While many Californians are hopeful the state’s last nuclear power reactor can be saved, PG&E is actively preparing for decommissioning.
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The reports of the death of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant may be greatly exaggerated. While Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced as early as 2016 that it would be closing California’s last operating nuclear power plant at the end of its current operating license, there has been growing political pressure to keep the plant, and its 2,200 MWe of carbon-free energy, running.
Southern California Edison has a plan—and it just might build momentum to solve the nation’s spent nuclear fuel disposal dilemma.
Imagine it’s January 1998. A specially equipped train from the Department of Energy rolls up to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) to pick up spent nuclear fuel and take it to the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. This scene is repeated thousands of times at nuclear plant sites across the U.S. over the ensuing decades. The solution to permanent spent fuel disposal as outlined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (and its amendments) is working as intended. The nation’s commercial spent fuel is safely isolated deep underground for the long term.
But that is not what happened. Work on Yucca Mountain has been stalled for a full decade, and the organization within the DOE that by law is responsible for managing the spent fuel program has been defunded and disbanded.
A graphic representation of the tendons encircling the San Onofre containment domes. (Image: SCE)
A nearly yearlong effort to de-tension and remove more than 400 steel cables, known as tendons, from the two containment domes of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) was recently completed, with only one minor first aid incident recorded, according to Southern California Edison.