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Cost for troubled San Onofre plant? $400 million and growing

The parent company of Southern California Edison, operator of the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant, reported Tuesday that the costs of the yearlong outage at the plant had ballooned to more than $400 million as of the end of 2012.

The hefty price tag includes inspections, repairs and purchasing replacement power.


Edison International officials fielded questions from analysts about the plant’s extended shutdown and the possibility that federal regulators will require the plant to go through a lengthy license amendment process before returning to service.

They also took some shots at elected officials who have accused Edison of knowingly installing defective equipment at the plant.


The plant has been out of service since last January because of unexpected wear on tubes in the plant’s steam generators.

Edison has proposed restarting the less-damaged of the plant’s two units and operating it at 70% power, which the company argued would alleviate the conditions that led to the wear. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still reviewing the proposal.

Edison indicated Tuesday that the company has looked into what repairs could be done to restore both units to full power, and was told by the steam generator manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, that the job of replacing a “significant portion” of the system could take more than five years to complete. 

The report also heralded a potentially protracted dispute between the two companies. Mitsubishi’s warranty on the equipment limited payouts to $138 million, of which the company has paid out $45 million to date. Edison is contending that the warranty cap should not apply because of unusual circumstances at San Onofre -- Mitsubishi disagrees.


Edison Chief Executive Ted Craver said the company “bristles” at allegations made publicly by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that the company was aware of design flaws in the steam generators and did not make fixes in order to avoid triggering a license amendment.

“This is just not accurate, and it injects politics into a process that should be free of it,” Craver said during Tuesday’s earnings call.

The lawmakers cited a leaked confidential report by Mitsubishi when they made their claims. The NRC has said it will make a redacted version of the report public, but has not yet done so.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth contends that Edison should be required to go through a license amendment process, including public hearings, before the plant can restart.

The NRC has yet to decide on that question, but agency staff asked Edison to demonstrate that unit proposed for restart can operate safely at its full licensed power, raising the possibility that the commission would require a license amendment in order for it to operate at 70% power.


In a response submitted Monday, Edison argued that 70% power is, in fact “normal steady state full power,” but also promised to provide an analysis by March 15 showing that the unit could operate at 100% power without danger of a tube rupture.

Edison officials were scheduled to meet with NRC staff Wednesday.

This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Abby Sewell.