San Onofre to Become Beachfront Nuclear Dump Site

San Onofre plant (Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty)
Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is about to be America’s first beachfront nuclear dump site, with ratepayers having already funded $4.4 billion to tear down the plant’s 3 nuclear power reactors.

San Onofre’s 2,200-megawatt reactors once provided 18 percent of the electrical power distributed by Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. The state-of-the-art compact reactors proved to be an engineering marvel, splitting atoms to create massive heat that super-boiled water to create steam that spun turbines and reliably generated consistent electricity.

On an operating basis, nuclear power was half the cost of natural gas and the cheapest energy source next to hydro-power. But through the 1983 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), the Department of Energy began charging nuclear power plants “an annual fee of 1 mil (0.1 cent) per kilowatt-hour of the electricity they sell that is generated by nuclear power plants fees to cover the costs of disposing of the nuclear waste they generate.” As a result, nuclear power’s cost to individual customers almost quadrupled.

But under the California Public Utility Commission regulatory structure, investor owned utilities were paid on a “return on invested capital.” Due to the parasitic nature of the relationship, fees or charges by government that increased utilities’ “cost” were passed through to the users, and the higher the utilities’ costs, the higher their profits.

The regulatory change eventually opened the door for the rollout of the wildly expensive “investments” in solar power, which costs about 5 times more than natural gas, and solar power, that costs about 6 times the cost of natural gas.

San Onofre discovered rapid wear in specialized pipes provided by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in a $680 million replacement of its steam generators. The facility would have suffered 18 months of down time to complete repairs.

But in an inside deal to please the state’s crony sustainable energy lobby, a decision was made to shut down San Onofre’s generators permanently and to purchase 575 megawatts of more energy from “preferred resources,” which just happens to be “renewable energy” such as wind and solar. SCE also committed to increase from 50 to 75 megawatts of energy storage, apparently providing Tesla Powerwall crony subsidies.

Given that sustainable energy is highly unreliable, SCE and SDG&E have been authorized to build between 500 to 900 megawatts of natural gas power plants to make sure the state does not suffer more embarrassing blackouts during peak demand times.

Running up more “costs,” SCE will soon chose between Westinghouse/Bechtel and CB&I/Team as a general contractor for the  contractor to oversee San Onofre’s $4.4 billion effort to tear down the reactors and to encase 2,668 fuel assemblies sitting in spent fuel pools in dry casks. These will then be added to the 1,187 assemblies that are already in 50 above-ground dry cask,s and the almost 4,000 assemblies will be entombed in a “concrete monolith” until 2049.

The good news is that tourists to Orange County will soon be able to drive along the coast and enjoy the view of the water and a beachfront nuclear dump site.


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