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House Legislation Is A Step Toward Safer Storage Of San Onofre’s Nuclear Waste

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

Credit: Associated Press

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

The House has passed bipartisan legislation that opens the door to finding alternative nuclear waste storage sites. It is a step toward moving spent nuclear fuel that is currently being buried near the beach at San Onofre.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendment allows long-stalled plans to develop permanent storage at Yucca Mountain to move forward again.

David Victor is chair of Southern California Edison’s Community Engagement Panel that is monitoring decommissioning at San Onfore. He said this marks the beginning of a change in federal law that is essential to allow nuclear waste like the spent fuel at San Onofre to be moved to interim storage sites elsewhere.

RELATED: As San Onofre's Radioactive Waste Goes Underground, Opponents Search For Alternatives

“This is a really big deal, because unless there’s a change in federal law, there’s no way to get spent fuel out of sites like San Onofre to interim storage and eventually to Yucca Mountain, and that whole process has been stuck in the politics of this nation,” Victor said.

The legislation still needs to pass the Senate, but that may not happen until after the November election.

“It’s extraordinary to see the majorities voting for this in the House,” Victor said. “There are bipartisan majorities: even the bill that kept the government from shutting down didn’t have as much bipartisan support as this one does.”

Interim storage plans in Texas and New Mexico have been held up by lawmakers who refused to consider it without restarting plans for long-term storage at Yucca Mountain.

Photo by Alison St John

Southern California Edison's presentation at the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel meeting in Oceanside, Sept. 14, 2017.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, whose district includes San Onofre, called the legislation “an important step.”

RELATED: Edison Reveals Design Flaws In New Canisters Storing Nuclear Waste At San Onofre

“This proposal will put us back on track to advance to a long-term permanent site as well as more immediate interim options,” he said.

San Onofre’s spent fuel is currently being moved in steel canisters from cooling pools into concrete bunkers next to the beach, 50 miles north of downtown San Diego.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, also supported the bill.

“As sea levels rise due to climate change, the risk to existing storage at SONGS will only increase,” he said. “This bipartisan legislation is our best chance to mitigate a crisis.”

The House has passed bipartisan legislation that opens the door to finding alternative nuclear waste storage sites. It is a step toward moving spent nuclear fuel that is currently being buried near the beach at San Onofre.

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