Don Mosier | Del Mar City Council
Closing nuclear power plants after electricity generation ceases is a long process called decommissioning. San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) has begun the process by removing the nuclear fuel rods from reactors 2 and 3 and placing them in spent fuel pools to keep them cool until they are less radioactive and can be moved into stainless steel canisters and be entombed in concrete, a procedure known as dry cask storage. The decommissioning plan submitted by SONGS operator Southern California Edison (SCE) proposes to transfer the 3460 fuel rod assemblies to 118 dry casks by 2019 and maintain them on a concrete pad until 2049. Then the plan encounters a major obstacle:
“The SNF D&D Periods (1 and 2) follow DOE acceptance and may be well after License Termination for the balance of the site.” (from page 14 of SCE’s Post Shutdown Activities Report submitted to the Nuclear Regulation Commission (NRC) on Sept. 23, 2014).
TRANSLATION: The spent nuclear fuel assemblies decontamination and demolition periods scheduled for 2049-2051 depends on Department of Energy acceptance of the nuclear waste which depends upon availability of a national waste repository which may never happen in which case San Onofre becomes a de facto permanent repository for over 1632 tons of highly radioactive waste. At this point, all decommissioning funds (estimated at $4.4 billion in 2014 dollars) will have been expended but the most dangerous radioactive waste will still be sitting on a pad at San Onofre in dry casks designed to last 20 years (expiration date = 2039). And you, the ratepayer, have financed this plan that seems doomed to fail! The San Onofre Nuclear Waste Repository (SONWR) has been created. The detailed plan proposes beginning transfer of canisters to the DOE in 2030 and completing the transfer in 2050, but no expert believes that a national repository for nuclear waste could be ready by 2030, and 2050 is viewed as highly unlikely.
We should support the Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 (Senate bill S2326 and House bill HR4667) that would increase state oversight over decommissioning activities rather than depend on the weak oversight provided by the NRC, which is basically a paper trail of activities taken by SCE which cannot be rejected. Mayor Lee Haydu and I will be introducing a council resolution to support these bills and make decommissioning work for us, our children, and our grandchildren.