Hearing set for the dismantling of the San Onofre nuclear power plant
A court date has been set for June 16 to hear a lawsuit filed by an advocacy group against the California Coastal Commission, seeking to stop dismantling work at the San Onofre nuclear power plant.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Justice Mitchell L. Beckloff will examine the petition from the Samuel Lawrence Foundation which argues that the commission should not have granted a permit to Southern California Edison, the plant’s majority owner, to demolish the buildings and other infrastructure of the now closed power plant, known as SONGS name.
“The public interest is in danger, on the basis of [the commission’s] decision ”, said Chelsi Sparti, Associate Director of the Samuel Lawrence Foundation, based in Del Mar. “The waste is located right next to the ocean, [and] the economy, transport, environmental and natural resources at our disposal are threatened by the long-term storage of stranded radioactive waste.
A spokeswoman for the Coastal Commission said she was not commenting on the ongoing disputes, but in a common response he filed with Edison in court last month, the Coast Commission said arguments in the lawsuit “ran counter to a plethora of evidence supporting the commission’s decision to approve the permit for the project of decommissioning “.
In October 2019, the commission on a 9-0 vote approved a permit for Edison to begin demolition work on the plant, which has not produced electricity since 2012. Decommissioning began in early 2020 and is expected to take around eight years.
Before granting the license, the commission asked Edison to agree to a number of provisions, including establishing an improved inspection and maintenance program for the 123 stainless steel containers filled with nuclear waste that are found in a pair of dry storage facilities at the northern end of the plant.
The permit lasts 20 years and includes a condition that allows the commission by 2035 to review whether the dry storage site should be moved to another location in the event of sea level rise, risk of earthquake. soil, cartridge damage, or other possible scenarios.
One of the main arguments in the lawsuit concerns what to do with a pair of wet storage pools at SONGS. Before entering containers, the highly radioactive fuel rods were placed in 40-foot-deep pools to cool.
Edison wants to demolish the pools, claiming they are no longer needed since all waste fuel assemblies have been moved to dry storage facilities. But the Samuel Lawrence Foundation and other groups critical of Edison say the pools should stay in case something goes wrong with the cans.
After the foundation requested a temporary restraining order, the group and Edison officials signed an agreement last week that will prevent the utility from performing work on the storage pools for 90 days or until what the judge makes his decision in the case, whichever comes first.
“The lawsuit will protect the only remaining facility on site that can serve as a safe place to repair and replace radioactive waste storage containers,” Sparti said.
If something goes wrong, Edison said, the inspection and maintenance program includes a repair method using robots which can provide a metallic coating that bonds to the cartridges.
“The facts clearly show that the commission was thorough in its analysis, thoughtful in its review and correct in its decision to approve the coastal development permit to safely dismantle SONGS,” Edison spokesperson said, John Dobken.
Some 3.55 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel, or waste, remains at SONGS because the federal government has failed to open a facility to deposit all of the waste that has accumulated in commercial nuclear power plants across the country. About 80,000 metric tons piled up at 121 sites in 35 states.
When approving Edison’s updated inspection and maintenance program last year, members of the Coastal Commission expressed frustration with Washington. “This type of material has no business in the coastal area of California,” said the chairman of the commission Steve Padilla. “It’s a no-win, I think, for all of us but I think under the circumstances, [voting yes is] the right step.
According to Edison’s plans, all that will remain at SONGS after dismantling is complete will be two dry storage facilities; a security building with staff to monitor waste; a 28-foot-high seawall, measured at medium low tide at San Onofre Beach; a footbridge connecting two beaches north and south of the plant; and a switching station with power lines.
Nikolewski writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.