San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (September 2012)|
|San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station|
San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station as seen from the north from San Onofre State Beach.
|Location||San Diego County, California|
|Status||shutdown for repairs|
|Construction began||August 1964|
|Commission date||Unit 1: January 1, 1968
Unit 2: August 8, 1983
Unit 3: April 1, 1984
|Licence expiration||Unit 2: February 16, 2022
Unit 3: November 15, 2022
|Decommission date||Unit 1: November 30, 1992|
|Operator(s)||Southern California Edison|
|Architect(s)||Bechtel Power Corporation|
|Reactors operational||1 × 1172 MW
1 × 1178 MW
|Reactor type(s)||pressurized water reactor|
|Reactor supplier(s)||Westinghouse (Unit 1)
Combustion Engineering (Units 2 & 3)
|Power generation information|
|Annual generation||2,200 MW·y|
|As of 2012|
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is a nuclear power plant located on the Pacific coast of California, in the northwestern corner of San Diego County, south of San Clemente. The site is surrounded by the San Onofre State Park and sits next to Interstate 5. The landmark spherical containment buildings around the reactors are designed to prevent unexpected releases of radiation. The closest tectonic fault line is the Cristianitos fault, which is considered by some geologists to be inactive or "dead". The plant has been the site of many protests by anti-nuclear groups.
The facility is operated by Southern California Edison. Edison International, parent of SCE, holds 78.2% ownership in the plant; San Diego Gas & Electric Company, 20%; and the City of Riverside Utilities Department, 1.8%. The plant employs over 2,200 people. The plant is located in Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region IV.
The plant's two reactors (Units 2 and 3) have been shut down since January 2012 due to premature wear found on tubes in steam generators, which apparently contributed to the accidental release of a small amount of radioactive steam.
|This section requires expansion. (August 2012)|
Unit 1, a first generation Westinghouse pressurized water reactor that operated for 25 years, closed permanently in 1992, and has been dismantled and is used as a storage site for spent fuel. It had a spherical containment of concrete and steel with the smallest wall being 6 feet (1.8 m) thick.
Safety issues 
The San Onofre station, like virtually all large, complex industrial projects, has had technical problems over the years. In the July 12, 1982 edition of Time states, "The firm Bechtel was ... embarrassed in 1977, when it installed a 420-ton nuclear-reactor vessel backwards" at San Onofre. In 2008, the San Onofre plant received multiple citations over issues such as failed emergency generators, improperly wired batteries and falsified fire safety data. Early in 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its annual review of the plant, identifying improvements but noting that in the area of human performance, "corrective actions to date have not resulted in sustained and measurable improvement”.
According to the NRC, workers at San Onofre are "afraid they will be retaliated against if they bring up safety problems, something that's against the rules". As of 2011, according to the NRC, there has been progress on the issue. So far, the problems have not threatened the safety of plant workers or the public. In November 2011, there was an ammonia leak, where as a precaution company employees were evactuated from the area where the leak was found; units continued normal operation.
In a midcycle inspection report, conducted from July 2011 to June 2012, it revealed a few surprises including three incidents relating to human performance; an additional issue found a failure to develop procedures for a "cyber security analysis of electronic devices" that was later corrected.
2012 shutdown 
Unit 2 shut in early January 2012 for refueling and replacement of the reactor vessel head. Both reactors at San Onofre have been shut since January 2012 due to premature wear found on tubes in steam generators installed in 2010 and 2011. Plant officials have pledged not to restart the units until the cause of the tube leak and tube degradation are understood. Neither unit has yet been restarted.
In March 2012, former nuclear power executive Arnold Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates prepared a report that argued that "design modifications in the newly installed steam generators, such as different alloy for the tubes, led to problems at the plant". According to Gundersen's report, the shutdown in 2012 was due to poor design of the replacement steam generators that included many design changes that were not reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In April 2012, in a sign of mounting concern over the shutdown, NRC Chairman, Gregory Jaczko, toured the facility with Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican.
In May 2012, two retired natural gas electrical generators were brought back online to help replace the lost power generation capacity. However, the Huntington Beach Power Station produces only 440MW of power. Additionally the Encina Power Station has assisted in replacing the missing capacity, providing 965MW of power; coupled with new conservation measures, this has helped keep power available to San Diego and Riverside counties.
As of July 2012, the cost related to the shutdown has reached $165 million, with $117 million of that being the purchasing of power from other sources to replace the output of the plant. As a result, the Chairman of Edison International Ted Craver has stated that there is a possibility that reactor 3 may be scrapped as "It is not clear at this time whether Unit 3 will be able to restart without extensive additional repairs". In August 2012, Southern California Edison announced plans to lay off one-third, or 730, of the plants employees; the company said that the downsizing of the plant staff was planned more than two years ago. Rochelle Becker, of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, said that the layoffs show that the company is not being honest about their plans for the power plant. Due to the shutdown, the NRC ended requirements to monitor non operating systems.
In September 2012, Allison Macfarlane, the NRC Chairwoman, said that plant will be down for a prolonged period, and that the fuel from Unit 3 will be removed in September 2012, due to significant damage to the unit; Southern California Edison stated, through its spokeswoman, that it is planning to send a restarting plan for NRC approval in October 2012. As of November 2012, the cost of the outage has gone over $300 million, and discussion of restarting Unit 2 has been postponed; in December 2012, the last of the four old steam generators were transported to Clive, Utah for proper disposal.
As of January 2013, there have been no blackouts due to the lack of SONGS electricity, however more pollution has been caused due to the use of natural gas plants used to make up for the power generation, and the additional cost has led to higher utility bills. In February 2013, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asked Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to provide a report regarding the plant's steam generators; the company produced the steam generators that were installed starting in 2009.
Environmental risk and mitigation 
Southern California Edison states the station was "built to withstand a 7.0 magnitude earthquake directly under the plant". Additionally, there is a 25-foot tsunami wall to protect the plant from a rogue wave that could be potentially generated by the active fault 5 miles offshore.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at San Onofre was 1 in 58,824, according to an NRC study published in August 2010.
S. David Freeman, the former head of the California Power Authority and "a longtime anti-nuclear voice", has described San Onofre (and Diablo Canyon) as "disasters waiting to happen: aging, unreliable reactors sitting near earthquake fault zones on the fragile Pacific Coast, with millions or hundreds of thousands of Californians living nearby".
Unlike many pressurized water reactors, but like some other seaside facilities in Southern California, the San Onofre plant uses seawater for cooling, and thus lacks the iconic large cooling towers typically associated with nuclear generating stations. However, changes to water-use regulations may require construction of such cooling towers in the future to avoid further direct use of seawater. Limited available land next to SONGS would likely require towers to be built on the opposite side of Interstate 5.
Surrounding population 
The NRC defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: 1) a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and 2) an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity. The average prevailing westward wind direction at San Onofre blows inland 9 months of the year.
The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of San Onofre was 92,687, an increase of 50.0 percent in a decade, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data for msnbc.com. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 8,460,508, an increase of 14.9 percent since 2000. Three of the cities within 20 miles of the facility are San Clemente and Laguna Beach in Orange County and Oceanside in San Diego County. San Diego is 45 miles south of the facility, and Los Angeles is 60 miles north of the facility.
Anti-nuclear protests 
On August 6, 1977, about a thousand anti-nuclear protesters marched outside the nuclear generation station, while units 2 & 3 were under construction.
On June 22, 1980, about 15,000 people attended a protest near San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
On March 11, 2012, activists protested the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station to mark the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Over 200 people rallied in San Onofre State Beach to listen to several speakers, including two Japanese residents who lived through the Fukushima meltdowns and Raymond Lutz. Though local leaders and industry officials say that a disaster like Fukushima is unlikely at San Onofre, the activists point to the plant’s safety record, earthquake risk, location on the coast quite similar to that in Japan, and the fact that as of March 2012, San Onofre’s reactors were "off-line due to leaks and wear and tear to the generator tubes. Speakers at the event said they would like for the generators to remain off".
Environmental and anti-nuclear activists gathered at Southern California Edison's Irvine headquarters in May 2012 calling for the San Onofre plant to be decommissioned. They also called for Edison to spend more money implementing energy conservation programs and suggested the formation of a working group to encourage consumers to save energy. The plant's shutdown has drawn scrutiny from elected officials, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, who asked Edison and the NRC whether design changes in the steam generators were properly reviewed.
Future prospects 
The future of the plant is uncertain. It has been shut down since January 2012, and no reopening date has been set. The NRC issued a letter in March, forbidding the plant to be reopened until the causes of its equipment problems are thoroughly understood and fixed. The environmental group Friends of the Earth filed a legal petition with the NRC in June, asking that any decision to reopen San Onofre be made by a trial-like public forum instead of by NRC commissioners. In July the NRC issued its final report, identifying ten issues that need followup and stating “the plant will not be permitted to restart until the licensee has developed a plan to prevent further steam generator tube degradation and the NRC independently verifies that it can be operated safely." In August, Southern California Edison announced plans to lay off about one-third of the plant's workforce, leading to speculation that the facility may never fully reopen.
In March 2012, Irvine Councilman Larry Agran called for the plant to be decommissioned, saying it should be decommissioned safely and as soon as possible. Concerns include “nuclear waste stored at the plant, health hazards from radioactive material, and inadequate evacuation plans”. Agran also said that the plant threatens all of Southern California. Resolutions passed in neighboring cities Laguna Beach and San Clemente call for safer and more secure waste storage. San Clemente has voted to request public information about radiation levels near the plant. Bob Steins, spokesman for Edison International, said “the company will work to prepare detailed responses to council and community member questions and concerns”.
Responding to the idea of replacing SONGS with solar power, retired physics and astronomy professor Dennis Silverman, of the University of California, Irvine, has calculated it would require a facility that would be 20 square miles large, ten times larger than Orange County Great Park, and would cost $44 billion dollars.
Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher declared that San Onofre is safe but outdated and should be replaced with a modern high-tech reactor, "not because of how unsafe it is right now, but because we can be safer and more efficient.”
In popular culture 
- In the James W. Huston novel, Fallout, Pakistani Air Force Pilots attempt to bomb San Onofre using stolen California Air National Guard F-16s.
- In the science fiction novel, Timescape, by Gregory Benford, the nuclear plants at San Onofre raised the water temperature along the adjacent coast, which stimulated aquatic life
- The plant also was featured in the 1983 documentary film, Koyaanisqatsi and the 1988 comedy film, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
- In the 2011 television series The Event, the fuel rods were removed from San Onofre to thwart the aliens' plan to steal the uranium to build a "transportation array"
- In the role-playing game, Shadowrun, San Onofre is destroyed by an earthquake in the year 2028 and sealed similarly to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
See also 
- "Construction of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station". Los Angeles Times. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Rob Davis (28 July 2012). "The Trouble With the San Onofre Nuclear Plant". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- "San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS)". Edison International. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Professor Dennis Silverman (12 April 2012). "Cost and Area of Replacing San Onofre Nuclear Energy by Solar Photovoltaics". Energy Blog. University of California, Irvine. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Sharp, Robert Phillip; Glazner, Allen F. (1993). Geology Underfoot in Southern California. Yes, Geology Underfoot Series. Mountain Press Publishing Company. p. 17. ISBN 9780878422890. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- Abby Sewell (21 August2012). "San Onofre layoffs raise questions about nuclear plant's future". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Jim Shephard (29 March 2012). "San Onofre - Unit 1". United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Abby Sewell (22 August 2012). "If San Onofre nuclear plant is restarted, who pays?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- "The Master Builders from Bechtel". Time. July 12, 1982.
- Esmeralda Bermudez (February 5, 2012). "San Onofre nuclear power plant incidents draw attention". Los Angeles Times.
- Bernie Woodall (14 January 2008). "So. Calif. nuclear lannt worker faked fire checks". Los Angeles. Reuters. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Onell R. Soto (April 28, 2011). "Anti-nuclear protest planned at NRC meeting". SignOnSanDiego.
- "San Onofre Power Plant Emergency: Level 3 Alert". Huffington Post. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
- Pat Brennan (7 September 2012). "Nuclear regulatory panel releases San Onofre inspection review". OC Register. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- Eileen O'Grady (March 21, 2012). "Grid looking at extended San Onofre nuclear outage". Reuters.
- Arnie Gundersen MSNE (March 27, 2012). "Steam Generator Failures at San Onofre". Fairewinds Associates, Burlington, Vermont, USA.[unreliable source]
- Alex Dobuzinskis (April 7, 2012). "No timetable for restarting California nuclear plant: Jaczko". Reuters.
- Eric Wolff (11 May 2012). "http://www.nctimes.com/blogsnew/business/energy/energy-huntington-beach-power-plant-helps-fuel-region-s-electric/article_3f58c15b-2aa2-5fe2-b817-198d8d6db647.html". North County Times. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- "H.B. Generators". Huntington Beach Wave. Associated Press. May 18, 2012. p. 3. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
- Eric Wolff (21 July 2012). "ENERGY: Planners bracing for no San Onofre in 2013". North County Times. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Associated Press (31 August 2012). "Bill for damaged San Onofre nuclear power plant in California hits $165 million, and counting". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Morgan Lee (21 August 2012). "Layoffs highlight troubles at San Onofre plant". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Pat Brennan (14 September 2012). "NRC: San Onofre staying offline for 'months'". OC Register. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
- Abby Sewell (2 November 2012). "San Onofre nuclear plant outage costs top $300 million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- Morgan Lee (12 November 2012). "NRC postpones public discussion of San Onofre reactor restart". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
- Abby Sewell (3 December 2012). "San Onofre steam generators shipped". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
- Morgan Lee (26 January 2013). "A year off the grid: San Onofre nuclear plant’s outage has caused barely a ripple in power supply; opinions differ on what future holds". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
- Abby Sewell (15 February 2013). "NRC asks Mitsubishi for report on San Onofre equipment issues". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- Morgan Lee (7 February 2013). "New voice on San Onofre shutdown: Mitsubishi". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- Catherine Saillant (14 March 2011). "San Onofre nuclear plant can withstand up to 7.0 quake, is protected by a 25-foot tsunami wall, Edison says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- Christopher Helman (14 March 2012). "Could San Diego's Oceanside Nuke Plant Survive A Tsunami?". Forbes. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- Bill Dedman, "What are the odds? US nuke plants ranked by quake risk," msnbc.com, March 17, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42103936/ Accessed April 19, 2011.
- Richard Fausset (7 April 2010). "Anti-nuclear in the age of Obama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- S. David Freeman (Jun. 2, 2012). "Viewpoints: Time has come for California to embrace a nuclear-free future". Sacramento Bee.
- "State to power plants: stop sucking in seawater". The Orange County Register.
- "Irvine leaders recommend shutting down San Onofre power plant". Orange County Register. March 27, 2012.
- Bill Dedman, Nuclear neighbors: Population rises near US reactors, msnbc.com, April 14, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42555888/ns/us_news-life/ Accessed May 1, 2011.
- Rick Rojas (30 March 2012). "Fear grows in O.C. cities near San Onofre nuclear plant". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 August 2012. "Officials in nearby San Clemente and Laguna Beach — both within 20 miles of the San Onofre facility — have registered their fears after significant wear was found on hundreds of tubes carrying radioactive water inside the plant's generators."
- Jamie Reno (29 May 2012). "With Summer Approaching, the Heat Is On to Re-open the San Onofre Nuclear Plant". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 11 August 2012. "Karen Garland, a married mother of two who lives in Oceanside, 17 miles south of the plant, recalls the blackout that affected San Diego and Orange Counties last September."
- Gerhardt, Tina (23 July 2012). "San Onofre's Nuclear Power Station's Steam Generators Worst Nation-Wide". Washington Monthly. "The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant rests on the Pacific Coast 60 miles south of Los Angeles and 45 miles north of San Diego, the second and eighth largest cities in the U.S. respectively. The nuclear power plant is within 50 miles of 8.5 million people."
- "Construction of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station". Los Angeles Times. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Williams, Eesha. Wikipedia distorts nuclear history Valley Post, May 1, 2008.
- Jameson Steed (March 12, 2012). "Anti nuclear groups protest San Onofre". Daily Titan.
- "Protesters ask Edison to decommission San Onofre nuclear plant". LA Times. May 23, 2012.
- "San Onofre nuclear plant backs away from reopening date". Los Angeles Times. May 9, 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- "Feds: San Onofre nuclear plant can't reopen until problems fixed". Los Angeles Times. March 27, 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- "Environmental Group Seeks to Prevent San Onofre Station From Reopening". San Diego 6: The CW. June 18, 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Gerhardt, Tina (23 July 2012). "San Onofre's Nuclear Power Station's Steam Generators Worst Nation-Wide". Washington Monthly.
- Dennis Silverman. "About Dennis SILVERMAN". Energy Blog. University of California Irvine. Retrieved 4 September 2012. "I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine."
- "Rohrabacher Declares San Onofre Safe, Calls For Moratorium On New Reactors". CBS Los Angeles. May 4, 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- Corporate Enclaves, p.33, Catalyst Game Labs 2007
- "NRC: San Onofre - Unit 1". Nuclear Regulatory Commission. February 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
- "San Onofre 2 Pressurized Water Reactor". Operating Nuclear Power Reactors. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). February 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "San Onofre 3 Pressurized Water Reactor". Operating Nuclear Power Reactors. NRC. February 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- Southern California Edison SONGS webpage
- San Diego Gas & Electric SONGS webpage