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California Commission Sued Over San Onofre Vote

A bird's eye view of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, highlighting the waste storage site, Oct. 8, 2015.
Southern Calfornia Edison
A bird's eye view of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, highlighting the waste storage site, Oct. 8, 2015.

Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the California Coastal Commission's recent approval of an expanded nuclear waste storage facility at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The lawyer said the commission's greenlighting of the project will result in "construction of the world's first beachfront nuclear waste dump." The commissioners gave Southern California Edison unanimous approval for the facility last month. Rosemead-based Edison, the idled plant's majority owner and operator, said its current storage area is nearing capacity.

Environmental groups argued that it makes no sense to store the spent fuel right next to the shoreline in an earthquake-prone area.

RELATED: Edison Sees Little Risk In San Onofre Nuclear Storage Plan

"The Coastal Commission's vote to approve a permit for a permanent waste dump just 100 feet from the beach is an outrageous departure from its chartered responsibilities and the California Coastal Act," said Aguirre, who filed the suit in San Diego Superior Court.

"We want the court to revoke Southern California Edison's permit to pollute, and force Edison to find a safer location," he said.

Edison officials say a below-ground concrete monolith that will house the dry storage canisters exceeds state earthquake requirements, and will also be designed to protect against fire and tsunamis.

Commission staff recommended that the permit be approved, in part because the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it meets safety standards.

In his complaint — filed on behalf of the nonprofit Citizens Oversight and Patricia Borchmann — Aguirre asks for a writ of mandate or a declaration to set aside the commission's decision.

Among other things, he contends the commission didn't have jurisdiction or provide a fair hearing because of "rampant and widespread ex parte communications with Edison." The lawyer also said the law requires the commission to protect the coastline from hazardous waste.

A spokeswoman for the commission could not immediately be reached for comment.

The nuclear plant in northern San Diego County hasn't operated since January 2012, when a small, non-injury leak occurred in one of the two reactors.

Edison executives later decided to retire the reactors rather than pursue a costly restart process. The decommissioning procedure is expected to take a couple decades to complete.