SCE releases plans for used fuel removal from San Onofre NPP

18 March 2021

US Southern California Edison (SCE) said on 15 March that it had distributed a three-volume set of plans supporting the offsite relocation of used nuclear fuel currently stored at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (Songs). The strategies are outlined in the Action Plan, Strategic Plan and Conceptual Transportation Plan.

To further build momentum toward commercially reasonable offsite storage or disposal solutions, and to urge the federal government to meet its legal obligations, SCE and the counties of Orange and San Diego announced the formation of a stakeholder coalition, Action for Spent Fuel Solutions Now. “SCE and our partners and stakeholders have a genuine opportunity to bring people together with a shared interest to prepare and advocate for the relocation of the spent fuel away from the coast,” said Kevin Payne, SCE’s president and CEO. “It is clear that to make tangible progress on this issue, the federal government must act. Rather than wait for this to happen, we are going to be a catalyst for change.”

The release of the plans constitutes a significant milestone in a process that began with the 2017 settlement regarding the coastal development permit issued for San Onofre’s expanded used fuel storage system. There are 123 canisters of used fuel at Songs and no federal repository available to relocate them. The Department of Energy was to begin transporting fuel from nuclear sites across the country to a repository in 1998.

“These plans provide the opportunity to analyse three broad areas related to spent nuclear fuel removal. First, identifying the pathways, options and feasibility, both near term and long term, to relocate the fuel. Second, the transportation considerations to safely get from point A to point B. And third, the steps SCE must take to be prepared when the opportunity arises,” said Doug Bauder, SCE vice president and chief nuclear officer.

SCE retained North Wind to develop the plans in June 2019. The North Wind consultants worked with SCE and its Experts Team.

The Action Plan identifies the steps SCE and San Onofre’s co-owners/participants (San Diego Gas & Electric, the city of Anaheim and the city of Riverside) are committed to take to advance offsite relocation of used fuel and to ensure the site and fuel are prepared for off-site transportation when an opportunity arises. This includes safely and securely storing the fuel at Songs for as long as it remains. It also calls for supporting the reestablishment of the federal nuclear waste management programme and advocating legislative changes to advance used fuel storage and/or disposal solutions.

The Strategic Plan identifies and analyses alternatives for used fuel removal while making clear the challenges and needed actions for those alternatives to be realised. It provides assessments of the relative merits, challenges, costs and timelines of the alternatives to help SCE and stakeholders focus their efforts. It recognises the importance of more near-term solutions, such as consolidated interim storage, as a companion to a consent-based federal permanent disposal programme.

The Conceptual Transportation Plan focuses on specific steps and strategic considerations in planning for and executing the shipment of used fuel from Songs to an offsite location. It details various aspects of a shipping programme and identifies necessary preparations, such as determining the necessary space and equipment to load canisters for rail transport.

SCE said a new coalition, Action for Spent Fuel Solutions Now, “provides an opportunity for stakeholders, including local governments, business and labour leaders, Native American leaders, environmental groups, and community members, to join forces and make offsite spent fuel storage and/or disposal a priority”. SCE recognises that it cannot solve this issue alone.

Songs units 2&3 were permanently retired in June 2013 due to regulatory delay and uncertainty after problems were found in replacement steam generators. All used fuel has now been transferred to 123 dry storage canisters, which remain at the site.

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