San Clemente Times: Nonprofit Proposes to Convert SONGS into Desalination Plant


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