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Southern California Edison (SCE) has decided to permanently retire Units 2 and 3 of its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

"SONGS has served this region for over 40 years," says Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of Edison International, parent company of SCE, "but we have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if SONGS might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors or the need to plan for our region’s long-term electricity needs."

Both SONGS units have been shut down since January 2012. Unit 2 was taken out of service Jan. 9, 2012, for a planned routine outage. The utility says Unit 3 was taken offline Jan. 31, 2012, after station operators detected a small leak in a tube inside a steam generator manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

After months of analysis and tests, SCE submitted a restart plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2012. SCE proposed to restart Unit 2 at a reduced power level (70%) for an initial period of approximately five months.

However, the utility says a recent ruling by an adjudicatory arm of the NRC, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, creates further uncertainty regarding when a final decision might be made on restarting Unit 2. SCE says the costs of maintaining SONGS in a state of readiness to restart and the costs to replace the power SONGS previously provided is uneconomic.

In connection with the retirement of Units 2 and 3, San Onofre anticipates reducing staff over the next year from approximately 1,500 to approximately 400 employees, subject to applicable regulatory approvals. The majority of such reductions are expected to occur this year.

“This situation is very unfortunate,” said Pete Dietrich, SCE’s chief nuclear officer, noting that “this is an extraordinary team of men and women. We will treat them fairly.”

Full retirement of the units prior to decommissioning will take some years in accordance with customary practices, and actual decommissioning will take many years until completion. Such activities will remain subject to the continued oversight of the NRC.

SCE says it intends to pursue recovery of damages from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the supplier of the replacement steam generators, as well as recovery of amounts under applicable insurance policies.



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