Parties In Challenge To Nuclear Waste Storage At San Onofre Headed Into Settlement Talks

Friday, April 7, 2017
By Amita Sharma
Credit: Associated Press
Above: Surfers pass in front of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, June 7, 2013.

A plan to store 3.6 million pounds of deadly waste from the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near the sea could be changed.

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A trial scheduled next week to determine the legality of the idea has been delayed for all sides in the case to enter settlement talks.

"People of good will must come together and work to find a solution that is in the best interests of the people of the state of California," Mike Aguirre, a San Diego consumer lawyer, said.

Aguirre had sued the California Coastal Commission on behalf of an activist group called Citizens Oversight. He argued the commission's granting of a permit allowing plant majority owner Southern California Edison to keep the waste at San Onofre was a violation of the California Coastal Act.

Edison wanted to place the waste in steel canisters encased in concrete just over 100 feet behind a seawall.

But in court papers, Aguirre wrote that the commission assumed San Onofre's storage facility would be in reliable physical condition for 35 years until 2051.

"However, the storage certification is only good for 20 years, creating a 15-year safety gap," Aguirre wrote.

Edison maintained that the canisters should be safe until 2049 and longer. The company contended the site was temporary until an off-site storage facility became available.

But citizens' groups worried the plan was long-term given the failure to find a permanent nuclear waste storage site in the United States. And they fretted over the lack of detection technology to monitor the portion of the storage that was below ground for cracks and leaks.

Edison issued a statement favoring settlement talks.

"We believe the parties in the case and many community leaders share a common goal to transfer San Onofre's used nuclear fuel off-site as soon as reasonably possible," Tom Palmisano, Edison's vice president and chief nuclear officer, said. "We are hopeful that settlement discussions will permit the parties to reach a mutually agreeable solution."