...The twin reactor plant between San Diego and Los Angeles has long been a source of lower-cost power, but its complex and costly mechanical troubles have raised questions that might have seemed unrealistic just months ago.
"Shutting down the plant, at the end of the day, might not be the worst-case scenario for shareholders or customers," says Travis Miller, director of utilities research at equities analyst Morningstar Inc.
Two decades ago, San Onofre's Unit 1 reactor was shut down and then dismantled when owners faced the prospect of swallowing a $125 million bill for upgrades and repairs. Oregon's Trojan nuclear plant closed its doors in 1993, rather than replace steam generators that had leaky tubes.
Now, similar issues will be on the table for San Onofre's two remaining reactors, shuttered as engineers try to figure out how to stop unprecedented decay in generator tubes that carry radioactive water. The plant hasn't produced electricity since Jan. 31.