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Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has already levied penalties against the operators of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) for the August canister incident, it is still looking at potential problems before allowing the energy provider to continue storing spent nuclear fuel.
At the Community Engagement Panel (CEP) meeting on March 28, Scott Morris, an NRC region IV administrative director, said the overseeing entity will examine the potential for scratching on the canisters as they’re downloaded and will look at the aging management plan of the canisters; however, Morris said the event that took place Aug. 3, in which a canister was lodged along a guidance ring due to inadequate training, was not a threat to safety.
The NRC still gave majority owner Southern California Edison its second-highest degree of offense for the problems it says it’s correcting.
Tom Palmisano, the chief nuclear officer and vice president of decommissioning, said Edison made a “senior error” at the CEP meeting following the incident, when a whistleblower who was working on the project came forward.
“It took a courageous worker (coming forward), and we have committed to a sense of transparency. That was a serious error on our part, and we take responsibility for that,” Palmisano said.
Morris said there are only a “handful” of independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) inspectors at the NRC; even so, he said the commission has paid particular attention to this matter.
Morris said the storing of spent nuclear fuel cannot resume until the NRC has sufficiently examined the analyses from Edison and Holtec on the scratching that took place on the canister in the Aug. 3 incident and then only if those analyses hold up to scrutiny. The commission will also look at the safety plans and procedural changes Edison has made.
CEP Chairman Dr. David Victor also said during the meeting that he hopes to accomplish at least one of the main strategies to get the spent nuclear fuel moved off-site at SONGS: One is to change federal legislation and the other is to get the Department of Energy to open an interim storage site. Two interim sites are currently going through the application process in New Mexico and Texas.
Rep. Mike Levin said on Monday, April 1, that he and other members of Congress are seeking $25 million in appropriations for a consolidated interim storage program that would take fuel from all decommissioned sites.
Current law, however, does not allow for temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel—only permanent storage.