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Another Inconvenient Truth: Nuclear/Environmental Hazards: San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, CA, and then some…


1,800 tons of radioactive waste has an ocean view and nowhere to go

North America – USA | State of California, San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1, 2, & 3
Location: 33°22’17.1″N 117°33’39.2″W

San Onofre Nuclear Power Station

San Onofre Nuclear Power Station San Diego County, California. Google Maps Photo – Eyeball via  Map Location: 33N 22′ 10″, 117W 33′ 17″ 3,692,400.0, 448,400.0

The massive, 150-ton turbines have stopped spinning. The mile-long cooling pipes that extend into the Pacific will likely become undersea relics. High voltage that once energized the homes of more than a million Californians is down to zero.

But the San Onofre nuclear power plant will loom for a long time as a landmark, its 1,800 tons of lethal radioactive waste stored on the edge of the Pacific and within sight of the busy 5 Freeway.

Across the site, deep pools of water and massive concrete casks confine high-power gamma radiation and other forms of radioactivity emitted by 890,000 spent fuel rods that nobody wants there.

And like the other 79,000 tons of spent fuel spread across the nation, San Onofre’s nuclear waste has nowhere to go.

The nation’s inability to find a permanent home for the dangerous byproduct of its 50-year-adventure in nuclear energy represents one of the biggest and longest running policy failures in federal government history.

Now, the Trump administration and Congress are proposing a fast track fix. The new plan aims, after decades of delays, to move the waste to one or more temporary central storage sites that would hold it until a geologic repository can be built in Nevada or somewhere else.

But the new strategy faces many of the same challenges that have dogged past efforts, leaving some experts doubtful that it can succeed.

The shuttered San Onofre facility — not withstanding its overlook of prime surf breaks — is similar to about a dozen other former nuclear power plants nationwide that now have to babysit waste to prevent natural disasters, human errors or terrorist plots from causing an environmental or health catastrophe.

Though utilities and government regulators say such risks are remote, they have inflamed public fear at least since 1979’s Three Mile Island reactor accident in Pennsylvania.

The sites are located on the scenic shores of northern Lake Michigan, along a bucolic river in Maine, on the high plateau of Colorado and along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard — each environmentally sensitive for different reasons.

No one wants that waste near them — including officials in the sleepy beach town of San Clemente, just north of San Onofre. Even Southern California Edison Co. officials, while insisting the waste is safe, agree it should be moved as soon as possible.

“It doesn’t make any sense to store the fuel at all these sites,” said Thomas Palmisano, chief nuclear officer at the Southern California Edison plant. “The public doesn’t want the spent fuel here. Well, the fuel is here.”

But every attempt to solve the problem almost instantly gets tangled in complex federal litigation and imposes enormous expense on taxpayers.

The Energy Department was legally bound to haul away the waste by 1998 under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, making the agency about 20 years late in fulfilling its promise. That has saddled utilities with multibillion-dollar costs to store the waste onsite.


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[Byline Ralph Vartabedian]

02 July 2017
Los Angeles Times (edited)

Locations of Power Reactor Sites Undergoing Decommissioning

The NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) has project management responsibilities for 19 power reactors undergoing decommissioning.


San Onofre – Unit 1

Estimated Date For Closure: December 30, 2030

Site Status Summary:

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), operated by Southern California Edison (SCE) is approximately 100 km (60 mi) south of Los Angeles, 6.5 km (4 mi) south of San Clemente, CA. It is located between I-5 and the Pacific Ocean, within the boundary of the Camp Pendleton military reserve. The site originally comprised three nuclear power plants. Unit 1 commenced operation in 1968, and shut down in 1992. Units 2 and 3 permanently ceased operations in June 2013. Dismantlement of Unit 1 is essentially complete. The turbine building was removed and the licensee completed reactor pressure vessel internal segmentation and cutup; however, the licensee was unable to make arrangements for shipping the reactor pressure vessel to a disposal facility because of the size and weight of the vessel and shipping package. The licensee plans to store the vessel onsite until the decommissioning activities for Units 2 and 3 allow for its removal.

SONGS-1 was a Westinghouse 3-loop pressurized water reactor constructed by Bechtel and rated at 1347 MWthermal . It began commercial operation on January 1, 1968, and ceased operation on November 30, 1992. Defueling was completed on March 6, 1993. On December 28, 1993, NRC approved the Permanently Defueled Technical Specifications. On November 3, 1994, SCE submitted a Proposed Decommissioning Plan to place SONGS-1 in SAFSTOR until the shutdown of Units 2 and 3. On December 15, 1998, following a change in NRC decommissioning regulations, SCE submitted a post shutdown decommissioning activities report (PSDAR) for SONGS-1, to commence DECON in 2000. SCE actively decommissioned the facility, and most of the structures and equipment have been removed and sent to a disposal faility. Water control is active, and is processed through the Unit 2 and 3 wastewater treatment system. NRC issued a license amendment in February 2010 releasing the off-shore portions of the Unit 1 cooling intake and outlet pipes in place, under the Pacific Ocean seabed, for unrestricted use. The fuel from Unit 1 was transferred to Phase 1 of the ISFSI. The ISFSI is being expanded onto the area previously occupied by Unit 1 in order to store all Unit 2 and Unit 3 spent fuel.

San Onofre – Units 2 & 3

Estimated Date For Closure: December 31, 2031

Site Status Summary:

On June 7, 2013, Southern California Edison (SCE) announced plans to permanently retire Units 2 and 3 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The NRC staff established an inspection and oversight program that is appropriate for the licensee’s proposed decommissioning activities.

For more information, please see Plans for Decommissioning of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Unit 2 and 3


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