San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Decommissioning Contract

Sam Pfeil
May 12, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017

Decommissioning Rationale

Fig. 1: SONGS, 2013. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, located in Southern California and owned by Southern California Edison(SCE), was shut down in 2012 due to a renovation project to replace the steam generators. The project, which was intended to add 40 years of life to the plant, instead resulted in radiation leaking from the plant and its immediate shutdown. The renovation project costed SCE $680 million. [1]

Following the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the question of who has to pay for and oversee the decommissioning of the plant became a controversial topic. As of February 2017, there is ongoing litigation between SCE and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the producer of the flawed steam generators. SCE claims that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is responsible for the $138 million in damages to the $680 million renovation project. [2] In addition, SCE believes they also deserve to collect on "consequential damages" from MHI due to replacement costs of electricity from the resulting stoppage of electricity production. In total, SCE seeks over $4 billion in damages for itself and its customers. [2] Attempting to recuperate some of decommisioning costs recovered by MHI is a big risk for SCE. There is no guarantee that SCE will be paid for any of their claims, and even if they do, the cost of litigation could still be larger than the amount they are able to collect. 5 years following the plant's shutdown, litigation is ongoing and the case is expected to be resolved in March of 2018. SONGS is shown in Fig. 1.

Decommissioning Contractors

As of December 2016, AECOM and EnergySolutions won the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Decommissioning project in a joint venture. AECOM is a premier, fully integrated global infrastructure firm and EnergySolutions specializes in nuclear waste management and decommissioning. The estimated total cost of the decommissioning project is $4.4 billion. [3] The project's largest costs involve fuel management, radiological decommissioning, and site restoration. The project is EnergySolutions is currently in the process of decommissioning two other US power plants, while AECOM is adept at taking on large, technically complex projects. The project is expected to create 600 jobs and take about 10 years to complete. [3]

There are essentially two major aspects to decommissioning SONGS: decontamination and restoration of the site, which includes reducing residual levels of radioactivity, and the demolition of the plant's structures. EnergySolutions has expertise in its process for safely moving nuclear waste off site and subsequently disposing of it, reducing site radioactivity, so they will take the lead on the first aspect of decommissioning. AECOM, on the other hand, has expertise in infrastructure, and will focus on the second aspect of decommissioning, the demolition and removal of plant infrastructure. [3] Between the two companies, they should have all the skills necessary to successfully decommission SONGS.

© Sam Pfeil. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] J. McDonald, "5 Dramas Still Playing Out 5 Years After San Onofre Shutdown", San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Feb 17.

[2] J. McDonald, "Billions of Dollars at Stake in Edison Arbitration with Mitsubishi", San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Feb 17.

[3] I. Penn, "AECOM, EnergySolutions Win Bid to Decommission San Onofre Nuclear Plant", Los Angeles Times,20 Dec 16.