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Public To Have Chance To Comment On San Onofre Storage Safety During Online Forum

Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19, 2012.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a virtual public meeting online later this week to discuss its special inspection at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which is being decommissioned.

The focus of the forum will be safety issues encountered during transfer and storage of high-level nuclear waste at the nuclear power plant.

The public can participate in Thursday’s online webinar, but must register online first. The online forum is scheduled to run from noon to 3 p.m.

NRC staff will present information on the findings from the special inspection, following an incident in August when a canister loaded with radioactive spent fuel rods nearly fell 18 feet into a concrete bunker.

Southern California Edison, the owner of the plant, called the incident “a near miss.” The company has put on hold the transfer of spent fuel from cooling ponds to concrete bunkers near the beach. Holtec International designed the concrete storage system and is managing the transfer of the fuel rods.

RELATED: NRC'S Preliminary Report On San Onofre 'Near Miss' Finds Oversight Lacking

Edison’s Chief Nuclear Officer Tom Palmisano has said no one has ever retrieved "high burn-up" spent fuel rods like these from the concrete bunkers, and returned them to cooling pools.

The NRC said its regulations require that the licensee must be able to check for damage to the canisters or their contents. Critics question how that can be done once they are buried in the bunkers.

Edison plans to dismantle the cooling pools as part of the decommissioning process and store the high-level nuclear waste in the concrete bunkers indefinitely.

The federal government promised decades ago to establish a permanent storage facility but has failed to do so. As a result there is no time line for when, or if, the canisters will be removed from the shoreline in a seismically active zone.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding a virtual public meeting online this week to discuss a safety inspection at the San Onofre power plant.

Note: The NRC corrected this story to say there is no requirement that a licensee be able to check for damage to the contents of a canister.

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