By Lillian Boyd

A nonprofit advocacy group is suing Southern California Edison, Holtec International and other stakeholders for their handling of nuclear waste.

The group Public Watchdogs also announced on Aug. 29 that it is seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) to “stop the beachfront burial of nuclear waste” at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), in addition to the lawsuit.

The group is requesting an immediate court-ordered halt to the transfer of the waste into “thin-walled” dry-storage canisters.

“My immediate concern is for the health and safety of the millions of people who could be impacted by a toxic cloud being released from SONGS,” said Chuck LaBella, the attorney for Public Watchdogs. “The consequences of a nuclear accident are catastrophic and would last for generations.”

The Aug. 29 motion for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order names Southern California Edison Company and San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Holtec International, Sempra Energy, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the defendants. The motion states that there is an imminent danger that the canisters will fail and release deadly nuclear waste into the surrounding area and cause catastrophic harm due to mismanagement and mishandling.

In the Aug. 29 complaint, Public Watchdog alleges the defendants committed a public nuisance and violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

According to Public Watchdogs, the defendants in the suit plan to transfer toxic nuclear waste at SONGS from the relatively safe “wet storage” (stored in pools in Units 2 and 3), into 73 “thin-walled” dry canisters.

“Neither the canisters nor the decommissioning plan have undergone a proper risk assessment. Nor has an objective risk assessment been done to determine if the canisters are safe for storing nuclear waste on a short-term basis, much less to determine if the burial location within yards of the Pacific Ocean, in a tsunami zone, and on several earthquake faults, is safe,” a Watchdog media release states.

John Dobken, the spokesperson for SCE, says the lawsuit runs counter to the expressed interest of the communities adjacent to the San Onofre nuclear plant by potentially stranding spent fuel on site, even when options for transport and off-site storage or disposal become available.

“Placing spent nuclear fuel into approved canisters that meet all technical, safety and regulatory requirements for on-site storage is the first step to relocating the fuel to an off-site, federally licensed facility,” Dobken said in an emailed statement. “The local communities near San Onofre have made it abundantly clear that storing the fuel safely on site and then moving the fuel to such a facility as soon as possible is their strong desire and in their best interest. SCE shares these objectives and is working diligently towards achieving them. By 2021, more than 80 percent of the spent fuel stored at San Onofre will be eligible for transport off-site. Being ready means having all fuel safely in dry storage and in transportable canisters.”

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