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Parties In San Onofre Nuclear Waste Storage Suit Reach Settlement

The shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shown on May 9, 2017.
KPBS Staff
The shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shown on May 9, 2017.
Parties In San Onofre Nuclear Waste Storage Suit Reach Settlement
Parties In San Onofre Nuclear Waste Storage Suit Reach Settlement GUEST:Ray Lutz, founder, Citizens Oversight

Our top story on midday edition, Southern California Edison has agreed to take an active part in exploring alternative sites to store spent fuel from the closed San an of rain nuclear power plant. That agreement as part of a lawsuit settlement announced today. Edison has agreed, in part, to a timetable, to develop a storage and transportation plan and a five-year time limit to begin moving the nuclear waste from San an Opera. Joining the Israelites, from citizens oversight, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Welcome.Thank you, glad to be here.Edison did not respond to our interview request.The notice of the settlement, a shared interest in moving this spent fuel to an off-site facility. When did Edison develop this interest? Within the permanent storage at Senate operate their idea?There hands are beside, -- are a bit tied, this is only 100 feet from the water next to a major freeway, rail line, next to a major earthquake fault. It is next to a .4 million people, you cannot find a worse place for nuclear waste facility. The coastal still -- commission allowed this, even though they don't allow roses to be planted. Southern California Edison was looking at this, I think, it is one of those things where everybody kind of has to go along with the bad idea and unless someone says no, they continue to do it. This is, what I think happened, we blew the whistle on a.What has Edison agreed to do about developing an alternative plant and what is their timetable?They have to hire some experts that we have identified, top experts in the nation with regards to nuclear waste plans and transportation and degradation of materials. These are the dates we need then to get together, because we do not have the expertise. They have agreed to hire these people, get a plan together or include a transportation plan which is a very critical part. If possible, investigate the Palo Verde nuclear plant which is one site that is part of the agreement that they have to look into. We have to ask those people, they are part owners, we buy a lot of power from that nuclear plant in California. It is not like we have some mutual interest, that is once I, the other one is in West Texas and eastern New Mexico where they may have some consolidated storage sites made available. They have to look into the sites and see what may be available in the near term so that we can get this moving. Without this, there would be no planning and no starting to move it, that is the big difference.Is it fair to say that in the short term, however, at least the next 5 years, this agreement does not change the plans to store the waste and send it over?That is true, if they did get it to change the plans, everyone says, we do not want to shoulder the liability of something happening they have to move in the most safe as possible, without deviating too much, until they have a real plan. They do not have a plan on the table right now, they are not working on it until the settlement cannot. [ laughter ] that is what we have gained. Another big thing that we gained, they moved the timetable for inspection and repair of these canisters, it was not going to happen until until 2025 move that up to 2020.How far has the original plan move forward? How much is already in dry cast? There are two installations, one is the older one which was started in the last millennium, and then improved over the last 15 years, they expanded that, now there's this new one. There 61 canisters, the new one -- 51 canisters, the new one has an unfilled 75 locations. The reality is that we were not able to get agreement on this to not proceed as they had planned. That is true.How big a win is this for San Diego?I think it is a very big land, this would not have happened without us in the game. Southern California Edison was not going to do this unless they had some reason to do this, some pressure, this lawsuit applied that pressure and forced them to take these steps. Maybe they would have done it, 30, 40 or 50 years from now, we have moved up the timescale so they are taking the steps now.Do think the public has a role in making sure that southern California Edison keeps to this timetable ?absolutely, public pressure is going to be key. If an accident did happen, while they twiddle their thumbs and try to work on this, they had tickets to work on this and they waited until now. If there is an accident it would devastate the cost. If you are a real estate owner, the value of your real estate would go to zero. Essentially, it is all in our best interest to realize that this is a key issue for this entire area to become safe. There should be no nuclear plants or nuclear waste in California. We are much too hazardous thing on the Ring of fire. This is not where you want to put any nuclear power of any kind. It has all been silence because the nuclear industry does not want to talk about these thorny issues. They are never brought up, if they are never brought up, people do not realize how bad they are. Once they start looking at the issues, transportation, that is going to be not that easy. It's going to be everyone closes the nuclear plants.I've been speaking with Ray lots of citizens oversight. Thank you very much.Thank you very much. [ music ]

The majority owner of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County announced Monday that it is committed to moving spent nuclear fuel to another site.

The commitment by Southern California Edison settled a lawsuit filed by an anti-nuclear group nearly two years ago, which opposed the California Coastal Commission's approval of expanded nuclear waste storage at the seaside plant.

RELATED: San Onofre Settlement Deal Could Be Headed To Court

In a filing with a San Diego Superior Court judge, the parties to the lawsuit acknowledged a shared interest in relocating San Onofre's used nuclear fuel to an off-site facility, according to Rosemead-based Edison.

"A cooperative effort between the public, independent experts and Southern California Edison has begun and will continue until the nuclear waste is removed from San Diego," said Michael Aguirre, who represented plaintiffs Citizens Oversight Inc. and Patricia Borchmann.

The plaintiffs moved to dismiss the lawsuit in light of Edison's commitments.

Even though San Onofre is no longer producing power, the decommissioning process will take years, necessitating the need for further storage.

Anti-nuclear groups contended it would be too dangerous to increase the amount of nuclear waste kept along the shoreline near an active earthquake fault. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors and Rep. Darrell Issa, R- Vista, have also spoken out in favor of moving the spent fuel.

"SCE is proud to take a leadership role in what we expect will become an industry-wide effort over many years to work with the federal government and other key stakeholders to achieve off-site storage," said Ron Nichols, Edison's president. "We will be vigilant in our efforts to prompt the federal government to act, and until we can secure off-site storage, will continue our 30-year track record of safely storing used fuel at San Onofre."

RELATED: California Attorney General’s Office Faces Scrutiny Over San Onofre Inquiry

According to the utility, one-third of San Onofre's used fuel is currently in dry cask storage and the remaining two-thirds is stored in steel- lined concrete pools. In the decommissioning process, SCE plans to move the fuel from the pools into dry storage by 2019, where it would remain until an off-site storage facility is available.

The agreement calls for Edison to make "commercially reasonable" efforts to relocate spent fuel to an off-site location until the U.S. Department of Energy creates a permanent facility, while taking into account technical feasibility, costs and ratepayer interests. The utility will spend up to $4 million to retain experts on nuclear waste relocation and develop a transportation plan.

Edison will also provide regular progress reports.