Last updated 2:53 p.m. on Friday, April 7
By Eric Heinz
Southern California Edison announced on Friday, April 7, that plaintiffs in a lawsuit regarding the storage of 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear waste fuel rods underground at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) requested to postpone a hearing on the matter next week in order to “accommodate settlement discussions.”
According to a press release from Edison, the majority stakeholder of the nuclear power plant, attorneys Michael Aguirre and Maria Severson asked for the continuance of the hearing in which activist group Citizens Oversight sued the California Coastal Commission for permitting the spent nuclear waste to be buried at the site.
“We believe the parties in the case and many community leaders share a common goal to transfer San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel off-site as soon as reasonably possible,” said Tom Palmisano, Southern California Edison’s vice president and chief nuclear officer. “We are hopeful that settlement discussions will permit the parties to reach a mutually agreeable solution.”
A hearing was scheduled for April 14 in San Diego Superior Court, but that is likely to be rescheduled.
For Ray Lutz, the national coordinator for Citizens Oversight, this settlement hasn’t comforted his worries much regarding the spent fuel. Lutz said the settlement could end up compromising with the permit from the Coastal Commission and the fuel could still end up at SONGS.
“Our goal is to not have this ridiculously insane nuclear waste dump only inches over the high water mark; we don’t want it to go in at all,” Lutz said in a phone interview on Friday. “They’re up against a really bad decision, and I think the decision (permitting spent nuclear waste burial) was made quick and without any public scrutiny or outcry or any reaction from the public.”
On Wednesday, April 5, Holtec International, which has been tasked with storing the spent fuel in canisters, filed an application with the Nuclear Regulation Commission for an interim storage facility in Lea County, New Mexico, similar to the one Waste Control Specialists in Texas filed last year.
Currently, the fuel cannot be transferred under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and must be handled by the Department of Energy. The department has not allocated a place for the spent fuel at SONGS after Yucca Mountain in Nevada was removed as a possible location.
Legislation is still in limbo at the federal level to amend the act and allow for temporary storage, as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has once again submitted a bill that would amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow for interim storage. Co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Tim Conway represents a district in Texas that could be home to such a storage facility.
It is not yet clear when the next hearing will be for the settlement, but Lutz said the continuation will most likely be granted so that the two parties can meet.
According to the press release from Edison, one-third of the spent nuclear fuel from the nuclear power plant is currently in dry cask storage and the remaining two-thirds are in the steel-lined concrete pools.
“In order to facilitate the safe decommissioning of the plant, SCE proposes to move the fuel from the pools into dry storage by 2019, where it would remain until an off-site storage facility becomes available,” the release stated.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story. More information will be provided when it becomes available.