SCE To Move San Onofre Spent Fuel Inland

Southern California Edison (SCE) on Monday announced an agreement to find a new storage site for spent fuel generated at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) near San Diego.

San Onofre NPPThe agreement settles a lawsuit that contested the company's first option for long-term storage at the SONGS facility and prompted a round of compliments from the parties involved over the cooperative nature of the negotiations over the matter. 

In November 2015, attorneys Michael Aguirre and Miria Severson filed the suit on behalf of the local watchdog group Citizen's Oversight, Inc. In the settlement's announcement, Aguirre said, “a cooperative effort between the public, independent experts and Southern California Edison has begun and will continue until the nuclear waste is removed from San Diego.

“We are thankful SCE worked hard to reach this common goal,” Severson said.

The lawsuit was filed after the coastal commission granted the utility a permit to store the waste from the facility's three reactors on site at San Onofre. Currently, one-third of the generating station's spent fuel is in dry cask storage, while the remaining two-thirds is in steel-lined concrete pools. The company said it plans to move the pool-stored spent fuel from wet storage to dry cask storage by 2019. It was expected the fuel would be buried on site until a permanent solution to nuclear waste was made operational by the federal government.

The plan was approved by the California Coastal Commission and involved burying the 3.6 million pounds of waste on site on the grounds of the 84-acre facility. But the Citizens Oversight group claimed this was a dangerous plan given the high levels of erosion on the campus part of which includes a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

With that plan now rejected and no federal repository in sight for high-level radioactive waste, SCE is limited to moving the waste to a private facility. The agreement stipulates that SCE will hire a team of consultants within 90 days of the agreement entering into force, which will likely occur on Sept. 8, the day the agreement formally goes before Judge Judith Hayes at a court hearing.

Three locations have been proposed all outside of the state. One is in Texas, one in New Mexico and the other in Arizona, according to News 7 San Diego. The consultants to be hired will include experts in transportation and monitoring of nuclear material.

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