Decommissioning Reduces Scope of San Onofre Emergency Planning
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved a revised emergency plan for the San Onofre nuclear plant that reflects the plant's permanent shutdown. San Onofre's emergency planning team reviewed the proposed emergency plan changes with the Interjurisdictional Planning Committee (IPC), which historically has coordinated emergency planning in the region. SCE remains an active member of the IPC.
Emergency plan changes are appropriate because most potential accidents related to an operating plant are no longer possible at shutdown nuclear plants such as San Onofre where fuel has been removed from the reactor. However, the revised emergency plan will maintain many of our prior operating emergency planning elements, including:
- An emergency plan staff on-site around the clock trained to address unanticipated events for a permanently defueled facility
- Radiological and environmental monitoring at the site
- Close coordination and communication with our off-site partners and ongoing participation in the IPC
- Frequent on-site emergency preparedness drills, including some with our off-site partners
- Routine fire, medical and emergency communication drills with off-site partners
- Routine inspections by the NRC
With the reduced radiological risk at the station, we will no longer need to maintain pre-planned, off-site radiological emergency preparedness plans or the 10-mile emergency planning zone around the plant. However, as noted above, SCE will continue to coordinate with our off-site partners, and will work with them to address issues through their all hazards plans governed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, the NRC has determined that in the unlikely event of losing cooling in the spent fuel pools, there is sufficient time for our trained, dedicated staff to take appropriate actions at the plant, as well as notify local governments. The community alert sirens, while no longer needed for San Onofre, will remain in place through 2019 for other use by local jurisdictions (City of San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan, Camp Pendleton and Orange County). Maintenance and Testing will continue to be performed to ensure readiness.
To gather feedback and ensure our partners are fully informed, the revised emergency plan was reviewed with the IPC. In addition, the NRC evaluated public comments as part of its year-long review of the revised plan. The NRC has approved similar plans for other decommissioning nuclear plants including Kewaunee in Wisconsin and Crystal River in Florida.
Because it is no longer possible for an off-site release of radioactive iodine at San Onofre that would affect public health and safety, FEMA notified local government agencies in January 2014 that there is no longer a need to store, distribute or use potassium iodide (KI) tablets in San Onofre's 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone. In communities immediately surrounding operating nuclear plants in the U.S., potassium iodide is made available to protect the thyroid gland against exposure in the event of a release of radioactive iodine. San Onofre area residents who have KI tablets on hand may dispose of them.
In addition, an NRC letter to SCE in January 2014 documents the significantly reduced risk from potential seismic and flooding issues at San Onofre now that all fuel has been removed from the reactors.
In the event of an emergency incident, shelters and reception centers will be available through detailed evacuation plans developed by Southern California Edison (SCE) and local and state governments and federal agencies.
Anyone who is directed to evacuate during an emergency, but doesn't have access to transportation, can use these public transportation assembly points.
Experts agree that the best time to prepare is before an emergency. Whether you purchase an emergency preparedness kit or make your own, every family should have one.
The plant is part of an emergency planning committee of local and state agencies. The committee meets regularly to continuously improve plans to protect the public's health and safety in the event of a nuclear power plant incident.
Every U.S. nuclear power plant – including San Onofre – is designed to withstand the maximum potential earthquake for its location without releasing radioactive materials.