Nuclear Regulators Push Back Decision on San Onofre Restart

Edison International will have to wait an extra month to find out if it will be allowed to start a unit at its 2,200-megawatt nuclear power plant that has been closed since January 2012 on safety concerns.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it will issue a decision on whether Unit 2 at the San Onofre nuclear plant is safe by the end of May, a month later than planned, according to an updated timeline posted on the commission’s website today.

The NRC needs the extra time to conduct more inspections at the plant, Victor Dricks, a commission spokesman in Arlington, Texas, said in a telephone interview. The commission will hold a public meeting in Southern California regarding the inspections in mid-April, Dricks said.

Wholesale power at Southern California’s SP15 hub increased 3.3 percent to $47 a megawatt-hour for April through June at 1:59 p.m. local time. Third-quarter prices gained 2.8 percent to $55.50.

Southern California Edison, which operates San Onofre, is “confident in its submitted response and restart plan and is currently working on our response to technical questions from the NRC,” Jennifer Manfre, a spokeswoman for the Rosemead, California-based utility, said in an e-mailed statement.

Edison hasn’t provided dates for the start of Unit 2 or Unit 3, which has been shut since January when the company discovered a leak and steam generator tube damage. Similar damage was found on Unit 2, which had been offline for maintenance.

Edison’s shares rose 0.7 percent to $47.03 at the close in New York.

Fuel Removed

In October, Edison submitted a plan to the NRC to restart Unit 2 at 70 percent of capacity to avoid shaking damaged pipes. Five months after a restart, Edison plans to shut the unit again to inspect the steam generator for tube wear. The utility is considering repairs to Unit 3, where fuel has been removed from the reactor.

The commission said today it will notify parties of its intent to issue a decision in late April and issue the decision five to 30 days later. The commission’s previous timeline was for notification in March and a decision five to 30 days later.

San Onofre, located about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Los Angeles, can produce power for 1.4 million homes, according to Edison’s website.

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