Congressman Mike Levin updated the SONGS Task Force on recent progress on efforts to move the nuclear waste from the current storage site near the beach in San Onofre on April 4th. Here are the highlights from his presentation:
1. Forming the Spent Nuclear Fuel Caucus – a bipartisan effort with a growing number of participants.
2. Prioritizing the Removal of Spent Nuclear Fuel from High-Risk Areas – legislation re-introduced although passage difficult unless attached to a must-pass bill.
3. Breaking the gridlock on consent-based siting – working with Department of Energy (DOE) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to engage local communities, governments and tribes.
4. Creating the Nuclear Waste Commission – gaining support in Congress for a new agency to bypass inaction by the DOE and NRC (in case action under item 4 fails).
5. Fighting for 100-year canister life – current nuclear waste canisters have a 20-year life and some at SONGS are approaching this limit; upgrading to cast-iron canisters used in Europe would be much safer and buy time until the waste can be moved. Hot cell at SONGS required for repackaging fuel rods.
6. Requiring Resident Inspectors at Decommissioning Plants – NRC inspectors on site would have helped prevent August 2018 near miss at SONGS.
7. Funding Spent Nuclear Fuel Innovations – Finland and Switzerland are creating safe long-term nuclear waste repositories. We can learn from them.
8. Following Best Military and International Practices – Both have much higher standards for training and oversight than the NRC and the contractors involved in decommissioning SONGS.
Bottom line: we have a Congressman who is doing all he can to solve this problem, but we also need more support from local and state elected officials to make significant progress.