REGION — A rally at the Oceanside Pier amphitheater drew a crowd of about 100 last weekend to celebrate steps forward to move nuclear waste off of the closed San Onofre nuclear power plant site.
The rally celebrated the lawsuit recently won by the Citizens Oversight group that demands Southern California Edison monitor the waste, determine a way to move it and send the oversight group regular updates on its efforts.
The rally on Sept. 24 kicked off with live music and drew state assemblymen, assemblywomen, congressmen and candidates as keynote speakers.
Col. Doug Applegate, congressional candidate for the 49th District, had a warning for listeners.
“Don’t trust any candidate or representative that doesn’t talk about the specifics of when, how and where to move SONGS’ nuclear waste,” Applegate said. “Those are the metrics of paying the bill for the atomic age.”
Applegate praised Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens Oversight, for his accomplishment of reaching a favorable settlement to have SCE look into nuclear waste removal. He also said he would like to see more citizens informed and involved.
“The time to act is now,” Applegate said. “We don’t have time for half measures.”
Mike Levin, fellow congressional candidate for the 49th District and environmental attorney, said he has been following the process to decommission San Onofre for years.
Levin said when the power plant was first built it was hailed as one of the safest in the world.
A more recent look at the closed plant finds it’s the worst location to store nuclear waste due its close proximity to the ocean, three nearby earthquake fault lines and potential threats of targeted terrorism.
The plant is also close to major roadways and highly populated areas.
Levin said the nuclear waste needs to be moved quickly and safely. He said the settlement agreement that addresses what to do with the waste while it remains on site provides new opportunity for discussions.
“People (at the rally) were pretty fired up,” Levin said.
He added government action, which can come about with good bipartisan legislation, is needed to move the waste off site.
Levin said the take-home message from the rally for him was people are tired of congress being inactive on the matter and want a solution.
Everyone in attendance seemed to be in agreement that spent fuel could not be kept indefinitely in its present underground temporary storage containers that have a limited lifespan, which people debate to be between 17 and 100 years.
Lutz said the settlement agreement that was won in late August starts the process of moving the nuclear waste to a safer place. It calls on SCE to form an expert team within 90 days to look at how to move the waste, establish a strategic plan and transportation plan within six months and implement those plans.
Lutz added it’s very powerful to have the court maintain jurisdiction over the settlement terms.
“It certainly isn’t over yet, but it’s time to celebrate this milestone,” Lutz said. “It’s a historic way forward from the nuclear waste problem. We believe this is a win for everyone involved.”
To follow up on its milestone accomplishment Citizens Oversight is in the process of forming a settlement oversight panel. Lutz said the panel will consist of 10 to 30 people who will process SCE progress reports. The volunteer panel will likely consist of engineers, scientists, urban planners and attorneys, and is expected to be formed within two months.
“The first report (from SCE) is expected in the next few days,” Lutz said. “It’s urgent to get the right people together. It will be an ongoing process that will take many years.”
Another oversight group effort on the more distant horizon is a call for scientific papers on designs for a 1,000-year nuclear waste storage facility.
Lutz said if nuclear waste can last for 250,000 years, 1,000 years is a “drop in the bucket.” Select papers will be shared at a future forum.