utilities’ responses, the future of the [San Onofre] units, and the resulting effects on the provision of safe and reliable electric service at just and reasonable rates,” according to the proposal released Tuesday.

As well as examining the costs of the outage to date, the probe would look at the cost effectiveness of different options for repairing or replacing the defective equipment that led to the shutdown. 

San Onofre once provided as much as 20% of the power to large swaths of Southern California. It was shut down because of unexpected wear on steam generator tubes, which resulted in a leak and the release of a small amount of radioactive steam. The steam generators had been replaced less than two years prior in a project that cost plant owners Edison and SDG&E; a combined $771 million.

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This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Abby Sewell.

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