Dismantling the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

San Onofre nuclear generating station after it closed in 2013.

By: Sydney Donovan | Editor

February 7, 2020

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was shut down in 2013 after replacement steam generators failed and became no longer useful. The plant never produced electricity again. A fight with environmentalists over whether the plant was too damaged to restart safely took place.

The plant has been at San Onofre since 1968 and now it will be a change to no longer see the huge plants off the 5 Freeway at state park, just south of San Clemente. The dismantling of the shuttered generating station will begin next month. This process is estimated to take eight years but the entire process to dismantle the plant and fully remove waste could take more than a decade to complete.

San Onofre power plant right off the I-5 south of San Cemente.

“It’s kind of sad because they are something that everyone in San Clemente knew about,” SCHS senior Jane Parry said. “If they do something cool with the area it could be nice since it has been sitting there doing nothing for so long.”

There has always been a risk in removing these plants as it may seem unsafe to the people living in the surrounding area. Several lawsuits have raised concerns over the removal of 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste and where it will go.

“I am scared to see if the project will run smoothly,”  San Clemente High school senior Dana Shany said.

Many people are probably wondering how this will ever get paid off. The costs for the dismantlement will come from $4.4 billion in existing decommissioning trust funds and the money has been collected from the plant’s customers and invested in dedicated trusts.

The process will include removal of buildings, containment domes, and other above-ground structures associated with the two reactors. Large pipes that took in and discharged ocean-cooling water will also be removed along with buoys and anchors. 

San Onofre remains home to 3.5 million pounds of spent fuel and nuclear waste. The waste is being transferred from storage pools to concrete storage holes. It may seem like a burden because the process takes so long, but in the end San Onofre will stay clean and the beach will be safer so residents do not have to worry about another accident.

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