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Oceanside Takes Stand On Relocating San Onofre’s Nuclear Waste

Associated Press

Surfers pass in front of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, June 7, 2013.

Aired 1/8/16 on KPBS News.

Oceanside City Council has passed an ordinance supporting a federal bill that would allow interim storage of nuclear waste, since a permanent storage site has not been found. Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern plans to ask other North County cities to support the bill.

An Oceanside city councilman said he will work with North County cities to support moving spent nuclear waste from San Onofre to an interim site in Texas.

The Oceanside City Council passed an ordinance this week supporting federal legislation that would allow interim storage of nuclear waste, since a permanent storage site has not been found.

Spent nuclear fuel in earthquake vulnerable areas is a safety concern for many Californians. Delays in identifying a permanent storage site for nuclear waste has caused legislators to come up with a “plan B.”

San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Vista, has co-sponsored Bill 3643, which would allow spent nuclear fuel stored in geographically-vulnerable, highly-populated areas, to be moved off site to interim storage until permanent disposal sites are developed. A location at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was nixed as a permanent storage site after years of planning.

Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern is pictured at a city council meeting, Jan 6, 2016.

Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern, who is on Edison’s San Onofre Community Engagement Panel, said he will work with other North County cities to support moving spent nuclear waste from San Onofre to an interim consolidation site northeast of El Paso, Texas that has been identified.

“(It's a) very desolate area, not a very large population, geologically stable,” Kern said. “We can't say that for San Onofre, and we can't say that for Yucca Mountain apparently.”

Kern added it is important to act now, otherwise San Onofre’s spent fuel, which is now in dry cask storage and cooling pools, may remain in place for hundreds of years.

“The problem is, if we do not solve this now, if we do not get something done, we're going to loose the opportunity of a generation,” Kern said. “If they wait to put it to a permanent site, it may never happen. You may not find anybody who wants this stuff.”

Kern said he plans to speak at Carlsbad, Encinitas and Vista City Council meetings in the upcoming weeks.

Opponents of the federal legislation want to wait until there is a permanent storage plan, or a better vetted plan for consolidated interim storage.

Some say the bill is letting the federal government off the hook in its responsibility to come up with a permanent storage solution.

Jordan Haverly is press secretary for Congressman John Shimkus (R) of Illlinois, Chair of the Environment and Economy subcommittee. Haverly said Yucca Mountain is not off the table.

"The reality is that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act names Yucca Mountain as the sole geologic repository for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste. The law has not changed, and that fact was reaffirmed by a federal court in 2013."

Kern said the proposed bill provides breathing room to figure out a solution for nuclear waste storage for a couple of hundred stranded fuel sites nationwide.

In California the bill would allow waste to be moved from San Onofre, the operating Diablo Canyon Power Plant, and the closed Rancho Seco Nuclear plant.

Promise Yee is a North County freelance writer. Contact her at Twitter: @promisenews.

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