The California Coastal Commission’s betrayal of Californians

Editor’s Note: You may watch the October 6, video of the California Coastal Commission’s phony public hearing on San Onofre Here.  The discussion of San Onofre begins at Minute 39.

On October 6, 2015, the Coastal Commission deeply betrayed its own mission statement and the public by holding a secret, nonpublic vote to approve a a radioactive nuclear waste dump at San Onofre State Beach. The public hearings were window dressing to create an appearance of complying with the law.

Like an arrogant peacock, the California Coastal Commission revealed its deep rooted corruption on October 6, 2015 when Southern California Edison prematurely released to the press a notice that the Commission had “voted unanimously” to approve a permit to bury high-level nuclear waste at the public beach at San Onofre State Park. The notice was sent  an hour before the vote was even taken or concerns from the public were heard.

In that unanimously approved decision, Edison was granted permission to dump the waste  fewer than 108 feet from the sparkling sands and crashing surf at one of San Diego’s most beautiful public beaches.

The very first Commissioner to urge a “Yes” vote, was San Diego’s own County Supervisor Greg Cox, who also revealed that he had met privately with Southern California Edison executives. Upon that disclosure other commissioners also admitted to having private discussions with Edison lobbyists just prior to the hearings, too.

At the conclusion of the hearing, a proper vote was only obtained after and at the insistence of consumer advocate Ray Lutz.  “It was a disgusting display of impropriety by the Chair of the Commission” said Lutz, who intervened after the Commission attempted to approve the permit anonymously with only a head-shake vote and forced them to go on the public record in support of the dump. The vote was Unanimous.

As the result of that vote, Southern California Edison will be storing an estimated 3.6 million pounds of hot radioactive waste contained in what its own spokesperson Tom Palmisano described as “thin-walled canisters.” Those “thin-walled canisters”, which will be located in concrete containers will likely remain at  beach for 30 to 160 more years, will only carry a 25-year warranty, while the light concrete holders  are only guaranteed for ten years. You do the math.

As a result, legal action has been initiated by the law firm of Aguirre and Severson LLP who filed suit and will challenge the Commission’s vote in Superior Court of the State of California.  “The Commission caved into pressure and rewarded Edison with a permit at the expense of the citizens whose beaches they are sworn to protect” said trial Attorney and public advocate Maria Severson.

That suit states that, “Unless the permit is revoked, Edison will be permitted to bury at least 75 storage modules filled with the nuclear waste produced by Edison as part of its business operations. There are 2,668 spent fuel assemblies in wet storage pools in buildings in which Edison conducted the business that produced the nuclear waste. The fuel is highly radioactive and will remain so for thousands of years.”

The legal petition also contends there are several reasons why the Coastal Commission should not have rushed to grant Edison permission to store its nuclear waste at the location of the decommissioned San Onofre plant on the San Diego coastline:

  • SCE’s Aging Management Program (AMP), required by the NRC and by Special Condition #2 by which the California Coastal Commission permit was granted, is still “in development.”
  • SCE’s AMP, not available at present nor expected to be developed within the next 20 years, is needed for monitoring and inspection of the storage casks to ensure the long-term transportability and eventual removal of the casks ISFSI from the site.
  • SCE’s AMP, the utility mechanism for monitoring and maintenance of the spent fuel casks, has not been previously demonstrated nor is it clear when these techniques, tools and standards would become available for use at San Onofre.
  • SCE’s yet undeveloped AMP is required to provide the monitoring of environmental conditions, i.e. temperature and humidity, the influencing risks of corrosion and degradation of the casks hence prohibiting SCE’s removal the casks as planned in 2051.
  • SCE’s undeveloped AMP is also required to provide structural integrity validation of the casks planned for removal by visual observation, surface measurements, and other inspection techniques related to the physical condition of the casks.
  • SCE’s intended but yet undeveloped AMP cannot deliver the combination of the inspections required by the NRC and Special Condition #2 of the California Coastal Commission’s permit, to monitor and maintain the condition of the casks throughout their service life, provide assurance they are performing as designed and allowing the spent fuel to be safely removed when the DOE provides an interim storage facility or permanent repository.
  • Due to SCE’s inability to develop and deliver the required AMP, if the steel fuel storage casks should degrade becoming unsafe to transport, the proposed ISFSI would be possibly be required for many decades and the temporary permit would consequently transition San Onofre to a permanent nuclear waste storage site continuing and accelerating increased.

 

The suit also claims that the location of what is termed the “Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation” (ISFSI) is within a few dozen yards of the ocean. The California Commission’s own ‘Potential for Reasonably Foreseeable Impacts’ within the Conclusion of the permit states. “Therefore there is the potential that the proposed ISFSI site will be undermined by shoreline retreat and/or subjected to flooding as a result of sea level rise, storm waves or a tsunami event. Despite the claim of the facility’s robust design, these geologic forces would eventually result in a loss of stability and structural integrity, and cause the discharge of debris into the coastal ocean to the detriment of water

quality and marine organisms.”

 

Therefore the suite by Aguirre/Severson also contains the following concerns:

  • It is designed to be built entirely below-grade, but the water table is so high, it can be only partially buried and then a berm added around it;
  • The water table is only inches from the bottom of the ISFSI structure;
  • According to a commission staff report, this area of the coast will likely erode one third of the way to the ISFSI within 35 years;
  • This is in a tsunami inundation zone and is on the moving Pacific Plate therefore subject to earthquakes;
  • Abuts a major freeway (Interstate 5), transporting over 147,000 vehicles per day;
  • Abuts the LOSSAN (LA-San Diego-San Luis Obispo) Rail Corridor; 351 miles, Services 41 stations, 6 counties,150 daily passenger trains and the only viable freight rail link to the rest of the nation;
  • 4 million people live within a 50-mile evacuation area;
  • The relatively thin canisters (only 5/8 inch thick) are subject to salt-air corrosion and may last only a few decades before cracking due to chlorine-induced stress corrosion cracking (CISCC);
  • Once corrosion starts, transporting the canisters becomes difficult;
  • The canisters are too large to transport economically using conventional rail cars, which are limited to 286,000 pounds net weight, while the canisters plus the transportation over-pack can weight well over 400,000 pounds; and finally:
  • The canisters are not compliant with size and weight standards to insure safe and economical transfer to a permanent storage solution.

 

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