It took 32 months to finish, however the switch of dozens of canisters stuffed with nuclear waste from moist storage swimming pools to a newly constructed dry storage facility on the San Onofre Nuclear Producing Station wrapped up Friday.
Shortly earlier than 5 a.m., staff lowered the 73rd and closing canister of spent radioactive gas into its assigned enclosure on the north finish of the plant, referred to as SONGS for brief.
At business nuclear vegetation, after radioactive gas used to generate electrical energy loses its effectiveness, its is positioned in metallic racks which can be saved in cooling swimming pools, sometimes for about 5 years. As soon as cooled, the gas could be transferred to a dry storage facility, which is mostly thought-about a safer place for it.
Officers at Southern California Edison, the operator at SONGS, mentioned finishing the transfers is a key a part of the corporate’s eight-year plan to dismantle a lot of the buildings on the plant, which has not produced energy since 2012 and is being decommissioned.
“The protected completion of this storage marketing campaign … ends the biggest canister loading marketing campaign ever within the U.S.,” Vince Bilovsky, Edison’s deputy decommissioning officer, mentioned in an e-mail. “However our work gained’t actually be completed till all canisters at SONGS are relocated off-site to a federally licensed storage or disposal facility.”
Longtime critics of Edison weren’t cheering the information, although.
“It’s a tragic day,” mentioned Ray Lutz, nationwide coordinator for the advocacy group Residents’ Oversight. “Folks say, effectively, [the waste issue] is ok proper now and we’ll cope with it later. However that is what they’ve mentioned ever since they began this nuclear trade — we’ll determine it out later, the 5 favourite phrases.”
Switch operations at SONGS started in January 2018 and haven’t been solely clean. That summer season, one of many 50-ton canisters grew to become misaligned throughout dealing with and was left perched on the rim of its cavity, 20 toes off the bottom, with out assist for 45 minutes.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Fee, after a particular inspection, fined Edison $116,000 and Edison and its chief contractor, Holtec Worldwide, suspended all transfers for 11 months whereas it revised procedures.
Since then, 44 canisters have been transferred at SONGS. One other 50 canisters sit in a separate dry storage facility close by. All instructed, there are 3.55 million kilos of spent gas on the plant, situated between San Onofre Seaside and Interstate 5.
As thorny because the switch operations have been, a extra difficult situation stays: how lengthy the canisters will keep there.
SONGS is just not distinctive. About 80,000 metric tons of waste from business nuclear vegetation are saved throughout the nation — 121 websites in 35 states — as a result of the federal authorities has not constructed a repository to retailer any of it.
“Our dedication stays guaranteeing spent nuclear gas is safely saved and that it may be transported to an off-site facility sooner or later,” Doug Bauder, Edison’s chief nuclear officer, mentioned in a press release.
About $15 billion has been spent to assemble the Yucca Mountain web site within the Nevada desert, however shortly earlier than it was scheduled to open, the Obama administration minimize off funding, heeding calls from then-Senate Majority Chief Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and different elected officers from the state lengthy against the power.
Some in Congress have known as for reopening Yucca and the Trump administration had proposed spending $120 million to look into relicensing the location, however President Trump earlier this yr reversed course, tweeting, “Nevada, I hear you on Yucca Mountain.”
Lately, dialogue has turned to discovering alternate, “interim” websites to retailer waste from nuclear vegetation.
A spending bundle lately handed by the Home of Representatives included $27.5 million to develop a “sturdy” interim storage program. Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) has known as for establishing a set of federal tips that may put waste at websites like San Onofre — close to giant populations and in areas with earthquake hazards — on the high of the listing as soon as a storage facility turns into obtainable.
Two personal firms have utilized to construct interim services, however whether or not these websites will really be constructed is an open query.
Following an out-of-court settlement, Edison created a panel of consultants to take a look at locations for SONGS waste. Early subsequent yr, Edison intends to launch a strategic plan for doable storage websites “in addition to guarantee that our gas is prepared for pickup when the chance presents itself,” Bauder mentioned.
When the eight-year dismantlement effort at SONGS is full, all that can stay would be the dry storage websites, a safety constructing with personnel to look over the waste, a 28-foot seawall, a walkway connecting seashores north and south of the plant and a switch-yard with energy strains.
The distinctive 200-feet-high twin domes that loom over Interstate 5 are scheduled to come back down between late 2025 and 2027.
Nikolewski writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.