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. Unit 1 was retired in 1992, Units 2 and 3 ceased operations in 2013. 

The safety of the public is the primary concern of the Office of Emergency Services (OES). Even though the plant is defueled, OES continues to work closely with Southern California Edison, Marine Corps Base 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. These jurisdictions and agencies have formed the Inter-jurisdictional Planning Committee (IPC) which meets quarterly 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 were originally based on requirements established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Even with the plant shut down and defueled, the offsite jurisdictions retain the same response capabilities they had when SONGS was fully operational.  These plans are tested every year during a joint exercise with SONGS. These exercises designed to have the nuclear power plant and all off-site jurisdictions respond to a emergency at the plant. During these exercises we evaluates our ability to:

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


Emergency Planning:

Emergency Planning for an event at SONGS focuses on keeping the residents of San Diego safe.

The County of San Diego, along with the other members of the Interjurisdictional Planning Committee,  are committed to maintaining emergency response capabilities related to nuclear preparedness throughout the SONGS decommissioning process, and to continue our multi-agency partnership to accomplish this goal. As a part of our ongoing emergency planning, we will retain the ability to receive information, independently monitor and assess conditions, and take actions to protect our residents, visitors, and emergency workers. Although plans will vary by agency, these public safety capabilities include law enforcement, fire and medical, radiological monitoring, multi-agency coordination, and public information. While most of these capabilities are applicable to a variety of hazards, we will preserve a nuclear power plant-specific focus as a part of our continuing preparedness efforts for as long as necessary. 

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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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Iodide (KI):

Potassium Iodide (KI) is a chemical compound that prevents the uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid. Because SONGS has been defueled, there is no longer radioactive iodine present, eliminating the need for KI.

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Emergency Classifications:

There are two classifications for potential emergency conditions at defueled nuclear power plants. 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).

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Public Notification:

In the event of an incident at SONGS the public will be notified through radio and television broadcasts. Please Do Not Call 9-1-1. 

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

Additional information will be available at

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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. Register for AlertSanDiego.

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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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