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SCE To Close San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

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ROSEMEAD (CBS/AP) — The troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California is closing, after an epic 16-month battle over whether the twin reactors could be safely returned to service, officials announced Friday.

Operator Southern California Edison said in a statement it will retire the twin reactors because uncertainty about the future of the plant, which was facing a tangle of regulatory hurdles and investigations.

The plant “has served this region for over 40 years,” Ted Craver, chairman of SCE parent Edison International said in a statement. “But we have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if (the plant) 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.”

The plant between San Diego and Los Angeles hasn’t produced electricity since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

“This is a situation where it’s pretty clear, the plant had a defective redesign,” Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, told KNX1070. “It couldn’t operate as intended, they admitted that. The modifications were clearly unsafe.”

Environmental and community groups gathered near the site in wake of the announcement.

“I can’t tell you the joy we all felt,” Gary Headrick of San Clemente Green said. “It feels wonderful because there’s eight million people that are safer now because of this decision, and that’s huge.”

“They should have shut it down when they said they were going to in 2004. I don’t know why it’s still running,” San Clemente resident John Kaiser said.

The long decommissioning process will expand over a decade, officials said.

“I think it will be good for us, but I think we will also lose a lot of jobs,” San Clemente resident Catrina McAlister said.

SCE said it will submit an application to reduce to the workforce at the plant from 1,500 employees to approximately 400.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is aware of Southern California Edison’s plans to permanently shut down San Onofre, but we are waiting for formal notification of their decision,” Victor Dricks, spokesman for NRC, told KNX1070.

Governor Brown issued the following statement:

“Since San Onofre nuclear power plant went offline last year, energy utilities and the state have worked to provide Southern California with reliable electric power year round. At my direction, California’s top energy experts will continue developing a long-term plan that ensures there is reliability for decades to come. As we move into the hot summer months, we can all do our part by continuing to conserve.”

About 7.4 million Californians live within 50 miles of San Onofre, which can power 1.4 million homes. California officials have said they would be able to make it through the summer without the plant but warned that wildfires or another disruption in distribution could cause power shortages.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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