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What’s Next In The Decommissioning Of San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County is shown in this undated photo.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County is shown in this undated photo.
What’s Next In The Decommissioning Of San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant
What’s Next In The Decommissioning Of San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant GUEST: David Victor, professor, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy

Next month marks the five-year anniversary of the leak that proved to be the beginning of the end for the San Onofre power plant. Now selling, Edison -- Southern California Edison has named the company is that while decommission the plant. A new administration in Washington may have a direct impact on my that Santa free waste eventually ends up. Joining me is David Victor with the school of global policy and strategy at UC San Diego and chairman of Southern California Edison's community engagement panel which is the group that is monitoring the decommissioning of Santa free. -- San Onofre. The two main companies are Los Angeles infrastructure company and Salt Lake City-based energy solutions. Can you give us some idea of the type of work that they will be doing. They will be overseeing the entire process of decommissioning the plant. It is almost as expensive to take a plan like this apart as it is to put it together in the first place. This is a giant contract and is will run about a decade and there will be some continuing work after that. We will see the domes themselves that will come down. There will be some work done by robotics. Some of the materials are too radioactive for people to handle directly. It's an enormous process and one of the things that struck me on the community engagement panel is how much attention there is making sure that as many of the benefits flow to the local communities and organize labor -- because of the communities that have been hit by the decommissioning. Southern California Edison has not revealed how much they will be paying these agencies but they have said that most of this will be coming from a decommission fund that is rented by the state. Every power plant in the United States has one of these funds set up. While the plant is operational money goes into the fund and the money is invested in safe ways with a lot of oversight in that panel and the highchair does not do the oversight because there are many layers and the best estimates are that there is plenty of money in the fund and then some to cover all the costs. How soon can these companies begin the work of dismantling San Onofre? Much of the work has already been done. For example a lot of the work has been done to prepare the plant for the process to do what is called cold and dark and remove some of the fluids from different types get the plant ready and also a huge amount of work is already underway to prepare the pad for the long-term storage of the spent nuclear field. Right now most of it is sitting in pools inside the reactor buildings that will be taken out and put in these casks and to this new pad that is under construction. Much of this will be dry storage what does that entail? That is done with every plant around the states. It will be cooler and then trying it off and putting it inside the statement still canisters and while and then shut there are three major companies that do that they have chosen a company called whole tech which is an extremely reputable company and that process is more or less underway you have to build the pad First Amendment canisters themselves are being fabricated and will be loaded and dry and then put into this long-term storage facility. The pad that the canisters are stored in is that near the beach? It will be near the beach because the whole plant is near the beach. There's been a tremendous amount of work done to understand the seismic risk and the tsunami risk to build walls and put security systems around it. I've read that there's 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste that will destroy that women the process is completed. When this is expected to be completed The timetables that Edison has shared with us will be complete maybe at the end of this year and maybe the process of loading is canisters will be done at the end of 2019 and then the fuel shifts until there's an option for removing it from the San Onofre site and sending it to somebody else. There are still concerns about the safety of the dry storage system and the safety of the canisters. How will they be monitored That is something that they are spending a lot of time on. That helped us turn this into plain English so I can understand it is happening. Some of this is a work in progress -- progress. Never expected to have for 20 or 30 years or longer but that is normal in this industry. There will be monitoring around temperature and radiation and every 20 years or so and I will be expections -- inspections of the canisters maybe not all the ones that will be telltale signs of all the ones that are emerging. I think it is very important to recognize that this is what is done at all of the plants in the United States so we have a huge advantage hereby doing the same kind of thing that other plants are doing because many other plants are further ahead than we are in this process so we can learn from this process and make sure that we have the best systems in place. There's no permanent storage site for nuclear waste in the US right now. There's an effort to support legislation that would pave the way for interim storage facilities perhaps in Texas and New Mexico. Is there any expectation that will change in the new year? It did not go anywhere in 2016 because of gridlock in Congress. To be one of the most interesting things that I have learned in sharing this panel -- chairing this panel is that three years ago when the panel began it did not seem like there are many solutions and we were stuck with this their for the foreseeable future. Now there is a real opportunity with this interim storage facility whether in Mexico or Texas or other facilities that may emerge in the future to send the field there on an interim basis and to and -- to a permanent facility. The best analyses say that that requires new legislation open several bills in Congress that have not gone through. The new Republican control over the house and senate if they focus on this topic I thick it's possible that they will get it through with significant Democratic support as well. There are many issues in the United States today and this is one of those topics where you will start to see a bipartisan compromise it's about interim storage or about restarting you come out on whether you like that or not it's crucial to the politics of this topic. Putting all that together and having a bill that gets to Congress and gets through the signature to the president could make a big difference for us locally. Bringing us back to San Diego the next panel meeting is in February. Are the contractors that have been announced taken part in this decommissioning. Do you expect them to be part of that public meeting or subsequent public meetings. We have asked Edison to bring the contractors to one of the meetings and understand that the communities are concerned about the have something to say and maybe at the next meeting of the one after that but in the first half of this coming year I expect we will meet the contractors and get a chance to talk about it. I've been speaking with David Victor chairman of the engagement panel. Thank you so much.

Southern California Edison has taken another step forward in the long and costly process to decommission the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Edison has named AECOM and EnergySolution as the contractors that will tackle the technical work required to dismantle the plant, which may begin in 2018 after state regulators complete an environmental review.

The announcement comes nearly five years after the radiation leak that ultimately led to the plant's closure.


Edison says decommissioning is expected to take 20 years and cost $4.4 billion.

The cost includes dismantlement work and the on-site storage of nuclear waste.

David Victor, chairman of Edison’s Community Engagement Panel, which monitors the decommissioning of the plant, joins KPBS Midday Edition Wednesday to discuss what’s next in the decommissioning process and the push for a permanent nuclear waste storage site.

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