Nuclear Fuel Rods to Remain at San Onofre for 'Decades'
Billions of dollars are being poured into the decommissioning of southern California’s San Onofre nuclear power plant. Although the plant stopped providing power after January 2012 and will be dismantled, the process will drudge on for approximately two decades, reports the OC Register.
Installation of defective steam generators was the beginning of the end for this significant source of energy in the area. $670 million had been spent on replacing steam generators from 2009 to 2011 with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries generators; however, the generators were found defective and are at the center of a dispute between Edison and Mitsubishi.
As Edison begins the process of decommissioning over the next two years, a timeline for “dismantling building and structures over the next 12 years” has been projected. Even after the structures have been removed, shielded casks containing spent nuclear fuel assemblies will remain. The Register reports the long-term radioactivity of the fuel assemblies as well as an estimate for full decommissioning of the site at two decades.
Nuclear energy is considered a clean energy option, operating without producing air pollution. Nuclear Energy Institute reports 72 reactors under construction around the world with five of those being in the United States. However, there are no plans to replace or restore San Onofre’s power production with more nuclear power. Options under consideration to replace the energy include natural gas-fired power plants and additional wind and solar power.
The plant has scaled back from the 1,500 employees once maintaining the plant to a current workforce of about 500, reports the Register.
The Fukashima disaster renewed the fears of some who fear catastrophic nuclear fallout that would pollute surrounding environment in the wake of a disaster. With San Onofre, fears voiced often involve concern over a massive earthquake damaging the plant’s two spent fuel pools. However, a technical advisor with Southern California Edison told the OC Register that the plant is protected from natural disasters like floods, tsunami, and earthquakes.