Co-Founder of San Clemente Green, www.sanclementegreen.org
Billions have been spent over the last fifty years trying to come up with a permanent solution for nuclear waste. In 2016, the Department of Energy (DOE) adopted a policy of consent based siting to avoid the kinds of resistance they faced in the Yucca Mountain fiasco. Communities near proposed Consolidated Interim Storage sites in New Mexico and Texas are being enticed with financial incentives and unsubstantiated promises for their long-term safety. They will face many technical, legal and societal challenges, causing unpredictable delays . However, consent based siting does not apply to us. Instead, we have become the default nuclear waste dump, with no decision-making power over a ludicrous plan that is being imposed on us. It is a relatively cheap, shortsighted solution that leaves us extremely vulnerable until all nuclear waste has been removed.
The California Coastal Commission (CCC) approved Edison’s plan to partially bury nuclear waste in silos only inches above the rising sea level, 100 feet from the ocean, protected by a crumbling 15-foot sea wall, (a hearing is scheduled for April 14). One canister holding used fuel assemblies contains more radiation than was released at Chernobyl. Currently, about fifty “Chernobyl Cans” are being stored, with another hundred to come out of pools. Transportation will not be allowed by the NRC if these are in questionable condition. Canisters can only be reloaded if returned to pools. Edison plans to dismantle pools once they are emptied. It is possible that damaged fuel assemblies have been placed into dry cask storage. If so, it could eventually result in an uncontrollable nuclear reaction, causing widespread contamination.
“Regulators” at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) generically approved using short term storage containers for hundreds of years if needed. The maker of these thin steel canisters admits cracking is a problem and that it is not feasible to repair them. Even a microscopic crack can emit millions of curies of deadly radiation. A comparable container leaked in only 17 years. Some canisters here have already been in service for 14 years. No remedy is currently in place at San Onofre. There is no way to anticipate problems once canisters have been welded shut.
You could not choose a worse location to keep nuclear waste, in this fault-ridden tsunami zone. The facility was designed for a 7.0 earthquake, but USGS now predicts a 7.4, which is up to four times more powerful. More than 8.5 million people live within 50 miles. The long overdue “Big One” could destroy pools where 700-degree nuclear waste is being cooled. If exposed to air, these fuel rods can spontaneously catch fire, releasing a constant plume of radiation into the environment. It can’t be put out with water. Edison dismantled the onsite fire department specialized in nuclear fires. NRC “regulators” have granted Edison an exemption for providing off site emergency preparedness, even though nuclear waste continues to pose a great danger to our communities. Edison should be required to gain our consent for a plan that is vetted by independent nuclear experts to ensure our safety.