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Thomas Palmisano, vice president of decommissioning and chief nuclear officer of Southern California Edison
Elected officials and community leaders in Southern California have been actively involved in public discussions the past three years to find ways to expedite the removal of the used fuel from San Onofre. Southern California Edison fully supports these efforts, which include proposed Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) facilities in Texas and New Mexico that have broad-based support in those states. Congressional leaders of both parties are working to provide funding for these facilities, as well as the long-delayed federal repository for used nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
CIS is clearly a potential option for San Onofre, and I would like to clear up a few common mischaracterizations about CIS:
- Dry cask storage of used nuclear fuel has been proven to be safe, with more than 30 years of operation in the U.S. with no radiological releases.
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) currently requires that we inspect dry storage facilities, and will require more specific inspections of the individual canisters after the first 20 years of operation. SCE has already taken the first step by committing to submit an inspection and maintenance plan to state regulators by 2022 for the new dry storage facility.
- Because used fuel assemblies at San Onofre have cooled for so long, they would not spontaneously catch fire if exposed to air, a conclusion affirmed by the NRC.
- San Onofre was originally designed to withstand a 7.0 earthquake, and later evaluations showed the plant could withstand 7.5, a fact that was publicly discussed at a Feb. 16 Community Engagement Panel (CEP) meeting. San Onofre’s dry storage facilities are built to withstand a substantially greater magnitude quake than the nuclear plant.
Emergency preparedness changes were made at San Onofre because potential accidents related to an operating plant are no longer possible here and the used fuel has cooled sufficiently. These changes were reviewed and approved by the NRC in 2015.
SCE encourages our neighbors to join the conversation. Please join us for the next CEP meeting on May 11 in Laguna Hills.
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