San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in Southern California to Close

June 7, 2013

The troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant on California’s coast is closing, after a 16-month battle over whether the twin reactors could be safely restarted with millions of people living nearby, officials announced Friday.

Southern California Edison, which operates the plant, said in a statement it will retire the reactors because of uncertainty about the future of the plant, which was facing regulatory hurdles and investigations. With the reactors idle, the company has spent more than $500 million on repairs and replacement power.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in late May called for the Justice Department to investigate if California utility executives deceived federal regulators about an equipment swap at the San Onofre nuclear power plant that eventually led to a radiation leak.

The plant between San Diego and Los Angeles hasn’t produced electricity since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

SCE had been seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the Unit 2 reactor and run it at reduced power, in hopes of stopping vibration that had damaged the tubing.

About 7.4 million Californians live within 50 miles of San Onofre, which can power 1.4 million homes. California officials have said they would be able to make it through the summer without the plant but warned that wildfires or another disruption in distribution could cause power shortages.

The problems at San Onofre center on steam generators that were installed during a $670 million overhaul in 2009 and 2010. After the plant was shut down, tests found some generator tubes were so badly eroded that they could fail and possibly release radiation, a stunning finding inside the nearly new equipment.

San Onofre is owned by SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside.

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