By Eric Heinz 

Following a contractor’s statements at a Community Engagement Panel (CEP) meeting on Aug. 9, the nonprofit organization Public Watchdogs garnered $50,000 in donations to start the process of filing an injunction lawsuit against Southern California Edison, the majority owner of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), from storing more of its spent nuclear fuel on-site.

Charles Langley, the executive director of Public Watchdogs, said he couldn’t give too many details related to the pending lawsuit at this time, but he did confirm that the organization is trying to get some kind of injunction, likely through San Diego or Orange Superior Courts.

“I’m not allowed to talk about the strategy, but the (goal) is to get a court-ordered injunction that forbids them from deploying more nuclear waste cans on the beach, and they can’t put it there,” Langley told the San Clemente Times.

Ray Lutz, the director and engineer with Citizens Oversight Projects, Inc., sent out a press release later in the week, stating his organization will seek an injunction through the California Coastal Commission (CCC), and the organization has already penned a letter to the commission.

“Edison says there was no risk because computer model testing shows that canisters can be dropped 25 feet without failing,” Lutz said in a prepared statement. “However, those models were considering damage to canisters contained in much stronger transportation or ransfer casks, and not the relatively thin, 5/8-inch thick stainless-steel interior canister alone. Computer models of the canister alone (inside the HI-STORM overpack) consider drops of only 12 inches.”

Lutz, whose organization was part of a lawsuit that amended the permit agreement for SONGS officials to store the spent nuclear fuel on-site, said that the California Coastal Commission should take action before any more of the spent nuclear fuel canisters are loaded.
In his letter, Lutz said there should be a full stop of the process of storing the spent nuclear fuel until a full review of the safety procedures can be completed.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 22, there were 29 canisters stored of the 73 SCE is loading into cavity enclosure containers (CEC), just about 100 feet from the ocean.

David Fritch, the contractor tasked with OSHA oversight, said at a recent CEP meeting that many of the safety procedures at SONGS are not being observed by everyone who is working on the site, that or they don’t have the proper training.

Edison sent out a press release following the CEP meeting on Aug. 9 explaining that a canister had been left on the outer ring of a CEC, and as the crane lowering the canister continued, its line lost tension and the canister could have dropped 18 feet—a risk the nonprofit organizations said was too close for comfort.

Edison said it would take measures to ensure safety training will be administered to the appropriate employees and contractors. Since the information was released by Fritch, loading of canisters from wet storage to dry storage canisters had stopped, with work possibly resuming in the next couple weeks.

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  • Fritch also said it was an engineering problem. Please include that in your reports. This is another mismanaged project. Edison, Tom Palmisano, told us the reason they stopped work was to give employees a break. As we learned later in that Community Engagement Panel meeting, it was really because of the loading problem. And Fitch said this wasn’t the first time that loading problem had happened.

    The condition of how far a canister can drop safely was never analyzed by Holtec or the NRC according to this memo from the NRC. Edison’s statements as well as David Victor’s statements are not reliable sources of information. Canisters in other Holtec systems were analyzed for up to 11 inches and that was only inside a transfer cask that provides some buffer. After that the canister needed to be opened to exame the fuel assemblies and other contents for damage. However, Palmisano mentioned in an earlier CEP meeting the canisters are too hot to unload back into the pool, even though this is a requirement of their license. The ONLY other option for unloading is a hot cell. This is a large building filled with an inert gas so nothing explodes. The unloading is done robotically. Edison refuses to build one. Don’t forget the 51 older canisters already up to 15 years old. Those may already be cracking and close to releasing radiation and could potentially explode, yet Edison’s only plan is to hide peak radiation levels.

    Fuel assemblies must be moved to thick-wall casks that can be maintained and monitored to prevent leaks and explosions, and that do not have cracking problems. If we don’t get this right, nothing else will matter. We’ll be faced with permanent evacuations in Southern California. I wish I was exaggerating.

    Our federal Senators need to advocate for safer storage in thick-wall casks that can be maintained and monitored to prevent radioactive leaks and explosions. The NRC is not following their own regulations and has been hiding the truth from elected officials and others. The NRC engineers know better, but are not speaking truth to power.

    Thank you David Fritch. It’s time for others to speak up. David spoke up for his daughter. What will the rest of you do for your family?

    NRC Inspection Charter to evaluate the near-miss load drop event at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, August 17, 2016
    https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML18229A203

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