Public Meeting Focuses On Storage Plans For San Onofre's Nuclear Waste

Thursday, May 4, 2017
By Alison St John
Photo by Alison St John / KPBS
Above: More than 100 people showed up to a public meeting at Oceanside City Hall on the San Onofre nuclear waste, May 4, 2017.

More than 100 people showed up to a public meeting at Oceanside City Hall Thursday night that aimed to enroll more citizens in a legal battle to prevent nuclear waste from being buried 100 feet from the ocean at San Onofre.

San Onofre is 20 miles north of Oceanside.

Southern California Edison, along with SDG&E, owns the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Edison plans to start moving fuel rods from cooling ponds into buried canisters on site next to the beach early next year.

Meanwhile, a bill before congress could create what is called “consolidated interim storage” sites in Texas and New Mexico.

Ray Lutz is with Citizens Oversight Project, a group that has sued to overturn a permit granted by the California Coastal Commission in 2015 to bury the waste on-site. Lutz said public input will be included in settlement talks that are ongoing with Edison to negotiate alternative options.

“Interim storage is fine, but that’s years down the road and we need to move this now," Lutz said. “Once this thing goes in the ground, it’s going to be very, very difficult to move.”

Lutz said transporting the waste to the Palo Verde nuclear power plant site in the desert west of Phoenix would be a better solution than storing it on the beach, feet from rising seas, in an earthquake-prone area, surrounded by several million people.

RELATED: Seismic Research Explores San Onofre’s Earthquake, Tsunami Risks

He said input from the Oceanside City Hall meeting will increase pressure on Edison to find an alternative for the waste.

Tom Palmisano of Edison has said the company has explored all options, and storing the waste on site, next to existing waste from the plant, is the only feasible option.

The California Coastal Commission granted a 20-year permit to store the waste on-site, on the understanding that was it was safer than leaving the spent fuel rods in cooling pools. Commissioners were told other immediate options were not available because the federal government has failed to approve a long term storage site for nuclear waste.

Lutz said the decision of where to store the waste until long-term storage is found should not be left to Southern California Edison.

“No one is forcing them to do anything that makes sense, and they’re doing only things that make sense for the bottom line of these for-profit corporations," he said. “We have to lay down the law here folks and say 'no' to this, and force them to move it to a different location. It can’t go in here.”

Edison will not comment on the ongoing litigation.

A meeting of Edison’s Community Engagement Panel planned for May 11 in Laguna Hills will focus on consolidated interim storage.