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Coastal Commission To Vote On Expanded Nuclear Fuel Storage At San Onofre

The California Coastal Commission votes Tuesday on Southern California Edison’s plan to expand its storage of spent nuclear fuel at San Onofre.

The California Coastal Commission votes Tuesday on Edison’s plan to expand its storage of spent nuclear fuel at San Onofre.

The commission staff is recommending approval with conditions.

Southern California Edison plans to partially bury 75 casks or canisters at San Onofre to store more than 2,600 radioactive spent fuel assemblies. About 51 canisters containing spent fuel are already stored on site.

Photo credit: Holtec International

A Holtec dry cask storage canister for spent nuclear fuel assemblies

Local activist Donna Gilmore said her research shows the canisters have NRC approval, but not for this oceanfront location, and so close to the water table. She also plans to tell the commissioners their seismic safety standards are inadequate.

“You have no business trying to evaluate nuclear equipment using commercial building code standards,” she said.

Bill Alley, the San Diego author of “Too Hot to Touch," a book about the problems of storing nuclear waste, said it would be safer to move the fuel to dry casks than to leave it where it is currently - in cooling ponds on site.

Photo by Southern California Edison

San Onofre's cooling pools currently hold thousands of spent fuel assemblies.

“The casks are fine for a couple of decades — certainly better than the pools,” he said. “But there’s no solution in the longer term, and that’s what really needs to be worked through.”

San Diego County Supervisors have called on Congress to find a long term solution. (Supervisor Greg Cox recused himself from that vote, partly because he is on the Coastal Commission).

San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa has introduced a bill that could encourage communities to collaborate on an interim solution, but even that could be decades away.

The stainless steel dry storage casks are licensed for 20 years, but Gilmore is concerned that there is no way to inspect them for cracking, since they are encased in concrete.

The Coastal Commission meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Long Beach Convention Center.

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