OCEANSIDE — The self-organized Citizens Oversight group rallied residents’ support to move San Onofre spent nuclear fuel off site as soon as possible. Information on the dangers of the nuclear waste and delays in moving it were shared at a town hall meeting May 4.
A civil lawsuit by Citizens Oversight challenged state Coastal Commission approval of a permit to move the nuclear waste from its on-site cooling pools into in-ground storage containers.
The lawsuit prompted settlement agreement discussions between Citizens Oversight and Southern California Edison, which are in progress. Superior Court litigations are suspended until July 14.
As discussions continue the group is speaking to cities along the coast to alert residents to the dangers of spent nuclear fuel being left in place. Ray Lutz, Citizens Oversight national coordinator, shared concern that 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste will continue to be stored 100 feet from the shoreline and inches above the sea’s high-tide level.
Also alarming is that the San Onofre site is within 50 miles of 8.4 million residents, by major roadways and close to the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault line, which has potential for a 7.4-magnitude earthquake.
Lutz is calling on Southern California Edison to look at all temporary relocation options, and named the Palo Verde nuclear plant near Phoenix, the Ward Valley hazardous waste dump in the Mojave Desert and Camp Pendleton as possibilities.
Oceanside Councilman Jerry Kern is a member of the Southern California Edison San Onofre Community Engagement Panel, which works to share information on the decommissioning process with the community.
Kern provided the venue for Lutz to hold the town hall meeting in Oceanside, but did not agree with all that was shared.
Kern said he agrees that the nuclear waste is in the wrong place and should be moved as quickly and safely as possible, but does not agree with all of Lutz’s suggestions.
“Some facts just weren’t true, and some were partially true,” Kern said.
Kern said temporary on-site ground storage that the lawsuit opposes is safer than maintaining the nuclear waste in cooling pools.
Kern added that temporary storage at the Pala Verde nuclear plant near Phoenix, and permanent storage at Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository outside of Las Vegas, also mentioned by Lutz, are not immediately plausible because of local opposition.
He said there are more promising sites for temporary storage in New Mexico and Texas that have agreed to hold spent nuclear fuel, have railroad access and are readying to receive nuclear waste.
Kern also disagrees with assumptions that the 20-year permit for in-ground storage will keep spent nuclear fuel at San Onofre indefinitely.
“I understand the fear of the group last night,” Kern said. “Their thinking is it’s not going to happen, they’re not going to move it.”
Kern added some of Lutz’s criticism of the in-ground storage canisters is based on comparisons to problems with South African canisters made from different metal.
Another point Kern disagrees with is Lutz’s suggestion that nuclear waste could be moved by truck, instead of train. “The safest way is rail,” Kern said.
He further disputes Lutz’s claim that a terrorist plane could crash through the thick cement and rebar housing around the spent fuel.
Kern said residents who filled the council chambers for the town hall meeting were full of fear and mistrust.
“They all mistrusted Edison, some for good reason and some for unfounded fear,” Kern said.
He urges residents to get more information and stay involved.
“Everybody wants the fuel moved,” Kern said. “We need to keep the pressure up on our congressmen and house of representatives.”
Congressman Darrell Issa, California 49th District, and Congressman John Shimkus, of Illinois, introduced a bill in January that gives the Department of Energy responsibility for the nuclear waste and allows the department to oversee its storage at temporary sites, while permanent storage locations are being determined.
The bill would address nuclear waste storage nationwide, and would speed up the move of San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel, some of which will be cool enough to move by the end of summer.
The Citizens Oversight group also shared information at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center and San Clemente City Council Chambers prior to the Community Engagement Panel meeting at the Laguna Hills Community Center on May 11.