Don Mosier | Rimini Road
On March 15 Southern California Edison (SCE) released a long-awaited strategic plan for relocation of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from the current dry cask storage at San Onofre Nuclear Power Station (SONGS) to an interim or permanent off-site repository. The strategic plan was developed by consultant North Winds and their nuclear experts as a condition of a settlement agreement between SCE and Citizens Oversight reached in 2017. The short summary is that the federal government has failed to live up to its legal responsibility to build a permanent repository for SNF despite collecting over $988 million from SCE ratepayers to fund a nuclear waste fund. Because of the lack of federal progress, the utility industry successfully sued the government and now receives funds from a Judgment Fund for decommissioning activities.
The strategic plan considers several options for relocating the nuclear waste from SONGS and also provides an optimistic timeline if the federal government could build or license interim or permanent storage sites and overcome financial and political obstacles to transporting SNF and locating the sites. Two interim storage facilities are under consideration in Texas and New Mexico, but there is strong local opposition to each of these and their capacity, if built, would be insufficient for all the SONGS waste. Two other options were rejected by the owners; the Palo Verde generating station in Arizona said no thanks, and the Department of the Navy said no to moving the waste inland on Camp Pendleton. The report cites four key objectives for the future:
“Four Strategic Programmatic Objectives:
• Provide direction, obtain appropriations, and take other necessary steps to restart the national program for spent nuclear fuel storage.
• Establish and implement a national consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) program with broad authority to enable multiple forms of business models (including contracting for private storage, implementing a federal CISF, or forming a public-private partnership with a non-federal public or private entity.
• Re-establish a program for a permanent geologic repository that addresses the need for stakeholder engagement and the consent of involved state, local, and tribal governments.
• Pursue opportunities for the industry to work together, perhaps via the Nuclear Energy Institute and/or the Decommissioning Plants Coalition, to create a consensus-driven prioritization scheme for removing SNF from shutdown sites and recommend that that scheme be adopted by the federal government. Adopting a more efficient approach for removing SNF from shutdown sites could save up to $10 billion in Judgment Fund payments.”