Jim Peattie, General Manager of Decommissioning Oversight at Southern California Edison, describes the dry storage process on March 18 at decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
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Edison gets federal approval to resume fuel-loading operations

Above: Jim Peattie, General Manager of Decommissioning Oversight at Southern California Edison, describes the dry storage process on March 18 at decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

REGION — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on May 21 that Southern California Edison and its contractors can safely resume fuel-loading operations at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The decision came after the NRC issued a $116,000 civil penalty to Edison and temporarily suspended operations at the site following a Aug. 3, 2018, near-miss canister incident.

Information about the incident and the NRC’s response is available on the NRC website.

The NRC made its determination following a review of technical data submitted by Edison regarding the possible effects of scratching on spent fuel canisters during fuel loading operations.

Edison called the NRC’s decision an “important milestone in the ultimate journey to permanent offsite storage of the spent nuclear fuel.”

“Since the event on Aug. 3, 2018, SCE and its contractor have performed a comprehensive review of spent nuclear fuel transfer operations and created a more robust program through better procedures, better training and more intrusive oversight.”

Some of the changes include the addition of cameras and load-monitoring equipment.

Edison also stated that they have completed visual assessments of eight fuel canisters to examine any contact between the cask and the canister during the loading process.

Critics of the Holtec Hi-Storm Umax dry storage system have raised concerns that incidental contact could “scratch” or “gouge” the stainless steel canisters, leading to radioactive leaks and explosions.

“The incidental contact that may occur during the canister downloading, as the NRC recently re-affirmed, poses no impact to the safe storage of spent fuel,” said Edison in a statement.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to submit written comments and questions via the webinar user interface following a presentation by NRC officials

The NRC will hold a virtual public meeting/webinar from 12 to 1 p.m. on June 3. and will provide participation guidance during the webinar.

Interested members of the public should register for the webinar on the NRC website

1 comment

Donna Gilmore May 24, 2019 at 10:23 am

The NRC engineering staff said in a recent meeting that Holtec’s imprecise canister downloading system contaminates canisters with carbon particles causing galvanic corrosion. They said they would not have approved this system if they has known there was metal to metal contact between the stainless steel canisters and the carbon steel interior of the canister storage holes.

Holtec justification that the system complies with ASME codes was also challenged by the NRC staff. The ASME codes Holtec provided are not the ASME codes for in service nuclear pressure vessels.

Scratches, scrapes and gouges will significantly shorten the lifespan of these thin-wall canisters. The only viable option is to use thick-wall transportable storage casks — the proven standard throughout the world.

Instead, it appears NRC management is ignoring these critical safety issues identified by their own NRC staff.

The NRC is another captured government agency.

Therefore, it will be up to Governor Newsom to stop this craziness. California has total jurisdiction over cost of these dry storage containers, so the California Public Utilities Commission should freeze the over $4 billion dollars in the San Onofre Decommissioning Trust Fund until Edison replaces all the thin-wall canisters with thick-wall casks. Edison received approval to access these funds with the assumption these canisters would not need to be replaced. That has been proven false. I was a party in that Decommissioning proceeding.

Also, Holtec canister manufacturer warranty is void if Edison accepts this defective system. This is irresponsible use of ratepayer funds. Another billion dollar boondoggle from Edison.

The California Coastal Commission should deny San Onofre permits. Instead, they may approve a new permit as early as June that allows Edison to start spending those billions of dollars to tear down the buildings, including the spent fuel pools. Pools or a hot cell are needed to replace canisters. Edison refuses to build a hot cell facility. A hot cell is a dry fuel handling facility filled with an inert gas so nothing explodes. This nuclear fuel waste is so radioactive, it cannot be handled any other way.

Also, if fuel rods are damaged, they need to be repackaged so they can be stored and transported safely. More information at SanOnofreSafety.org

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