Southern California Edison’s response to County Supervisor Jim Desmond’s questions about COVID19 and nuclear waste safety at the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

On March 24, 2020, Public Watchdogs sent a letter to San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond.  The letter asked Mr. Desmond to request a halt to the ongoing movement of deadly nuclear waste at San Onofre during the COVID19 epidemic.

Below is Edison’s reply to Supervisor Desmond’s questions, received via email  at 10:20am on March 26, 2020.

Questions in bold….

  1. Are the operations at San Onofre, specifically the workers moving the spent nuclear fuel, considered “Essential Workers”?

    1. Decommissioning nuclear plants are listed as part the nation’s critical infrastructure – along with the 99 operating nuclear reactors. Governor Newsom’s “Safer at Home” Order N-33-20 cited the CISA critical infrastructure. The hyperlink is provided here: Therefore, the work to transfer waste, in this case spent nuclear fuel from wet to dry storage, is considered essential under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Sectors. The “Stay at Home” Order excluded these sectors from the restrictions. The nation’s decommissioning nuclear plants are included in this list of essential operations that can continue. For that reason, the crews performing fuel transfer operations are part of the Critical Work Group under the SONGS Pandemic Protocol.
  2. What employees are working and what specific work are they performing?
    1. At SONGS, chiefly the staff who remain on site are those who work in operations or security, or provide a critical supporting role such as emergency response, maintenance, radiation protection and other important functions for worker protection, and to keep the site’s essential operations intact.  With respect to operations, for SCE that includes security and operational oversight. For our lead contractors, those on site primarily are working on fuel transfer operations and some deconstruction work, although deconstruction work has been curtailed with limited work authorized that satisfy the requirements of our SONGS Pandemic Protocol. Other non-critical staff are working from home consistent with the Governor’s Order.
  3. What are SoCal Edison’s Covid19 Health Protocols?
    1. The SONGS Pandemic Protocol in place at San Onofre today includes the following:
  1.       maintaining vital groups (numbers of personnel to meet NRC requirements) that perform essential work;
  2.       strict travel restrictions;

iii.      health self-screening stations for incoming workers at site entrances;

  1.       cancellation of non-essential meetings, with many others conducted via teleconference;
  2.       social distancing, handwashing and limiting physical sharing of documents;
  3.       wiping down workstations disinfectant, including before and after shift changes;

vii.      suspension of site tours; and

viii.      conducting public meetings (e.g., CEP meetings) via Skype.

  1. Are any workers at San Onofre sick?
    1. We have no reports of workers at SONGS who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Note that the SONGS Pandemic Protocol is designed to support worker safety and it includes measures to protect workers. The Protocol also includes a self-screening for incoming workers that checks for staff who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms, have come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19, or travelled domestically or overseas in the last 14 days.
  2. Under what circumstance will work at San Onofre be halted?
    1. Work at SONGS would be halted if it cannot adhere to the strict requirements of the SONGS Pandemic Protocol.
  3. Will these items be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting?
    1. Yes. During our virtual (Skype) CEP meeting on March 26 at 5:30 p.m., we at SCE will discuss the SONGS Pandemic Protocol as well as essential ongoing work including fuel transfers. We also will address the disposition of deconstruction work.


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