Tensions rise over the storage of spent San Onofre nuclear fuel
– OC Register
“Tempers flared at an Oceanside public meeting as speakers demanded that Southern California Edison remove tons of nuclear waste from a beachside bluff at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station – even though the utility essentially is blocked from doing so by federal regulations.
“This nuclear waste, at this site, is as vulnerable a target as you could possibly have for terrorists,” said Michael Aguirre, a San Diego consumer attorney who’s suing the state over the issue. “Edison should take responsibility for the nuclear waste that it produced from which it derived billions of dollars of income.”
Many audience members at Thursday’s meeting on the plant’s decommissioning echoed those sentiments, bemoaning the California Coastal Commission’s approval of a “concrete monolith” to house spent fuel in temporary, dry-cask storage at the site. The contained radioactive material is expected to remain in place until 2049.
Edison – and the nation’s other nuclear power plant operators – contracted with the U.S. Department of Energy in the early 1980s for the removal and permanent disposal of nuclear waste. The federal government agreed to start accepting waste from commercial reactors by 1998 at the latest, in exchange for about $750 million a year in payments from ratepayers who used electricity from nuclear plants.
But after collecting more than $41 billion in the Nuclear Waste Fund, no radioactive waste had been removed under the program. A judge ordered the Department of Energy to stop collecting the fee in 2014.
David Victor, who chairs the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel, which held Thursday’s meeting, said critics of the current plan to store waste at the plant south of San Clemente should direct their demands at officials who can make a difference.
“It’s crucial to get support in Congress,” Victor said. “And in addition to talking to members of Congress, support from local agencies is crucial. The official resolutions from cities like San Clemente and Oceanside, asking the federal government to act, are very, very important.”
The Department of Energy can begin planning for new, temporary storage sites, he said. But Congress ultimately will have to take action to ensure the facilities are completed and can accept radioactive waste, because private companies are concerned about liability, he said.
Two bills in Congress address temporary storage: SB854 and HR3643. Interested individuals should make sure their representatives are focusing on the issue, Victor said.”
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