Questions Raised About Storage Of Spent Nuclear Fuel At San Onofre

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
By Alison St John

A new report released Wednesday raises questions about the safety of storing spent nuclear fuel on site at San Onofre indefinitely.

David Victor is chairman of the Community Engagement Panel convened by Southern California Edison, the operator of the now-closed nuclear power plant.

Victor said the public needs to know more about how the industry plans to deal with contingencies, such as if the casks containing the nuclear waste crack in the future. The industry calls this “defense in depth.”

“Edison, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry as a whole, they have to not just go off and do what they think is technically right,” he said. “They have to lay out a game plan, and show us what 'defense in depth' really means. If that’s not done, then people won’t gain trust in the integrity of the system on site.“

Some community members and members of the Community Engagement Panel are concerned the containers Edison will use to store the spent fuel are inadequate for long-term storage, and almost impossible to inspect for cracking, because they are stored inside thick "over-packs."

However, Victor writes in his report that the safest option is to get the fuel out of the spent fuel pools at San Onofre and into what are called “dry casks.” He said Edison has already investigated a German vendor of thicker canisters not currently licensed in the United States. Pursuing that option, he said, creates the risk of delays.

“It is now time to move on,“ Victor writes.

The report contains appendixes with views from other panel and community members who disagree.

Edison is expected to choose a vender this month, to supply the containers for the spent nuclear fuel.