Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry, both in the US and worldwide, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free future.
By Michael Steinberg /Black Rain Press
Disaster Capitalism and the Shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Plant
This story starts with a clandestine dinner in Warsaw, Poland. Present are Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utility Commission, and Stephen Pickett, a high ranking official with Southern California Edison, a major electrical utility.
It is March 2013, the same month SCE announced the unexpected permanent shutdown of its San Onofre Nuclear Power Station.
No nukers were elated. But their joy later turns to disappointment and then outrage when the CPUC subsequently hands down a decision that leaves us on the hook for billions of dollars in costs supposedly related to the shutdown of San Onofre.
How did this happen, and so relatively quickly?
In the wake of multiple meltdowns following a devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March, 2011, the future of nuclear power plants, including in the US, seemed pretty, well shaky. This was especially true for those like San Onofre, whose two operating reactor lie along the southern California shoreline, in an earthquake and tsunami prone area,
But this year evidence has been mounting of corruption and collusion between CPUC and SCE officials that, unless reversed, will leave San Onofre customers holding the bag for monstrous bills that will take generations to pay off. The only question is how many billions od dollars are at stake in this gargantuan ratepayer ripoff.
After that little dinner party in Warsaw, the CPUC, with Michael Peevey still at its president, handed San Onofre’s customers a $4+ billion bill. Allegedly Peevey and SCEd’s Stephen Pickett concocted this “deal” along with their after dinner mints in Poland.
In an August 3 report, KPBS San Diego reported the total charge could skyrocket as high as $10.4 billion.
In early September KCBS Los Angeles reported, “State agents have now executed search warrants at the San Francisco headquarters of the PUC, as well as at the Rosemead*, Calif., headquarters of Southern California Edison.”
KCBS-LA also reported this May 2014 exchange at a PUC meeting between Michael Peevey and Michael Aguirre, former federal prosecutor and San Diego City Attorney, who has filed a lawsuit to overturn the PUC’s multimillionaire dollar ratepayer ripoff decision:
Aguirre: “What about Southern California Edison?”
Peevey: “About Southern California Edison? I’m not here to answer your questions. Now shut up!”
Peevey subsequently resigned from the CPUC.
Then on August 6, Hiroshima Day, San Diego 7 reported that “penalties for violations “involving CPUC AND Edison could total $32 million.”
TV7 also reported:
“Administrative Judge Melaney Darling ruled that utility officials engaged in 10 unreported exchanges between March 12 and March 2014″ in a review of one or more meetings between Peevey and Pickett.”
TV 7 also reported the judge ordered Edison to show cause why it should not be held in contempt of court.
Of his March 2013 meeting with Peevey in Poland, Pickett asserted he”didn’t recall anything of substance said about the shutdown of SONGS (San Onofre)”
But the judge’s ruling cited an internal Pickett email in which he said he was “working SONGS,.”
working it to the tune of multi-billion ratepayer shakedowns until their grandchildren are grown, that is.
The San Clemente Greens community organizing was important in bringing about the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant. They blame the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well for the corruption and collusion currently being unearthed:
“The CPUC and NRC thwarted the investigation about what went wrong at San Onofre when the new steam generators were installed and failed in less than two years. The NRC claims there is no need to investigate since the plant is no longer operational.”
San Clemente Greens and other environmental groups like Friends of the Earth pointed out the rapid failure of the new steam generators, key components in nuclear power reactors, rendered San Onofre unsafe and in need of immediate permanent shutdown. The junk stem generators pricetag was $680 million, another cost the utility wants to stick its ratepayers with.
“CPUC promoted their own fraudulent settlement favoring the industry without investigating the matter to see who actually at fault.”
“The public, which both organizations are sworn to protect, has been abused by both these co-opted institutions. It’s painfully obvious Edison was being protected, along with the self serving interests of the NRC and CPUC, each of which played a significant role in the failure of the steam generator replacement project.”
*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named Rosamond, Calif., as the headquarters of Southern California Edison instead of Rosemead, Calif.