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San Onofre nuclear waste agreement – not likely to be a real solution

San Onofre nuclear waste agreement offers hope for some, an ‘illusion’ for others, San Diego Union-Tribune Rob NikolewskiContact Reporter, 3 Sep 17

Or is an out-of-court settlement announced last week just more of the same?

The attorneys for the plaintiffs who initiated the case describe the agreement as an important step toward finally soothing the nerves of many of the 8.4 million people in Southern California who live within a 50-mile radius of SONGS.

But the settlement has not assuaged a number of other activists, united in their antagonism for the utility that manages the now-shuttered plant, who consider the agreement practically toothless and say it offers false hope.

Stranded spent fuel is hardly unique to SONGS. Nuclear waste has piled up at plants across the country, nearing 80,000 metric tons, with the industry adding about 2,200 tons each year.

The federal government was supposed to come up with a long-term storage solution but has never opened a working site.

Michael Aguirre, the former City Attorney of San Diego who is one of the lead attorneys in the plaintiffs’ case, said he understands the scope of the problem.

What the settlement lays out

The settlement came after months of private negotiations between the plant’s operators, Southern California Edison, and a pair of the utility’s harshest critics. It was approved Monday afternoon by San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes.

Under the agreement, Edison will adhere to a quicker schedule to inspect and maintain the canisters containing SONGS waste and will produce a contingency plan should any of them crack or leak. The utility also pledged to give progress reports on a monthly, and then quarterly basis.

In addition, the deal stipulates that Edison make a good faith effort to look at sites to send SONGS waste. That includes spending $4 million to hire a team of experts to develop a strategy. In what Aguirre says is a critical element, the agreement is enforceable by the court, meaning the judge will retain authority to make sure its terms are carried out…….

Potential sites to send SONGS waste

Getting the waste off the beach at San Onofre has long been a priority for many who live in the area. California has a notable history of seismic activity, fueling fears of a Fukushima-like tsunami and SONGS is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean to the west and Interstate 5, one of the busiest freeways in the U.S., to the east.

The agreement specifically mentions three sites that could potentially accept SONGS spent fuel.

One is the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located about 50 miles from Phoenix. Even before Monday’s announcement, Aguirre mentioned Palo Verde as a logical place for San Onofre’s waste because Edison is a part-owner at Palo Verde, with a 15.8 percent stake.

Last year an official with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in an email to the Union-Tribune that Palo Verde used a different storage design than San Onofre.

The same day the settlement was announced, the utility that operates Palo Verde, Arizona Public Service, said it is not interested in accepting any spent fuel from SONGS……

The agreement also mentions two other sites, one in West Texas and one in southeastern New Mexico.

Each of the sites are categorized as “consolidated interim storage” facilities — based in relatively isolated locations that would require consent from their local communities to accept nuclear waste……..

The West Texas site is more problematic.

Located near the town of Andrews, Texas, the facility is owned by a company called Waste Control Specialists. The site already stores low-level radioactive waste but its plans to expand have been put on hold because of financial problems……..

The Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility criticized the plansaying it would “require transporting the waste twice, once to the temporary location and then again to a permanent facility, essentially doubling the transport risk.”

The group supports moving the waste within the premises of Camp Pendleton.

“It would address the issue of sea level rise,” said Denise Duffield, the group’s associate director. “One of the greatest risks associated with irradiated fuel is terrorism; it is hard to think of a better location to protect it (than) within a Marine base.”………


September 4, 2017 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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