Information about the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
- Currently, Southern California Edison, the NRC, the U.S. Military and other U.S. government agencies do not have a long-term plan in place to deal with the spent nuclear fuel and there are no facilities built to hold it. Sites have been proposed in Nevada, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, but nothing has been done. There are at least 100 nuclear generating stations across the US and no safe place to store the spent nuclear fuel. These stations were never designed to hold the waste long-term.
San Onofre Generating Station (SONGS) ceased operation in 2012 due to vents that were found to be leaking due to improperly installed/designed Mitsubishi generators. Reactor 1 was decommissioned in 2001. Reactors 2 and 3 are in the process of decommissioning right now. It’s expected that the plant will be completely decommissioned by 2027-29, including the removal of the large concrete reactor domes. All that will remain onsite is the spent nuclear fuel and waste, as well as some components of the Southern California electrical grid.
Southern California leases the site from the U.S. military/government.
- There are 51 canisters of spent nuclear fuel from Reactor 1 already stored onsite. Reactors 2 and 3 will add 73 more canisters to the site within the next 18 months. In total, there is 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear waste stored onsite.
If there is a nuclear disaster at SONGS it will affect everything in a 50-mile radius. There 8.7 million people living within a 50-mile radius of the plant.
SONGS is located in a tsunami zone. Located between Interstate 5 (the main artery connecting the West Coast) and the Pacific shoreline, it’s situated on Marine base Camp Pendleton, the largest U.S. military base on the West Coast and of great strategic importance.
Southern California Edison has begun storing the nuclear waste at SONGS in stainless steel canisters made by Holtec. There are prior instances of similar canisters cracking, and once installed to the concrete matrix that will store them there is no safe way of removing or repairing the canisters. The NRC requires Southern California Edison test the canisters once a quarter and file a report to the NRC annually. There is NO real-time monitoring in place at this time.
The canisters from Reactors 2 and 3 will sit on a reinforced concrete pad that sits a mere three feet above the water table. It is protected by a 30-foot seawall that was built based on the mean low tide line (rather than the mean high tide line).
- In May 2018, Edison filled four newly designed Holtec Canisters with spent nuclear fuel and discovered the remaining 43 canisters they were going use had a loose bolt. They stopped work for 10 days, and stopped using these faulty canisters. Southern California Edison is unable to check whether the 4 canisters they already filled had the same flaw as they’ve already been put into their concrete holding silos.
The manufacturer’s warranty on the canisters is 20 years. Southern California Edison estimates the canisters could safely be stored onsite at San Onofre for 60-100 years.
- San Onofre’s unique because of the population surrounding the immediate area and the site’s strategic importance, but this isn’t just a local issue, as more nuclear power plants around the U.S. and the world go offline in the coming years the safe storage of the spent fuel and waste will become one of the most critical environmental issues facing mankind.
- Because a large number of nuclear power plants were constructed on coastlines around the world, and we’re all connected by our oceans, this is a massive global issue that could potentially affect everyone.