Decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
SCE formally notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on June 12, 2013 that it had permanently ceased operation of Units 2 and 3 on June 7, 2013. The notification, called a Certification of Permanent Cessation of Power Operations, sets the stage for SCE to begin preparations for decommissioning.
Decommissioning is a well-defined NRC process that involves transferring the used fuel into safe storage, followed by the removal and disposal of radioactive components and materials. Longer term, this process calls for reducing residual radioactivity to a level that supports termination of the NRC license.
- NRC Briefing on Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning, July 2014
- Core Principles for San Onofre Decommissioning
- SONGS Decommissioning CEP Charter
- Safe Storage of San Onofre's Nuclear Fuel
About the Decommissioning Process
Since 1960, more than 70 test, demonstration and power reactors have been retired throughout the United States. SCE formally notified the NRC on June 12, 2013 that operations at San Onofre have permanently ceased. On July 23, 2013, SCE notified the NRC it had transferred fuel from the Unit 2 reactor to the spent fuel pool. The company had previously defueled Unit 3. Once fuel was removed from both reactors, San Onfore transitioned from an operating to a "possession" license.
Within two years of shutdown, SCE must submit to the NRC and state officials a detailed plan that spells out specific decommissioning activities and schedules, cost estimates and potential environmental impacts. Public review and comment is an important part of this process, and NRC oversight of decommissioning continues. The NRC addresses frequently asked questions at http://www.nrc.gov/waste/decommissioning/faq.html.
Nuclear power plants are required by the NRC to put aside funds for decommissioning while the plant is operating. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) regulates utilities that own nuclear plants in the state and has allowed SCE to collect those funds during San Onofre's operating years. The money is collected from customers and invested in dedicated trusts. The current balance in those trusts is $4.1 Billion.
SCE and the current or former San Onofre owners responsible for decommissioning have established core principles of safety, stewardship and engagement to guide the long and complex decommissioning process. These guiding principles support SCE's vision of making the decommissioning of the San Onofre nuclear plant a model for the nuclear industry:
- We commit to safely decommissioning San Onofre.
- We are determined to complete the safe decommissioning of San Onofre as expeditiously and cost efficiently as possible. Our immediate goal is to safely move the power plant's spent fuel, now cooling in pools, into dry cask storage as quickly and as carefully as we can until the government creates the long-term storage option that it has committed to implement. We will continue to urge the government and other stakeholders to find a solution to provide the timely removal of spent nuclear fuel from the San Onofre site.
- We are committed to leaving the community better off as a result of having been home to San Onofre for 40 years and we will be open to exploring opportunities for doing so with our landlord, the U.S. Navy, and the community.
- Substantial dollars have accumulated in Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts through customer contributions and judicious investing, and the owners recognize their legal responsibility to spend those funds wisely and return any unused monies to ratepayers.
- We want the San Onofre decommissioning process to be managed in an inclusive, forward-thinking and responsible way. In particular, the current and previous owners of San Onofre are committed to creating an advisory Community Engagement Panel (CEP) to bring together diverse stakeholders and open a conduit of information and ideas between the owners and the public. The panel will foster direct public outreach and ensure that all key interests are included and heard: Elected representatives of the surrounding cities and counties, the military, emergency responders, local environmentalists, business, organized labor, customer interests and academia.
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This printable guide provides key information about Decommissioning in English and in Spanish.