More nuclear follies

As Entergy clings to ever more absurd arguments before the PSB, insisting that its pattern of misrepresentations does not constitute “unreliability,”  fibs and distortions are also making nuclear news in California.

The San Onofre nuclear power plant, was moth-balled in 2012 due to  

unusual degradation of the plant’s steam generator tubes.

As you may  recall, an investigation by Vermont’s own Fairewinds Associates, conducted on behalf of Friends of the Earth “persuaded” the NRC to put an indefinite hold on efforts to restart the facility.

Now we are learning that  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Southern California Edison knew that there were serious design flaws even before the equipment was installed.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) obtained a leaked copy of the report and wrote to the head of the NRC last week alleging that the report “indicates that Southern California Edison (SCE) and MHI were aware of serious problems with the design of San Onofre nuclear power plant’s replacement steam generators before they were installed.”

It appears that Edison has been trying to pass along the expense associated with this corporate screw-up to the rate-payors.  While it is still uncertain what sort of penalties the company might face for the cover-ups, it has already submitted proposals for restarting the least damaged of the San Onofre reactors.  

An interesting aside is the fact that rate payers have already been paying decommissioning costs to the tune of $3 billion, as of September 2012.  At that time, managers of the decommissioning fund were looking to change the manner in which the decommissioning nest egg was invested for the possibility of a greater yield in a shorter time.  This of course would involve a great deal more risk in the face of market fluctuations, and, with total costs estimated at 3.7 billion and ten years to decommissioning, it seemed an imprudent idea.

The KPBS piece I found on the proposed investment shift suggested that the proposal might be risky for the rate payers, but would definitely be lucrative to investment managers who could charge higher fees for “new categories of investment.”

Then there is the small matter of San Onofre’s location near a seismically active fault line, and in uncomfortably close proximity to dense populations.

The overall picture of the San Onofre operation does not inspire confidence, but Southern California residents are left entirely to the tender mercies of the NRC as they have no real power to prevent a restart.  

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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