Answers to Common Questions about Safety & Emergency Planning

Q: Why are you changing the Emergency Plan?

A: With the San Onofre plant permanently shut down, all fuel has been removed from the reactors and placed in cooling pools. Nuclear fission is no longer being used to produce high-pressure steam and the turbines that previously generated electricity now are idle. Essentially all of the conditions and potential hazards that exist in an operating nuclear plant no longer exist at San Onofre. In addition, any remaining potential hazards are generally limited to within the San Onofre site boundary, and poses substantially less risk to the surrounding communities than existed when the plant was operating. That's why SCE submitted to the NRC proposed changes to our Emergency Plan (E-Plan) to reflect our permanently defueled status. These E-Plan changes are typical for decommissioning plants in the United States and are subject to approval by the NRC. Pending that NRC action, the station continues to adhere to emergency plan requirements reflective of an operating plan.

Q: What are the changes?

A: Due to our defueled status as a non-operating plant, one of the most significant changes is the reduced level of risk for a radiological emergency beyond the San Onofre site boundary. The revised plan would eliminate the two highest of the four NRC emergency classifications (Site Area Emergency and General Emergency) and will retain continued monitoring for implementation of the two lowest emergency classifications: Unusual Event and Alert. There would no longer be a need to staff some of the existing E-Plan emergency facilities, such as the Emergency Operations Facility and the Joint Information Center.

The reduced risk at San Onofre was reinforced by a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) letter in January 2014 that it no longer will require the distribution or use of potassium iodide (KI) for the area surrounding San Onofre. KI provides supplementary protection to the thyroid gland from the release of radioactive iodine (Iodine 131), a by-product of nuclear fission. The station will continue to maintain emergency response staffing and communications capabilities, including communications with off-site emergency response organizations and local law enforcement. Radiological and environmental monitoring will continue to ensure safety and environmental protection. SONGS will continue training drills and evaluations. Consistent with the nuclear power plant funding provisions of California Government Code Section 8610.5, SCE will continue to provide funding for local emergency response efforts.

Q: Are local emergency responders engaged in San Onofre emergency plans?

A: Yes. Southern California Edison is a member of the Interjurisdictional Planning Committee (IPC), an organization that collaborates and practices emergency procedures designed to ensure the public would receive prompt, vital assistance should a nuclear emergency occur. SCE will continue to serve on the IPC, which is comprised of representatives from eight organizations, including Orange and San Diego counties and the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The IPC has served the community for more than 30 years, and as such, has strengthened the region's emergency response capabilities through drills and training and the establishment of Emergency Operations Centers. The IPC has been fully briefed on the proposed defueled Emergency Plan for San Onofre.

Q: When will the changes take place?

A: Changes must be approved by the NRC prior to implementation, which typically takes approximately one year and will include an opportunity for public comment. Based on the timing of SCE's filing, such approval would be expected by the summer of 2015. To receive the NRC's approval, SCE must demonstrate that there is adequate time available after a spent fuel pool event to initiate actions to prevent a spent fuel pool fire and that off-site radiological consequences from a fuel handling accident cannot exceed U.S. Environment Protection Agency protective action limits.

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