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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz urging a public forum on SONGS be held in Southern California. Courtesy photo
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Issa wants public meeting on nuclear fuel in Southern California

VISTA — A Southern California Congressman is incensed the Department of Energy is not planning on holding any public meetings on the future of nuclear waste storage there, despite it being the home to a shuttered nuclear plant.

The news that six public meetings would be held elsewhere is prompting Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) to demand that Southern California residents have the opportunity to chime in. Issa, who has been vocal on asking for a solution to nuclear waste storage, sent an April 5 letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

“The addition of a public forum in Southern California is both necessary and beneficial. My district is home to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), which is in the initial stages of decommissioning which is expected to be completed by 2031,” Issa wrote.  “Positioned near an active fault line, sandwiched between the heavily-trafficked I-5 Freeway and the Pacific Ocean, and bordering the densely-populated Orange and San Diego Counties, the storage of more than 3.6 million pounds of high-level nuclear waste at the SONGS site is of great concern to the over 8 million people of this region.”

Issa told Moniz that Southern California residents, agencies and local governments are actively involved in the San Onofre discussion. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was shut down in 2012 when a small, non-injury leak occurred in one of the two reactors. The utility decided to retire the plant in 2013 rather than go through with the costly restart process.

“In fact, the robust SONGS Community Engagement Panel holds public meetings engaging with involved parties including SONGS owners Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric, the City of Riverside, and regulatory agencies at all levels of government,” Issa wrote.  “The local governments regularly review emerging Congressional proposals and weigh in with community perspectives.  Adding a public meeting in our region will allow DOE to hear directly from those interested in a safe and secure solution to our site’s issues.”

The Department of Energy is doing a tour around the country urging the public to provide input in how to find a long-term solution for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The discussion is particularly important to local elected officials who are concerned about the longtime effects with having spent nuclear fuel in San Onofre.

The concerns prompted several local cities, including Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas and Vista, to stand behind House Resolution 3643, which asks for interim consolidated storage facilities while long-term solutions are considered. Issa is one of 28 co-sponsors of the resolution authored by Texas Congressman Mike Conaway.

“What everybody agrees across the aisle is that the fuel should not be sitting at San Onofre once the plant is decommissioned,” said Oceanside Councilman Jerome Kern, who sits on the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel.

Kern said moving the spent nuclear fuel to an interim facility on the border of New Mexico and Texas would be a safer solution.

“It’s a much more stable area geologically,” said Kern, who urged local elected officials to stand behind the House resolution. “You don’t have the chance of saltwater intrusion, whether you believe in sea level rise or not, having it on the coast is just not a good idea. It would be better in a different location.”