By Eric Heinz
During the quarterly Community Engagement Panel meeting on July 23 in Oceanside, the proposed additional storage for onsite nuclear waste at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station that Southern California Edison and Holtec International has planned was the main focus of discussion.
Holtec president and CEO Krishna Singh discussed the proposal for stainless steel canisters that he said have been simulated to withstand twice the seismic activity of major earthquakes.
“We have loaded 50 canisters already, and the loading process is virtually the same as the prior storage,” said Thomas Palmisano, SCE vice president of decommissioning and chief nuclear officer. “The handling is a little different. The loading of the fuel is moved under water, welded and drained and moved safely.”
The nuclear waste is to be stored underground until the Department of Energy, which is responsible for handling the waste, decides where to permanently move it off SONGS facilities.
A point of concern from audience members was SCE no longer mentions Saddleback Memorial Hospital in San Clemente as a primary facility for emergency services. This was part of the less stringent requirements from the Nuclear Regulation Commission amended in June.
“It’s a good hospital, (but) when we operated we had 2,000 to 3,000 employees on site, so we had four to five hospitals that were specially trained to handle a contaminated injured person,” Palmisano said. “We only have 300 to 500 employees on site today. We don’t need all those hospitals maintaining all that capability.”
In an emergency event, the operators will use the nearest facility and follow emergency procedures, Palmisano said.
“It’s not that we won’t use them,” he said. “Orange County will continue to provide coverage and off-site emergency planning activities for that area.”
Timelines of the next operation in the SONGS decommission planning are available at www.songscommunity.com.