Ocean Protection
February 01 2020

Surfrider Advocating for Better Safety Measures as SCE Begins Taking SONGS Apart

by Jennifer Savage

We knew it was coming, but now it’s official. For decades, traveling the stretch of Southern California’s coast between San Clemente and Oceanside has led drivers past the iconic twin domes of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). But with Southern California Edison (SCE) announcing that dismantlement is slated to begin this month, the landscape is about to undergo significant change. 

According to SCE, dismantlement includes the removal of “buildings, containment domes and other above-grade structures associated with Units 2 and 3 in compliance with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements, as well as the partial removal of offshore conduits, which are the large pipes that brought and discharged ocean cooling water to the plant, and the removal of offshore buoys and anchors.” Work will start no earlier than Feb. 22, 2020, and SCE has promised to post plans and progress on its website.  The iconic domes, however, would not be taken down until mid-2025 at the earliest. The deconstruction period is expected to last through December 31, 2028.

Surfrider has long engaged in efforts to relocate the spent nuclear fuel waste away from the coast and is advocating for SCE to either retain at least one spent fuel pool or have another readily deployable onsite repair mechanism in the unlikely event of a damaged spent fuel canister. If canister integrity gets compromised in this coastal and corrosive environment, there needs to be a mechanism to repackage or repair it to ensure both continued safe storage and that canisters remain transportable once an offsite interim or permanent repository becomes available. SCE has indicated that delaying deconstruction of the spent fuel pools would delay the entire decommissioning process. Alternatively, SCE is reportedly developing a robotic mechanism that would be able to repair a canister crack. We are concerned this may not be sufficient for an emergency response and there has been no assurance that this would meet requirements for offsite transport.

SCE has invited members of the public to ask questions and/or submit comments to SCE via a Deconstruction Liaison who is available at nuccomm@songs.sce.com and (800) 332-3612. Public walking tours of the facility will continue and are available on a regular basis. The public is also encouraged to attend quarterly meetings of the SONGS Community Engagement Panel (CEP) for updates on dismantlement. 

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