Lawmakers tackle removal of nuclear waste from San Onofre

SAN ONOFRE (KUSI) — There are no immediate plans to remove 3.5 million pounds of nuclear waste from the site of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.

At a press conference Friday, Congressman Darrell Issa told reporters that getting rid of the radioactive waste will take years.

It’s now about about years to the week since the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant was taken offline, yet the waste from the plant is still stuck on the site and congressional lawmakers say barring any last minute alternatives, the waste is going to remain with us for another 10 years.

Ten years, 20 years, maybe even longer than that. Congressman Darrell Issa isn’t ready to name a date when the 3.5 million pounds of radioactive waste will be leaving the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.

Congressman Issa took a tour of the now shuttered facility accompanied by Illinois Congressman John Shimkus, a member of the House Energy and Commerce committee. 

Southern California Edison closed the plant in 2012 after defective tubes in a steam generator caused a radioactive leak. The utility company, which took Issa and Shimkus on the tour, is now planning to transfer the spent uranium fuel from cooling pools into stainless steel canisters, which will be housed inside enormous concrete silos that will be buried on the beach.

Construction on the storage facilities is already underway, but opponents are determined to halt it. Next month, they will ask a judge to revoke the construction permits that were issued by the California Coastal Commission. 

So what’s the next step if opponents block the construction of those storage silos on the coast? 

With eight million people living in a 50-mile radius of the San Onofre plant, the lawmakers say they will have to find other places to store the radioactive waste.

Issa said a permanent storage site in Yucca Mountain in Nevada was shelved by the Obama Administration, so now the priority will be to develop other storage sites, even if those sites are only temporary. 

Those who don’t want the waste to stay at San Onofre much longer are suggesting another site, a nuclear plant in the Arizona desert. Owned by SoCal Edison, the Palo Verde Plant already stores nuclear waste.

Issa said with congressional action and administrative changes, the waste from San Onofre will eventually be removed, but where it will go and when, can’t be answered, at least not yet.

Another layer of complexity will be getting federal approval for a rail system that can be used to ship the 3.5 million pounds of waste out of San Diego County to another destination. 

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