Consumer and environmental advocates pressured California regulators Thursday to open a probe into soaring costs tied to the damaged San Onofre nuclear power plant.
At issue is who is going to pay a bill that has reached $165 million so far for repairs, inspections and replacement power. The twin-domed plant, located between San Diego and Los Angeles, hasn't produced electricity since January.
The state Public Utilities Commission postponed for the second time Thursday voting on an order requiring owners Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to disclose the potential economic hit for ratepayers from the long-running shutdown.
The state Division of Ratepayer Advocates sent a letter Wednesday urging the agency to open the probe. It was endorsed by executives from the Utility Reform Network, the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.
The letter said only the state utilities commission "can investigate whether SCE acted reasonably, how the cost responsibility should be resolved, and whether future investments to repair or replace the steam generators are justified."
The trouble began to unfold in January, when the Unit 3 reactor was shut down as a precaution after a tube break. Traces of radiation escaped at the time, but officials said there was no danger to workers or neighbors.
Unit 2 had been taken offline earlier that month for maintenance, but investigators later found unexpected wear on scores of tubes that carry radioactive water inside both units.
A three-month federal probe blamed a botched computer analysis for generator design flaws that ultimately resulted in heavy wear to the alloy tubing. Edison has been trying to determine how to correct the problem, while environmental activists have depicted the plant as a disaster in the making.