The California Coastal Commission meets tomorrow in Long Beach to consider a matter critical to North County San Diegans: will 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste repose within 100 feet of the ocean and only inches over the water table at San Onofre, site of the nuclear facility that has been shuttered?
Ray Lutz of San Diego's Citizens Oversight says that at the rate shorelines are eroding, the waste could be well out in the ocean in 100 years. If the commission decides to permit Southern California Edison to go ahead with its storage plan, the decision will be appealed, says Lutz.
Local attorneys Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson will argue tomorrow that the commission cannot make a decision now because both the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Edison are under criminal investigation for their secret role, and possible perjury, that led to the utility commission's decision to foist $3.3 billion of decommissioning expenses on ratepayers instead of on shareholders.
The staff of the coastal commission has recommended approval of Edison's proposal. Two units at San Onofre were shut down in 2012, "and some 2668 fuel assemblies remain in wet storage pools in the Units 2 and 3 fuel handling buildings," says the staff report. "This fuel is highly radioactive and requires secure storage for thousands of years to prevent harm to humans and the environment."
Continues the report, "At present, there are no feasible off-site alternatives to the proposed project. No permanent fuel repository or other interim storage facility exists." The staff believes that Edison's proposal for storage "would be sufficient to assure stability and structural integrity against geologic hazards, including seismic ground shaking, slope failure, tsunamis and flooding, and coastal erosion, without requiring shoreline protection." The staff recommends that the Edison proposal be authorized for 20 years.
In response to that statement, Aguirre and Severson provided the commission with the final report on Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. In that case, official and cultural over-confidence was one of the reasons for the nation's lack of preparedness for the calamity.
Although other governmental bodies, such as the federal Energy Department and Nuclear Regulatory Commission, are involved in nuclear waste matters, Lutz thinks the coastal commission "is the only clear-cut way to stop this in its tracks."
Early this morning (October 5), Aguirre composed a letter to the Coastal Commission, noting that "Southern Calfornia Edison has a track record of dishonest dealings with federal and state regulatory agencies." Aguirre particularly wants details on $5 million that Edison proposes to give the coastal commission, allegedly for mitigation and monitoring purposes.
"[Edison] consciously chose not to develop a site to remove the waste during the last 30 years," says the letter.
Lutz says it would be possible to move the waste to a spot in the desert if train tracks could be reinforced and train cars remodeled to take the weight of the casks holding the waste.