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San Onofre nuclear waste going nowhere fast

During the 2001 California electricity crisis, I visited San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and wrote about it for the Register: “With the lights and air conditioners set to go out in summer blackouts, everyone is scrambling for more energy production.” SONGS was a big part of the mix, being refurbished at the time and generating 1,127 megawatts, enough electricity to power about 845,000 homes, or one-fourth of Orange County.

Today, there haven’t been any major blackouts in years, and, in 2012, after a radiation leak, SONGS was shut down permanently. The shuttering cost is estimated at $4.4 billion over 20 years, two-thirds of it coming from ratepayers.

A big problem remains: Where to put the nuclear waste? As I noted in 2001, California banned building any new nuclear plants until a national solution was found on where to put the spent fuel.

The California Coastal Commission met Tuesday in Long Beach and approved a staff recommendation to keep San Onofre’s waste on the site. An Oct. 5 Register news story reported, “The waste would remain in this Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation through 2049, when Edison assumes that the federal Department of Energy will have taken custody of all spent nuclear fuel. It would then be torn down, and the site on Camp Pendleton property restored, by 2051, the staff report says.”

Good luck with that. The problem with the long-term storage of nuclear material from SONGS and other U.S. nuclear power plants is the holdup of the Yucca Mountain storage site in Nevada.

According to a summary by the libertarian Cato Institute, “In 2010, the Obama administration, with strong urging from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, decided to close down the Yucca Mountain site. The Government Accountability Office said the administration did not cite any ‘technical or safety issues’ for the closure.”

Read full article at The Orange Country Register