San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa is co-sponsoring a bill to help find alternative sites to store radioactive nuclear waste.
The bill would pair communities like San Diego with other communities around the nation that are interested in building so-called “interim storage” sites for high level nuclear waste.
Plans are underway to store dangerously radioactive spent fuel at the now shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant, a site that is universally acknowledged as unacceptable for long-term storage. Two weeks ago, San Diego County Supervisors called on the federal government to live up to its promise and find a way to move the spent fuel.
Congress has failed to approve a permanent storage site, so the radioactive material is piling up at more than 100 sites around the country, including San Onofre.
Next week, the California Coastal Commission will vote on whether to approve Southern California Edison’s plans to expand its storage on site. Edison has a contract with Holtec International to partially bury more than 2,668 fuel assemblies that are currently sitting in cooling ponds.
Coastal Commission staff are recommending approval, mainly because it’s better to have the radioactive waste buried in stainless steel canisters than floating in pools. But the canisters will be 100 feet from the ocean and just above the water table, in an area that’s prone to earthquakes and has several million people living around it.
No interim sites have been established yet, but companies are exploring possibilities in Texas and New Mexico.
A House bill proposed this summer would pave the way for a Texas company, “Waste Control Specialists," to start applying to the NRC for licenses to build an interim storage site in Andrews County.
David Victor, chair of Edison’s Citizens Engagement Panel, said he is not sure of the significance of Issa’s proposed legislation, but he is scheduled to meet with the congressman’s staff next week to discuss it and other matters.
It could take decades to get approval for an interim site for high level waste, and indeed, efforts to approve a low level radioactive waste storage site in California’s Ward Valley in the 1990s ultimately failed after years of debate.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has passed the “Waste Confidence Rule,” declaring it safe to store nuclear fuel on site for 100 years. But the storage canisters planned for San Onofre’s high level spent fuel are not licensed for more than 20 years.