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State Bill Funding SONGS Emergency Planning Approved By Assembly Committee

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is pictured, April 16, 2019.

Photo by Claire Trageser

Above: The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is pictured, April 16, 2019.

State legislation to fund emergency response planning related to the defunct San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County is a step closer to making it to the governor's desk.

The Assembly's Governmental Organization Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved Senate Bill 465, which would ensure the state would indefinitely recoup funding that local governments incur while taking action to ensure the continued safety of cities around San Onofre, according to Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel.

Should the bill become law, funding would continue until all nuclear waste and radioactive material has been removed from the shuttered plant, according to Bates. The bill would also required audits every three years on local government activities related to the plant.

The plant, which shut down in 2012, still holds roughly 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel in an underground storage facility that sits about 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean near the Camp Pendleton Marine base. The plant would be susceptible to a major earthquake near the coast or significant sea level rise, according to the bill's author.

"Sen. Bates has long advocated for the federal government to move SONGS' nuclear waste to a safe and secure location that is far from communities as possible," Bates' office said in a statement. "SONGS sits near an active fault line, adjacent to the heavily trafficked Interstate 5 and the Pacific Ocean, and sandwiched between densely populated Orange and San Diego counties."

Federal legislators have attempted to move spent nuclear fuel rods away from the San Onofre site to storage areas in the Nevada desert. Those efforts have moved slowly as Nevada's legislators and residents have repeatedly balked at the proposal. The U.S. Department of Energy has studied the site as a possible nuclear repository since 1978.

SB 465 passed through the Senate in May and is expected to be considered next by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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