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San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Photo: Andrea Swayne
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Photo: Andrea Swayne

By Jim Shilander

Southern California Edison has selected an underground storage system for its independent spent-fuel storage installation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The utility announced Thursday, Dec. 11 that the chosen system—designed by Holtec International, a New Jersey-based firm—will store fuel from reactors 2 and 3 that currently sits in cooling pools. Holtec was chosen over the plant’s current cask provider, Areva.

In October, at a meeting of the utility’s Community Engagement Panel, Kris Singh, CEO of Holtec, said the HI-STORM UMAX system proposed for SONGS would store used nuclear fuel in canisters encased in a 25-foot-thick concrete pad—enough to resist an earthquake. The canisters, which are composed of stainless steel, are topped with a steel and concrete lid weighing about 12 tons.

A Holtec system is currently in use at two other California nuclear sites, Humboldt Bay and Diablo Canyon.

Edison has plans to remove all fuel from the shuttered plant from cooling pools to the dry storage by mid-2019. The utility will also partner with a research group to improve its ability to monitor the storage system’s integrity.

But even with the added monitoring and new system, local nuclear activists have concerns.

Donna Gilmore, of SanOnofreSafety.org, said she is alarmed that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal body which oversees the nation’s nuclear operations, had not yet licensed the designs. Gilmore said the entire project should be reevaluated given the likelihood fuel will be stored on-site indefinitely.

The Diablo Canyon system, she claimed, had met conditions that might lead to stress cracking.

The community panel will hold a meeting in January to find ways to pressure federal lawmakers into finding long-term, nuclear-waste storage solutions.

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