Ian Anderson 6:30 p.m., Feb. 20
Nuclear waste storage remains a concern at San Onofre
Still a risk.
Although power is no longer being generated at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the plant still remains a potential trillion-dollar problem, warns anti-nuclear activist Ace Hoffman.
At issue is roughly 1,400 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel accumulated from decades’ worth of generation at the plant’s three reactors, which remains stored on site indefinitely.
With the site of San Onofre sitting on or near several earthquake faults, in a coastal setting potentially vulnerable to tsunamis, and within 50 miles of 8.7 million residents, Hoffman raises concern over dry cask storage, essentially a system of encasing nuclear waste within lead, steel, and concrete.
Nuclear experts have previously declared dry casks safer than leaving spent fuel rods sitting in open pools of water, but Hoffman feels even this is a “relatively flimsy” solution, saying the casks “cannot resist significant forces of any sort.”
While the casks are touted as a temporary storage solution, a long-term nuclear waste facility is at least three decades from development, and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has planned for the waste to sit along the California coast for up to 600 years.
“They might as well say it’s forever,” writes Hoffman in a recently published article.
“During that time, however long it is, the spent fuel will not be secured against terrorist attacks with satchel charges or rocket-propelled grenades — or depleted-uranium spears dropped from balloons, for that matter. These containments just aren’t that good,” Hoffman continues, also raising concerns about the possibilities of air or rail crashes nearby breaking the seal on one or more of the vessels.
Arguing that transportation issues will only become more complex as time passes and the casks weaken, Hoffman argues for beginning the process of finding a more suitable storage location, with improved security and a greater distance from population centers and potential natural disasters, immediately – even if another “temporary” home is found that could in all likelihood become permanent.
“A spent fuel accident at San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump could cost a trillion dollars. The spent fuel will need to be guarded for hundreds of millennia, but right now it is MOST important that it be guarded properly.”