EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include a written statement by Southern California Edison in response to the press release.
REGION — Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) has launched a task force comprised of local “stakeholders and experts” to address “safety challenges” at the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
The group will meet on a regular basis, according to a press release from Levin’s office. Its goal is to come up with solutions to move the spent fuel currently stored at San Onofre and safely store it somewhere else.
The task force’s launch follows the recent publication of two reports by the Samuel Lawrence Foundation (SLF) that claim the nuclear waste storage facility at San Onofre is “fatally flawed” and could cost the region as much as $13.4 trillion over a 50-year period of time if a radiological catastrophe were to happen at the plant.
Southern California Edison has responded to the SLF reports, claiming that they contain “numerous false and misleading statements” and that there is “zero possibility” of a radiological catastrophe at San Onofre that would affect anything outside of the plant’s boundaries.
A spokesperson for Southern California Edison issued the following statement in response to the formation of a congressional task force:
“Southern California Edison welcomes Congressman Levin’s interest in the issues surrounding the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel. The congressman and SCE share common ground in a desire to have the spent fuel at the San Onofre nuclear plant moved to a permanent geologic repository or a consolidated interim storage site. Any option to move the spent fuel takes action by the federal government to approve such a site, an effort that is now decades behind schedule. Achieving a long-term storage solution requires working together in the timeliest and most efficient manner.”John Dobken, Southern California Edison (view full statement here)
Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Leendert “Len” Hering, Sr. will lead the task force along with former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko.
“Throughout my Naval career, I have learned that nothing replaces due diligence when risk management and safety are concerned,” Hering said in an announcement about the task force.
Hering previously served as a nuclear weapons safety officer. He provided a scathing assessment of the SONGS storage facility’s management practices in one of the two SLF reports.
“I look forward to applying my expertise in those areas and the skills I gained over 30 years in the U.S. Navy to help lead Congressman Levin’s task force on San Onofre,” Hering stated. “Failure to act is not an option and I am determined to drive solutions as a co-chair of the task force.”
Jaczko, an experienced physicist who served as science policy advisor to former U.S. Senator Harry Reid, said he has a “unique appreciation for the complexity of the challenges at San Onofre.”
“I know there are no easy solutions, but I am confident that Congressman Levin’s task force will play a key role in moving the ball forward,” Jaczko said in the release.
For Levin, it is “imperative” that those who live near SONGS “have a voice in the future of the facility.”
“A worst-case scenario disaster at San Onofre would be devastating for millions of people,” Levin said in the statement. “We cannot allow the status quo to continue indefinitely, which is why we must find new solutions to deal with the grave safety challenges we face.”
As a candidate and now elected representative for the 49th Congressional District, Levin has maintained that nuclear waste storage at San Onofre remains a “top priority” for him.
Samantha Taylor covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son