The staff of the California Coastal Commission has recommended approval of Southern California Edison’s plan to store spent fuel rods at the San Onofre nuclear plant site until at least 2050.
This would enable on-site storage of spent fuel even if the US Department of Energy’s plan to build and operate a permanent repository for spent fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada by 2010 is subject to extensive delays.
Two nuclear units at the site, San Onofre 2 and 3, are licensed to operate until 2022. A third reactor, San Onofre 1, was shut down in 1992.
By law, the coastal commission can only consider non-safety issues, such as impacts on public access, recreation, light and noise.
The recommendation by the staff of the state agency was lauded by Senator Frank Murkowski (Republican-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Murkowski called it ironic that extended storage of spent fuel in the state will be necessary because of opposition from anti-nuclear groups to federal legislation he sponsored last year to build an interim storage facility in Nevada, adjacent to Yucca Mountain, to hold spent fuel from US nuclear plants until a permanent repository is ready to receive it.
The same groups that opposed a low-level radioactive waste facility at Ward Valley in California, which was ultimately rejected by interior secretary Bruce Babbitt, are powerless to prevent a spent fuel storage facility at San Onofre because they helped defeat his legislation, Murkowski said.