By PAT BRENNAN / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear plant will be shut down permanently, Southern California Edison announced early Friday.

The power giant cited regulatory uncertainty surrounding the proposed restart of one of the reactors, as well as costs, in its decision to retire the units at what is formally known as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

“SONGS has served this region for over 40 years,” Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of Edison International, said in the statement released by Edison. “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 reactor units have been offline since January 2012, after a small leak of radioactive gas prompted shutdown of one unit; the other was already offline for routine maintenance.

Unexpected wear was found in the metal tubes that carry radioactive water in all four of the plant’s steam generators, two generators for each reactor.

The steam generators were installed between 2009 and early 2011 in a $670 million operation.

The president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael R. Peevey, said the commission would work with other agencies to ensure adequate power for Southern California, including creation of new power sources.

The commission has been investigating the San Onofre outage, and whether customers should pay for it or receive rebates.

The commission will “Decide, as quickly as possible, who should bear the costs of the lengthy outage of Units 2 and 3,” Peevey’s statement said.

The statement urges that all the parties in the investigation develop a shutdown proposal.

“Such a settlement would then be brought to the CPUC for ultimate disposition, and potentially avoid a protracted litigation that could delay refunds to ratepayers and extend uncertainty for electric system planners.”

Keeping an adequate power supply will require energy efficiency, conservation by consumers, transmission upgrades and new power sources, the statement said.

REACTION, INVESTIGATIONS

Edison’s morning announcement drew widespread reaction, including a statement from Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposed the company’s plan to restart reactor Unit 2.

“This is very good news for the people of Southern California,” said the statement from Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica. “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 wind.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has accused Edison of misleading regulators to try to avoid a fuller review of the steam generator design, said in a statement that it was “essential that this nuclear plant be safely decommissioned and does not become a continuing liability for the community.”

“I am greatly relieved that the San Onofre nuclear plant will be closed permanently,” her statement said. “This nuclear plant had a defective redesign and could no longer operate as intended. Modifications to the San Onofre nuclear plant were unsafe and posed a danger to the eight million people living within 50 miles of the plant.”

Edison has denied any attempt to mislead regulators or avoid safety review.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who joined Boxer in pressing Edison on the issue, said he believes investigations of the matter should continue, including one by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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