Levin, a Democrat from San Juan who previously worked as an attorney on environmental issues, made it clear during his campaign that he’d make moving the spent nuclear fuel sitting onsite at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) a top priority if elected (for more on the nuclear waste, how it got there and why it hasn’t moved already, click here).
Now, about 6 months into his first term, Levin has introduced a bill to the House that would expedite the removal of San O’s nuclear waste, as well as an appropriations bill to fund the search for a repository for the waste—although that’s not to say the road to moving San O’s waste is going to be easy or straightforward.
I look at the issues associated with SONGS on two tracks: first is the important role that we have in Congress to ensure that we’re providing oversight to the decommissioning of the plant—that includes taking the fuel assemblies out of the spent fuel pool, putting them into cannisters and storing those cannisters in concrete while we find a repository that can take them for a much longer period of time; and also the transportation that we need in order to get it from Point A to Point B.
I’ll have an opportunity to ask them about that at a hearing later today, because Harley Rouda is the Chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment, and we’re actually having a hearing on San Onofre later today and I’ll be asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission representative about my request [editor’s note: since this interview, the NRC has still not agreed to assign a full-time inspector to San Onofre.
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which sits just above the beach in north San Diego County, is the current storage site for 3. 6 million pounds of nuclear waste.
So their great work has already informed our prioritization bill, our appropriations request and the work that we’re doing, hopefully, will lead to getting that waste off the coast to somewhere that’s much safer from a long-term perspective.
There are significant environmental and political concerns with a number of places that we’ve discussed since the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, both permanent and interim repositories like Yucca Mountain, like New Mexico, etc.
So, hypothetically, this money could be used to cite, permit and license a consolidated interim storage facility on a consent basis in West Texas, and it also would also provide funds for DOE to work on a regional transportation solution, most likely a dedicated rail line, that could take waste from the Western United States, such as at San Onofre.
I recently spoke with Levin over the phone to talk about why he’s made moving San O’s nuclear waste one of his top priorities in Congress and why he’s hopeful that progress can be made despite years of political gridlock on the issue.
I think with that incident and the resulting fine, [there are] a couple things [shown] as a result of that: number one, I think it shows that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission really has to exercise its authority to ensure safe practices; and number two is that the public is right to continue to demand transparency and accountability on the part of Edison and the part of Holtec—Holtec International, which is the subcontractor to Edison, who manufactures the cannisters.
What I believe to be true about San Onofre is there are a couple things that make it different than virtually any other site that is holding spent nuclear fuel in the United States.
Congressman Mike Levin represents California’s 49th district, arguably one of the finest in the country, with the 49th stretching from San Juan Capistrano down to La Jolla and encompassing miles of beautiful coastline, dozens of quality waves and…3. 6 million pounds of nuclear waste.
The current practice is that the oldest sites have their spent nuclear fuel moved first, but there’s nothing specifically requiring that in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
Read more here: Surfer Mag