Lands Commission Seeks Input On San Onofre Decommissioning

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
By Alison St John

The California State Lands Commission on Tuesday night will begin to collect public comments for a report on the environmental impacts of Southern California Edison’s plan to decommission the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Cy Oggins, chief of environmental planning and management at the California State Lands Commission, said the agency has no jurisdiction over the land the nuclear plant sits on, which belongs to the U.S. Navy.

But the Lands Commission is the lead agency responsible for producing an environmental impact report, certifying that the decommissioning activities meet California Environmental Quality Act standards.

The commission does have jurisdiction over one area: the offshore structure, namely the concrete intake and outfall pipes used to bring ocean water to cool the plant.

“We will be evaluating leaving those structures in place,” Oggins said. “Which is what the applicant has proposed, or removing the entire structure. That could involve a lot of heavy construction equipment on vessels offshore. So we’ll be looking at impacts to marine resources, air quality, potentially to recreation.”

Oggins said this week’s scoping meetings aim to get public input on environmental issues of concern, alternatives to the plan and mitigation measures. He aims to produce a draft environmental impact report by the second or third quarter of next year. By the end of next year, he hopes to have a document the commission can vote on. At the same time, the commission would vote on what to do with the outfall pipes.

The first of two scoping meetings will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Oceanside Civic Center Library. It will be preceded by an open house starting at 5 p.m. The second meeting will be held Wednesday at noon in San Clemente.

Although Oggins said he aims to produce a document that clearly states the environmental impacts of shutting down the nuclear plant, he points out some of those impacts may not be felt for decades.

“There are some portions of the project that are so far ahead, we may disclose the impacts as we know them now," Oggins said. "But our commission may say that further CEQA review will be needed in 2050, for example.”

Edison plans to store radioactive spent fuel on site in concrete casks 100 feet from the beach. Tons of spent fuel are already stored there, and more than 100 new partially-buried “dry casks” could be loaded with highly radioactive material next year. Since there are currently no alternative sites available for the waste, the spent fuel may well still be there after 2051 when the decommissioning plan ends.