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Power companies SDG&E and Southern California Edison may be able to replace 100 percent of the energy lost from SONGS with new, clean energy resources. Courtesy photo
California’s Superior Court made a tentative ruling on Nov. 1 that denied a request for Southern California Edison to halt downloading of its of spent nuclear fuel into dry storage at the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Courtesy photo
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Court dismisses request to enforce Edison 2017 settlement

REGION — California’s Superior Court made a tentative ruling on Nov. 1 that denied a request for Southern California Edison to halt downloading of its of spent nuclear fuel into dry storage at the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The request came from petitioners, specifically from a group called Citizens Oversight and attorney Mike Aguirre, who claimed that Edison handled downloading of spent fuel in an improper manner, thus breaching its “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing” in a 2017 settlement agreement.

Petitioners sought to enforce the agreement, and Edison filed opposition.

According to the 2017 agreement, Edison was to “use Commercially Reasonable … efforts to relocate the SONGS Spent Fuel to an offsite storage Facility.” The agreement also defined what “commercially reasonable” means and identified eight “commitments” that Edison would take as well as the utility’s duties under the agreement.

In the order Judge William Hayes signed, requests for specific performance or injunctive relief to make Edison fulfill its commitments would be limited.

“The request that the court order Edison to ‘pause downloading’ is tantamount to a request for injunctive relief, and it is hereby denied,” the ruling’s document states.

Also denied by the court was a request for an evidentiary hearing. According to the ruling, petitioners couldn’t “carry their burden to establish a breach of the 2017 settlement agreement as it was written.”

The documents also stated that “Edison has provided ample evidence that it has carried out all of the specific requirements” of the agreement, which includes providing progress reports of its efforts to carry out the settlement’s terms.

“We have formed an advisory team made up of some of the leading experts in spent fuel facility siting, licensing, and transportation, and retained a consultant to assist in the development of a strategic plan to remove spent nuclear fuel from San Onofre,” said Doug Bauder, Edison vice president and chief nuclear officer, in a statement provided to The Coast News. “The plant is intended to address the national problem created by the federal government’s failure to deliver a disposal facility, which, by law, should have been available to commercial nuclear plants in 1998.”

According to the most recent monthly progress report, published the same day as the court ruling, there are 20 canisters of spent fuel on the dry storage pad from Unit 2 and 16 from Unit 3, with one canister from Unit 3 in the process of being moved.

Edison Public Information Officer John Dobken said the utility is “pleased” with the ruling.”

The court agrees that storing of spent fuel rods “on a beach subject to rising tidal influences from global climate change, in a seismically active area, near the homes and workplaces of 8 million human beings” is a problem that needs to be solved. Still, the court also acknowledges that stopping downloading of the spent fuel could present more problems, like imposing costs on Edison that would then affect ratepayers.

“SCE (Edison) also agrees with the court’s finding that halting the transfer of spent nuclear fuel from wet to dry storage is likely not in the best interest of SCE, its customers or the community,” Dobken said via email.

According to Dobken, getting the spent fuel off of the SONGS site is a “top priority” for Edison as well as “safely managing the fuel” while it is on site.

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