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By Eric Heinz

Officials from the nonprofit SolRio Organization for Climate Change Mitigation, Inc. are proposing to turn San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station into a desalination plant.

In order to make the water cost-effective to consumers, the plant would be generated using solar power, officials said.

The plant project alone would cost an estimated $7 billion.

The water would be pumped from the Pacific Ocean 35 miles to Diamond Valley Lake, where the Municipal Water District of Southern California stores its water as well as to other states that are willing to pay for the infrastructure, such as Nevada.

“So far, we are trying to come up with folks who want the water,” said Randy Carlson, the director of the SolRio board. “The first place we looked was with the people of Nevada.”

By using solar energy panels, Carlson said this would basically negate the costs of energy production and levee the cost of the water based on maintenance and delivery of the product, making it much cheaper for consumers.

“One of the things this project does that the desalination project in Carlsbad does not is this project includes the energy generation,” Carlson said.

According to a SolRio press release, the plant would be capable of producing 1.1 billion gallons of potable water per day.

No formal application has been submitted yet to agencies that have authority on the project.

The Navy Region Southwest environmental public affairs official was unavailable to comment this week, but San Clemente Times will follow up next week.

Southern California Edison is the majority owner and operator of SONGS, which leases the land from the U.S. Navy, and the Navy would have to approve the proposal once it is submitted. The California Coastal Commission and other entities would also have to approve it. The current plans are to deconstruct the current facility at SONGS within the next 20 years or so and return the land to what it originally was.

But there are also plans in motion to bury existing spent nuclear fuel, which is currently harbored at the plant, at the site because the Department of Energy has not designated a permanent site for it and interim storage is not allowed under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

More information about the project proposal can be found at

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comments (10)

  • Might be best to learn from what they did in Australia. They used Wave energy to power a reverse osmosis desalination plant.

    Here’s a link to a video that talks about what they did –

  • Would certainly be great to diversify our water assets, especially in south OC. We are one bad earthquake away from having no State Water Project water. Would be interested to see the proposal on how the $7 billion is going to be raised though.

  • Eric, you may want to research this one more…this plan is way out there! The largest plant in the western hemisphere is Carlsbad…they only produce 50 million gallons a day! 1.1 billion… out of San O…don’t think so.

  • solar farm sounds great because switching and transmission lines are present it would also be a great lng site

  • $7 Billion is a large chunk of change and where are the specifics on how much power would be produced? Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant produces, like San Onofre once did, 2300 MWs of power AND has a desalination plant that could provide up to 1.5 Million GPD. That desal plant could be expanded and should be but short sighted environmental regs have convinced Diablo to shutdown in 2025 (there is rumor of rescinding this poor decision). Permitting for the plant and the Navy’s permission would be quite the hurdles as well not that that should stop any proposed good idea. Perhaps now with Trump and some much needed common sense in office, a large and well managed project is possible bringing both water and power to the state. It will be a welcome change following the disaster Barbara Boxer wrought with her interference resulting in the shutdown of San Onofre.

  • The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has been releasing radioactive batch releases into the ocean and into the atmosphere near the power plant since its opening as part of normal operations of the power plant. Those releases are not tracked nor are the composition and timing of those releases shared with the public. Drawing public drinking water from the ocean near the power plant seem like an absolutely terrible idea from a public health perspective. Secondly, the San Onofre site is going to be the largest sea level radioactive waste dump in the world when all the fuel in the spent fuel pools is dry casked and left on site behind a 14 foot high seawall. I question SolRio Organization for Climate Change Mitigation, Inc.’s judgment when a cursory review of the site’s history would have revealed the radioactive batch releases.

    A wiser starting point would be to steer clear of the contaminated San Onofre site and look instead at what $7 billion would buy in the most current Israeli water harvesting technology which is distributed, not centralized, and draws moisture from the atmosphere using very little energy per liter of water produced.

    P.S. Barbara Boxer did not close San Onofre. Faulty engineering of steam generators by Edison and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and a pro-business pro-free market public tired of corporate welfare supporting a regulated monopoly, led to the closure of the power plant.

  • @ Torgen Johnson “Those releases are not tracked nor are the composition and timing of those releases shared with the public.”

    This is totally false. If you want to view the actual effluent reports which detail exactly every nuclide discharged as well as the estimated dose to the public (an infinitesimal number), see the below NRC link. Click on the plant you wish to view it for, in this instance San Onofre 2&3, then the year you wish to view.

    ALL releases are cleaned up with ion exchangers prior to release AND are within NRC guidelines. Because releases pose zero danger to the public, they are not announced to the public just as citizens don’t announce when they’re starting up their gas powered cars because the pollutants an individual car releases pose no danger to the public (collectively, auto exhaust does pose a health hazard).

    As to drawing public drinking water from the ocean near the plant, Naval nuclear powered vessels have been doing that for decades and their discharges are NOT cleaned up prior to release.

    San Onofre is not a waste dump, your words betray your bias against the safe storage, in canisters placed in cavity enclosure containers, of used nuclear fuel. This fuel could be reprocessed to make new fuel (which was the process before Carter outlawed it fearing proliferation) and may be in the future or perhaps other uses may be found for it. In addition, a 14 foot wall is again a false statement nor would water pose a danger to the used fuel should the site, however far fetched, be flooded.

    As to the closure of San Onofre, Unit 2 had a conservative plan to start up at reduced power, run through the summer when the power was most needed, then shut down to reinspect. The NRC approved this plan but then Barbara Boxer got the Atomic Safety Licensing Board, a panel that over sees the NRC, to rule that starting up at reduced power required a license amendment. This was a preposterous claim because ALL plants occasionally must reduce power due to equipment unavailabilities either because of failure or maintenance. A license amendment is a lengthy process that could take a year to complete, and as SONGs had already been down for a year and a half, SCE couldn’t afford to keep paying a full staff for another year without the income from electric generation. Although SCE management made the decision, it was Barbara Boxer who achieved what she set out to do, delay until the company shut down of its own volition.

    As far as Israel’s water conservation and technology is concerned, they do seem to be the best and I am not opposed to exploring that option. See here from Prager University on the subject:

  • Is there any consideration of converting SONGS and Diablo Canyon into Tidal power plants? Much of the infrastructure is already in place.

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