- Don Mosier | Rimini Road
The October 2017 Sandpiper reported on the settlement of a lawsuit between Citizens Oversight and Southern California Edison (SCE) seeking removal of highly radioactive spent fuel offsite from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). A new lawsuit by Public Watchdogs addresses the same issue from a significantly different legal theory. The new suit, filed not only against SCE and SDG&E (the two utility companies that own SONGS), but also against the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of the Navy, challenges the de facto conversion of the SONGS site from a nuclear generating plant to a nuclear dump. The lawsuit asserts that this conversion violates the 1963 lease and Congressional authorization that allowed SCE and SDG&E to construct and operate SONGS on approximately 90 acres of federally-owned Camp Pendleton property. Public Watchdogs claims that SCE and SDG&E were authorized to construct, operate, maintain, and use the land for a nuclear electric generating station, but not to convert the site to a permanent storage site for spent fuel.
This change in purpose and function, according to Public Watchdogs, makes the SONGS facility not only “the largest privately operated high-level waste dump in the United States,” but one “located in a tsunami inundation zone, on top of an earthquake fault line, and in the center of one of the most densely populated regions in the USA [in close] proximity to the LOSSAN rail corridor, the second busiest in the country, and Interstate 5.” The suit seeks a court injunction to prevent what Public Watchdogs describes as “Southern California Edison’s December, 2017 burial of millions of pounds of deadly high-level nuclear waste” a mere “108 feet from one of America’s most cherished surfing and swimming beaches.”
While this is an intriguing legal theory, it will no doubt face significant challenges in court, including whether a third party has standing to challenge violation of a lease to which it is not a party, and other procedural and substantive hurdles.