REGION — The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Community Engagement Panel met at the QLN Conference Center in Oceanside on March 24 to discuss two important issues. One being the upcoming environmental review for decommissioning generators two and three. The other the possibility of moving spent nuclear fuel to an interim storage site 10 years sooner than a permanent site would be available.
Moving spent fuel offsite is a necessary final step to complete decommissioning the power plant and returning the property to the Navy. The process of getting fuel offsite has not been easy.
There continues to be political opposition and delays in the Department of Energy moving spent fuel to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada. Most consider the option on hold.
David Victor, chair of the Community Engagement Panel, said the best scenario for fuel to be moved to Yucca Mountain is 14 years out. Once started, offloading the spent fuel and repackaging it for permanent storage would be a very slow process.
A promising alternative is to move spent fuel to an interim storage facility in New Mexico or West Texas as soon as the early 2020s. The sites could accept storage canisters more quickly and would not need to repackage fuel for permanent storage.
The potential interim storage facilities are working on necessary licensing to operate. Victor said they would complement Yucca Mountain and other permanent disposal sites.
“I think people are cautiously optimistic that we might even have a solution to the fuel problem,” Victor said.
The Community Engagement Panel is working to build community and political support, and have San Onofre be first in line to move its fuel to an interim site.
Oceanside and San Diego County Board of Supervisors have passed resolutions supporting the fuel move. Community Engagement Panel member Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern said the cities of Encinitas, Carlsbad and Vista have also written letters of support.
One-third of San Onofre’s spent fuel is in dry cask storage and could be moved. The rest is in cooling pools and will be offloaded and put into dry cask storage by 2019.
Victor said there is no reason to house spent fuel at the closed power plant.
“It doesn’t make sense at this site, or frankly at the 60 other sites around the country, for fuel to be stored at lots of different sites,” Victor said. “It ought to be consolidated into single sites where it can be managed professionally and stored for the long term.”
Transportation of fuel to interim storage sites still needs to be resolved.
Decommissioning of San Onofre generators continues to move forward.
The California State Lands Commission will lead an 18-month environmental review of the decommissioning plan before work begins. The study will take a holistic look at environmental impacts of the preferred plan, alternative plans and no action.
Victor said he expects the study to look at whether to remove the conduits, which were used to bring cooling water into the plant and sit in the seabed.
“This is a massive deconstruction project, understandably there could be environmental impacts,” Victor said.
Decommissioning plans, and community input on what should be included in the review, will be discussed at the next Community Engagement Panel meeting.