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

By Eric Heinz

The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the permit for Southern California Edison to store spent nuclear fuel in dry-cask storage on site at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The commissioners, as well as dozens of people in attendance, agreed the long-term solution to storing the fuel on the coastline is not ideal, until the Department of Energy commits to a permanent storage facility the additional cask storing will be necessary. SONGS already has above-ground dry storage as well as wet storage of the fuel in storage tanks.

The new dry-cask storage units, contracted through Holtec International, will hold about 3.6 million gallons of spent nuclear fuel. SCE representatives said they need about 80 additional canisters in order to store the fuel at the facility.

During the discussion, commissioner Mary Shallenberger said the original permit that required an inspection of the storage in 20 years would be too long to wait before examining any possible deficiencies.

Many people who spoke against the plan wanted SCE to postpone the decision and continue to ask the DOE for a permanent storage site outside of Orange County or the California coast rather than enter a 20-year agreement in which, they said, the fuel could remain at SONGS in perpetuity.

Commissioner Roberto Uranga said inaction would be worse than any action, as the scope of the project is massive and long-term.

The permit agreement comes with a contingency. SCE will be required to have a thorough report and inspection of the technology by 2022, five years after the expected storage would be initiated and the first phases of the deconstruction of SONGS. Additionally, commissioners voted to send a letter to the DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz urging a solution for permanent spent fuel storage. Officials said they have spoken with facilities in Texas and New Mexico for possibly storying the spent fuel, but the DOE has the final decision.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, 49th District, co-sponsored the Consolidated Storage Act bill, which was introduced last week. The bill would locate regional areas for potential interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.

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