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Nuclear Fuel To Be Stored At San Onofre As Part Of Decommissioning

Evening Edition

Aired 6/11/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


William Alley, co-author, Too Hot To Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste

Rosemarie Alley, co-author, Nuclear Fuel To Be Stored At San Onofre As Part Of Decommissioning


Aired 6/10/13 on KPBS News.

Edison has nearly $3 billion in a decommissioning fund. About two dozen nuclear U.S. nuclear plants have already been decommissioned.

Chief Nuclear Officer Peter Dietrich today urged San Onofre workers to continue protecting the health and safety of the public as Southern California Edison shuts down the nuclear power plant.

San Onofre from the State Park, April 2013

The internal email was a reminder of the lengthy, costly and delicate decommissioning work that lies ahead for the plant.

Edison Chief Executive Officer Ted Craver said it could be months before spent nuclear fuel at San Onofre is removed to cooling ponds, then stored in dry casks to be kept onsite. The federal government doesn't yet have a place for spent nuclear fuel to be housed other than at individual plants.

David Lochbaum is director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Nuclear Safety Project. He said the rest of San Onofre will likely be surveyed and any portions that are radioactive will be treated and sent to a licensed radioactive waste dump.

"One of the things that works in Edison's favor is approximately two dozen reactors have already gone through decommissioning so there's less and less uncertainty about how to do that task," Lochbaum said.

Decommissioning a nuclear plant costs hundreds of millions of dollars. Craver said the company has a $2.7 billion decommissioning fund. Daniel Hirsch, a UC Santa Cruz lecturer on nuclear policy, says the time it takes could vary.

"They could start this in the next year and over a period of five years or so, they could decommission the reactor. Or, they could say 'we're going to mothball it and we won't start for half a century,'" Hirsch said.

KPBS' Tom Fudge, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to this segment.

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | June 8, 2013 at 12:43 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

All that ultra high grade plutonium in the depleted fuel rods will make San Onofre a prime candidate for raids by terrorists and others who might want to use the plutonium to make bombs. Is it really safe to trust the job of monitoring and safeguarding that massive amount of plutonium to SCE, which has not proven to be the most honest of utility companies? Which state regulatory agency is charged with overseeing the decommissioning of nuclear powerplants? Someone needs to be held accountable to making sure that the plutonium that sits at San Onofre for the next hundred years or so is secure from theft.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | June 10, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Do you really think the taliban will be able to stage a rambo-style raid into San Onofre and haul out truckloads of plutonium? This is the USA, not Syria. The stockpile will be guarded.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | June 11, 2013 at 8:07 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

so this means the property will not be used for anything productive for many years?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | June 11, 2013 at 10:14 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Mmikey - this is what disappointed me the most when I heard about the storage. I was thinking we would have an area that could become another coastal state reserve like Torrey Pines. I guess they think nuclear waste storage is a good use of our limited coastal land.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | June 11, 2013 at 1:13 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Now it will really be a "hot" surf spot.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | June 11, 2013 at 1:58 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

DW, please cite source for the claim that spent fuel rods are a good source of "ultra high grade Pu".

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