Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station
Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station.jpg
CountryUnited States
LocationHerald, California
Coordinates38°20′43″N 121°7′18″W / 38.34528°N 121.12167°W / 38.34528; -121.12167Coordinates: 38°20′43″N 121°7′18″W / 38.34528°N 121.12167°W / 38.34528; -121.12167
Commission dateApril 17, 1975
Decommission date2009
Construction cost$375 million in 1974 dollars[1] ($1.54 billion in 2019 dollars[2])
Operator(s)SMUD 1974-present
Nuclear power station
Reactor typePressurized water reactor[3]
Reactor supplierBabcock & Wilcox[3]
Thermal capacity1 x 2772 MWth[3]
Power generation
Nameplate capacity918[3]
Capacity factor<40%[1]
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons

The Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station is a decommissioned nuclear power plant built by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in Herald, California.


In 1966, SMUD purchased 2,100 acres (850 ha) in southeast Sacramento County for a nuclear power plant, which was built in Herald, 25 miles (40 km) south-east of downtown Sacramento.[4]

In the early 1970s, a small pond was expanded to a 160-acre (65 ha) lake to serve as an emergency backup water supply for the station. The lake has always received its water from the Folsom South Canal and has no relationship with the power plant's daily water supply. Surrounding the lake is 400 acres (160 ha) of recreational area originally operated by the County of Sacramento for day-use activities.

The 2,772 MWt Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactor (913 MWe) achieved initial criticality on September 16, 1974, and entered commercial operation on April 17, 1975.[3]

On March 20, 1978, a power supply failure for the plant's non-nuclear instrumentation system led to steam generator dryout (ref NRC LER 312/78-001). This triggered an automatic reactor shutdown. In a 2005 document, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicated that it was the third most serious safety-related occurrence in the United States to date (behind the Three Mile Island accident and the Browns Ferry cable tray fire).[5][6] The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff concluded that fundamental design flaws which were known by plant operators and the NRC itself were at the heart of the problem and should have been fixed years before. “In summary, the information was available and known which could have prevented this overcooling transient; but in the absence of adequate plant modifications, the incident should have been expected,” the staff wrote. [7]

The plant operated from April 1975 to June 1989, with a lifetime capacity factor of less than 40%; it was closed by public vote in June 1989 (53% to 47%) after half of its intended lifetime primarily for economic reasons: ratepayers had seen their rates doubled in the last four years to pay for improvements to the plant, and electricity from natural gas was priced at half that of the electricity generated by Rancho Seco. (2.3 cents / kWh, vs. 5.4 cents / kWh)[1]

All power-generating equipment has been removed from the plant, and the now-empty 425 foot high cooling towers remain a prominent part of the local landscape as the tallest buildings in the Central Valley.[4] Also scattered throughout the area around the plant are abandoned civil defense sirens that at one time would have warned people of a radioactivity release from the station. Additions to SMUD's Rancho Seco property have included an 11 MW solar installation and, in 2006, the 600 MW natural gas-fired Cosumnes Power Plant.[8][9][10]

On October 23, 2009, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released the majority of the site for unrestricted public use, while approximately 11 acres (4.5 ha) of land including a storage building for low-level radioactive waste and a dry-cask spent fuel storage facility remain under NRC licenses.[11]

According to a study published in the journal Biomedicine International, the statistically significant drop in cancer rates observed in Sacramento County between 1988 and 2009 (plant closed in 1989) might be partially attributable to the closure of the Rancho Seco plant, and the resultant decline in nuclear emissions.[12][13]

The plant cost $375 million[1] when it was built in 1974 ($1.54 billion in 2019 dollars[2]) and it cost about $120 million in 1974 dollars to decommission ($493 million in 2019 dollars[2]), according to the SMUD Rancho Seco Nuclear Education Center.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Wald, Matthew L. (1989-06-08). "Voters, in a First, Shut Down Nuclear Reactor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2015-05-25. Retrieved 2016-07-09. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the public agency that owns the Rancho Seco plant, promptly began shutting it down yesterday after the nuclear industry's $580,000 campaign to keep it open had failed to overcome arguments based less on the environment and safety than on economics: the troubled plant could not provide electricity at competitive cost. The vote, by which the utility district's board had agreed to abide, was 53.4 percent to shut the plant and 46.6 percent to keep it open. ... Opponents of the plant, including two members of the district's five-member board, argued that despite $400 million in new investment in the last three years, it would be far cheaper to retire it now, halfway through its expected life span, and buy power from neighboring utilities in the California market, which is glutted with electricity.
  2. ^ a b c Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2020). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved September 22, 2020. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  3. ^ a b c d e "NRC: Generic Environmental Impact Statement for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants: Appendices (NUREG-1437, Volume 2)". www.nrc.gov. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  4. ^ a b White, Randol (2019-11-05). "Thirty Years After Sacramento Voted To Shut It Down, Rancho Seco Reinventing Itself While Dealing With Nuclear Past". Retrieved 2020-09-24. In the 1960s, the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) purchased 2,100 acres about an hour southeast of Sacramento to build Rancho Seco. ... Even if you’ve never been near the plant, you may have seen its twin cooling towers. At 425 feet, they’re the tallest buildings in the Central Valley, just edging out Sacramento’s Wells Fargo Tower. ... Rancho Seco is now home to a natural gas plant, a solar field, and construction is getting underway to create a second array, the largest solar project in the county.
  5. ^ "Policy Issue Information" (PDF). United States NRC.
  6. ^ "Attachment 2 Policy Issue Information" (PDF). U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2010. When the reactor was at power, a failure of the NNI power supply resulted in a loss of main feedwater, which caused a reactor trip. Because instrumentation drift falsely indicated that the steam generator contained enough water, control room operators did not take prompt action to open the EFW flow control valves to establish secondary heat removal. This resulted in steam generator dryout. LER 312/78-001
  7. ^ http://www.ca.allgov.com/news/controversies/less-cancer-found-after-rancho-seco-nuclear-plant-closes-130402?news=849611
  8. ^ Anderson, Mark (2019-05-30). "SMUD set to develop its largest solar array with Lendlease". Sacramento Business Journal. Retrieved 2020-09-23. SMUD currently operates a 10.9-megawatt solar array at Rancho Seco.
  9. ^ "Power Sources". www.smud.org. Retrieved February 15, 2020. Our biggest single source is the Cosumnes Power Plant and we are always adding to our green energy sources. ... To offer the best price and reliability we completed the 530-megawatt Cosumnes Power Plant in 2006 which is one of the most clean and efficient plants in the western states. After recent plant upgrades, the Cosumnes plant can now generate up to 600 MW with even better efficiency
  10. ^ "Electricity Data Browser - Cosumnes". www.eia.gov. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  11. ^ "Rancho Seco nuclear power plant ends decommissioning". Power Engineering. PennWell. 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  12. ^ Mangano, Joseph J.; Sherman, Janette D. "Open Journal Systems". Retrieved 13 August 2018. Many factors can result in lower cancer incidence over two decades, but elimination of radioactive isotopes should be addressed as one of these potential factors in future reports.
  13. ^ Nelson, Roxanne. "Cancer Rates Drop After Nuclear Reactor Closes". Retrieved 19 August 2020. The closure of a nuclear reactor could be linked to a long-term decrease in the incidence of cancer. ... "We believe that further research is now warranted to see if there is a cause and effect relation between the elimination of nuclear emissions from power plants and a significant long-term decline of cancers," Mangano said during a press briefing. The Rancho Seco reactor was chosen for the study because of the long post-shutdown period, the availability of county-specific incidence data since before the plant closed, and the fact that there are no other major reactors within 200 miles, he explained.

External links[edit]