The Coast News Group
A car passes by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Plant on Interstate 5 in northern San Diego County in this 2001 file photo. For decades, activists and elected officials have worried about the plant's close proximity to San Diego and Los Angeles and, since its decommissioning in 2012, about the nuclear waste byproducts stored there in underground cannisters 140 feet from the Pacific Ocean.

Task force: Move San Onofre nuclear waste off the beach

SAN ONOFRE — A task force of experts and local stakeholders working on solutions for the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has recommended the creation of a federal Nuclear Waste Administration focused solely on storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

Wednesday’s report from the SONGS Task Force, formed by Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, featured a wide range of policy recommendations to ensure the safe removal of nuclear fuel from the site — also known as SONGS — and development of a permanent repository location to dispose of the waste.

The task force recommended the additional federal agency because members say the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that oversees nuclear energy is typically focused on operating reactors. The task force also recommended moving the spent fuel — or SNF — to a site at a higher elevation, farther from the coast to avoid water corrosion risks, and to expand emergency planning procedures stemming from plant operations to cover all municipalities within a 50-mile radius of the plant.

Nearly 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel are stored at the plant, which stopped producing electricity in 2012.

The report states that federal legislation mandating SNF removal from SONGS is needed, and that a lack of such regulatory framework “has led to stranded SNF throughout the country.”

The task force also found that SONGS’ below-grade storage system could make it more difficult to retrieve SNF if needed, and is susceptible to erosion due to being buried “in unstable sandstone bluffs.”

“I am fortunate to represent one of the most beautiful Congressional districts in the United States, but 1,600 tons of spent nuclear fuel sitting at San Onofre threaten our safety and our coastline,” Levin said.

“We must ensure the safety of the San Onofre site, minimize the probability for accidents, improve emergency planning, and strengthen public trust. We must also begin planning in earnest to transport the waste away from SONGS — a highly challenging but not insurmountable task. While there are a wide range of views on how we should move forward, this report provides a roadmap for how we can move forward together. I’m incredibly grateful for all of the work my San Onofre Task Force and its co-chairs have put into developing solutions for these challenges, and I’m thrilled to share their work.”


Full report of Levin’s San Onofre taskforce [pdf]


Force June 27, 2020 at 3:15 pm

Thank you Mike Levin, Task Force volunteers, and Coast News, for proposing federal legislation to help protect our area from San Onofre waste that is now too close to the coast.

D. Taylor June 25, 2020 at 6:57 pm

Thank you Mike Levin for making this a top priority and pushing for solutions that will keep us safe. It’s good to see this effort moving ahead after it was completely stalled under Issa’s ineffective leadership.

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