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Dismantlement efforts at San Onofre nuclear facility ramp back up


One month after a worker fell and suffered a shoulder injury on the job, just about all work has resumed in the dismantlement efforts at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Officials at Southern California Edison, the operators of the now-shuttered power plant called SONGS, said Friday an enhanced training program has been implemented in the aftermath of the accident that resulted in the worker being treated and released at a nearby hospital on April 11.

“This relationship between ensuring all workers feel knowledgeable of their work, having the right skills and tools, and the right amount of oversight, is crucial to safety and to our success,” Edison chief nuclear officer Doug Bauder said in a statement.

According to Edison, two workers were tethered by safety harnesses while trying to install a ventilation hose into an opening at an equipment vault. When one worker lost balance, the other tried to catch the person from falling and fell about 5 feet into the vault, resulting in the shoulder injury. The other worker was unharmed.

Work was put on hold to investigate what led to the injury but has ramped back up in recent days. Among the chores that have resumed are cutting up the reactor vessel, demolishing a building that housed a turbine, and removing and shipping out nuclear waste.

SONGS has not produced electricity since 2012 after a leak in a steam generator tube led to the closing of the plant. The facility is in the third year of an expected eight-year project to dismantle nearly all its structures.

By the time the estimated $4.5 billion job is complete, about 1 billion pounds of equipment, components, rebar, concrete, steel and titanium will be moved out of the plant. About 80 percent of the material is considered radioactive.

The vast majority of the plant’s debris is labeled Class A waste, the lowest level of radioactive material. Most of the rubble will go to a disposal facility in Clive, Utah — primarily shipped by rail car, although some material will be transported in casks by truck. Class B and C low-level waste gets sent to a site near the town of Andrews in West Texas. Non-radioactive material goes to Arizona.

The distinctive domes at SONGS, each 190 feet high, are expected to be gradually taken down by about 2025.

Upon completion, all that is expected to remain will be two dry storage sites that hold 123 canisters of nuclear waste; a security building with personnel to look over the waste; a seawall 28 feet high, as measured at average low tide at San Onofre Beach; a walkway connecting two beaches north and south of the plant, and a switchyard with power lines.

The switchyard’s substation without transformers stays put because it houses electricity infrastructure that provides a key interconnection for the power grid in the region.

The canisters of nuclear waste remain on the 84-acre site between I-5 and the Pacific because the federal government has not found a place to put the roughly 89,000 metric tons of spent fuel that has stacked up at various nuclear power plants in 35 states.



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2022-05-13 15:50:25

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