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Congressman Presses Agency For Hearing On Nuke Waste Storage

A bird's eye view of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, highlighting the waste storage site, Oct. 8, 2015.
Southern Calfornia Edison
A bird's eye view of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, highlighting the waste storage site, Oct. 8, 2015.

Congressman Presses Agency For Hearing On Nuke Waste Storage
Congressman Presses Agency For Hearing On Nuke Waste Storage GUEST:David Victor, professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego
Congressman Presses Agency For Hearing On Nuke Waste Storage
In a letter to the department, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said his district should be added to a list of communities where the agency is holding hearings this year to discuss the storage of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste.

Our top story on midday edition. One of the biggest issues surrounding the decommissioning of the nuclear is how and where the nuclear waste be stored. This week San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa asked the US Department of energy to include Southern California and its series of public meetings on nuclear waste storage. It's of particular concern to residents and the population density of San Diego and Orange counties. KPBS contacted Congressman Darrell eyesore for comment on his letter to the energy Department. He did not answer our requests. Earlier today I spoke with David Victor chairman of Edison community engagement panel on the decommissioning. He is also a professor in the school of global policy and strategy at the UC San Diego. Here's the interview. David thank you for joining us. My pleasure. The first of the Department of Energy on nuclear waste storage held last week in Chicago. Can you tell us why these hearings are being held? The Department of Energy is now trying to put into place a system called consolidated interim storage though the idea is that without Yucca Mountain as a place to store spent fuel permanently wait someplace to put it on a temporary basis until Yucca Mountain or some other option becomes available. That's a really interesting opportunity for us to move the fuel out of here but the standard that the Department of Energy is using as they want to make sure that the communities that end up taking this fuel and communities where the Bush fuel is translated to give consent for one will be in Sacramento this month in late April. These hearings are about what consent means and what are the communities really caring about probably put this new opportunity and practice. Casa Department of energy designated any potential sites for the nuclear storage as of yet? If not for the department of energy to designators. This is been driven by private energy. Supporters to fight on in Texas and Mexico. There may be other sites. Many years ago there was a fight in you, that many companies were looking at. Turned out to be very difficult to transport the fuel to that site and said you type site does Utah State is over and done with. Texas and Mexico the bipartisan. As you mentioned the closest hearing in one the closest hearing that scheduled now is in Sacramento in late April. Is it political, do you think copper hearing to be held in San Diego as Congressman Isis suggests? I think the more hearings the better the more public attention to this the better. Especially attention from the communities around site that are currently holding spent nuclear fuel. I think it's implemented Department of Energy and congressional process understand how much people want to find a solution for this problem. I'm concerned that there wasn't a hearing in Southern California and because of that we in the community engagement panel, which is a pill that hoping to open a conduit Addison and the communities affected by the decommissioning process of if they are afraid we scheduled our next meeting in late June to focus exactly on the same issue. Consolidated storage though we've invited the person that had the department to be there at the meeting and he's accepted. @Spams now exist, is a proposed that the nuclear waste be stored on-site for the foreseeable future? Is less proposed a more reality that absence some other options that your Yucca Mountain in Nevada. There's no other place to send it legally. So the fuel is stuck there. The reason that so many people are excited about the opportunity for consolidated interim storage is that this would offer a way to get the fuel out of here does not here but other reactors as well. And move it someplace burqa be consolidated and out of our communities. Even working to build support federal legislation to move spent waste off-site. What would this look like now considering this consolidated interim storage idea in the mix? The idea and the mix, and the companies are pushing these sites can run another year to developing their applications for licenses. That's all great. At some point that they need to find contracts with companies like Addison to take the fuel. That's a lot of uncertainty arrives because the original concept was that the title the fuel would pass from this case Edison content Onofre, to the federal government. And liability for that would pass as well. That was the original concept. Consolidated storage was never envisioned in the original author put together. One reason is that most people think that a change in laws necessary is you need to create some clarity about liability and title meant and how to pay for this. It's a pain until recently into a big fund that can cover the cost of storing and disposal of spent fuel the person are not doing very much as Yucca Mountain has not been open. I think one of the really bring questions is how would you be able to From the response to pay for the cost of consolidated interim source? As part of that potential legislation or at least this conversation oversight on the private industries and where does they decide to this interim storage as facility? Absolute. It needs the overstated at the step of the way. At the storage facility and that's not acutely complex because the oversight needed there is similar to the oversight that ever happens. There also needs to be an oversight on strategy for transportation and that's the issue that really concerns me. I can see the stars aligning for building. Or more consolidated storage facilities. I can see what community there once was a fuel out of here as quickly as possible. What I'm really worried about is that the transportation process is not handled carefully and with some political [Indiscernible] that to be the weak link. This is not rocket science. These kind of spent fuels our trip around the world all the time. The weapons industry is familiar with the spelled that Europeans transfer a lot of fuel this type notes and comforted her difficult because prior political fastidiousness. That needs attention. Speaking of political astuteness that this letter from the Congressman urging Department of Energy to hold when these hearings here. What kind of support or traction have you got from lawmakers on any kind of moving forward on this idea specially from San Diego's Congressional. We've heard a lot of support for consolidated storage and I think that politically is so interesting. Congressman has been on the forefront of this in the house in a similar legislation work and asked legislation with the certified several others. So I think we have those the stars have starting lineup. In the past there's been big divide between members of Congress and Senate that favor Yucca Mountain or nothing else and those don't want Yucca Mountain to open. That's the gridlock. I think that people are realizing now is the consolidated storage at Yucca Mountain to be complements to each other and then it may well be in the and never permit facility that's not Yucca Mountain. I think the politics are shifting quite a lot here and that's certainly what we've been trying to do and build support locally. Many councils around the plan of pass resolution has done this as well. Oceanside has done this. There's really a lot of support that's growing very rapidly. I think Congressman Isis sees that and wisely wants to help push that along. I applaud him for that. Finally say the stars are lining up in favor of this interim storage. How long would it take you to develop on these sites. The licensing process is already underway and will be soon for the other facility. I don't think anybody really knows. I think the current best estimates are one or more these facilities could be open in the early 20s. Not that interesting. The fuel in San Onofre is ready to shift. Most of the rest of it will be ready to ship them to be 19 or 2020. That means that if you got all the stars to lineup you could see shipments in the 2020s and pertains perspective, if Yucca Mountain will truthfully restart right now nobody's sure how long the process takes but it might be the Yucca Mountain even our best case scenario not available to me to prepare this accelerates by decade the opting for removing the fuel pellet that the big deal. I've been speaking with David Victor he's on the community engagement panel to the decommissioning. Thank you so much. My pleasure. Thank you.

A congressman Tuesday asked the U.S. Energy Department to hold a forum in California to discuss how the nation should manage its nuclear waste, citing public concern with long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel at the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant.

In a letter to the department, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said his district should be added to a list of communities where the agency is holding hearings this year to discuss the storage of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste.

Issa said in a statement that residents want the waste removed from San Onofre, which is located near an active earthquake fault line and borders densely populated Orange and San Diego counties.

"The storage of more than 3.6 million pounds of high-level nuclear waste at the (San Onofre) site is of great concern to the over 8 million people of this region," Issa wrote to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "Adding a public meeting in our region will allow DOE to hear directly from those interested in a safe and secure solution to our site's issues."

Environmentalists have depicted San Onofre as a nuclear waste dump that could leak or be damaged by flooding or an earthquake. However, federal regulators say the storage is safe.

The nation has no long-term storage site for radioactive fuel from commercial nuclear plants. A proposed national repository in the Nevada desert, known as Yucca Mountain, was derailed in Washington.

Last year, the California Coastal Commission endorsed a plan to allow operator Southern California Edison to move tons of highly radioactive fuel at San Onofre from storage pools into steel canisters sheathed by concrete.

About a third of the fuel on the site was moved earlier from storage pools into canisters.

Edison has said the site could operate until 2049, by which time the company assumes the federal government will have provided a location for used nuclear fuel. The site would then be dismantled.

However, a coastal commission staff report warned that the future was uncertain and the San Onofre storage complex might be needed longer, "possibly for many decades."

San Onofre was shut down in January 2012 after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of extensive damage to hundreds of tubes inside virtually new steam generators.

Edison closed San Onofre for good in 2013 amid a fight with environmentalists over whether the plant was too damaged to restart.