Today’s SONGS Announcement: Now What?

Victor Dricks
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region IV

sanoToday, Southern California Edison Co. announced it will permanently shut down the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente, Calif. This has left many people — who have been closely following events there — wondering what happens next?

First, SCE has not formally notified the NRC of its intention to shut down the two-unit site, so we do not yet know what they’re proposing as a path forward, or how this will affect existing NRC adjudications, investigations, and licensing actions.

But in light of this news, the NRC is cancelling the series of small group meetings we planned to hold next week to discuss process matters related to the potential restart of the plant.

Once we get the notification, the agency’s focus will shift from finishing our technical evaluation of Edison’s proposed restart plan to ensuring the plant is safely and permanently removed from service and decommissioned.

The NRC staff members are scouting potential locations for a large public meeting, and we hope to announce a time and location for this soon. At that meeting, NRC staff will provide an overview of the decommissioning process and opportunities for public participation.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

58 thoughts on “Today’s SONGS Announcement: Now What?”

  1. Try and use more relavent terms. 10CFR 50.59 is for Changes, Tests and Experiments, which would have been completed for this kind of modification (and does not require public hearings). Tube Rupture is a postulated accident in a PWR and has been analyzed in FSAR’s. Tech. Spec. Ammendments and License ammendments will garner public comment, but not 10CFR 50.59 documentation (which is not to say it is unavailable if requested).

    If you don’t believe me, the CFR is a public document on the NRC website. Try reading 10CFR 50.91….. It is the correct place to look for Notice for Public Comment items.

  2. Production at SONGS HAS STOPPED IMMEDIATELY! But, you know what? There is still MATERIAL TO BE DISPOSED OF. If you trashed every nuclear plant in the country right now, besides poisoning the atmosphere and acidifying the oceans with more fossil fuel burning, which you would be responsible for, you’d still have to dispose of material. But because your President (Obama) destroyed the Yucca Mountain project, there is no place for it to go other than the plant sites themselves. And then you get all huffy about that plan because you say some nonsense like it’s a holocaust in waiting (which it isn’t). So on the one hand you trash Yucca Mountain, then turn around and squawk because there is “no place to get rid of nuclear waste”. Well, it’s your fault there isn’t, because of your President that you elected.

  3. I am no obama-ite. But nuclear waste should not go to yucca anyway- the undeground water moves differently than the reports have told the public. In fact, there is a good reason why nobody wants that its dangerous and will outlast the human race. Dont blame obama on your timidity to stop production immediately. Its up to us, not him. Support the NRC and force them to vote our way.

  4. “I see a simpler solution: removal of radioactive materials from densely populated areas.”

    Make your concerns known to your President. Don’t go hammering the shutdown nuclear plant about it. It was your President who stopped Yucca Mountain. If Yucca Mountain were proceeding on schedule as required by Federal Law (which your President is in violation of) then there would be a place to send the material. There isn’t, because of the actions of your President.

  5. I understand “sheltering in place” for San Diego School District with 132,000 school children is currently considered our plan in the event of radioactive nuclear event at San Onofre. We all know a viable evacuation is simply not possible. Imagine a teacher with 20 students in classroom lock down without adequate food, watezr & bathroom facilitates for an unspecified time. Parents panicking in attempting to reach their children. Freeways in gridlock. No I don’t see these plans as viable. I see a simpler solution: removal of radioactive materials from densely populated areas.

  6. The responsibility for waste is on the people producing it. I don’t care about the old rules, we are making new ones. Once the waste leaves the plant and enters the pools, it no longer belongs to PG&E or SCE. That will change. The public is a shareholder who foots all the burdens and bills but gets no benefit. All we get is a ticking nuclear conflagration in the wings. First 4 steps: 1 stop making more spent fuel 2 all spent fuel into dry cask storage within 7 years, then weld shut seawater cooling intakes. 3 establish an agency -a priesthood if you will- that will watch the spent fuel until it winds down in 500 thousand years, a ‘nukes templar’. 4. Move spent fuel away from seismicly active areas

    On Facebook: stop the diablo canyon seismic testing

  7. You should direct your concerns to Obama. Obama’s DoE cancelled the Yucca Mountain repository in order to get Harry Reid re-elected to the Senate. Basically he put politics before your concerns. Do you like that? If it weren’t for Obama cancelling Yucca Mountain, there would be a place for the SONGS material to go. But there isn’t, because it was more important to get Harry Reid re-elected.

  8. You should consult your local emergency management authorities for that information; they are the ones who prepare, practice and implement evacuation plans.

    David McIntyre

  9. You have 7 years before the once through cooling seawater intake gets welded shut forever. You had better start planning to dry cask store everything by then. Joey Racano

    On Facebook: stop the diablo canyon seismic testing

  10. Where can public access FEMA emergency evacuation plans for 8.4 million residents?

  11. SoCal Edison last week certified to the NRC that they have permanently shut down San Onofre Units 2 and 3. However, the company has not yet submitted a decommissioning plan. See our blog post of February 28, “Deconstructing the Decommissioning Process,” about Crystal River 3. The regulations and process will be similar for SONGS.

    As for the funding, all licensees – whether for operating or permanently shutdown reactors in decommissioning – must maintain decommissioning funds. The NRC reviews these funds every two years to verify reasonable assurance that adequate funding will be available for decommissioning when needed.

    David McIntyre

  12. Until a permanent federal repository is approved and constructed, spent nuclear fuel will be stored onsite both in the spent fuel pool and dry cask storage at the plants where it was produced. The Department of Energy is responsible for the developing a permanent disposal site of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive wastes.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reviewed and approved the emergency response plans for San Onofre, and continues to inspect them during biennial exercises and annual assist visits. FEMA continues to believe there is reasonable assurance that timely evacuations can be performed for the populations at risk from any sort of emergency affecting the cities around San Onofre.

    Victor Dricks

  13. My only concerns at this point: When do we remove stored spent fuel at San Onofre, located between 2 active earthquake faults? What evacuation plans are viable for 8.4 million residents until spent fuel is safely removed from densely populated areas?

  14. What method will be used to decommission San Onofre? Who would decide this? Since it is right on the beach, I think if it is not producing power anymore that the DECON method should be used to at least take the non-nuclear part closest to the beach away and give the land back to the public. The domes might be there awhile, but I would think there could be valuble metal and could some of the machinery be used anywhere else (although isn’t San Onofre a unique plant?). When might people start to see a difference in how the place looks. All that exposed machinery was pretty ugly.

  15. these kinds of conversations often fall apart because one “side” brings nothing but facts to the table, while “the other side” is not above exaggeration or downright lying. The problem is, both “sides” think this is what is happening, and they’re not “the other side.”

  16. We recognize this is an issue that raises emotions and on which people have significant differences of opinion, but please keep personal attacks out of the comments so we can post them.


  17. And, Germany is planning to make up their capacity shortages by building more coal-fired power plants. They are doing that now. They know that solar is useless in their climate, and the experiences of their neighbors (Spain, Denmark, et al.) with wind has shown them what an unmitigated economic disaster overreliance on unreliable wind will be. So that means more CO2, more acid rain, more fly ash dumped into the environment. You want to follow Germany’s example? You’ll then be responsible for ruining the natural environment for your children and their heirs.

  18. Hear hear, Michael. Uncertainty is death to business, and the NRC has been dealing uncertainty in spades.

  19. I don’t doubt that it would have run through to 2042 without incident. That is the thirty years I was thinking of.

  20. So you need the grid to back up your expensive hobbies when they aren’t working, which is like at least once a day if your solar panels go dark. So the utility (grid operator) is expected to maintain a huge infrastructure so you can have backup when you need it. And the rest of the non-1%ers who can’t afford expensive solar toys have to pay that much higher of a rate to keep your toys backed up.

  21. Nah, I don’t waste my time with unreliable and outrageously expensive boondoggles like solar and wind. I’ve been around too long to fall for that baloney.

  22. Yes, I agree 100%

    Said another way SCE continues to practice CYA and I predict that time will prove that SCE got more than a little nuclear design egg on their face and will now have to repay their ratepayers because of it!

  23. I hope that the NRC will commit to providing everyone with the results from the many investigations into why San Onofre’s debacle occurred; perhaps then many of those in the nuclear field will realise that just because it is nuclear does not mean it cannot fail, and nuclear failure is unacceptable both for our Country and the Earth… Ask The Japanese!

    From a recent seminar in San Diego:
    Lessons for California from Gregory Jaczko, Former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    + Former Japanese PM Kan and two other experts…

  24. PigWig Would you be surprised to learn that San Onofre was a near miss, because of it poor replacement steam generators that had more internal tube damage that all the rest of the US nuclear fleet combined, that is how bad they were and that damaged occurred either in the first (Unit 3) or second operating cycle (Unit 2)… Sometimes are as bad as they seem!

  25. A very large number of NRC internal reviews and a very large number of experts from outside the NRC wrote papers that identified the risks involved!

    Here is a great one on tube fatigue:
    San Onofre’s “almost new” replacement steam generators had more tube damage that all the rest of the US nuclear fleet combined and in Unit 3 8 tubes failed in-situ pressure testing something tht even the NRC found was a serious safety concern and in Unit 2 they found a tube with 90 wear which far exceed the safety limitation of 35% wall thickness allowed and SCE did not even know it!


    Here is 24 pages of factual data that is based on solid engineering data not Utility mis-direction…

  26. James Its simple, you add whenever you can and then withdraw when you need to, simple since the grid belongs to all of US! Now if we could get the Utilities that are supposed to operate as public utilities to pay us for the energy we put in at the same rate that they pay themselves for adding the same Energy (by using smart meters) then our payback period would be really short and many more would add safe risk-free solar to their roofs, which would help our Country!

    Germany is now pushing this and expects to be 100% renewable by 2050 if not before!

  27. turnages Many are doing just that and making our just fine, especially since the grid is a separate charge and belongs to us all! BTW in Germany most of the energy production is by non Utilities which keeps rates for all low; a model that the USA would wise to emulate!

    BTW: I have run my own ship and we got along just great whenever we were not using shore power!

  28. And by advocating the scrapping of nuclear plants, you will be responsible for burning more natural gas, which will release hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 and thousands of tons of methane to the environment. That will degrade the atmosphere and you will also be responsible for the acidification of the oceans, which will lead to the deaths of billions.

  29. Jamie, so accept reality and be one of the first to start looking into Solar (of all flavors), think how many had to change occupations when the US space effort ended in the late 70’s…

  30. SteveK9 Your suggestion is exactly why the NRC should have N☢T allowed SCE to restart, it was an experiment, something which thankfully is not allowed due to safety regulations…

  31. Retrained to do what? Ride the garbage truck? Drive a forklift? No thanks. I didn’t spend four years in college and five in graduate school to do that kind of crap. Decommissioning work stinks. It is literally a dead-end job. The whole time you are working yourself out of a job. It is tearing down the life’s work of others, basically being a destroyer rather than a builder. We don’t need more dead-end jobs in the economy right now. And you are “just plain lucky” that you don’t kill dozens of people every time you drive your car. There are millions of drivers all over California. There is a potential for tens of millions of deaths if you weren’t “just plain lucky”. I think we should shut you all down “just to be safe”.

  32. It doesn’t matter how “efficient” photovoltaic systems are if the sun doesn’t shine. And, last I checked, that happens an average of half the time every day. Wind is terribly unreliable. You know what the average capacity of all the wind generators in CA was the last time you had a heat wave, when the electricity was needed the most? About 5%. Anyone who proposes relying on a system with a 5% capacity factor isn’t very smart. If you want to replace the output of SONGS with the newest wind turbines, assuming a generous 35% capacity factor, you’d have to run a line of them from LA to Seattle and back. What do you think the 0.1%-ers living along the CA coast would think of that visual pollution? The so-called “environmentalists” will oppose so-called tidal and hydropower technologies. Those have devastating impacts on littoral currents and run-of-the-river natural flows. Contrary to hydropower development, you’ve got so-called “environmentalist” groups all over the West agitating to blow up dams (e.g., Glen Canyon). And, finally, geothermal. Did you know that the use of geothermal energy releases more radiation to the environment than a nuclear plant? If the one geothermal plant in CA (Geyers) were regulated by the NRC, it would never receive an operating license. Too much radon is brought up from deep underground and released to the air. You people are so concerned about a SONGS “near-miss” (whhich it isn’t), you’ve got an on-going “miss” right now in these geothermal plants.

  33. Those workers should take their capabilities and talents and apply them to creating and deploying more efficient photovoltaic, wind, tidal, geothermal, and hydropower technologies. The smartest could start figuring out ways to deploy technologies like Francisco Pachecho’s autolytic hydrogen generator; how to overcome the organized crime, governmental, and political oppositions to such technology.

  34. Excellent. Every NPP and SFP is a potential catastrophe, capable: of ruining an area the size of a large western state, or larger; of killing millions of people by heart disease, diabetes, and cancer over decades; of doing devastating damage to the human genome and the genomes of all creatures.

  35. SCE was afraid of of ASLB ruling and public hearings and NRC Commission started small group public hearings to comply with ASLB ruling of public hearings. So that was the breakdown and SCE to save face, not sure of their Restart Plan and avoid criminal investigations announced panicky Shutdown of Both Units. Shutdown does not mean that all the investigation will go away. You pay for what wrongs you do to others by retaliating, lying, discriminating and harassing for Nuclear Safety Concerns. If SCE Management would have listened to me when I rejected the SONGS Unit 3 Root Cause , SONGS would have Unit 2 rebuilt by now with public/NRC approval and producing power.

  36. Perhaps it should really be renamed the ‘Nuclear Rejection Commission’. SCE could have turned on Unit 1 at 70% tomorrow as requested. They are very confident this would work. If it did fail, detectors would measure this immediately and the reactor could be shut down safely.

    SCE gave up because they see years of pointless discussion ahead. So, over 2GW of clean, non-polluting, CO2-free energy will be lost forever, … and for nothing.

  37. N☢ San Onofre Gate

    First, a salute to all of San Onofre’s loyal workers that have or will lose their jobs because of SCE Managements poor engineering decisions, everyone feels sorry for both you and your families, there is no good time to be laid off. We also feel sorry for all the local businesses and families that live in the neighborhoods located near San Onofre that will feel the effects of these job loses. Hopefully as many as possible of you can remain here by getting retrained by SCE, so that you can be retained or re-hired (along with many others) to decommission San Onofre a big job that we now know will last for many years and cost billions of dollars which will hopefully help jumpstart the entire southern California economy!
    To all those that are now upset, angry and/or worried about the future because San Onofre is being decommissioned, I urge all you to not focus your frustration upon those who protested by publicizing the many actual safety concerns at San Onofre but join with them and together lets all demand to learn much more about why San Onofre had to be decommissioned. We all deserve to know exactly who at SCE was responsible for their decisions to use unproven radical designed RSG’s at San Onofre that not only failed so quickly after being put into service but leaked radioactivity into the air we breathe, putting everyone in southern California at risk!

    Because of this Corporate engineering debacle*, recently laid off employees, present employees soon to be laid off and all the ratepayers are now suffering while those that are responsible are simply going to change their retirement packages and/or enjoy their golden parachutes; they are the only ones that should be held responsible! The US Government, the NRC, the CPUC and the State of California Attorney General must complete all of their investigations into San Onofre, so that those that are responsible can be identified and we all receive the maximum financial relief possible from them. SCE, SDG&E, the CPUC and MHI must be instructed ASAP not to shred any documents relating to San Onofre; the public will not accept a San Onofre Gate cover up. No longer can SCE or MHI claim that they must restrict any “proprietary information” on any company documents relating to San Onofre since they are now going to be decommissioning it, along with its new unsafe Replacement Steam Generators that contain so many major design flaws. In hindsight, Southern California had a nuclear near miss on 01/31/12 and if we were not just plain lucky we could have suffered a nuclear accident just like Fukushima, because of the dangerous Replacement Steam Generators that were in use at San Onofre.

    We now also have another major problem, which is to determine where both our Federal and State Regulatory Systems of checks and balances failed, in order to make sure that something like this never happens again because the USA cannot afford a trillion dollar Eco-disaster. To do that, it is vital that we insure that all the investigations mentioned above are done publicly and not behind closed doors so that all of us can better understand exactly how San Onofre’s debacle occurred, the names of those that are responsible for it and exactly who we should hold responsible for the restitution of all our financial losses.

    *San Onofre will be remembered as both a nuclear near miss, and as an engineering debacle of epic proportions like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

  38. I agree with you joffan7. SONGS could have produced clean affordable power through 2022.

  39. What is the output of those rooftop solar installations when the sun goes down? Last I checked, it still gets dark about half the time in any given day. Do you use electricity at night? Where is it going to come from? If you have “storage batteries”, how much capacity do those have? Will it be adequate for an extended period of no output from the solar panels? How many deep-charging cycles will your storage batteries handle before they have to be replaced? What are the environmental impacts of millions of tons of toxic materials from discarded storage batteries being thrown away and/or recycled? What is the payback period (without government subsidies) of the combined rooftop solar panels and energy storage systems?

  40. “… a nuclear near-miss, that could have ended up as another Fukushima if we had not been just plain LUCKY!”

    Every time there’s ANY problem at a nuclear generating station, no matter how trivial the incident, we hear that. We must be close to our thousandth near miss and “just plain lucky”.

    Hint: when the same “luck” happens time and time again, it’s not luck. In the case of nuclear energy, it’s the skill, intelligence, wisdom, and dedication of the workforce.

  41. Joey
    Great poem, SALUTE!

    Into Haiku?

    We all glow the same

    Matters N☢T who is to blame

    Nuclear is Lame

  42. Re: “The truth is that southern California had a nuclear near-miss, that could have ended up as another Fukushima if we had not been just plain LUCKY!”

    I don’t like lies. I don’t like gross exaggrerations and I don’t like poisonous lies tantamount to crying fire in a theater.. Anti-nukes are obliged to cough up solid certified engineering and scientific fact to your spiel or stop spewing [removed] to a bewildered public and windvane politicans.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    The sincerely fair should view “Pandora’s Promise”, not fearful fearmongers.

  43. I’m counting on the NRC to complete all its investigations into what was going on at San Onofre and especially how SCE was able to build their 465 million dollar RSG without going through a CFR 50.59 process, which includes public hearings.

    Sweeping all the investigations “under the rug” will be a dis-service to both those that reported what was happening at San Onofre and to the NRC’s role as a regulator to the nuclear industry!

    The NRC should be issuing fines and or other types of enforcement as well a re-thinking one of its core beliefs that only one SG tube can ever fail at any one time which San Onofre proved could happen!

  44. From the press release:

    “After months of analysis and tests, SCE submitted a restart plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2012. SCE proposed to safely restart Unit 2 at a reduced power level (70 %) for an initial period of approximately five months. That plan was based on work done by engineering groups from three independent firms with expertise in steam generator design and manufacturing. ”

    What weird and distorted risk assessment persuaded the NRC that this was a more dangerous course than, through delay after delay, to force California to burn more gas instead? The Kleen Energy gas explosion in 2010 killed 6 and injured 50. The San Bruno pipeline explosion, also in 2010, killed 8 and laid 38 homes in ruins.

  45. I agree with joffan’s post.

    Look back at Palo Verde in the 90’s. When they had their steam generator tube rupture, they were back online doing a short cycle confidence run within months. I understand the SONGS SGs are unique among the industry, but they are still essentially heat exchangers, not some new or unknown device.

    Holding up the 70% restart for a confidence run which did have reasonable assurance of no safety significance for as long as it was is not efficient regulation. What was gained by delaying the restart, and why are these delays allowed? If reasonable assurance of safety can be assured for the conditions the plant is trying to operate in, there should be no delays in the restart of the unit. Additionally, the NRC needs to give the licensee very clear and unchanging requirements for restart ASAP after an event where a CAL is issued. The bar for SONGS kept changing during the process, and it was not clear where the bar was eventually going to land for almost a year. The NRC needs to improve on clear, efficient, effective communication of requirements early in all projects, not just what happened at SONGS, otherwise I fear we will will be going back to the 80’s and 90’s where the nuclear industry was on a road to death and licensees who are trying to do the right thing have no choice but to close under an unclear and uncertain regulatory environment.

    Michael K. Antonelli

  46. From the press release:

    “After months of analysis and tests, SCE submitted a restart plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2012. SCE proposed to safely restart Unit 2 at a reduced power level (70 %) for an initial period of approximately five months. That plan was based on work done by engineering groups from three independent firms with expertise in steam generator design and manufacturing.”

    I would really like to know why the NRC thought that would have been an unreasonable course of action, especially as the original release from Unit 3 was so minor.

  47. Tell you what, CaptD. Since the Utility is so Evil and won’t pay you for all that surplus energy from your rooftop solar system, why don’t you run you own ship? Disconnect from them and come out from their slavery?

    I’ll come back in a year’s time and see how you’re doing.

  48. Decommissioning work stinks. It is low skill, low wage, and literally dead-end. Anyone who does it is basically an undertaker, tearing down the work of others. I for one would NEVER do it. I build things, not destroy them.

  49. Low carbon but high residue. Radioactive residue. NRC did a good job on this one- made the right call.

  50. One thing is true, many workers will lose their jobs but many others will get employed to decommission San Onofre and that will last for many years!

    The root problem was that SCE tried to sneak their radical designed RSG’s in and they failed when put into service! Now ratepayers and current employees are suffering while those responsible change retirement programs…. They are he ones you should direct your anger at.

  51. CA has plenty of Energy without any nuclear reactors!

    California has excess power without nuclear, according to data from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the electricity grid operator, the California Independent System Operator (ISO). Here is their chart showing that CA has a 20% (and growing) surplus of Energy without either El Diablo or San Onofre (which has been shuttered because of faulty NEW steam generators for about a year and a half) nuclear generators!
    There is a simple reason that California has the highest electric rates in the USA!

    The California Public Utility Commission (who sets the rates) has been allowing the Utilities to rip off rate payers so they can reward their shareholders.

    This practice MUST STOP…

    Now is the time to demand that SCE (and SDG&E) pay us for the energy from our rooftop solar systems, (that we put into the grid) the same rate they pay themselves for the energy they put into the grid! This will reduce the payback period and encourage everyone to add solar to their roofs in order to gain energy freedom instead remaining an energy slavery to the Utilities!

  52. Joffan7 Your comment is VERY far from being realistic! San Onofre had so many RSG design problems that one pair of new RSG failed in less than a year and the other pair in less than 2 years, yet you urge them to restart and accuse the NRC of foot dragging…

    The truth is that southern California had a nuclear near-miss, that could have ended up as another Fukushima if we had not been just plain LUCKY!

  53. SWAN S.O.N.G.

    Swan songs are sad songs, but not in this case
    with Millions of people near nuclear waste

    Goodbye, San Onofre, we shed ye no tear
    Retire that plant and don’t come back next year

    We’re tired of the lies and we won’t live in fear
    Barbara the Boxer yanked you by your ear

    Now off to the dust bin of history go
    You killed all the plankton; that, sadly, we know

    You wanted a restart though you knew it could blow
    Goodbye to your cold heart, and the worst SONG I know

    joey racano

    on facebook: shut down diablo canyon

  54. Thanks but no thanks. We don’t need platitudes from the NRC. This is a disaster any way you spin it. The environment will suffer, ratepayers will be stuck with the costs of paying for more expensive replacement power, and hundreds of capable and talented people will be put out of work, have their lives disrupted, and their careers ruined. Take that decommissioning crap and stuff it.

  55. The NRC should take a good hard look in the mirror. Bureaucratic foot-dragging and process hijacks have impelled a poltical decision that closing this nuclear power plant is easier than wading for years through further wrangling.

    This is not a safety closure. This is a government interference closure. San Onofre could have been generating low-carbon power for another thirty years.

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