San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. File photo
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. File photo

By Jim Shilander

Southern California Edison has selected an underground storage system for its independent spent-fuel storage installation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The utility announced Thursday, Dec. 11 that the chosen system—designed by Holtec International, a New Jersey-based firm—will store fuel from reactors 2 and 3 that currently sits in cooling pools. Holtec was chosen over the plant’s current cask provider, Areva.

In October, at a meeting of the utility’s Community Engagement Panel, Kris Singh, CEO of Holtec, said the HI-STORM UMAX system proposed for SONGS would store used nuclear fuel in canisters encased in a 25-foot-thick concrete pad—enough to resist an earthquake. The canisters, which are composed of stainless steel, are topped with a steel and concrete lid weighing about 12 tons. A Holtec system is currently in use at two other California nuclear sites, Humboldt Bay and Diablo Canyon.

Edison has plans to remove all fuel from the shuttered plant from cooling pools to dry storage by mid-2019. The utility will also partner with a research group to improve its ability to monitor the storage system’s integrity.

But even with the added monitoring and new system, local nuclear activists have concerns.

Donna Gilmore, of SanOnofreSafety.org, said she is alarmed that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal body which oversees the nation’s nuclear operations, had not yet licensed the designs. Gilmore said the entire project should be reevaluated given the likelihood fuel will be stored on-site indefinitely.

The Diablo Canyon system, she claimed, had met conditions that might lead to stress cracking.

The community panel will hold a meeting in January to find ways to pressure federal lawmakers into finding long-term, nuclear-waste storage solutions.

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comments (1)

  • In David Victor’s (Chairman of the Community Engagement Panel) writeup on this issue of used fuel storage, he eviscerates the anti-nuke arguments. He essentially, though more fully, states what I concluded long ago as I detail below.

    Plants have been safely storing spent fuel for decades, no member of the public has ever been harmed from storing spent fuel at commercial nuclear power plants.
    The casks that SCE chose are NOT inferior casks (the AREVA & Holtec casks are both certified by the NRC) and those German casks that the activists prefer, they are NOT licensed in the US and they exceed the capacity of the lifting equipment used to lift the used fuel, ie., SONGs cannot use them.
    The German cast iron casks were originally the cheaper option of dry cask storage since cast iron is far cheaper than stainless steel. Separating the transfer and storage casks into two separate entities has allowed substantial cost reductions without compromising safety in stainless steel casks. Most US nuclear plants opted for the stainless steel as there was also the fear that if dropped, the cast iron cask might shatter. SONGs chose a 5/8″ thick cask using 316 steel as opposed to the cheaper, though still safe and NRC approved, 1/2″ thick, 304 steel putting a lie to the anti-nuke claim that SCE puts profits over safety.
    The NRC states unequivocally that the casks SONGs uses are safe and that is why they have licensed them, to suggest otherwise is to engage in deception. They are double welded and a weld is always SUPERIOR to a mechanical seal if one is only interested in sealing a container. The German casks use a mechanical seal and again, mechanical seals are INFERIOR to a weld. This is precisely the reason they have a helium monitoring system, because a mechanical seal is INFERIOR to a welded seal. This monitoring system only monitors the area between the two mechanical seals, it does NOT monitor the inside where the fuel resides. In Europe, they reprocess fuel, so they need a canister with a mechanical seal as they must reopen these canisters to retrieve the fuel.
    Complaints regarding lack of the ability to inspect canisters or to fix them should problems arise are again, disingenuous. Activists know that the original plan was to move used fuel to Yucca Mt. (YM), but fellows in the greater anti-nuclear movement opposed this before any studies were done. They bare some of the responsibility for the fuel not having been moved to YM. Had this occurred, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because most of the fuel would have been moved by now. Inspection capabilities, measures to prevent corrosion, and methods to fix any problems that arise in the future, are NOT engineering enigmas. Remote monitoring and remote welding are long established practices–activists simply wish to exaggerate the difficulties to justify their faux hysteria and hoodwink the public.
    Anti-nuke activists lied and made false statements about many aspects of San Onofre when it was operating. Fear and exaggeration continue to be their weapons of choice in their efforts to hoodwink the public into sharing their hysteria.

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