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Repair bill for San Onofre nuclear plant could hit $65 million

May 2, 2012 |  7:25 pm

San Onofre

Edison International officials estimate that the company's cost for inspections and repairs at the closed San Onofre nuclear plant will be between $55 million and $65 million, but said that the costs may be recovered under a manufacturer's warranty.

The company, which revealed the figures during a conference call about its first-quarter earnings, also incurred costs of $30 million for replacement power through March 31, Edison reported. Officials did not give an estimate of what total replacement power costs will be.

The plant has been closed since Jan. 31, when a steam generator tube in the plant's reactor Unit 3 sprung a leak, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam. Since then, 192 tubes in Unit 2 and 317 tubes in Unit 3 have been taken out of service due to excessive wear.

San Onofre’s four steam generators were replaced within about the last two years at a cost of $671 million, to be recovered from ratepayers. They were intended to last at least through the end of the plant’s current license in 2022.

Officials said Edison can recover up to $137 million under its warranty with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which covers repairs but not replacement power. Ratepayers may pay some or all of the cost of obtaining the  power to fill the void left by the darkened nuclear facility.

The tube wear is unusual for such new equipment and appears to be caused by tubes vibrating and rubbing against one another and against support structures, but officials have not said why they think that is happening.

Edison officials have not publically stated a timeline for finishing their investigation and restarting the plant.

An email sent out by the market intelligence company Industrial Info Resources to its subscribers Wednesday and obtained by The Times said Edison officials had mapped out a plan to bring Unit 2 back online June 1, and that they hoped to bring Unit 3 back into service 15 days later, but “it could be as late as a month afterward.”

Restarting the facility would still require approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said she was unsure where those dates had come from, but said that they were not current. She said Edison still needs to submit a repair plan to the NRC, get it approved and hold a public meeting before either unit can come back into service and that she thought it was unlikely that would happen before June 1.

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said Edison has not provided the agency with any target startup dates.

“Before they do that, they will need to prove to us that they have identified the cause or causes of the tube degradation and have a plan to ensure that they don’t occur in the future,” he said.

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-- Abby Sewell

Photo: San Onofre nuclear power plant. Credit: The Times

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