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Supes Consider Asking Federal Government To Remove Spent Nuclear Fuel At San Onofre

Photo caption: The San Onofre nuclear power plant is shown from Interstate 5, Feb. 2, 2015.

Photo by Alison St John

The San Onofre nuclear power plant is shown from Interstate 5, Feb. 2, 2015.

A proposal to request the federal government to remove spent nuclear fuel from storage at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will be heard by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The proposal by Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts says more than 1,400 metric tons of "incredibly hot and radioactive" nuclear waste from more than 45 years of operations is stored at the plant, which was never meant to be a permanent repository.

They want the county to send a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz to urge the "prompt removal and relocation" outside of San Diego County of the spent fuel, which they note is only a couple of hundred yards from Interstate 5, a busy rail corridor and the Pacific Ocean.

The Department of Energy has been unable to designate a permanent nuclear waste storage site in the United States. A proposed location in Nevada has been held up for decades because of stiff political opposition.

The supervisors contend that the waste poses a health risk to residents and a potential target for terrorists. Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who has been critical of Southern California Edison's actions regarding the closure, said he worried about the threat to Southern California residents.

"If the waste is allowed to remain on the beach it will become a permanent storage dump that is vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, corrosion and terrorist attacks," Aguirre said. "We don't have the equipment, the personnel, or the training to respond to this type of emergency."

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating State has been idle since January 2012, when a small, non-injury leak occurred. SCE, the operator and majority owner of the plant, later decided to retire the two reactors rather than follow a costly start-up procedure.

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