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, set 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.
About the Decommissioning Process
Since 1960, more than 70 test, demonstration and power reactors have been retired throughout the United States. After SCE formally notified the NRC that operations at San Onofre had permanently ceased, SCE then notified the NRC on July 23, 2013 that 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 submitted to the NRC and state officials a detailed plan spelling out specific decommissioning activities and schedules, cost estimates and potential environmental impacts. Public review and comment was 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.
How will Dismantlement Happen?
SONGS Decommissioning Solutions (SDS) is the decommissioning general contractor. The project is expected to create about 600 jobs during the 8-to-10-year dismantlement phase, and the majority of the labor force will be hired locally from the San Diego region. As decommissioning activities ramp up, any impacts to traffic and public access near the site are anticipated to be short-term and limited. SCE will make timely notifications to the public through posted signs and the SONGS Community website before any traffic impacts.
How will dismantlement look? SDS produced this video animation to provide a sense of how the plant's major structures will be removed over the next decade.
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. SCE estimates the decommissioning of San Onofre is fully funded, based on projected earnings on the $4 billion funds to pay for the $4.4 billion project. Any unused funds will be returned to customers. Customers contributed approximately one-third of the trust funds while two-thirds of the total is due to prudent investments by SCE.
SCE and the current and 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 are committed to safely decommission 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 used nuclear 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 used 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 have created 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 fosters direct public outreach and ensures that all key interests are included and heard. Members include elected representatives of the surrounding cities and counties, the military, emergency responders, local environmentalists, business, organized labor, customer interests and academia.