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San Onofre: funding approved for seismic studies

San Onofre nuclear power plant

This post has been corrected. Please see the note below.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved $64 million in funding for seismic studies at the San Onofre nuclear plant Thursday.

The costs will be recovered from Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric customers.

The studies at San Onofre and similar studies at California's other nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County, are a response to legislation that directed the California Energy Commission to assess a number of issues related to the plants, including their vulnerability to earthquakes.

San Onofre, south of San Clemente, is out of service due to equipment issues. The commission said in a statement that the study is necessary regardless of whether the plant is operating "because spent fuel and other radioactive material is likely to remain at the plant site for many years."

The work at San Onofre will include a collaboration with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography examing offshore faults near the plant. The data collected will be made available to the public.

Unlike the studies at Diablo Canyon, a peer review panel overseeing studies at San Onofre will report to the CPUC energy division director instead of to the commission. In his proposed decision on the funding request, Administrative Law Judge Robert Barnett said the peer review process at Diablo Canyon had proved "cumbersome" and did not recommend it at San Onofre.

The decision to alter the peer review process angered some, including the advocacy group Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, which said that the group would be less independent under the new set-up and the public would have less access to proceedings.

[For the Record, 2:53 p.mMay 11: An earlier version of this post said the decision would bypass peer review. A peer review group will review the studies at San Onofre, but the group will report to the energy division director rather than to commissioners].


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Photo: The San Onofre nuclear power plant has been shuttered for months because of safety concerns. Credit: Getty Images.

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