By Eric Heinz
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently wrapped up its interviews and site investigation at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), with a report coming in the next few weeks.
The investigation was prompted after a whistleblower announced at a Community Engagement Panel (CEP) meeting in August that a canister with spent nuclear fuel in it was improperly loaded into one of the storage units, and that it took more than 20 minutes to correct.
Although there was no increase to radiation levels, members of the public were not happy with it and called on the commission to do something about it.
In another document from the NRC, Holtec International, the company that has built the spent nuclear fuel canisters at SONGS, is having its application reviewed to construct a facility for temporary storage in Lea County, New Mexico. The NRC is asking for Holtec to provide more information related to the facility.
Currently, federal legislation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 does not permit temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel. There is currently a bill that’s passed the U.S. Congress, H.R. 3035, authored by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, but it hasn’t done anything in the Senate, possibly because of the election year and more pressing issues on Capitol Hill.
Dr. David Victor, chairman of the CEP, said he was surprised to see how quickly the private sector has been moving on its interim facility applications, but he said he does understand that the companies want to be prepared in the event federal legislation is changed.
The NRC is expected to finish its report sometime in October regarding the canister incident.