San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob called the latest details revealed in an NBC 7 Investigates story about the condition of land at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) site "extremely troubling."
On Monday, Jacob told NBC 7 Investigates Southern California Edison (SCE) needs to tell the public what condition the land is in at the SONGS.
“Southern California Edison should first be honest with the public,” she said. “If the land is contaminated, they should clean it up, clean it up in its entirety. Be honest, be transparent.”
Through the federal Freedom of Information Act, NBC 7 Investigates obtained letters from the United States Navy to SCE that show portions of the land around SONGS “may be contaminated from activities conducted during SCE’s occupancy and use.”
According to one of the August letters from the Navy’s Engineering Command, the Mesa site could be contaminated because of how SCE used the land. The Mesa site is 135 acres of land in and around the reactor domes and across Interstate 5. In the documents, the site is called Japanese Mesa or the "Mesa.”
Click here to see the complete investigation and read the letters from the Navy.
SCE has not responded to questions about the information revealed in the letters. In a statement sent to NBC 7 Investigates on Oct. 2, 2015, after a previous NBC 7 Investigates story aired, SCE spokesperson Maureen Brown said, “There is no current radiological contamination” and “readings (at the SONGS property) are normal background radiation levels."
One of the letters from the Navy was sent to SCE’s Manager of Government Lands Messeret Yilma a month before that NBC 7 Investigates story aired. That story detailed secret negotiations happening between the Navy, SCE and San Diego Gas and Electric to discuss the condition of the land where SONGS sits.
SCE leases the land in and around SONGS from the Navy. That lease is set to expire in 2023. According to the lease, any contaminated land is to be restored for unrestricted use by the Navy. The dynamic can be described in a simple equation: the more the land is contaminated, the more cleanup is needed to satisfy the Navy. The more extensive the cleanup, the more money it costs the utilities.
The Navy letters describe how SCE’s own internal reports show the site may be contaminated. According to one letter, “SCE’s request for partial termination” of the lease “is held in abeyance” until “SCE restores the contaminated site to levels that achieve unrestricted use/unrestricted exposure (UU/UE) closure.”
“It raises a big question that needs to be answered,” Jacob said. “Not only do we want the spent nuclear waste out of San Diego, but we don't want the contaminated property there either. So good for the Navy for calling it out; the public needs answers."
A plan to store nuclear waste from San Onofre in North County was approved but is being challenged in court.
In the letter from Brown, she said, “none of the contamination identified by inspectors in the [NRC] report exceeded allowable limits.”
In an email to NBC 7 Investigates, NRC Public Affairs Officer Scott Burnell said the agency will make sure the utility has “properly decommissioned the site (or any portion of it)” before they can be released from its “regulatory requirements.”