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Nuclear Fuel Transfers At San Onofre Resumes

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is pictured in this undated photo.

Photo by Shalina Chatlani

Above: The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is pictured in this undated photo.

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It's been nearly a year since the utility had a near-miss accident with one of the canisters.

Aired: July 17, 2019 | Transcript

The transfer of spent nuclear fuel into dry cask storage at San Onofre is resuming this week.

The utility halted transfers nearly a year ago after a near-miss accident with one of the canisters. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission told SoCal Edison to hold off until it could review the incident and other safety concerns.

And that review ended in May when the NRC gave the utility the green light to resume. In a July 15 press release, SoCal Edison said it didn’t begin transfers then, so it could focus on training staff and getting technologies to monitor the process.

"During the past 11 months, SCE and its contractor, Holtec, have systematically reviewed and strengthened procedures, oversight and training that directly supports a robust fuel transfer program," the press release stated. "As part of the reviews, new technologies have been introduced to enhance the transfer process, such as cameras and load monitoring gauges."

RELATED: Is It Safe To Store Nuclear Waste At San Onofre? The Science Behind It

Some residents around San Onofre say they are concerned the canisters won’t last on the beach in the long-term. KPBS interviewed one of those residents, Peter McBride, in June.

“I’m worried about the fact that not only this area but other areas of the country face the same kind of irresponsibility with this potentially disastrous material,” McBride said. “I’m worried about our children, my grandson.”

Linda Howell, deputy director in the Division of Nuclear Materials Safety at the NRC, said in a June 3 webinar that the fuel transfer and canisters are safe. Howell said Edison’s corrective actions following the near-accident were satisfactory.

"NRC noted that while certain weaknesses in the licensee's corrective actions were observed, with one exception, all corrective actions and observed weaknesses had been addressed as of (March 25)," Howell said.

Howell also said the NRC would be monitoring these transfers.

"Once the licensee resumes fuel transfer operations, we will initiate unannounced inspections that will be performed frequently to observe the licensee’s implementation of their enhanced programs," said Howell.

There are 44 canisters remaining at San Onofre.

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