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San Onofre nuclear waste stranded on the beach

“That site will not survive for 10,000 years, just based on the normal erosion and other factors,”

“For most in Congress, their political horizon is two years, four years, six years out,” McFarlane said. “They’re not motivated.”

radioactive trashsan-onofre-deadfFOCUS: WHY SAN ONOFRE’S NUCLEAR WASTE STAYS ON THE BEACH Policy stalemate leaves toxic spent fuel stranded, San Diego Union Tribune BY ROB NIKOLEWSKI July 22, 2016 Some 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is all stored up with no place to go.

The plant has not produced electricity since January 2012 for the nearly 19 million people served by Southern California Edison, the majority owner of the facility, andSan Diego Gas & Electric, which owns 20 percent.

Edison officials overseeing the plant’s decommissioning have set a target date of the end of 2032 to remove nearly every remnant of the generating station, which hugs the Southern California coastline at the northern tip of San Diego County in Camp Pendleton.

The operative word is “nearly” because, in all likelihood, the waste — also called spent fuel or used fuel — will stay behind for years to come, stranded until a long-term solution is reached on what to do with it. Going back to the 1960s when the plant broke ground, anti-nuclear critics and Edison officials have not often seen eye-to-eye. But when it comes to the spent fuel, they are in complete agreement: Both sides want it off the premises as soon as possible.

“This is not the right solution, putting the waste on the beach,” said Ray Lutz, El Cajon resident and founder of the nonprofit Citizens Oversight. Lutz made the comment on June 22, just before a Community Engagement Panel, one of a series of public meetings Edison hosts every three months.

“It’s very frustrating,” Tom Palmisano, Edison’s vice president of decommissioning and the chief nuclear officer, said earlier this month.

So why is the waste stuck near the beach?

There’s no place to move it to,” said Allison Macfarlane, a former chairwoman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “Sorry, you might want to move it tomorrow but this is not magic. You can’t wave your wand and, poof, it’s gone.”

Although the used fuel at San Onofre is Edison’s responsibility, it’s ultimately supposed to be handed over to the federal government and the U.S. Department of Energy, as per the details of the 1982 Waste Policy Act passed by Congress.

But a repository for waste from nuclear sites across the country including San Onofre does not exist.

“Frankly, it should have been solved by now but it hasn’t been,” said John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy………..

“Right now, we have a broken system,” said Macfarlane, who also spoke at the Community Engagement Panel and served on a federal blue-ribbon commissionlooking into the nuclear waste issue.

Kotek and the Department of Energy are developing what they’re calling an integrated waste management system to find interim storage sites, where waste from places such as San Onofre could be sent.

As one would expect, finding places to accept nuclear waste is difficult, but DOE is actively looking for communities willing to step forward in what the agency calls a “consent-based siting process.”………..

Lawmakers push temporary storage

Two members from California, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Darrell Issa, have eachco-sponsored legislation that would pave the way for “consolidated interim storage” facilities that could accept waste from sites such as San Onofre.

“That site will not survive for 10,000 years, just based on the normal erosion and other factors,” Issa said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

“So we know we’re going to move it (from San Onofre),” he said. “Why not move it once to a site where it can remain for that period of time, at least with current technology?”

But getting other members on Capitol Hill to tackle an issue that can be politically, well, radioactive, is another story.

“For most in Congress, their political horizon is two years, four years, six years out,” McFarlane said. “They’re not motivated.”

And the November 2016 election is fast approaching..

“Honestly, I think we need to get through the election year and see what we can do,” Palmisano said last month.

Issa said he’s holding out hope that something can be passed this year, even if it’s through a continuing resolution or other legislative maneuvers. “There are a number of ways both the House and the Senate often agree to things at the very end of a Congress,” he said.

Then there are other decisions to make: Even if a site is found, which waste from which site should go first?

Should facilities that have been waiting the longest amount of time get their waste moved first? Or should priority go to those with the largest amounts of waste, or have the largest concentrations of people surrounding the nuclear facilities?

About 8 million people live in the San Onofre region.

“We have to make sure the priority isn’t the oldest fuel,” said Laguna Beach resident Marni Magda, during the public comment period of the June 22 meeting.

The priority, she said, should go to “stranded fuel where there is the most people and the most dangerous environmental hazard. We must have that in the legislation. We must get this accomplished.”

From pool to cask

Roughly two-thirds of the spent fuel at San Onofre is sitting in what’s called “wet storage” pools and one-third is in what’s called “dry cask storage.”

Even after fuel rods in a nuclear reactor are used up, they are still highly radioactive and can generate heat for decades.

The fuel assemblies are moved into pools of water to cool. At San Onofre, the rods in wet storage are placed in a concrete structure 40 feet deep that is lined with steel and filled with water.

Palmisano said he expects by 2019 a complete transfer of all the fuel to dry casks — concrete-encased steel canisters — on the premises.

A new installation is being built to house 73 canisters, just in front of dry-cask canisters already on site.

The canisters containing waste fuel assemblies will stand vertically and be nearly completely buried on-site, behind a 27-foot-high seawall.

It’s a plan that was approved by the California Coastal Commission but has drawn opposition.

Some critics say the canisters, designed by Holtec International, are susceptible to cracking. Others say San Onofre is vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis or terror attacks, but Edison officials insist the canisters and the site are safe……….

finding that place — or places — will take years, and demand a level of political and bureaucratic coordination that poses challenges in the short-term and the long-term.

“Interim is an interesting word because nobody really believes that ‘interim’ is a short period of time,” Issa said. “But rather, we need it for 10,000 years, and I don’t know how long before we find something we call ‘permanent.’ ”

Kotek said he understands the frustration among people living in the San Onofre area.

“It was a commitment made by the federal government decades ago that we would provide for ultimate disposal capability,” Kotek told the Union-Tribune. “It hasn’t happened yet. It falls to me and my team right now under the leadership of the Secretary of Energy to try to and make that happen.”

But Macfarlane, the former NRC chair, said DOE alone can’t make a decision that would involve all the details necessary to make moving nuclear waste a reality.

“The only way to get at a solution is for you guys to pressure Congress to solve this problem,” Macfarlane told the crowd that packed into the San Juan Capistrano Community Center. “And that’s a heavy lift. But right now I think that’s the only way forward, really.” http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jul/22/san-onofre-stranded-waste/

 

July 23, 2016 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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