By Eric Heinz
On Tuesday, Jan. 30, Southern California Edison (SCE) spokesperson Maureen Brown sent an email to the San Clemente Times reporting that the first spent nuclear fuel rods, currently housed in cooling tanks at the offline San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), have been transferred to dry-cask storage. The operators of the nuclear power plant will store a total of 73 casks with the radioactive fuel rods, in addition to the 51 already onsite.
“Following up to let you know that we safely and successfully loaded the first multi-purpose spent fuel canister at San Onofre, and we transferred that canister to the new ISFSI today (Jan. 30),” the email stated. “We are on track to complete the transfer of all the spent fuel to dry cask storage by mid-2019 or earlier. As you may recall, we previously loaded and transferred 50 canisters of spent fuel to the existing dry cask storage facility. Transferring spent fuel from wet to dry cask storage is a well-understood process that has been repeated hundreds of times at nuclear plants across the country over the last three decades. More background on our website.”
The storage containers, constructed by Holtec International, are stainless steel, five-eighths of an inch thick and were approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and permitted by the California Coastal Commission in 2015.
Opponents of the storage on-site at SONGS, which is located next to the Pacific Ocean, have voiced concerns for years over the move.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is the lead agency on where the fuel can be stored. The spent fuel rods can only be stored where the DOE sees fit. Temporary storage of the spent fuel rods has been debated at the federal level, with several bills failing to be passed, to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to allow for such confinement. As of now, temporary storage is not permissible by law.
A permanent facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was slated to harbor the spent fuel rods, but that plan was nixed following the closure of the storage facility
In other news
On the same day, SCE and several energy watchdog organization settled a lawsuit based on the cost of decommissioning the nuclear power plant, which went offline in 2012. The settlement removes the requirement for ratepayers to San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns stock in SONGS, paying the cost of the project. According to a press release from SCE:
- Customers of SCE and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will no longer pay for $775 million in San Onofre-related investments that had not yet been recovered by the utilities under a 2014 settlement. SCE customers’ portion of that total reduction is worth roughly $68 per residential customer over the next four years.
- Because the agreement awaits approval by the commission, any amounts collected by the utilities in excess of the $775 million while the proposed settlement is pending will be refunded to customers.
- In addition, the plaintiffs in a federal court lawsuit challenging the commission’s approval of the 2014 settlement have agreed to dismiss that case in its entirety following commission approval of the revised settlement announced today.
- SCE will reimburse SDG&E for SDG&E’s $151 million share of the $775 million. This provision will not reduce the revised settlement benefits SCE customers receive.
“SCE and plant co-owner, SDG&E, have already returned more than $2 billion to customers under the 2014 settlement, which ensured that customers did not pay for the faulty steam generators, which prompted the closure of San Onofre, from the time this equipment failed,” a press release stated.
The California Public Utilities Commission will make the final determination as to whether to accept the proposed settlement.