SONGS: a hot topic (update)

From ActCoastal

By Rick Wilson | Published 2016/04/04

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In my previous article on the decommissioning process for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), I discussed the unfortunate reality of nuclear waste remaining on the SONGS site for perhaps decades due to the lack of a permitted offsite permanent disposal facility. As discussed in that article, an independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) at San Onofre has been approved by the California Coastal Commission and is currently under construction. This facility will allow transfer of spent fuel assemblies from the cooling pools where they now reside into dry storage casks, which are steel cylinders filled with inert gas and surrounded by concrete. Additional information:

Despite regulatory agency approval, technology development and industry experience with Holtec’s dry cask system and the overall ISFSI, Surfrider Foundation remains extremely concerned about the present plans that will leave nuclear waste in storage at SONGS as close as 150 feet from the ocean for a projected 35 years. I attended the SONGS Community Engagement Panel meeting in Oceanside on March 24, and it was clear from comments by the Panel members and the public that our concerns are widely shared. In fact, even representatives of Southern California Edison are desirous of getting the spent nuclear fuel removed from the SONGS site as soon as it can safely and legally be done.

Fortunately, there have been recent developments that give some hope that one or more offsite storage facilities may be permitted and built. These facilities would not be designated as permanent, long-term storage, but instead would be classified as Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS). They would essentially be larger versions of the ISFSI being constructed at San Onofre, except they would be located in more suitable, secure locations and would accept nuclear waste from several nuclear power plants in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, is engaged in a process called Consent-Based Siting to develop solutions for the long-term, sustainable management of our nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. They are planning for an integrated waste management system to transport, store, and dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from commercial electricity generation, as well national defense activities. To achieve this goal, they are developing a process to site facilities collaboratively with the public, communities, stakeholders, and governments at the state, tribal, and local levels. A series of meetings are being held around the country to facilitate this process, the next one being in Sacramento on April 26.

The integrated waste management system would include pilot interim storage facilities, consolidated interim storage facilities and geologic repositories for long-term storage.

Two CIS facilities have already been proposed, one in New Mexico by Holtec International, and one in west Texas by Waste Control Specialists (WEC).

During The SONGS Community Engagement Panel meeting on March 24, hope was expressed that one or both of these facilities would be able to accept nuclear waste by perhaps the early 2020s, hastening the time that the SONGS site can be nuclear waste-free.