San Diego

Critics Claim Deal to Move Nuke Waste Has Flaws

The recent agreement involving San Onofre owners is not the solution to get rid of the nuclear waste, critics say

Critics say they have issues with the recent announcement of an agreement involving the future home of tons of radioactive waste from the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

They say the deal didn’t go far enough and it “may dramatically increase health and security risks for communities in Southern California.”

What’s at issue is where the 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste will eventually end up.

Attorneys Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson who sued on behalf of Citizens Oversight, an east county based civic group, said they believe the settlement is a step forward.

“I am really encouraged by the fact Southern Cal Edison was willing to work with us on this one,” said Aguirre.

According to the agreement, approved by San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes, “pending the development by DOE (Department of Energy) of a permanent nuclear-spent fuel repository facility that could store the SONGS Spent Fuel” Southern California Edison, SCE, the owners of the plant, would use other off-site storage facilities (OSF).

Aguirre said, under the agreement, the utility is to make “reasonable” efforts to relocate the fuel to locations further inland and far from San Diego.

Ron Nichols, president of SCE, said his company is proud to take a leadership role to “work with the federal government and other key stakeholders to achieve off-site storage.”

The California Coastal Commission and Southern California Edison Company were defendants in the lawsuit. The Commission was named because the agency granted Southern California Edison (SCE), the owners of the plant, a permit to expand the on-site storage of used nuclear fuel at San Onofre in 2015. The plaintiffs would argue the Commission’s approval was in conflict with their mission to protect the coastline.

The Commission told NBC 7 Investigates the settlement has no effect on the permit they granted SCE. The permit to bury the waste on the coastline is still valid.

Something Charles Langley, executive director of Public Watchdog said upsets him. He told NBC 7 Investigates he felt the permit should have been yanked as part of the agreement. Instead of the problem going away for good, he said, it still remains a potentially disastrous problem for Southern California.

“They have weak, vague promises from Southern California Edison, which is not a terribly trust worthy corporation,” he said.

The Physicians for Social Responsibility contacted NBC 7 Investigates in an email Wednesday expressing similar concerns. They said the plan to relocate the spent nuclear fuel is risky business.

Denis Duffield, associate director of ‘Physicians’ said the group reviewed the possible transport routes to move the spent fuel and it would “entail transporting it through highly populated areas of Orange County or San Diego, where an accident or terrorist event would be devastating.”

In addition, transferring the risk to the out-of-state permanent storage sites suggested in the lawsuit agreement (New Mexico, Texas or Arizona) is “not on its face appropriate,” he said. ”Serious consideration should be given to a different location on Pendleton away from the ocean and at a higher elevation.”

The nuclear plant sits on land leased from the United States Marines Corps.

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