Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Politics

Lawsuit To Stop San Onofre Tear Down Rejected — Tentatively

The site of spent nuclear fuel storage at the San Onofre nuclear power plant is shown in this photo, January 2018.
Southern California Edison
The site of spent nuclear fuel storage at the San Onofre nuclear power plant is shown in this photo, January 2018.

A lawsuit to stop the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station (SONGS) dismantlement has received a temporary setback.

A Los Angeles judge last Wednesday sided with the California Coastal Commission. In a 12-page tentative decision, Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said the suit was “unpersuasive” and “undermined by the substantial evidence” presented by the Coastal Commission.

Lawsuit To Stop San Onofre Tear Down Rejected — Tentatively
Listen to this story by Alex Nguyen

The judge now has 60 to 90 days to issue a final ruling.

The suit was filed by the Del Mar-based Samuel Lawrence Foundation. It argued the Commission “abused its discretion” when it allowed the plant's owner, Southern California Edison (SCE), to dismantle the plant.

RELATED: KPBS Special Coverage: Trouble At San Onofre

The plant was closed in 2012 after a small radiation leak in a steam generator led to the discovery of extensive damage to the tubes inside the generator.

“This isn’t over," Samuel Lawrence Foundation’s associate director Chelsi Sparti said. "The judge took our points under submission and the case is ongoing.”

She said the group is supportive of the decommissioning but wants to make sure it's done in a way that protects coastal resources and the public.

So far, the Coastal Commission hasn't done that, Sparti said.

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

In his decision, Beckloff said the issue isn't who has the better evidence, but whether the Coast Commission was within its rights when it issued the permit to dismantle the plant.

"The court finds no prejudicial abuse of discretion here," Beckloff said.

The suit centers on the wet storage pool used to cool radioactive fuel rods. SCE said the pool is no longer needed because the spent fuel rods are now in dry storage. But the Samuel Lawrence Foundation said the pool is needed in case the dry storage canisters break.

The spent nuclear waste is currently stored at two sites on San Onofre. The plant, like others in the nation, has to store them onsite because the federal government hasn't designated a long-term storage location for high-level nuclear waste.

“We share the significant concerns raised by petitioners about storing spent nuclear fuel at SONGS and we urge the federal government to find a permanent repository," Coastal Commission spokesperson Noaki Schwartz said. "The Commission does not have jurisdiction to regulate this federal issue, however, and agrees with the court’s tentative ruling.”

The Commission can review the permit in 15 years and if the canisters break, SCE could be required to move them.

SCE spokesperson John Dobken said the Commission made the right decision when it allowed the plant to be torn down.

“The dismantlement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) continues to progress in a safe and timely manner," he said. "We look forward to the court’s final ruling on this matter.”

SCE will answer residents' questions about dismantlement at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a virtual town hall hosted by the Del Sol Lions.

For more information or to register for the event, email info@delsollions.org or visit delsollions.org

Lawsuit To Stop San Onofre Tear Down Rejected — Tentatively