SONGS Facts and Preparedness


  General Information:

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is located in San Diego County next to the San Onofre State Beach on the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, approximately 10 miles south of the City of San Clemente.

SONGS Unit 1 was licensed for commercial operation in 1968. Units 2 and 3 started operations in 1983 and 1984 respectively and are capable of producing enough power to serve 2.3 million households. While Unit 1 was retired in 1992, Units 2 and 3 remain in service.

The safety of the public is the primary concern of the Office of Emergency Services (OES). OES has been working closely with Southern California Edison, MCB Camp Pendleton, State Parks, Orange County and the Cities of San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point to coordinate response plans and actions, train response personnel and procure the equipment necessary for a successful response to an event at SONGS even prior to Unit 1 becoming operational. These jurisdictions and agencies have formed the Inter-jurisdictional Planning Committee (IPC) which meets monthly to ensure full coordination and cooperation between all members.

While each jurisdiction has their own response plan for SONGS, we have worked together to develop joint standard operating procedures (SOP) and policies that we will all follow during a response to an event at SONGS. These plans, SOPS and policies are based on requirements established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). These plans are tested every other year during a full-scale exercise designed to have the nuclear power plant and all off-site jurisdictions respond to a major emergency at the plant. During these exercises the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) evaluates our ability to:

•  deploy radiological monitoring teams,
•  make decisions on how to best protect the public, and
•  provide emergency public information

Every six years we are evaluated on our ability to open up a facility known as a Reception and Decontamination Center. During these drills our ability to receive evacuees from San Onofre State Beach just south of the plant, monitor them for potential radioactive contamination and then properly decontaminate them is evaluated by FEMA.

Emergency Planning:

Emergency Planning for an event at SONGS focuses on the area within 10 miles of the plant. This is known as the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ). A 10 mile planning area is used because studies have shown that the vast majority of radioactive material that might be released during a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant will be so dispersed and diluted after traveling that distance that it will pose a very limited risk to people and property.

Within the 10 mile EPZ are the Cities of San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point (all within the County of Orange), the San Onofre State Beach and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. There are no unincorporated communities or incorporated cities in San Diego County that are within the 10 mile EPZ. The closest incorporated city in San Diego is the City of Oceanside which is approximately 17 miles south of the plant.

There is also a Public Education Zone (PEZ) for those people living or working within 10 to 20 miles of the plant. Those people will find emergency information in the front of their AT&T telephone directory. In a worse-case scenario, it is conceivable that those people in the PEZ may be asked to shelter in place.

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Protective Actions:

Should an event occur at San Onofre, the public may be asked to take protective actions. Protective actions can take two forms. The first is sheltering in place. The public will be told to shelter in place when there is a release of radioactive material that is expected to be of short duration. If told to shelter in place take the following actions:

• stay indoors
• close all vents, windows and doors
• turn off your air conditioner
• close your fireplace damper

The other protective action is evacuation. Evacuees from San Onofre State Beach will be directed south to the Reception and Decontamination Center at Carlsbad High School, 3550 Monroe Street, Carlsbad. If told to evacuate please:

• stay calm
• follow the directions of law enforcement officers as traffic patterns may change
• carpool when possible to assist those without transportation

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Potassium Iodide (KI)

Potassium Iodide (KI) is a chemical compound that prevents the uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid. It is a supplemental protective measure for those individuals within the EPZ.

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Emergency Classifications

Federal guidelines classify emergency conditions at nuclear power plants into four levels, depending on the situation and the severity. They are:

• Unusual Event: Events are in process, or have occurred which indicate potential degradation in the level of safety of the plant. No release of radioactive material requiring offsite response or monitoring is expected unless further degradation occurs.

• Alert: Events are in process or have occurred which involve an actual or potential substantial degradation in the level of safety of the plant. Any releases of radioactive material from the plant are expected to be limited to a small fraction of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protective action guides (PAGs).

• Site Area Emergency: Events are in process, or have occurred that result in actual or likely major failures of plant functions needed for protection of the public. Any releases of radioactive material are not expected to exceed EPA PAGs, except near the site boundary.

• General Emergency: Events involve actual or imminent substantial core damage or melting of reactor fuel with the potential for loss of containment integrity. Radioactive releases during a General Emergency can reasonably be expected to exceed EPA PAGs for more than the immediate site area.

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Public Notification

In the event of an incident at SONGS the public will be notified through radio and television broadcasts. If you hear sirens, turn on your radio or TV to a local Emergency Alert System (EAS) station for important information from local officials. Please Do Not Call 9-1-1. 

In San Diego County KOGO AM 600 will broadcast emergency information.

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AlertSanDiego is a mass notification system designed to keep San Diego County residents and businesses informed of emergencies. By registering with AlertSanDiego, time-sensitive voice messages from the County or City in which you live or work may be sent to your home, cell or work phone. Text messages may also be sent to cell phones, e-mail accounts and hearing impaired receiving devices. This system supplements, but does not replace, other communication methods used by emergency responders.

Listed and unlisted landlines are already registered in AlertSanDiego. Since there are many instances when the public may not be at home, it is critical that all residents and businesses provide additional contact channels by voluntarily registering cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses. To register for AlertSanDiego go to and click on the AlertSanDiego icon.

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The following brochures are in PDF format and require Adobe Reader to view. These brochures are also available in print at the San Diego County OES. Please call (858) 565-3490 to obtain a hardcopy.

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