Safety is Key to SONGS Dismantlement

Building demolition can be very dramatic. Think of some of the old Las Vegas hotels brought down using perfectly placed explosives that reduced those palaces to piles of rubble in a matter of seconds.

This is not Las Vegas. At the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, major structures will be demolished over the next few years, but there will be no explosives, no all-enveloping clouds of dust, or anything similar.

“Demolition at a nuclear plant is a slow, methodical process,” said Vince Bilovsky, SCE’s director of decommissioning at SONGS. “Before beginning with the demolition of a structure, a lot of planning has taken place to ensure we perform the work safely.”

Notice of Deconstruction

SCE issued its Notice of Deconstruction to the local community in January 2020, signaling major dismantlement work would begin soon. Preparations were made throughout 2020 to prepare the site for building demolition, including upgrading the rail line that runs through the plant. Most of the demolition material will be leaving SONGS via rail.

Last month, the excavators from Brandenburg went to work, beginning with a series of structures known as the K-buildings. These were some of the first office buildings to be built during the construction of Units 2 and 3. The excavator ate away at the K-60 warehouse before turning to K-40/50.

Watch the time-lapse video below.


“This was quite an accomplishment, a long time coming,” said Troy Giard, SONGS DecommissioningSolutions construction manager.

Giard outlined the keys to safe building demolition, including regular inspections and observations, continuous communication through Pre-Job Briefings, and safety meetings.

“This is a construction site, really a deconstruction site, so having hazard signs and barricades in place is important. We need to follow our procedures and processes to keep everyone safe,” Giard said.

The first buildings being removed are some of the smaller ones at SONGS. Later this year, the larger office complex known as the AWS Building will come down. Once that is demolished and the debris removed a small railyard will take its place to help with shipping material off-site.

Building Demo Locations


Demolition Location

The photo at left shows the location of the K buildings, which are in the process of being demolished, and the AWS Building which will be demolished later this year.


SONGS has a very small footprint, just 85-acres, so once one building comes down, the area is then cleared to make room for a new use as part of the dismantlement, such as equipment staging.

Environmental Housekeeping

Dust Mitigation
A worker sprays water to suppress dust from demolition activities.
Environmental housekeeping is literally good cleaning behaviors that protect our surrounding environment – including air, water, and land. And it plays an important role during dismantlement activities.


While operating and decommissioning, SONGS continues to be regulated and inspected by multiple state and federal agencies including the San Diego Water Quality Control Board, the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, the San Diego Department of Environmental Health, the California State Lands Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A key focus for the project is to ensure the work does not unintentionally harm the pristine coastal zone and meets regulatory requirements.

“Over the last several months, SONGS has undergone several environmental inspections with no findings,” explains Ron Pontes, SCE Environmental Manager. “This is a direct result from the hard work, due diligence and situational awareness of the SDS and SCE teams.”

Some of the measures used include spraying water to limit dust and protecting storm drains on site so debris is filtered out.

A Successful Project

The dismantlement of SONGS will see about two billion pounds of material removed from the site. Much of it will be going by rail, nearly 5,000 railcars worth.

For this multi-year project to be successful, Bilovsky says following the carefully crafted plans are essential.

“The plans that were put in place have been scrutinized to include all aspects of the coordination and planning phases with a strong focus on safety,” Bilovsky said. “It will be very important to maintain high fidelity to the work plans that have been developed.”

(Posted April 28, 2021)