AECOM, EnergySolutions Joint Venture to Decommission San Onofre Nuclear Plant

After a 10-month competitive bid process, Southern California Edison (SCE) has selected a joint venture of AECOM and EnergySolutions as the general contractor for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) decommissioning.

“We are pleased to announce the selection of the AECOM/EnergySolutions team, a global joint venture with extensive commercial and government decommissioning experience around the world, as the prime contractor to safely and efficiently dismantle the San Onofre nuclear plant,” said Ron Nichols, SCE president. The joint venture will be known as SONGS Decommissioning Solutions.

SONGS is one of the largest commercial nuclear plant decommissioning projects to take place in the U.S. with an estimated total cost of $4.4 billion including used fuel management, radiological decommissioning, and site restoration costs. The contract represents a significant portion of the work required to decommission the plant. The project is expected to create about 600 new jobs over the 10-year dismantlement and decontamination phase.

“We are currently decommissioning two nuclear power stations in Wisconsin and Illinois and are uniquely qualified for decommissioning projects with state-of-the-art facilities to process and dispose of waste that will be generated throughout the course of this project,” said Ken Robuck, president of Disposal and Nuclear Decommissioning at EnergySolutions. (Robuck was referring to the company’s work on the La Crosse boiling-water reactor in Wisconsin and the dual-unit Zion station in Illinois.)

The SONGS saga began following the replacement of both operational units’ steam generators (SGs) between September 2009 and February 2011. In January 2012, with Unit 2 out of service for a planned outage, station operators detected a small tube leak in a Unit 3 SG. Unit 3 was subsequently taken offline on January 31.

Both units remained shut down while hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on repairs, inspections, and replacement power. After a lengthy investigation, the unexpected tube-to-tube wear in both units was attributed to fluid elastic instability (or excessive tube vibration). After nearly a year and a half of testing and analysis, the decision was made on June 7, 2013, to permanently retire the facility.

In October 2013, SCE sent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI)—designer and supplier of the SGs—a formal request for binding arbitration. SCE is seeking at least $4 billion in damages. MHI has denied any liability and has asserted counterclaims for $41 million, for which SCE has denied any liability. Hearings concluded on April 29, 2016, with a decision expected by year-end.

SCE (78.21%), San Diego Gas & Electric (20%), and the City of Riverside (1.79%) are joint owners of SONGS. They along with the City of Anaheim—as a former co-owner—share responsibility for the plant’s decommissioning.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)