Perched on an ocean cliff between Los Angeles and San Diego, the
reactors’ owners cut unconscionable corners in replacing their
multi-million-dollar steam generators. According to Russell Hoffman,
one of California’s leading experts on San Onofre, inferior metals
and major design failures turned what was meant to be an upgrade
into an utter fiasco.
Installed by Mitsubishi, the generators simply did not work. When
they were shut nearly a year ago, tubes were leaking, banging
together and overall rendering further operations impossible.
Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have
unofficially thrown in the towel on Unit 3. But they’re lobbying
hard to get at least Unit 2 back up and running. Their technical
problems are so serious that they’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission to let them run Unit 2 at 70% capacity. In essence, they
want to “see what happens” without daring to take the
reactor to full power.
The NRC has expressed serious doubts. On December 26 it demanded
answers to more than 30 questions about the plant’s technical realities.
There have been assertions that unless San Onofre can be shown as operable
at full power, its license should be negated.
The accelerating revolution in renewables has allowed solar, wind
and other green sources to outstrip atomic reactors in cost, time to
build, ecological impact and safety. As billions pour into
Solartopian sources, private investment in atomic energy has all but
disappeared—except where there are massive taxpayer subsidies.
Even that’s not enough. In 2011, President Obama handed $8.33
billion in federal loan guarantees to the builders of two reactors
at Georgia’s Vogtle. But Peach State ratepayers are already being
soaked for billions more in pre-payments, and the cost of the
project is soaring. A parallel financial disaster looms at the
Robinson site in neighboring South Carolina. Though the industry
assumes these four reactors will eventually be finished, economic
realities may say otherwise.
Cost estimates for new nukes have been soaring even before
construction begins. Even with federal money, the builders still
demand that state ratepayers foot the bill as the process proceeds,
meaning consumers are on the hook for multiple billions even if the
reactors never open. Pitched battles over this Construction Work in
Progress scam have already been won by consumers in Missouri and are
being fought in Iowa and elsewhere. As the years of building drag
on, costs will escalate while renewables continue to become cheaper.
Sooner or later, construction is likely to stop, as it did at
numerous projects in the 1970s and 1980s which were never finished.
We can end CWIP in Georgia.
It will benefit Georgia Power and the EMCs as well as all the rest of us
when we stop wasting tax and customer dollars on boondoggles like Plant Vogtle
or biomass or private prisons and get on with clean, profitable, job-creating
renewable energy in Georgia: wind off the coast and sun inland.