San Diego County may face power shortages this summer if both units of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station remain offline, according to a report from the California Independent System Operator Corp.
“Safety is the top priority during ongoing inspections and testing of the nuclear power plant,” Steve Berberich, president and chief executive officer of the California Independent System Operator Corp., the grid operator for the majority of California’s electric transmission system, said March 22.
“Our focus is contingency planning should SONGS remain offline this summer,” he said. “Fortunately, there are resource options available to help mitigate reliability risks. We are actively working with San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and others because prudent mitigation planning takes adequate lead time and summer heat is only a couple months away.”
Unit 3 of the plant south of San Clemente has been shut down since Jan. 31, after station operators detected a leak in one of its steam generator tubes. Its two steam generators are undergoing extensive testing and inspections to fully assess their condition and the cause of the leak.
Unit 2 was taken down for planned maintenance Jan. 9.
Neither unit will return to operation “until we are satisfied it is safe to do so,’’ said Jennifer Manfre, Southern California Edison’s senior manager of media relations.
Technical studies presented at last Thursday’s Cal-ISO board meeting show tight reserve margins for San Diego and the Los Angeles Basin, especially during potential summer heat waves.
Contingency planning potentially includes calling back into service Huntington Beach Power Plant units previously slated for retirement, accelerating completion of Barre-Ellis & Sunrise Powerlink transmission projects, re-activating the 20/20 demand reduction program, and Flex Alert TV and radio conservation campaign, according to Cal-ISO.
The ISO peak demand is projected to reach 46,352 megawatts this summer under normal conditions, 923 more than the actual peak of 45,429 recorded in 2011, but less than the 2011 forecast under normal weather, according to the grid operator.
The decrease in the 2012 peak demand forecast is because of a conservative economic recovery prediction by Moody’s Analytics for 2012 as compared to its 2011 economic forecast, according to Cal-ISO.