Mosko: San Onofre Safety, Public Deserves The Facts, Not Promises

Nuclear safety advocates are right to question SoCal Edison’s decision to remove the cooling pools at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

FACT: Highly radioactive nuclear waste will be stored on-site at San Onofre for several decades or much longer. The thin-walled (5/8 inch) canisters at San Onofre were never designed for more than very short term storage.

FACT: Edison wants to destroy the cooling pools, the only means currently available to transfer the contents of a radiation leaking canister into another container.

FACT: The thin-walled canisters do not meet ASME N3 codes for a nuclear pressure vessel used for storage and transport. They are also vulnerable to stress-corrosion cracking, one cause of which is exposure to a marine environment.

FACT: There is no technology to inspect thin-walled canisters for cracking.

FACT: Edison plans to use untested/unproven nickel spray technology to try to repair partial canister cracks.

FACT: Edison plans to move a failed canister releasing radiation into a thick-walled transport cask that has to be sealed shut, even though it would lose its cooling system and overheat. The NRC has not approved a cask for this purpose. If Edison has applied to the NRC to approve a cask for this purpose, the paperwork should be made public.

FACT: Most of the rest of the world (Europe, Japan, Australia, Russia, Switzerland) use thick-walled (10-19-inch) dry storage casks which meet ASME N3 nuclear pressure vessel codes for storage and transport. They store them in thick concrete buildings for additional environmental and security protection. Many nuclear safety advocates are asking that Edison replace thin-walled canisters with thick-walled casks (with safety features lacking in thin-walled canisters) and follow the Swiss solution for safest available interim storage. For now, this requires maintaining the cooling pools until a dry transfer system (a ”hot cell” facility) is constructed on-site.

FACT: Only thick-walled casks can be inspected inside and out to insure the contents are safe for transport elsewhere if another storage site ever becomes available.

FACT: Edison has the worst safety record in the nation, per data obtained from the NRC regarding safety complaints from employees and contractors at operating nuclear reactor facilities (see graph above).

Sarah (Steve) Mosko is a local freelance journalist focused on solutions to environmental problems and social injustices.

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For a different view on this issue, consider: 

Dobken: Correcting the Record on Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage at San Onofre