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Nuclear Hot Potato
Don Mosier | Rimini Road

A legal settlement was reached on August 28th between Citizens Oversight and Southern California Edison (SCE) regarding removal of highly radioactive spent fuel rods from San Onofre to somewhere else. Editorials in both the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times have been positive about the agreement to move the nuclear waste, but local activists have criticized the agreement as too weak and too generous to SCE, particularly with regard to the “Commercially Reasonable” provisions.

Here are the key terms of the agreement ( http://bit.ly/SONGS-settlement) released jointly by Citizen Oversight and SCE for our readers to decide.

• Pending development of a permanent Department of Energy (DOE) repository for the Spent Fuel, SCE shall use “Commercially Reasonable” efforts to relocate the Spent Fuel to an Offsite Storage Facility.
• The “Commercial Reasonableness” standard ensures that any actions taken under the Settlement Agreement are prudent and take into account a number of factors including technical feasibility, costs, and utility customer interests.

To facilitate SCE’s efforts to relocate the Spent Fuel offsite, SCE shall spend up to $4,000,000 on the following eight “SCE Commitments”:

1. Maintain an “Experts Team” to advise SCE on any proposed relocation of Spent Fuel;
2. Develop a conceptual plan for the offsite transportation of Spent Fuel;
3. Develop a strategic plan (“Strategic Plan”) to support the development of a Commercially Reasonable Offsite Storage Facility;
4. Make a formal, written request to the owners of Palo Verde regarding the development of an expanded Interim Storage Facility (ISFSI) to store Spent Fuel;
5. Develop the Inspection and Maintenance Program for the California Coastal Commission 2015-approved ISFSI by October 6, 2020; and
6. Develop a written plan addressing contingencies for damaged or cracked canisters consistent with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations and requirements by October 6, 2020.
To keep the Plaintiffs and other stakeholders apprised of SCE’s progress, the Settlement Agreement also calls for SCE to:
7. Provide Plaintiffs with a report regarding its progress in fulfilling the SCE Commitments, then reporting at prescribed intervals thereafter until completed; and to
8. Provide Plaintiffs with a monthly progress report on the transfer of Spent Fuel from the “wet” pools to the ISFSI.

SCE will implement actions or recommendations identified in the Strategic Plan subject to certain conditions, such as California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) approval of the costs associated with transfer of the Spent Fuel to a Commercially Reasonable Offsite Storage Facility.

SCE’s obligations under the Settlement Agreement expire when/if:

• The SCE Commitments are satisfied and neither an Offsite Storage Facility or implementation of the Strategic Plan are Commercially Reasonable; or
• Laws prohibit relocation of the Spent Fuel; or
• An NRC-licensed, Offsite Storage Facility agrees to accept the Spent Fuel on Commercially Reasonable terms; or
• A permanent DOE facility is NRC-licensed to store the Spent Fuel; or
• The initial term of the 2015 Coastal Development Permit expires in 2035.

In exchange for SCE’s Commitments, Plaintiffs shall dismiss their legal challenge with prejudice. This allows for SCE to complete the ISFSI and to transfer all Spent Fuel to dry storage pending the availability of an Offsite Storage Facility. Plaintiffs also commit to supporting the Settlement Agreement in current and future proceedings.




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