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By Eric Heinz 

Southern California Edison (SCE) is closing in on selecting the general contractor to begin larger phases of decommissioning at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), officials said during the Thursday, Nov. 10, quarterly Community Engagement Panel meeting in Dana Point.
The utility provider is looking to begin construction of the underground cement casings that are expected to secure canisters full of spent nuclear fuel. SCE received the permits to do this last year from the California Coastal Commission.
SCE officials said they expect to start burying the spent fuel as early as 2017.

Glenn Pascall, the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter chairman of the task force on San Onofre, said it is imperative to get the remaining 1,400 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, currently housed in cooling pools, into dry storage as soon as possible.

During the meeting, Bill Parker, a professor at University of California-Irvine, said SCE should produce a “technical analysis or critical path analysis” to understand how long and in what ways the process of transporting the fuel to a temporary storage facility would take.

Perhaps the biggest skeptic of anything proposed thus far by SCE has been San Juan Capistrano’s Mayor Pam Patterson, who was relentless in her claims against the utility provider of mischievous activities at best and illegal dealings at worst.

Patterson also said she takes exception with the CEP’s policies of public input, calling the “two-way conduit” or the board’s transparency a farce by SCE to disenfranchise the public from inquiring about the decommissioning process.

Members of the public are allowed to speak for three minutes each at the end of the CEP meetings, but people have argued that’s not long enough for them to explain their positions.

Patterson is a member of the CEP by way of being mayor of San Juan.

Vice Chairman of the CEP and San Clemente City Councilman Tim Brown eventually had enough, and said Patterson wasn’t backing up her claims with facts.

Charles Langley, executive director of Public Watchdogs in California, spoke during the meeting and claimed the canisters SCE plans to use are susceptible to cracks and cannot be repaired once broken.

The advocacy group has published documents it claims are evidence of mishandlings.

The next CEP meeting is expected to take place in January. The Nuclear Waste Act does not allow for temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel, only permanent storage.

Currently, there is federal legislation making its way through the U.S. Congress that would allow for temporary interim storage of spent nuclear fuel. Dr. David Victor, chairman of the CEP, said the two sites, one in New Mexico and one in Texas, would consent to storing the spent fuel.

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