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SONGS: Nuclear Fix?
Don Mosier | Rimini Road

Representative Mike Levin (D, 49th) recently announced the formation of a SONGS Task Force to advise him on strategies to reduce the risk of storing megatons of nuclear waste at the site of the former nuclear generating station.

The task force is to be co-chaired by Dr. Gregory Jaczko, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chair, and Admiral Len Hering, Executive Director of I Love a Clean San Diego. In a recently released book “Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator,” Dr. Jaczko makes two things perfectly clear. One is that some incredibly well-informed and well-intentioned people at the NRC are undoubtedly dedicated to public safety as their primary mission. The second is that the nuclear industry holds far too much sway over these people and uses lobbyists in Congress to make sure that they get what is best for their bottom line (excerpted from public comments made during the NRC webinar held Jan.29, 2019).

The investigation of the Aug. 3, 2018 near drop incident at SONGS continues. Here is the most recent communication between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the NRC about improving the procedure of transferring the canisters containing spent fuel rods from the cooling pool to the vertical silos where they will be stored until they can be moved to another site:

“The vertical cask transporter (VCT) is a mobile gantry crane that is used to transport and download fuel canisters into an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) enclosure. Twenty-nine canisters have been downloaded into the San Onofre nuclear plant ISFSI in this manner since January 2018. The Holtec (the canister manufacturer) UMAX Certificate of Compliance requires that lifting of a loaded spent fuel canister must be performed with redundant (i.e., single-failure-proof) load drop protection features. [This procedure was not followed during the August 3rd incident]. SCE has directed its vendor, Holtec, to perform this further seismic analysis. While the additional analysis may conclude that the VCT is stable and functional during these transitioning periods, SCE will work with the vendor should modifications to the canister transport process become necessary.”

This sounds like SCE is blaming Holtec for SCE’s failure to provide adequate training and oversight of the canister transfer operation, and then asking its vendor who profits from selling the canisters to fix the problem. Let’s hope that the new Task Force can hold SCE responsible and get the NRC to take public safety seriously.



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