Dismantlement of San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant Is More than 60% Complete

by on November 16, 2023 · 8 comments

in Energy, Environment, San Diego

By Rob Nikolewski / San Diego Union-Tribune / Nov. 16, 2023

While it may be difficult to see as drivers zoom past the two distinctive domes on the west side of Interstate 5, the dismantlement of the San Onofre nuclear power plant is more than 60 percent complete. “We’re just under two-thirds of the way through,” said Vince Bilovsky, director of the decommissioning project at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, known as SONGS for short. “We’re where we need to be.”

Demolition work on the eight-year, $4.7 billion project started in October 2020 and is scheduled to finish by the end of 2028. The scope of the job is massive. About 1.1 billion pounds of equipment, components, rebar, concrete, steel and titanium will be removed. About 80 percent of the material is presumed to be radioactive.

“My wife always asks me, ‘What do you do for a living?’ and I always say, ‘I get paid to worry,’” Rich Kalman, executive sponsor at SONGS Decommissioning Solutions, said during a virtual meeting last month that reviewed the progress of the dismantlement. “Make sure we do it safely, and keep everyone out of harm’s way. That’s my major job at SONGS.”

The vast majority of the plant’s material is labeled Class A waste, the lowest level of radioactive material. Most of the rubble goes by rail to a disposal facility in Clive, Utah. Class B and C low-level waste get sent to a site near the town of Andrews in West Texas. Non-radioactive material goes to Las Vegas for recycling or a landfill facility in Arizona. About 900 rail-car shipments have sent more than 300 million pounds out of the 84-acre facility and by the time the dismantlement wraps up, some 5,500 will be completed.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mateo November 16, 2023 at 1:23 pm

California owes a debt of gratitude to Ray Lutz and Citizen’s Oversight that worked tirelessly to get the San Onofre Power Plant shuttered for good. Only problem is that Toni Atkins and Gavin Newsom have mindlessly lobbied for other state’s nuclear waste to be shipped in from all over the country and be stored permanently adjacent to the sight.


Mateo November 16, 2023 at 1:23 pm



Nicholas Geary November 17, 2023 at 7:07 am

“Toni Atkins and Gavin Newsom have mindlessly lobbied for other state’s nuclear waste to be shipped in from all over the country and be stored permanently adjacent to the site.”

I would rate the odds of that being accurate at around zero %. Federal law would need to change before that would even be a legal possibility. It is vastly more likely that this claim originated in misunderstanding or dishonesty somewhere.


Mateo November 17, 2023 at 9:29 am
Mateo November 17, 2023 at 10:17 am
Nicholas Geary November 17, 2023 at 10:39 am

Okay, so where does either article mention Atkins or Newsom lobbying for other state’s nuclear waste to be shipped in from all over the country and be stored permanently adjacent to the site? Both articles are talking about the fuel on-site having been transferred into dry storage. Both articles mention this is temporary and there are efforts underway to find either a permanent site or temporary site elsewhere to move the spent fuel to. Neither article had anything about moving spent fuel from other states to the San Onofre storage site.


Mateo November 17, 2023 at 2:55 pm

Phase One: Newsom reverses Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Power Plant Closure.

Pahse II: Newsom while sitting on the Coastal Commission gets the extension approval to store nuclear waste through 2035.

Phase III: Transfer radioactive waste from Diablo Canyon to the storage site adjacent to the San O’nofre storage facility


Phase IV: Expand the storage to include additional nuclear waste from additional facilities. Considering Biden backed the reopening of Diablo Canyon and DOE moneys were made available to reopen it in direct defiance to Californians we should assume the worst. A lot of plans have been floated around, and the issue is very unpopular, but we will get it shoved down our throats like everything else, rest assured.

Newsom has proven himself environmentally untrustworthy time and time again. Due to the massive natural gas blowout that sickened thousands of Aliso Canyon and Simi Valley residents for several months, causing irreparable damage to the health and well being of the surrounding community, for example, Newsom ran for Governor on shutting the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage facility permanently. Once elected he wasted no time lobbying to get it opened back up.


Edison’s position is that the radioactive waste can be safely burried and stored at the adjacent San O’nofre site. Given the lack of transparency with our State Government kind of makes it difficult for an average citizen or activist organization for that matter to produce the smoking gun proof you’re demanding here. I am an engaged citizen not an investigative reporter. That being said, given the climate of secrecy in witch fewer than 20% of public record requests are filled by the current California Attorney General, I stand by my comment.


Nicholas Geary November 17, 2023 at 7:10 pm

The California Coastal Commission cannot require a permit for storing spent fuel (that’s NRC jurisdiction), but they can regulate coastal development and construction on the coast–including the construction of storage. And so it was that in 2001, when the commission issued the Coastal Develpment Permit E-00-014 for building spent fuel storage, they included some conditions intended to limit the extent of the permit. One of these limitations read: ” This permit is only for the development described in the project description set forth in this staff report dated May 24, 2001.” and they further specified that “any future substantive physical or structural improvements to the permitted structure, including but not limited to an increase in storage capacity of spent nuclear fuel or the storage of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants other than the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Units 2 and 3 shall require an amendment to coastal development permit E-00-014 from the Commission.” They didn’t know whether the NRC would ever issue a permit to move fuel from another station, but they wanted to be clear that even if that were to happen, any changes to the storage in order to make that possible would require permission from the Commission. They were not creating a regulatory pathway for moving fuel. They were basically preserving their right to block such a fuel transfer (by not granting permission to build the storage for it). And Condition 5 has been in the permit since 2001, and the requested amendment for time-extension merely leaves Condition 5 intact and unmodified.


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