Troubled US nuclear plant to close

2013-06-08 08:00
The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in San Onofre, California. (Grant Hindsley, AP/File)

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in San Onofre, California. (Grant Hindsley, AP/File)

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Los Angeles - The troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant on the California coast is closing after an epic 16-month battle over whether the twin reactors could be safely restarted with millions of people living nearby, officials announced on Friday.

Operator Southern California Edison said in a statement it will retire the twin reactors because of uncertainty about the future of the plant, which faced a tangle of regulatory hurdles, investigations and mounting political opposition. With the reactors idle, the company has spent more than $500m on repairs and replacement power.

San Onofre could power 1.4 million homes. California officials have said they would be able to make it through the summer without the plant but warned that wildfires or another disruption in distribution could cause power shortages.

It wasn't clear how electrical production from the plant would be replaced permanently. The California Public Utilities Commission said it will work with governments to ensure Southern California has enough electricity, which will require increased energy efficiency and conservation during peak usage, as well as upgrades to transmission and generation resources.

The plant between San Diego and Los Angeles hasn't produced electricity since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

The NRC said once Edison formally notifies the agency that it has permanently removed all fuel from the reactor cores, the NRC will move San Onofre to the agency's decommissioning oversight structure, the formal process for closing and dismantling a nuclear plant, the NRC said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. Until that occurs, the NRC said it will continue its oversight of the plant to ensure it meets all requirements.

Friends of the Earth, an advocacy group critical of the nuclear power industry, praised the decision to close it.

"We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind," the group's president, Erich Pica, said in a statement.

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