By Eric Heinz

At least 39 canisters that were to be filled with the spent nuclear fuel rods at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) will be returned to Holtec after personnel discovered some of the ventilation systems that keep the fuel cool were damaged.

Southern California Edison (SCE), the majority owner of SONGS, provided more information at the March 22 Community Engagement Panel (CEP) meeting in Laguna Hills.

Tom Palmisano, the vice president of decommissioning and chief nuclear engineer at SCE, said newer designs of the canisters have small pins at the bottom to help circulate air. Some of the canisters had pins that were damaged or broken off completely.

The portions of the canisters are necessary to keep the spent nuclear fuel cool, as it’s still radioactive and extremely hot, even after sitting in cooling tanks within the remaining units of SONGS.

Palmisano said Holtec will correct these issues and replace them.

Toward the end of the informational portion of the meeting, members of the CEP said they wanted to have another meeting to discuss defense in-depth, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines as the method of ensuring nuclear power facilities prevent any kind of accident.

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comments (6)

  • Independent experts and some informed stakeholders still have extreme technical concern and we are not convinced that Tom Palisano’s ‘solution’ will be enough …. to hurry to have the remaining spent fuel stored in spent fuel pools to go into Holtec casks with the original design (without the pins on bottom of casks to elevate casks and allow airflow cooling over the bottom of casks). at San Onofre.
    Before work resumes to load fuel assemblies into Holtec casks without the pins, stakeholders want to see results of updated thermodynamic engineering analysis to verify if the former Holtec cask design (without pins or airflow under bottom surface of casks will perform sufficient cooling, or if a better design the elevate casks is necessary.? NRC, SCE and Holtec engineers need to re-analyze why Holtec found it necessary to modify the cask design, and reasons the Holtec engineers found it necessary to elevate casks so constant airflow over bottom of casks will automatically be applied? If the former cask design is applied, there will be no airflow below bottom surface of all these casks at San Onofre, which seems to be an important detail that we cannot afford to overlook., just because SCE’s Tom Palisano thinks it is the ‘most expedient’ solution? Personally, I think it’s just another way SCE doesn’t get stuck with an expensive excess inventory of Holtec casks that are still stored onsite, after the Holtec cask designs were modified to elevate casks off the ground surface to allow constant airflow and cooling. Using the former Holtec casks will not have that defense in depth extra cooling from airflow under bottom surface of casks. Stakeholders are not convinced that airflow isn’t needed for cooling …… and think that a better design than the Holtec ‘pins’ and shims designs, that never went through any formal NRC review, or formal license amendment process. Stakeholders think Holtec needs to develop an upgraded cask design, that elevates the bottom of casks to allow airflow and cooling, and can be fully tested and analyzed. Stakeholders think the former Holtec cask design isn’t good enough either Tom Palisano. It’s not the best solution, even tho it’s ‘expedient’, and probably the least expense to SCE Edison. Please suspend further work, until this technical concern is more fully analyzed by engineering experts and high burn up fuel experts.

    • SCE’s canisters are state of the art, used by the entire US nuclear industry.

      @patricia borchmann

      Your statement, “…stakeholders want to see results of updated thermodynamic engineering analysis to verify if the former Holtec cask design (without pins or airflow under bottom surface of casks will perform sufficient cooling, or if a better design the elevate casks is necessary.?”

      AND “If the former cask design is applied, there will be no airflow below bottom surface of all these casks…”

      The original Holtec canister design DOES have openings in the bottom of these spacers to allow air (Helium) flow. You can see this in the photos shown at the last CEP meeting. You can start at 1:26:00 for the relevant discussion…the link is below.

      http://www.songscommunity.com/cep-events/032218_event.asp

      The shims were a cost-cutting measure that had been successful in the past but because SCE went the extra mile to have the canisters peened (an expensive process to minimize stress on welds thereby minimizing exposure to corrosion), the first plant to do so, the shims experienced stresses that were not originally foreseen. As described at the CEP (which you can view at the above-posted link), the original design is more robust and cannot break off as one of the shims did. There is no question regarding the adequacy of the air (Helium) flow.

      Your statement, “I think it’s just another way SCE doesn’t get stuck with an expensive excess inventory of Holtec casks that are still stored onsite…”

      SCE is not “stuck” with unwanted canisters. The canisters with the new design are being shipped back to Holtec and SCE will not be using any more of them. This was put out at the last CEP.

      So just to be clear, both old and new designs were manufactured to allow air (Helium) cooling flow and not as you suggest, only on the new design that has now been rejected.

      BTW, the claim Donna made at the last CEP that if water got into a canister the fuel would go critical is complete horse manure. She may believe it (it might be an instance where she isn’t actually lying like she does in other cases), but it is total bunk. The fuel is called spent or used for a reason…it could no longer maintain criticality in the reactor, the very place it was designed to go critical in.

  • patricia borchmann Reply

    This second online comment submittal should replace my first online comment, because it is more simplified, organized, and meaninful.
    Public stakeholders in reactor communities near San Onofre, and independent technical experts are not convinced that the proposed contingency plan described by Tom Palisano during the recent CEP Panel meeting in Laguna Hills is the best solution, or will be good enough. In the absence of having credible engineering analysis performed to fully evaluate technical issues performed by credible, qualified, objective third party engineering firm, public stakeholders assert there is urgency to suspend further work by Edison, until such updated engineering analysis is performed, and reviewed by Edison, industry experts, NRC, CEP Panel, and independent experts outside the industry, and public stakeholders.
    As understood, Holtec engineers modified the Holtec Umax cask design (37 fuel rod assembly capacity) without NRC review/approval, based on same flawed logic Edison applied earlier during failed steam generator replacement, using premise that the modification is a ‘like for like replacement’., that caused SCE to prematurely retire San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
    As understood, Holtec engineers modified the Holtec cask design, using pins to elevate the spent fuel storage casks off the surface to provide an open area under casks for constant airflow circulation, to provide for proper cooling especially important during early years of ISFSI operation at SONGS, during an ‘indefinite’ interim storage period, using Holtec casks with a projected service life forecast up to 40 years. The San Clemente Times article reporter Eric Heinz indicated the loose bolt that was discovered at bottom of one of the first 4 fuel rod assemblies recently transferred from spent fuel pool at SONGS to the bottom of one of the concrete cavities where Holtec spent fuel storage casks were loaded at the new ISFSI constructed at San Onofre, so SCE suspended work.
    At the CEP Panel meeting last Thursday,. SCE spokesman Tom Palisano described a hasty contingency plan using SCE authority to merely substitute the spent fuel storage casks, by using the supply of Holtec casks that were fabricated prematurely and stored onsite before Holtec modified the spent fuel storage cask design, with pins to elevate the casks to provide open area to provide constant airflow circulation necessary for ventilation and cooling spent fuel assemblies containing high burnup fuel. Based on my own observation, it appears this proposed contingency plan described by Tom Palisano at recent CEP Panel meeting is the most expedient, and least expensive ‘solution’ for SCE Edison, however it remains uncertain if that plan will be good enough to meet regulatory mandate for ongoing public health and safety for millions living within 50 miles of San Onofre, during the indefinite interim storage period that the new ISFSI at San Onofre was constructed to perform, using Holtec Umax casks with a service life projected up to 40 years.
    Public stakeholders and independent experts outside the nuclear industry or contractors have good reasons for ongoing technical concerns about applying this hastily formed plan. While it is probably the most expedient, and least expensive option for SCE Edison to apply, it remains unproven if it will be successful in both the short term, or long term after Edison completes Decommissioning Plan for SONGS, and relinquishes responsibility.
    The contingency plan proposed by SCE Tom Palisano at CEP Panel meeting, means the remaining spent fuel assemblies (with high burnup fuel) in spent fuel pool at San Onofre will be transferred to the excess Holtec spent fuel casks that were fabricated prematurely, without the design features necessary to elevate casks to provide open area for contstant airflow circulation and proper ventilation and cooling. Instead, the hastily formed contingency plan to use former Holtec casks will locate each cask (with 37 fuel assemblies of high burnup spent fuel) at the bottom of concrete cavities at the new ISFSI constructed at SONGS, without having that important safety airflow circulation and ventilation benefit, since casks would be seated directly at bottom of concrete cavity.
    This would not be the first time Edison applied an unproven technical design change, that was initially described as ‘like for like’ substitution, that did not require NRC review or approval process through a formal License Amendment (for 2 steam generator replacements) that caused gross failure, premature reactor closure at SONGS, and extreme financial liability that was disproportionately assigned to SCE ratepayers.
    In this case in 2018, stakeholders know better than to be exploited by utility that is in a rush to finish transferring fuel from spent fuel pools to Holtec casks which are still unproven, untested, and even theoretical computer modeling forecasts by Sandia Labs have not been applied to spent fuel assemblies using high burnup fuel. So, this is an experiment at San Onfore, because there are no existing ISFSI’s in United States that have been operational using Holtec casks with capacity this large, or this heavy for 37 fuel assemblies, using cranes not built for this weight.
    There are no other ISFSI facilities in U.S. that could provide operational experience, where ‘lessons learned’ usually help develop learning curve improvements and practical operating experience defines important safety operational precautions, inspection and monitoring capabilities, frequency and develop ‘defense in depth’ safety redundancy protocols for back up secondary emergency capability for ISFSI operational service life.
    Edison and industry experts ‘claim’ the operation will be safely performed, risks will be low, and low risk is acceptable, but public stakeholders are unconvinced in the absence of having updated engineering analysis performed by independent third party engineering firm qualified to objectively analyze credible technical and potential public safety risks.
    Until that. level of technical certainty and safety assurances are provided by SCE, public stakeholders assert further work by SCE Edison should be suspended.
    Public stakeholders and independent experts outside the nuclear industry or contractors know we cannot afford any human error, any technical mistakes, overlooked details, unforeseen consequences, premature degradation, accelerated CSS corrosion, embrittlement, mechanical errors, operator error in diagnostic troubleshooting, or ‘mere guesswork’. The stakes couldn’t be higher than at San Onfore.
    Public stakeholders in reactor communities near San Onofre deserve, and demand more than hasty decision making process, or guesswork that sounds good so far by Tom Palisano, but is uncertain, and unknowable in absence of engineering calculations and proven perfomance of Holtec casks, and adequate airflow circulation and ventilation. While it may be a fast fix for SCE Edison, that is the most expedient, and least expensive contingency plan, it might not be good enough, and guesswork is not good enough in southern California.

    • Patricia, do you even bother to look anything up or do you usually rant on about things you obviously know nothing about?

      @ Patricia Borchmann

      Your statement, “This second online comment submittal should replace my first online comment, because it is more simplified, organized, and meaninful.”

      Your second comment is more daft than the first because you repeated the falsehood regarding shim airflow (Helium) AFTER being provided the information correcting this falsehood. As shown in the pictures in the link provided above, anyone can see that the original shim design has space for the very Helium flow (not airflow) that YOU claim doesn’t exist. Are you prepared to present evidence that these pictures are NOT in fact accurate? If not, kindly stop making false claims, you do the public a disservice by repeating them.

      YOU do not speak for public stakeholders. Did the county elect YOU to speak on their behalf?

      Your statement, “In the absence of having credible engineering analysis performed to fully evaluate technical issues performed by credible, qualified, objective third party engineering firm…”

      Feel free to hire your own engineering firm to do any and every analysis that suits your fancy but don’t expect the money to come out of the decommissioning fund or from the very ratepayers you pretend to represent. Edison, industry experts, and the NRC have already done their engineering analysis and the NRC has placed their stamp of approval on the project.

      Your statement, “…Holtec casks with a projected service life forecast up to 40 years.

      NO, SCE spent fuel canisters’ service life is 100 years. Design life is 60 years. Your fellow anti-nuke in a comment above claimed they wouldn’t last 10 years despite the fact the industry has been storing fuel for more than 30 years. If you anti-nukes are going to read from a false script, you ought to at least read from the same false script.

      Your claim, “…a hasty contingency plan…”

      Insisting on going back to the agreed-upon design is NOT a hasty contingency plan and the Holtec canisters (not casks) were NOT fabricated prematurely.

      Your statement, “Based on my own observation…”

      You’ve already demonstrated your observations are untrustworthy. You have twice now falsely claimed the shims do not provide for Helium (you keep saying air) flow, even after being given the evidence that they do. Why should the public trust the opinion of one who keeps making false statements?

      Your statement, “…it remains unproven if it will be successful in both the short term, or long term…”

      Holtec canisters have proven themselves everywhere they have been installed and they have NRC approval, unlike the casks the anti-nukes want SCE to use.

      Your confused statement, “…without having that important safety airflow circulation and ventilation benefit, since casks would be seated directly at bottom of concrete cavity.”

      Sorry Patricia, but the shims are INSIDE the canister and the Helium flow is INTERNAL to the canister. The only airflow is that from the outside, through the inlet vents, circulating between the cavity enclosure container and the canister, and then out the exhaust stack (or vent).

      Edison was unaware of this minor design change and as described in the Heinz article above, SCE will be sending canisters with this design back to Holtec and using the original design that was approved by the NRC…so you are again wrong.

      Regarding high burn-up fuel, David Lochbaum, nuclear safety officer for the Union of Concerned Scientists (no friend of nuclear power), had this to say on the subject:

      “In this case, the self-serving conclusion by the researcher has spawned an army of activists around the country who contend that high burn-up fuel in dry storage is the greatest risk to humanity yet created. That’s so far from the truth that the truth could not be seen using the Hubble telescope (with a good lens).”

      Looks like you are part of that army of activists that this Union of Concerned Scientists individual is referring to.

      Your claim, “…using Holtec casks with capacity this large, or this heavy for 37 fuel assemblies, using cranes not built for this weight.”

      Are you claiming these canisters exceed the loading specification on the cask crane? Really? Do you even know what that load specification is? Unintentional irony on your part I guess because the casks the tin-foil hat wearing anti-nukes want SCE to use are far heavier than the Holtec canisters, indeed they’re too heavy.

      Another of your false claims, “There are no other ISFSI facilities in U.S. that could provide operational experience, where ‘lessons learned’ usually help develop learning curve improvements and practical operating experience…”

      Have you bothered to attend a CEP or watched one of the meetings on your computer? There are numerous sites that have ISFSI facilities including ones built by Holtec. You must be confused with the German casks the anti-nuke zealots want SCE to use. They have no presence or experience in the United States (except for 8 casks) but that doesn’t seem to bother the zealots.

      Again, YOU don’t speak for the public and the work will continue regardless of your assertions. This member of the public deserves and demands more honesty and accuracy by activist crackpots who continue to lie and engage in hyperbole in a concerted effort to misinform the citizens of our communities.

      Patricia, don’t be part of the problem.

  • the thing is these caskets are forever and Edison cant even get ten years out of their design ,,,get this sh!t off the beach and stop using it

    • News flash George, canisters have been installed since 2003, I’ll let you do the math to determine whether that’s less than 10 years.

      @ george gregory

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