New Railyard Taking Shape

If you build it, they will come.

Truer words have never been spoken if talking about the new railyard being constructed on the site of the old AWS office complex at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

Crews finished demolishing the AWS building in October, and since then another contractor, Railworks Track Services, has been busy making the ground suitable for five additional sets of tracks, as well as extending the most easterly line into the heart of the plant.

Why is this necessary?

“There is more than a billion pounds of decommissioned materials to be removed from the SONGS site and the majority of this material will be removed using rail service,” said Steve Aman, contract compliance manager for SCE. “The existing rail spurs that service the site don’t provide adequate storage capacity to effectively stage and move gondola rail cars during the demolition process.”

More than 5,000 rail cars will be used to haul that material during the deconstruction phase of decommissioning.

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Gondola cars are used to transport material from demolition offsite.

The updated design for the rail service facility on site will include construction of five new sections of rail spur providing additional capacity for storage of 30 rail cars. The existing track located at the south end of the plant will also be extended to provide for storage of an additional 20 cars. The new rail design incorporates two active weight scales to monitor the quantity of materials being loaded into the rail cars to ensure that loads do not exceed weight limits.

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Heavy equipment is used to grade the site of the former AWS Building.

After removal of the AWS building, extensive grading was necessary to provide a stable foundation of the new track. Existing soils required removal and re-compaction to a depth of four feet so the new track would be stable and function properly. A challenge faced in the performance of this work is continuing with removal of waste by rail concurrent with the new construction. A balanced approach was adopted where portions of the rail construction work are performed during ongoing shipments in a coordinated and phased schedule. There will be two extended shutdown periods that rail shipments will cease during construction for safety.

SCE is opting to use more rail in these shipments because it’s more environmentally friendly. One railcar equals six truckloads so it’s highly efficient, as well. In fact, when the railyard’s work is done, it can be recycled, too.

“A unique feature of this track design is that all the track components are ferrous metals. The railroad ties are made of steel, rather than wood ties treated with creosote,” Aman explained. “When the system is no longer needed, most of the materials can be recycled to avoid generation of landfill waste.”

The new track system is expected to be completed in February.

(Posted Dec. 13, 2021)