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Nervous Nukes
Coastal Commission Caves

Don Mosier | Rimini Road

Aerial view of the SONGS site: After the demolition of units 2 and 3 buildings, the areas remaining are outlined by dotted black lines. The “interim” storage area (ISFSI) at the left (north) of the site and the power substation switchyards (closer to I-5 on the east side of the site) will remain, and the rest of the site will be cleared to 3 feet below grade. Picture from the CCC staff report.

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted 9-0 to approve the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for Southern California Edison (SCE) to begin demolition of most of the structures at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) as early as next year. The hearing was held October 17th in Chula Vista, and the commissioners heard over 5 hours of public testimony, much of it opposed to approving the CDP because of concerns over removal of the cooling pools, the poor safety record of SCE, and the difficulty in detecting flaws in canisters used for spent radioactive fuel storage and repairing them. The CCC staff had recommended approving the CDP with 18 added conditions. At the last minute, and without public input, staff added a 19th condition that obviously arose from ex parte discussions with SCE. In their rebuttal to public comments against approving the CDP, SCE showed a video claiming that they had access to new technologies allowing camera inspection of canisters in their tight concrete overpacks and remote welding technology that would allow cracks to be sealed with the canisters in place. They claimed that this untested technology would remove the need to retain the cooling pools for unloading spent fuel from damaged canisters. The new 19th condition called for an independent review of the canister inspection and maintenance program with a report back to the CCC due by March 31, 2020. This independent review will be funded by SCE and the third party will be chosen by the Executive Director of the CCC with a cost not to exceed $115,000.

What is crazy about this plan is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Chief Inspector has publicly stated that is impossible to review canister integrity by remote camera surveillance. He also told SCE that their “inspection” of 8 canisters by cameras in March of this year during the shutdown of loading activities does not meet NRC standards and was not approved by the NRC. This means that condition 19 was added without input from the NRC, and the Executive Director of the CCC will receive the “independent review” report next March and bring the issue back the CCC Commissioners. The same commissioners who approved the CDP despite widespread public opposition will then get to make a decision that none of them are qualified to make. The CCC lawyer stated at the start of the hearing that safety was a federal issue, and that only the NRC has jurisdiction over safety decisions. Yet condition 19 allows the CCC to make a critical safety decision that could put 8 million Southern California residents at risk. Does this sound like a good plan to you?


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