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By Shawn Raymundo

Southern California Edison (SCE) announced Monday, July 15, that it has resumed placing spent nuclear fuel at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) into its dry storage facility.

The move comes several weeks after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gave SCE the green light to restart transferring the plant’s nuclear waste from wet to dry storage, which was put on hiatus last August following a canister incident.

“We’ve done a lot of work to ensure that going forward we will be successful in safely loading and storing each and every spent fuel canister,” Doug Bauder, SCE vice president and chief nuclear officer, said in a press release. “We’re confident the improvements we’ve made are effective and sustainable. Our job now is to demonstrate that to our stakeholders.”

In the aftermath of the incident, in which a canister carrying spent fuel was being lowered into a vertical receptacle but wasn’t aligned properly, causing it to get stuck on a guiding ring on Aug. 3, SCE said it and its contractor, Holtec International, “have systematically reviewed and strengthened procedures, oversight and training.”

SCE also stated that it has implemented new technology to “enhance the transfer process.” Such technology includes the addition of cameras and load monitoring gauges.

“Improvements were also made to the site’s corrective action program to better assist in identifying potential issues early and to support continuous learning,” Edison said in the release.

Edison has acknowledged that while the misalignment was corrected and canister properly stored, the incident should have prompted SCE to notify the NRC within 24 hours of it occurring.

In late March, the NRC fined Edison $116,000 over the incident itself and not in relation to the inadequate timing to formally alert the commission. The NRC gave Edison the OK to restart downloading operations on May 21, but SCE held off on resuming the transfers until it completed a “careful review of operational readiness.”

Currently, Edison has 44 canisters left to be placed in its dry storage facility at SONGS, according to SCE. The first canister that’s being loaded as part of the restart efforts is one that had been previously filled with spent fuel and was stored in a handling building last August.

“Moving spent nuclear fuel to dry storage is an important step in the decommissioning of San Onofre,” Edison said in its release. “After receiving a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission, SCE will begin dismantling the plant and removing the major structures from the site.”


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comments (2)

  • Restarting this process for unloading nuclear waste from pools to dry canisters is fundamentally wrong, even though the NRC has approved everything proposed by Edison.
    On page 30, in the recent NRC Supplemental report ( concerning the nearly dropped canister incident, “The inspectors concluded that expected temperature and pressure limits would have remained under the accident limits described in FSAR, criticality safety would have been maintained since the confinement boundary was not breached and the system remained dry, and external radiological dose rates of the canister, located in the vault, would have minimal increases.
    However, the condition of fuel after the postulated drop would not meet the licensing requirements for storage or transportation. The licensee would be required to perform either significant evaluations or supplemental operations to ensure the safe retrieval, unloading, and re-packaging of the fuel while minimizing the dose to personnel.”

    So how can the NRC approve a system that is not capable of storing or transporting a dropped canister be allowed to proceed? Are they telling us not to worry when we already had such a close call? We need a solution before the process is allowed to continue.

    We need to change to a system like those used in other countries for storing nuclear waste in thick casks that can be monitored, inspected, or repaired while storing them in robust buildings, so they can be transported safely when a suitable destination has been prepared.

  • The Stainless Steel canisters SONGS and the entire US nuclear fleet is using are state-of-the-art and used in many countries around the world. They were and are the best choice for long term storage and ARE monitored, have been inspected, and CAN be repaired.

    Your novice claims, “We need to change to a system like those used in other countries for storing nuclear waste…”

    No, as you are well aware, the cast iron casks you prefer do NOT have a license to either ship or store in the US and years ago were refused a license to transport by the NRC because of their fear that the cast iron would shatter if dropped in cold weather. These cast iron casks have an inferior mechanical seal more appropriate for reopening (easy retrieval for reprocessing the fuel to make new fuel), and are far too heavy to be used at SONGS, ie., they cannot be used, period!

    So, when you make the following statement, “However, the condition of fuel after the postulated drop would not meet the licensing requirements for storage or transportation.” you are stating a condition that the cast iron casks are in WITHOUT having been dropped…they have NO license to ship or store.

    If you desire to rapidly ship these canisters out to an interim or permanent storage facility, STOP engaging in hysteria and false claims that may make prospective communities less likely to accept a permanent storage facility. YOU and your fellow anti-nuclear zealots are making things worse and are NOT serving this community by your lies and hyperbole.

comments (2)

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