Southern California Edison today awarded a consulting contract to North Wind, Inc., to develop a strategic plan that will assess the feasibility of relocating spent nuclear fuel at the San Onofre nuclear plant to a commercially reasonable, off-site facility.
SCE said it was committed to the safe, secure storage of spent nuclear fuel, “recognizing that efforts to relocate San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel off-site must proceed in a thoughtful, forward-thinking and responsible way.”
SCE also said that “relevant interests are recognized and heard,” in the planning process.
There is currently no federally licensed facility to receive spent nuclear fuel from a commercial nuclear energy site. However, “moving San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel off-site is a top priority for SCE, as is safely managing the fuel while it is on-site.”
The North Wind consultants will work in concert with SCE and its Experts Team, which will support development of the strategic plan by reviewing North Wind’s work during the anticipated 20-month timeframe of the contract. The Experts Team is chaired by Tom Isaacs, former Department of Energy Office of Policy director, and includes former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Allison Macfarlane, both of whom have expertise in spent fuel citing and licensing, as well as nationally recognized leaders in radiation science, spent nuclear fuel transportation and nuclear engineering. SCE said former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will be involved in the transportation planning process.
Spent fuel movement at San Onofre was delayed for 10 months and resumed in May after an August 2018 incident in which a canister became stuck as crews were lowering it into a vertical receptacle. The canister got hung up on the guiding ring, but work crews figured it had been lowered into place as the cables holding the canister had gone slack. Potentially, the canister could have become dislodged and fallen on its own, although that did not happen. It was discovered the canister was stuck because radiation readings were higher than expected. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined SCE $116,000 for the incident that they were slow to report.
At this point, “SCE looks forward to the development of a strategic plan that brings us closer to long-term solutions for moving spent nuclear fuel off-site,” said Kevin Walker, SCE senior vice president for Customer and Operational Services.
SCE launched this effort following a 2017 settlement agreement related to the permitting of the on-site expanded spent fuel storage installation. SCE is optimistic that the strategic plan will set forth practical steps that SCE can and will take to support efforts to relocate San Onofre spent fuel to an off-site, licensed facility.
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