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Documents Detail How Nuclear Material Was Handled at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station via NBCSanDiego

Expert tells NBC 7 Investigates handling of nuclear material was “sloppy”

Documents newly obtained by NBC 7 Investigates during secret talks about the condition of the land where the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) sits detail how nuclear material was handled at the plant since the 1980s.

The documents were released to individuals involved with the secret negotiations about the current condition and future handling of the 25-acre property. According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the secret meetings have been going on for about 20 months and involve all the players with a stake in the prime coastal property.

Those players include the U.S. Navy, which owns the property; the U.S. Marines, whose base surrounds the property; and Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), both of which hold the lease to the property.


According to the documents, plant employees told an Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspector that they felt the waste monitor tanks inside of an auxiliary building were probably the source of radiation found on the beach. However, the inspector focused on a concrete block cubicle near the building which employees said contained “fairly high levels of radioactive waste.”

The radiation levels around the concrete cubicle were so elevated “the inspector did not perform a survey inside,” according to the documents.

The report says it was determined the cubicle was “responsible for most of the radiation measured on the beach.” The leak problem was resolved by placing a 3/8-inch sheet of lead on the roof of the structure, the documents state.

The other document NBC 7 Investigates received is dated April 10, 2014. It is a historical assessment called “Radiological events at the Mesa.”


In the documents, NBC 7 Investigates did find examples of an NRC inspector alerting SCE to a safety issue. One happened during the inspection done in January 1981, according to the documents.

The report describes how an inspector alerted SCE that one of their security guards trailers had elevated radiation readings. According to the documents, a contaminated steam generator taken from the reactor exposed the workers for 10 days.

It also says initially the plant personnel did nothing until the inspector reminded them of the “unnecessary exposure being received” by occupants of the trailer.

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