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Local environmental activist group San Clemente Green has launched a new petition aimed at pushing former San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station operator Southern California Edison into taking additional steps to secure highly radioactive waste from the plant that's expected to remain on site for anywhere between the next 30 and 600 years.

The crux of the group's argument is that nuclear waste in the form of spent fuel rods from the plant should be "canned" in stainless steel tubes before being interred in concrete dry cask storage, into which fuel rods are placed after a minimum five years' cooling-off period in pools with constantly circulating water. At present, only waste considered "damaged" is set aside for such treatment, though environmentalists contend that any "high burnup" fuel of the type used in San Onofre's later years should qualify for extra precautions.

"We call on Edison and the panelists to schedule their first public workshop to include independent nuclear experts. Independent experts are more likely to make recommendations based on safety — not profits," a portion of the petition reads. "Edison should not spend a penny of our decommissioning money until these recommendations are considered."

Proposed dry cask storage is only rated for 40 years' protection for standard nuclear waste and 20 years for high-burnup fuel, San Clemente Green claims. Further, to date no approved transportation method exists for removal of the existing high-burnup fuel at San Onofre.

"If we allow nuclear waste to be stored in dry casks that begin to fail in twenty years, it might be impossible to transport or even retrieve the waste for reloading," warns San Clemente Green.

The online petition has gathered over 450 signatures as of March 31.

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