San Onofre Operator Asks To Expand Used Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility

Monday, February 23, 2015
By City News Service

The operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County announced Monday that it has applied to the California Coastal Commission for permission to expand its storage facility for used nuclear fuel.

Southern California Edison said its current facility, which was approved in 2001, will soon reach its capacity.

The plant hasn't operated since January 2012 because of a small, non- injury leak caused by poorly designed steam generators. The utility decided in June 2013 to retire the two reactors instead of pursuing a costly restart plan.

SCE anticipates a need for up to 80 more steel-and-concrete-encased canisters, a technology known as dry storage. About two-thirds of San Onofre's used fuel is currently stored on site in steel-lined, concrete storage pools known as wet storage.

"Local community leaders and a wide range of stakeholders in California have told us they want San Onofre's used nuclear fuel moved to dry storage as expeditiously as possible," said Chris Thompson, SCE's vice president of decommissioning. "We want to be responsive to that preference while continuing to safely manage this fuel until the federal government does its job and opens a used nuclear fuel repository."

If the Coastal Commission amends the utility's Coastal Development Permit to create more dry storage, transfers of the current 51 canisters would be completed in four years.

Edison officials said a concrete monolith that will house the dry storage canisters, and exceed state earthquake requirements, will be built below ground. The facility is also designed to protect against fire and tsunamis, according to SCE.