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Regulators vote for financial probe of San Onofre

Associated Press Modified: October 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm •  Published: October 25, 2012

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday opened an investigation into the damaged San Onofre nuclear power plant to determine whether ratepayers should bear costs tied to the facility that has been shut down most of the year.

The five-member commission voted unanimously to start a probe into whether ratepayers should be refunded for these costs and the cost-effectiveness of repairing or replacing one or both of the two units at the plant.

The vote came after dozens of residents and business leaders pleaded with the state utilities regulator against — and for — a plan to restart the plant, which hasn't produced power since January due to crippled steam generators.

"We will investigate the causes of the outages, the responsibility of the operator and the future of the plant thoroughly and carefully," Commissioner Mark J. Ferron told the several hundred people who attended the meeting in Irvine.

Southern California Edison, which owns 78 percent of the plant, said in a statement that the company will look to warranties and insurance to recover costs associated with the outages. Last year, the company estimated it would cost roughly $640 million to run the plant in 2012, said company spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre.

The plant is also owned by San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside.

At this point, it is not clear when, or if, the reactors will return to service.

Critics of nuclear power who want the plant permanently shut down pleaded with commissioners to refund ratepayers and shift the cost burden to the utility owner's shareholders to get the company to make more sound decisions about safety and future investments in the site.

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