Nuclear site closes after leak, owners blame Washington

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In October, the utility that owns the plant, Southern California Edison, began asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to allow it to restart one of its units. The agency has been reviewing the request ever since.

The uncertainty about whether the NRC would allow the station to resume operations, and the potential that it could take regulators another year to make a final determination, led Southern California Edison to close the plant on Friday.

In a statement, Ted Craver, chairman and chief executive of Edison International, Southern California Edison's parent company, said, "We have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if [the facility] 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.”

He told reporters on a conference call that the operations and maintenance costs to keep the plant ready to restart were becoming too pricey.

The Southern California utility's president, Ron Litzinger, added that the decision "will eliminate uncertainty and facilitate orderly planning for California’s energy future.”

The plant is located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, on a fault line that has raised concerns among some legislators.

In closing the San Onofre facility, the utility expects to reduce staff by about 1,100 workers.

In late May, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the station's owners misled regulators before the 2012 leak.

In a statement on Friday, Boxer said she was "greatly relieved" that the plant will be permanently closed.

She added, "This nuclear plant had a defective redesign and could no longer operate as intended ... Now that the San Onofre nuclear plant will be permanently shut down, it is essential that this nuclear plant be safely decommissioned and does not become a continuing liability for the community.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also praised the decision to close the station.

"I firmly believe this is the right thing to do for the more than 7 million Californians who live within 50 miles of San Onofre," she said in a statement. "There was too much uncertainty in restarting San Onofre at this time, and I commend Southern California Edison for selecting the safest option for Southern California.”

Craver said it could still be a "multi-decade process" to fully decommission the site

-- This story was updated with new information at 10:44 a.m. and 12:44 p.m.