The Coast News Group
Levin, Issa push for spent nuclear fuel removal with new bill
Uranium fuel rods in a nuclear reactor. Reps. Mike Levin and Darrell Issa introduced the Spent Fuel Prioritization Act in an effort to remove spent nuclear fuel stored on California's coastline. Photo by V. Pales
NewsPolitics & GovernmentRegion

Levin, Issa reintroduce bill pushing for spent nuclear fuel removal

REGION – The push to remove spent nuclear fuel from Southern California’s coastline continues with renewed bipartisan support from Reps. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) and Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who recently reintroduced the Spent Fuel Prioritization Act.

Levin, representing the state’s 49th congressional district, first introduced the bill in Spring 2019 during his few months in office. Now he is joined by Issa, who represents the 50th district, along with a mix of California Democrat Reps. Scott Peters and Katie Porter and Republican Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim.

Bills must be reintroduced every Congressional two-year session to be considered during that session. A bill from 2019 couldn’t be voted on in the current session, which means it would need to be reintroduced either last year or this year.

“I reintroduced this bill with Rep. Issa because we agree that we must prioritize moving nuclear waste from sites like San Onofre with large populations nearby, earthquake fault lines in the area, and national security risks associated with Camp Pendleton,” Levin told The Coast News via email. “With Reps. Issa, Peters, Steel, Porter, and Kim cosponsoring the bill, my hope is that the strong bipartisan support will help us pass this legislation soon.”

The bill would require the Department of Energy to prioritize the removal of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants based on nearby population size, seismic hazard and national security concerns like the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

While the plant is currently in the process of deconstruction and will disappear from the coastline in less than a decade, the spent fuel storage installations will remain indefinitely.

Currently, the United States does not have a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel, which has caused delays in moving spent nuclear fuel away from places like San Onofre and finding permanent storage.

Still, Southern California politicians at both the federal and state level have been pushing for the spent fuel to be removed from its shores as soon as possible.

Southern California Edison, the utility company that owns San Onofre, is permitted to keep the spent fuel installations there until 2035, which could be extended if a permanent repository is found.

“Federal action on spent fuel storage at the now-closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is long overdue, and disposal of power plant waste continues to be needlessly delayed by a process that lacks a commitment to a workable solution,” Issa said in a statement provided to The Coast News. “That’s why our bipartisan legislation should serve as a model in Congress and demonstrate that consensus is possible.”

The bill does not favor a permanent repository or consolidated interim storage facility, nor does it allow for the transfer of fuel to any non-consenting state.

Levin has stayed involved in San Onofre matters since he first took office in 2019. Besides the Spent Fuel Prioritization Act, he also launched a task force of local stakeholders and experts to address safety challenges at San Onofre following a 2018 incident where a spent fuel canister became stuck while being deposited into the storage facility. The congressman also formed a Spent Nuclear Fuel Solutions Caucus in Congress.