Southern California Edison’s Citizens Engagement Panel focused recently on how to get more political action on how to store radioactive spent nuclear fuel.
Tons of the waste from the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will be stored on site in north San Diego County. Unless another, more permanent site is found, it will remain there, buried on the cliffs between Interstate 5 and the Pacific Ocean.
UC San Diego professor David Victor chairs a panel to keep the community engaged in the decommissioning of San Onofre, now the nuclear plant has shut down.
He and experts from around the country suggested at a recent panel meeting that it’s time to get the state involved. Currently the federal government is responsible for finding a long-term storage site, but Congress has failed to do so.
Because it’s not a critical issue, except for communities like those around San Onofre, Victor said it is difficult to get Congress to act.
“It’s not staring us right in the face, at least for most communities,” he said. “And so we can’t build a big enough political coalition to have a bi-partisan federal strategy. But given the gridlock in Washington, I think some of the state-based solutions are looking much more attractive.”
Victor said California’s Energy Commission could become involved in finding an interim storage site. Then California would have more skin in the game and would have an incentive to put pressure on Washington to find a permanent solution.
“What’s clear is, nobody really knows what a state-oriented solution would look like," Victor said. “Nobody knows, for example, whether each of the several dozen states that have fuel sites should do this on their own, or whether states should get together and have a multi state compacts - for example, Arizona and California would be logical partners in this.”
Not everyone at the panel meeting agreed that finding interim storage is a good idea, since it could be safer not to move the radioactive materials more than once.
But all agreed it will take strong political coalitions to find solutions.