Nuclear Shutdown News November 2017: Lawsuit vs. San Onofre Rad Waste and ‘Last Nuke’ in California

by on November 30, 2017 · 0 comments

in Environment, San Diego

Diablo Canyon nuke plant in central California, near San Luis Obispo, the last operating one in the state.

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working for a nuclear free world. Here is our November 2017 report:

Lawsuit Challenges Storage of Radioactive Waste at San Onofre Nuke

On November 16 the San Diego Union Tribune ran the story “Group files suit to block storage of nuclear waste at San Onofre.”

The Union Tribune reported,

“Public Watchdog, a San Diego-based activist group, brought a lawsuit in US District Court trying to block storage of nuclear waste on the premises of San Onofre.”

The San Onofre nuclear plant, located in Southern California, closed prematurely in 2013 due the failure of major equipment, gross mismanagement by owners Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, and the refusal of those utilities to put up the megabucks to make the nuke plant operate safely.

The plant is located between the Pacific Ocean and Interstate 5, one of the busiest north-south freeways in the Golden State. A population of 8.4 million resides within a 50 mile radius.The so-called spent fuel still in the shutdown plant consists of 3.55 million pounds of high level nuclear waste, which in turn contains 100 radioactive chemicals, some of which, such as plutonium, remain lethal to living beings for thousands of years.

According to the Union Tribune,

“In 2015 the California Coastal Commission approved a 20 year permit to store the waste in a newly constructed facility near San Onofre, located near another storage site, a little more than 100 feet from the shoreline, behind a 27 foot high seawall.”

San Onofre is one of the state’s iconic surf spots, mentioned in the Beach Boys 60s hits “Surfin USA”. Today’s hang 10ers oppose the proposed radwaste site too.

Public Watchdog’s lawsuit alleges the defendants are trying to convert the beach “into a de facto radioactive dump,” the U-T reported.

Those defendants, along with the above named utilities, are the US Department of Defense, and US Navy, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Navy Secretary James Senser.

The latter defendants are included in the suit because San Onofre’s 85 acre site, part of Camp Pendleton Marine base was “created by an act of Congress in 1963 to construct and operate a power plant,” the Union Tribune reported. Public Watch’s lawsuit argues the 1963 authorization does not allow Southern California Edison “to store spent fuel once San Onofre stopped generating electricity,” and doing so “would pose a threat to the public” the U-T added.

“We think the potential for a nuclear incident at that location is 100 percent,” Charles Langley, Public Watchdog’s executive director told the Union Tribune. “It’s inevitable.”

Source: San Diego Union Tribune, san diego union tribune.com

Last Running California Nuke Plant Inches Towards Shutdown

On November 9 the San Francisco Chronicle business section featured the article “Nuclear plant’s end may be near.” The article concerned the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuke plant in central California, near San Luis Obispo, the last operating one in the state.

The slant of the article concerned the involvement of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) which is headquartered in San Francisco.

The Diablo Canyon site, like San Onofre near the Pacific Ocean, is riddled with earthquake faults and in a tsunami zone. After the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuke plant in Japan, calls for the shutdown of Diablo Canyon, which had been strongly opposed prior to its startup in the mid 80s, and in inspired the hit movie The China Syndrome, starring Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon, again began to build in public consciousness and action.

In addition, San Onofre’s owner Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) caused a major disaster in Northern California in 2010 when a gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno in the Bay Area killed 8 people and, along with a subsequent fire, destroyed a number of homes. Last year PG&E was found guilty of six criminal charges related to that catastrophe.

With mounting pressure to deal with Diablo Canyon’s troubles, and already facing a big drain on its finances over the San Onofre debacle, PG&E buckled after environmental group Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit calling for the nuclear plant’s shutdown–charging the utility’s actions–and inactions–were putting the public at risk.

In 2016 PG&E agreed to Diablo Canyon’s shutdown, but not until the licenses for it two reactors expired in 2024 and 2025. In another part of the closure deal, negotiated with Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups, PG&E said it would begin transitioning to generation of renewable electrical energy.

CPUC’s role in this is to approve the deal and it is also is trying to adjust the amount PG&E is supposed to spend to deal with the nuke plant’s closing costs, layoffs, and the effect of the closures on local communities.

The Chronicle reported,

“A majority of the commission’s five voting members must approve the plan for it to take effect. A vote could come as early as December 14.”

But in reality, PG&E could close Diablo Canyon tomorrow if it really wanted to. It wouldn’t need anyone’s permission.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, sfgste.com

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