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.”

Click here to read continuance motion

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. 

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comments (3)

  • This is a welcomed opportunity to implement a much safer way to manage highly radioactive waste in our midst. Edison said it is “seeking a solution for storing the waste that is acceptable to everyone”. We appreciate their good intentions but will be in “trust but verify” mode as things proceed. San Clemente Green has been promoting the idea of an independent advisory panel of nuclear experts to be involved in the decision making process for some time now. This could be a very big step in that direction. Our intention is to see that San Onofre becomes a pilot project for the rest of the nation to follow, by establishing the highest safety standards possible.

  • We already know Edison’s decision to load fuel in thin-wall canisters that cannot be inspected, monitored, repaired or maintained to prevent leaks, even in the short-term is a bad idea. The NRC knows this and said these thin wall canisters can crack in 16 years ince a crack starts. We don’t need “experts” to tell us this. The rest of the world uses thick-wall casks that do not have these problems. Edison refused to let thick-wall cask vendors bid. They should be required to go out to bid for containers that have defense in depth, can be inspected inside and out, repaired, maintained and monitored to prevent leaks and don’t have cracking risks. The thick wall casks are also transportable. Edison knows this, but refuses to set these minimum requirements you’d expect in a car. Don’t buy Edison’s propaganda. Learn more at SanOnofreSafety.org

  • @ Dishonest Donna

    The casks you want Edison to use were inspected and REJECTED by the NRC for shipment of spent fuel. The canisters Edison has installed and will use have NRC approval for both storage and shipment. Your preferred casks have no approval for either storage or shipment, they are also too heavy to be used by SONG’s crane equipment, an issue you continue to ignore.

    You dishonestly portray the mechanical seal monitoring system as an advantage when it is in fact required precisely because mechanical seals are INFERIOR to the double welds on the canisters Edison is using. The monitoring system monitors the area between the two mechanical seals, it DOES NOT monitor the contents of the cask as you appear to suggest.

    The canisters Edison is using can be inspected. Here is the link to the NRC site describing what you claim can’t be done: https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2016/08/04/dry-casks-101-what-do-robots-have-to-do-with-dry-cask-storage/#comments
    In addition and without specifying method, the above site also indicates canisters can be maintained, contrary to your assertions.

    The readers can be sure you were aware of this information because you made comments on the website. Because of your comments and the NRC’s response to them, we can also be sure that your statements about what the NRC said in regards to the time it takes a crack to go through wall, were again, a dishonest mischaracterization. The reader can compare what you said to what the NRC actually stated; here is Darrell Dunn’s (NRC) statement: “That number was based on crack growth rates in very aggressive environments where the highest estimated crack growth rates could result in through-wall penetration in a period of 16 years after corrosion begins, assuming that the conditions for cracking were continuously maintained. We have since determined that failures in aggressive environments would take approximately 30 years because the conditions needed for cracking cannot be continuously maintained even in aggressive environments.”

    So, 30 years is almost twice your claim of 16 years and for the interested reader, this is AFTER any proposed crack begins, a process that itself could take many years. Indeed, in the NRC examples at the above website, a canister loaded in 2002 in an identical environment to SONGs (Maine Yankee) was inspected and found to be “intact and in good condition” with “no signs of degradation”.

    This is not the first time you’ve mischaracterized statements by officials. You repeatedly mischaracterized Holtec CEO, Dr. Kris Singh’s statements. You mischaracterized the message delivered by the NRC’s Mark Lombard regarding canister inspections. You lied when you claimed Entergy said they wouldn’t use “that experimental unproven below ground system”, a reference to the Holtec canisters Edison has installed. They are neither experimental nor unproven and Entergy chose a cheaper system by the SAME manufacturer because, as they stated, their requirements were not the same. They did not say or suggest SONGs chose the wrong canisters.
    You used the wrong fuel burn up numbers even though you had the tech specs that stated SONGs couldn’t store fuel with the burn up values you were using (I allow this was a mistake on your part and not deliberate).

    Your claim that the rest of the world is using cast iron casks is just another FALSE statement, nay, a lie. Britain, Mexico, Spain, the Ukraine, and South Africa all use the Holtec canister system and Slovenia will soon choose between Areva and Holtec. Taiwan has ordered a similar canister system built by NAC. I asked you once before to list the number of new bolted lid cask projects (like the ones you want SCE to use), particularly for countries that no longer reprocess fuel, your response was crickets.

    You don’t have an information problem or just a difference in how you view the data, you have an integrity problem, one shared by your follower, Gary Headrick. You display all the characteristics of those who start with a conclusion, then search for data to support that conclusion and when little is to be had, twist the information to fit your narrative. You have rightly earned the moniker, dishonest Donna.

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