Confusion remains about Edison’s plans for managing spent fuel at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. We have every reason to be vigilant in our continued oversight of Edison’s decommissioning plans. But it is also important to understand the years of oversight and discussions that the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club has provided in 19 meetings since 2014. We have listened to the experts and asked questions for the public interest on safety.
Here is the Sierra Club position on current plans at San Onofre:
The cement pad for temporary storage for dry canisters that the California Coast Commission approved in October 2015 has been built. It is finished and will begin to take canisters this December. The Sierra Club was in favor of its location. There was not room for the rods from the cooling pools to be placed in the first pad and a second one had to be built. The Sierra Club agreed with the SCE decision that the location 36 yards from the ocean was the best place. We still hold that position.
The cooling pools are more dangerous than dry storage. Add to that earthquake or sabotage and one can understand why the Sierra Club supports emptying the cooling pools without delay.
Finally, the Sierra Club concludes with Edison that the Holtec stainless steel 5/8”canisters (thin) are superior to the heavy, stand alone carbon steel cask (thick) system because the canisters can be moved more easily and are therefore safer in transport out of the cooling pools and in and out of the containers. The Holtec system is also flush to the ground, less of a target for terrorists. Dave Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists stated this in October 2015.
The Nuclear Regulator Commission license for the transport of any thick cask system has not been granted. Jeremy Renshaw, Ph.D., a nuclear waste program manager at Electric Power Research Institute, said the current bolted thick-walled cask system will no longer be used in Japan in favor of the 5/8” stainless steel canisters as a better system for their future.
The NRC license for the cask that will cover the Holtec canisters for transport by train has been granted. They need a two-year lead time to be built. Yet, the Department of Energy cannot remove canisters unless a federal law is passed that allows transport to monitored retrievable storage. Even with that daunting possibility, the Angeles Chapter agrees with Edison that the Holtec system is the best system the industry can provide. Sadly, nothing will last the 10,000 years the fuel must be contained. We have a great deal of work ahead of us. I hope you will work to get a federal bill passed that allows the fuel at SONGS to be taken away by the DOE.
Marni Magda, Laguna Beach
The author is chair of the Angeles Chapter Sierra Club San Onofre Task Force.