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By Eric Heinz

Since last year’s bode of optimism for bills to be passed that would allow for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel, officials at the June 28 Community Engagement Panel (CEP) were not as convinced that this year would prove successful.

David Victor, Ph.D., who is the chairman of the panel, said because certain bills have not moved significantly since H.R. 3053 (Shimkus) passed the House, it’s been delayed for a committee hearing in the Senate.

“The odds of federal legislation getting passed this year have gone down, not to zero, but they’ve gone down,” Victor said.

H.R. 3053 would allocate more than $270 million toward finding repositories for the spent nuclear fuel, and there is other legislation that would examine the reopening of Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but Victor said that could come with difficulties due to the controversies of environmental protection at the site.

There are sites out there, however, that are moving forward. Waste Control Specialists of Texas withdrew a license application last year to start interim storage but pulled it as they were under acquisition. Now that’s complete, the company refiled for their application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on June 11. The application is the same as the old and proposes a 40-year site lease.

Holding the stainless steel demo during the meeting, Tom Palmisano, Southern California Edison’s vice president of decommissioning and chief of nuclear officer, showed the audience examples of the “shims” that reportedly broke inside a few of the first canisters received from Hotlec International. Shims allow for natural airflow around the spent nuclear fuel rods, but a bottom pins broke off in one canister and others were deemed damaged. Palmisano said during the time the spent nuclear fuel was loaded into the casks with broken parts, no levels of radiation were detected to exceed the NRC’s maximums.

During public comment, people again voiced their demand for instantaneous readings of radioactivity at SONGS. San Clemente City Councilmember Steve Swartz, who sits on the CEP, said he also wants to schedule discussions about the possibilities of 24-7 monitoring reports.

Victor said he bought and assembled a handheld Geiger counter that he took with him on a flight. On the plane, he said he experienced no elevated levels of radiation, but public speakers continued to ask for more, as they want to know the readings the minute they’re available in case of a nuclear emergency.

There will be a special CEP meeting on extreme situations scheduled for later in the year. The next regularly scheduled CEP meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 at the QLN Conference Center in Oceanside.
For more information or to watch the recorded meeting in its entirety, visit

Editor’s note: Article clarified on July 17 to reflect an accurate number of pins that were found broken or damaged in the casks. 

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