The Coast News Group
Southern California Edison began deconstruction of the controversial nuclear site last month. Courtesy photo/Southern California Edison

Watchdog group’s petition to halt SONGS demolition rejected

REGION — A local watchdog group’s petition to halt the dismantling of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) did not meet the accepted criteria by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

In January, Southern California Edison (SCE), the plant’s owner, announced that deconstruction would begin in February.

As previously reported, Public Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group, filed a petition late last year claiming that if the facility floods with rain or ocean water it could lead to explosive radioactive steam geysers.

SCE disputed the claims and said the petition document contains “multiple errors.”

According to Public Watchdog, nuclear waste on site is being stored in self-cooling canisters that can reach temperatures of up to 452 degrees. The group fears that the shock of cold ocean water could rupture the canisters.

Edison responded explaining that the warmest spent fuel storage canister on site is approximately 225 degrees, thus not hot enough to create the geyser effect. Edison also claims that water is a better conductor than air and would more efficiently cool the canisters.

Public Watchdog also raised concerns about spent nuclear fuel being non-retrievable with a potential of flooding.

The NRC responded to the group with a letter dated Feb. 26 that explained why the petition was rejected.

“The NRC inspection team observed the licensee (SCE) implementing all the corrective action enhancements to download and retrieve a simulated canister at the SONGS ISFSI pad, during exercises conducted between January 28-30, 2019,” wrote Kevin Williams, deputy director in the Division of Materials Safety, Security, State and Tribal Programs. “SCE was fully successful in downloading and retrieving the canister during the exercises, and the corrective actions taken were determined by the NRC inspectors to be adequate.”

The NRC also did not identify any issues as a result of its review of the flood evaluation for SONGS.

“Regarding your concerns with flooding at the SONGS ISFSI, SCE’s flood analyses determined that the UMAX maximum design flood parameters envelop the SONGS site flooding parameters,” Williams wrote. “The NRC staff verified this flood evaluation in the SONGS 10 CFR 72.212 report to qualify the use of the UMAX system at SONGS, and the NRC documented this in an inspection report.”