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By Breeana Greenberg

The Dana Point City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to support Action for Spent Fuel Solutions Now, a coalition that aims to engage stakeholders in support of the relocation of spent nuclear fuel from the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station (SONGS).

Southern California Edison, the majority owner of the power plant, along with San Diego Gas and Electric, and representatives from the County of Orange, County of San Diego and the City of Riverside are all founding members of the coalition.

Edison is currently constrained, as it cannot finish decommissioning until the spent fuel is relocated, principal manager of Decommissioning at Southern California Edison Manuel Camargo said.

The federal government was required under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to begin the disposal of nuclear fuel in 1998. However, a permanent repository to store the nation’s nuclear waste has not been identified, leaving power plants, including SONGS, to store their own spent fuel onsite.

“We believe that joining the Action for Spent Fuel Solutions Now is the best way for the City of Dana Point to support these efforts,” coalition member Patrick Batten said.

Batten added that the organization’s goal is to encourage the federal government to provide off-site storage or permanent disposal solutions for the waste at SONGS.

Similarly, the City of San Clemente voted unanimously in July 2021 to adopt a resolution supporting the organization.

With Dana Point’s resolution of support, it joins the dozens of other local governments, elected officials, environmental groups, Native American leaders, and business organizations that serve as supporting members.

The same day that San Clemente adopted its resolution, U.S. Reps. Mike Levin (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) announced the formation of their Spent Nuclear Fuel Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members advocating for the safe storage, transportation, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel across the country.

“The last time we had a crack at this we failed,” Camargo said. “We and other nuclear utilities across the country joined together and tried to push that legislation through and we just didn’t have enough oomph behind it in order to make that happen.”

By forming the Action for Spent Fuel Solutions Now coalition, Edison hopes to take a broader approach, engaging stakeholders such as Native Americans, organized labor, environmental non-governmental organization to put more pressure on the federal government, according to Camargo.

Since the federal government has not fulfilled its requirement under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, Mayor Joe Muller asked if Edison is willing to sue the federal government over its lack of compliance in the event that the consent-based process doesn’t work.

“The federal government is violating their own law,” Muller said, addressing Camargo. “What are you willing to do? Are you willing to take them to court?”

After the federal government’s plan to establish Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a permanent storage site stalled, Edison needed to find a new storage option. The coalition is advocating for a consent-based process to find a new location for permanent storage.

A consent-based process would be used to identify potential storage sites by having communities decide if a permanent storage facility in their area would be beneficial to them. Camargo explained that the consent-based process will hopefully prevent local outcry against a proposed storage site.

In early December, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a request for to identify potential sites to store spent nuclear fuel with the input of communities.

According to the coalition, there are 102 of 123 spent fuel canisters at SONGS ready for transport.

Those not yet ready to be transported will be ready by 2030, Camargo said.

Edison has already shipped 270 fuel assemblies to a processing facility in Illinois, Camargo explained. Rail cars to transport the fuel canisters are in prototype testing. The rail cars along with the U.S. Navy are expected to be able to accommodate the plant’s spent fuel.

Construction, Camargo said, will be relatively simple, “it’s getting to a place where you have a community that understands what it’s getting into and is willing to execute that social contract if it’s at least in part in their best interest. That’s the part that takes time.”

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at bgreenberg@picketfencemedia.com

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comments (2)

  • The corroding thin-wall stainless steel canisters are not safe for short-term or long term storage or transport. These thin canisters (only 5/8″ thick) must be replaced with thick wall metal casks (10″ to over 19″ thick) designed for storage and transport. This must be done BEFORE there are major releases of radiation. Each canister holds roughly the amount of radionuclides released from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

    Thin-wall canisters do not meet American Standards of Mechanical Engineers (ASME N3). The ASME N3 codes are specifically designed for storing and transporting spent nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste. The NRC gives numerous exemptions to these basic minimum safety standards for pressure vessels designed to store and transport spent nuclear fuel — resulting in NRC approval of thin-wall canisters the NRC knows are vulnerable to cracking, yet are unmaintainable. The NRC doesn’t even require pressure monitoring or pressure relief valves on these pressure vessels.

    Only thick-wall metal casks can meet ASME N3 certification for storage and transport of nuclear fuel waste.

    Since thin-wall cracking canisters are unsafe for storage and transport, it would be a fool’s errand to focus on hope for a new location before focusing on replacing these unsafe canisters. Transport is a distraction from the unsafe canisters that will destroy Southern California as we know it. Let’s don’t put the cart before the horse.
    Evidence at SanOnofreSafety.org

  • The comments above are an attempt to mislead the community about the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel at SONGS. More than 93% of the canisters used in the US are similar to those used at SONGS. The only nuclear plant using a model close to what Ms. Gilmore prefers recently announced it was no longer using that model, but was switching to the canister design used by SONGS and others.

    The ASME codes are part of the process for designing these systems. From the NRC:

    “…the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel (B&PV) Code Section III, Subsection NB or NC, defines the requirements for categorizing stresses and determining allowable stress limits for the confinement boundary of the storage system. For the fuel basket, ASME B&PV Code Section III, Subsection NG, applies. These ASME B&PV Code subsections also provide definitions of stress categories and stress intensity limits for normal (level A service limits) and off-normal (level B service limits) operating conditions. For level D service limits or accident conditions, ASME B&PV Code Section III, Appendix F, provides definitions of the stress intensity limits.

    “The level D service limits in ASME B&PV Code Section III Appendix F are intended to ensure that the pressure-retaining boundary will be maintained. The analyses conducted in accordance with Appendix F require that the mechanical and physical properties of components be based on ASME B&PV Code Section II, Part D, Subparts 1 and 2, at the actual temperature of the material. These ASME B&PV Code service levels provide a performance-based approach to ensure the structural integrity of important to safety components.”

    Canisters such as those at SONGS can be N-stamped, but it is not an NRC requirement. Pressure vessels are containers that may be under 1500 or 2000 PSI. A spent fuel canister is maybe 100 PSI or less. Big difference.

    Spreading misinformation, as Ms. Gilmore does, can only serve to keep the spent nuclear fuel stranded here longer. The question is why would she want that?

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