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San Onofre begins decommissioning power plant

SAN ONOFRE — The San Onofre nuclear plant Unit 2 reactor vessel head removed almost two years ago began the process Dec. 16 to be shipped via truck to a disposal facility in Clive, Utah.

The vessel head was first loaded onto a tractor-trailer. The shipment was escorted by state police, left San Onofre Monday night and is expected to arrive Dec. 19 at the low-level radioactive waste facility in Utah. San Onofre safely completed similar shipments of retired steam generators to the same facility in the past three years.

According to the release from Southern California Edison, the vessel head, which weighs about 77 tons, has been packaged to meet all U.S. Department of Transportation and Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. As a result, the potential exposure to an individual from the vessel head is very low — standing roughly six feet away for an hour would be the equivalent exposure from a dental X-ray.

SCE said there will be no measurable radiation exposure for local communities as the transport moves through California and Nevada on its way to Utah. This shipment is Class A low-level radioactive waste, the lowest class level. Federal transportation regulations limit the dose rate of transported materials to less than 10 millirems per hour at a distance of two meters (about six feet) from the vehicle. The dose rate for this shipment at two meters is less than 1 millirem per hour. Examples of radiation exposure include:

— Watching TV for a year will expose you to 1 millirem of radiation.

— Flying round-trip cross-country exposes you to 3–5 millirems of radiation.

— Living in a structure made of adobe/stone/brick for a year exposes you to roughly 7 millirems of radiation.

SCE announced June 7 that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3, and begin preparations to decommission the facility. The site workforce has been reduced to 520, a reduction of more than 900 employees. For more information about SCE, visit