Making Progress, Focusing on Safety

Dismantlement work recently reached a milestone at SONGS with the surpassing of more than 50 percent of plant structures being demolished — 33 of 62 to be exact. Some of this progress is highly visible and dramatic, such as the recent lowering of the 445-ton Unit 2 Gantry Crane as the Turbine Building demolition continues (see video here). And some is out-of-sight, such as the work going on inside the containment buildings at different levels within the domes to surgically remove the equipment that once operated the plant.

Along with our progress comes an increase in the amount of industrial waste that is safely shipped from SONGS. As of September, we have sorted, packaged, and shipped offsite more than 130 million pounds of waste to licensed facilities.

And while the locations and type of work going on at the plant may be different, the common themes for all of these projects is an overarching commitment to safety, highly orchestrated planning, and the meticulous teamwork of SCE, SONGS DecommissioningSolutions (SDS) and our contracting partners.

PPE is Key

This includes ensuring all workers have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) so they can do their jobs without injury. Heavy industrial demolition work at a nuclear facility requires a vast array of PPE beyond standard fare — hard hats, steel-toe shoes, safety glasses, high visibility vests, and hearing protection. Each job that’s conducted on-site includes a thorough analysis of the hazards workers may face and what specialized protective gear must be worn, such as fall protection if working above certain heights, flotation devices if near water, dosimeters and special clothing if working in a radiological controlled area, and heat-resistant clothing, gloves and head gear for conducting hot work such as cutting with torches. On occasion, the PPE has been put to the test and, indeed, prevented injury to a worker. Recently an individual working near a spent fuel pool lost their footing and fell into the water. Their PPE included a floatation device, which enabled a quick and safe exit from the pool. The worker showered, followed the procedures for such an event including clearing our radiation detectors, and is back at work. The pool has not contained spent fuel since 2020.

Lessons Learned

Throughout the dismantlement project, we will continue to incorporate lessons-learned from events such as this to ensure we are improving worker safety by utilizing a rigorous review process that gets to the heart of what went wrong and prevents it from happening in the future. SDS Executive Sponsor Rich Kalman discussed our focus on safety at our August 11 Community Engagement Panel meeting. You can learn more about our approach to safety and how we factor it into everything we do at the site here.

A strong safety culture is vital to the success of decommissioning SONGS.