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Two Bills Introduced To Improve Safety, Security At San Onofre Nuclear Plant

The shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shown on May 9, 2017.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: The shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station shown on May 9, 2017.

California Sen. Kamala Harris is among the cosponsors of two bills introduced Wednesday that aim to increase the safety and security of decommissioned nuclear power plants such as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The first piece of legislation, the Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act, would prohibit the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission from issuing waivers or granting exceptions to plants from complying with safety regulations until fuel has been transferred to spent fuel dry casks — part of the process of dismantling a plant known as decommissioning, according to Harris' office.

The second bill, the Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act, would provide a "meaningful role" for states and local communities in the crafting and preparation of decommissioning plans for retired nuclear plants. It also requires the NRC to publicly approve or reject every such plan, which is not currently required, according to Harris' office.

The bills are cosponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, all of whom have decommissioned or soon-to-be decommissioned plants in their states.

"As nuclear power reactors like San Onofre undergo the decommissioning process, we must ensure that every necessary measure is taken to protect the surrounding communities and environment," Harris said.

"This bill ensures that decommissioning nuclear power cites process adhere to common- sense safety precautions that have been on the books for decades."

San Onofre closed in 2013 and is currently in the process of being decommissioned.

Earlier this week, workers began moving spent fuel rods from what's known as "wet storage" — underwater to allow the rods to cool down — to "dry storage" — cement bunkers that are considered safer.

That process is expected to be complete in 2019, according to reports.

Southern California Edison, the majority owner of the plant, did not immediately return a request for comment.

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