Relocating the Unit 1 Reactor Pressure Vessel
Unit 1 at SONGS operated from 1968 to 1992, when it was retired and partially decommissioned. The above grade material from the Unit 1 site, the concrete and steel of the plant, was safely dismantled and shipped off-site, much like what will happen with Units 2 and 3 in the coming years. What has remained at SONGS is Unit 1's reactor pressure vessel, the component that held the nuclear fuel when the plant was operating.
During Unit 1 dismantlement, the RPV's metal shell was placed inside a huge steel cylinder. The cylinder was filled with grout for shielding against radiation, sealed, and has been stored safely at SONGS ever since. There is no liquid inside the container.
Southern California Edison, with our decommissioning contractor, SONGS Decommissioning Solutions (SDS), is preparing to ship the SONGS Unit 1 reactor pressure vessel to a licensed disposal facility in Utah. The shipment meets all federal and state safety and regulatory requirements for transportation.
Rail Spur Upgrade
One of the first major projects undertaken for the dismantlement of Units 2 and 3 was upgrading the rail line that leads off-site to accommodate heavy loads, such as the 770 tons of the Unit 1 RPV package. The rail spur will see plenty of use over the next eight years, as most of the material leaving SONGS will depart via rail.
To support the Unit 1 RPV project, we have developed a traffic plan with local stakeholders to safely re-direct local beach area traffic near SONGS.
The Unit 1 RPV Project
SCE and SDS have developed detailed plans to safely execute the shipment of the Unit 1 RPV package to the Energy Solutions facility in Clive, Utah. While awaiting shipment to Utah, the RPV package will be stored in a safe condition, in a manner that protects public health and safety. The package will be protected by fencing and 24/7 security prior to shipment.
The shipment is considered low-level (or Class A) waste, the least hazardous of the radioactive waste classifications as defined by the NRC. Low-level waste often includes contaminated cleaning supplies, used disposable protective clothing, reactor parts and a variety of other similar wastes.
The contact dose rate for the package is less than 0.1 millirem an hour, which is 500 times below the Department of Transportation limit for these types of shipments. A chest X-ray provides a dose of 10 millirem, for comparison.
The most recent heavy load to be safely moved to Clive, Utah from SONGS was the last of four retired steam generators in 2012.
SCE and SDS are performing this work with the SONGS pandemic protocol in place to protect the health and safety of workers.