San Onofre Nuclear Plant Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
ROSEMEAD, Calif., March 25, 2020 — Southern California Edison, following the recent “safer at home” directive from Gov. Gavin Newsom, today announced the temporary curtailment of some deconstruction work at the San Onofre nuclear plant. Deconstruction work began last month at the site as part of the decommissioning process. The plant was permanently retired in 2013.
The Department of Homeland Security has identified critical infrastructure sectors, including electric utilities, and deemed specific operational functions within these as essential; the Governor’s directive excluded these from the restrictions. The nation’s operating and decommissioning nuclear plants are included in this list of where essential operations can continue. Governor Newsom further expanded the categories of essential work to include construction work on March 22.
In the interest of employee safety, SCE has taken additional steps to limit what work will be done at the site. In the days ahead we will be evaluating which deconstruction projects can move forward.
“We have protocols we’ve implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These protocols are designed to keep our employees safe while allowing certain critical work to continue,” said Doug Bauder, SCE vice president and chief nuclear officer. “This is an ever-changing situation, at the national, state and local levels, and we are staying flexible in our level of response.”
The safe transfer of spent nuclear fuel from wet to dry storage is essential work that will continue, with additional measures in place to protect employees. While both wet and dry storage is safe for spent nuclear fuel, dry storage in robust stainless-steel canisters provides additional safety advantages. Dry storage systems require no electricity, have no moving parts, and cool the fuel through simple convection air flow. The dry fuel storage systems at San Onofre have more than twice the seismic rating of the spent fuel pools. SCE informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of this decision.
Some of the preventive measures in place at the site include:
- Canceling non-essential meetings. Many other meetings are conducted via teleconference.
- Practicing social distancing, hand-washing and limiting physical sharing of documents.
- Wiping-down work stations, including before and after shift changes.
- Suspending site tours and moving public meetings online.
- Setting up health self-screening stations at site entrances.
“We are asking employees coming on site to self-screen at the start of each shift, to ask themselves some basic questions related to COVID-19 and their personal situations. It starts with something as simple as ‘how do you feel?’” said Bauder. “The safety and well-being of our employees remains our top priority.”
Employees who are able to telework, where feasible and based on job function, have been doing so.
As a precaution against pandemics of any kind, the nuclear energy industry has maintained business continuity/pandemic preparedness guidance and procedures since 2006. SCE has implemented San Onofre-specific guidelines that support the plant’s decommissioning status.
Media Contact: John Dobken, (626) 302-2255
About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of approximately 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.