Emergency Planning During Decommissioning

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved a revised emergency plan for the San Onofre nuclear plant that reflects the plant's permanent shutdown, as well as all spent nuclear fuel assemblies in dry storage. 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.

What Changes?

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 response organization (ERO) is on-site around the clock trained to address unanticipated events for a facility with all spent fuel in dry storage 
  • Radiological and environmental monitoring at the site
  • Close coordination and communication with our off-site partners and ongoing participation in the IPC
  • On-site emergency preparedness drills, including participation with our off-site partners
  • Routine fire, medical and emergency communication drills with off-site partners
  • Routine inspections by the NRC
Emergency Planning at SONGS
The SONGS team continues emergency planning drills during the decommissioning of the plant.

There continues to be no need for off-site emergency response plans at SONGS because no design basis accident or reasonably conceivable beyond design basis accident can result in radioactive releases that exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Protective Action Guides (PAGs) beyond the Exclusion Area Boundary (EAB). However, the two counties (San Diego and Orange) and the three cities nearest SONGS (San Clemente, Dana Point, and San Juan Capistrano) continue to maintain several offsite radiological emergency preparedness (REP) functions and capabilities, though not required by state or federal regulations. 

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been in effect since the exemptions were approved in 2015, the MOU describes the REP functions and capabilities along with the funding provided by SCE to the five participating agencies.

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 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.

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.


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.

What your kit should include 


SONGS Emergency Planning is a member of an emergency planning committee of local, state, and federal agencies. The committee meets regularly to continuously improve plans to protect the public's health and safety. 

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