Timeline and cost estimate of mothballing shuttered nuclear plant may be known by September, Southern California Edison official says

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. File photo
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. File photo

By Andrea Papagianis

Since Southern California Edison announced it would cease operations of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in June 2013, one thing has stayed certain: the twin domes between San Clemente and Oceanside would remain an Interstate 5 fixture for years to come.

Questions still linger, such as what will the decommissioning process look like, how much money will ratepayers be on the hook for and how safe is the current storage of spent, or used, nuclear fuel.

Local leaders and stakeholders from across Orange and San Diego counties, who have been brought together by Edison, the majority owner and operator of the plant, are now grappling with those questions.

Through a series of public meetings and workshops, the community engagement panel has hosted nuclear energy experts, from operators to manufacturers and officials from the federal government’s nuclear oversight body, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, attempting to put the pieces together.

At a workshop Thursday, July 17, panelists and community members heard from Bruce Watson, the NRC’s chief of reactor decommissioning. While Watson was able to provide insight into the general decommissioning process, the exact specifics of San Onofre’s ultimate mothballing is uncertain.

Without Edison’s submittal of its post-shutdown decommissioning activities report (PSDAR), the timeline, cost and environmental impacts are still unknown. But Edison has plans to make these items a little clearer in the coming months. The utility could submit its PSDAR by September, according to Tom Palmisano, the chief nuclear officer at SONGS, nearly nine months before the NRC requires it.

The panel will host a public meeting on the PSDAR and decommissioning cost estimate on Thursday, Aug. 14. The meeting will be held at the Quantum Learning Center, located at 1938 Avenida del Oro in Oceanside, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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