The Coast News Group
Public Watchdogs, a local watchdog group, has filed a petition to put a halt to dismantling actions at the seaside plant. Courtesy photo

Spent nuclear fuel transfer resumes at San Onofre plant

REGION — Southern California Edison has resumed moving spent nuclear fuel into dry storage at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station.

Southern California Edison (SCE), which owns the decommissioning nuclear power plant, announced in a press release on July 15 that transfer operations would resume. SCE stopped its transferring of spent fuel from wet to dry storage after an incident on Aug. 3, 2018, when a canister containing spent fuel got stuck during the downloading process into the dry storage cavity enclosure container.

“We’re confident the improvements we’ve made are effective and sustainable,” stated Doug Bauder, SCE vice president and chief nuclear officer, in the announcement. “Our job now is to demonstrate that to our stakeholders.”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave SCE the green light to resume transfer operations in late May, but the electric company needed to take care of a few things first.

According to John Dobken, spokesperson for SCE, personnel needed to come back to the plant and retrain before the company could resume transfer operations.

“We also did a number of practice runs where we used our canister simulator to practice downloading,” Dobken said. “Then we did some very rigorous, readiness reviews to make sure all the changes that we had made over the previous 11 months would be effective and sustainable.”

There were 44 canisters waiting to be placed into the dry storage facility as of Monday, July 15, when SCE announced it would resume transfer operations. According to Dobken, preparation work was done on site that same day.

On Wednesday, July 17, “Canister #30” was taken out of a fuel handling building and put on a large transport vehicle to be taken to the dry storage facility on site. The canister had been kept in the fuel handling building since the Aug. 3 incident last year.

The plan is to download two canisters into dry storage before taking a two-week break to assess operations so far and to complete some maintenance work on the plant, according to Dobken. Each canister goes through an approximately six-day process from the time it is loaded with spent fuel to the time it is downloaded into dry storage.

The NRC plans to conduct frequent, unannounced inspections at the plant to observe SCE’s changes in action.

Story has been edited to reflect that SCE announced it would resume transfer operations on Monday, July 15, not Monday, July 17.