Chief Nuclear Officer Peter Dietrich today urged San Onofre workers to continue protecting the health and safety of the public as Southern California Edison shuts down the nuclear power plant.
The internal email was a reminder of the lengthy, costly and delicate decommissioning work that lies ahead for the plant.
Edison Chief Executive Officer Ted Craver said it could be months before spent nuclear fuel at San Onofre is removed to cooling ponds, then stored in dry casks to be kept onsite. The federal government doesn't yet have a place for spent nuclear fuel to be housed other than at individual plants.
David Lochbaum is director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project. He said the rest of San Onofre will likely be surveyed and any portions that are radioactive will be treated and sent to a licensed radioactive waste dump.
"One of the things that works in Edison's favor is approximately two dozen reactors have already gone through decommissioning so there's less and less uncertainty about how to do that task," Lochbaum said.
Decommissioning a nuclear plant costs hundreds of millions of dollars. Craver said the company has a $2.7 billion decommissioning fund. Daniel Hirsch, a UC Santa Cruz lecturer on nuclear policy, says the time it takes could vary.
"They could start this in the next year and over a period of five years or so, they could decommission the reactor. Or, they could say 'we're going to mothball it and we won't start for half a century,'" Hirsch said.