Southern California Edison, the corporation that owns the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), announced yesterday that it will resume the burial of deadly nuclear waste at its beachfront nuclear waste dump in Northern San Diego County.
The dump, known by the Orwellian term “ISFSI” or Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation” is being portrayed as a safe and clean storage facility for nuclear waste, but critics say that water and nuclear waste don’t mix. When water comes in contact with spent nuclear fuel it can cause damage to the fuel and create a higher risk that lethal ionizing radiation will leak into the atmosphere, killing fish, reptiles, birds and especially mammals in its path.
Fuel transfer operations came to a screaming halt for nearly a year on the afternoon of August 3, 2018, when a safety worker publicly blew the whistle (get video and analysis) on what the NRC called a “near-miss” accident when workers lost control of a gigantic canister of deadly spent nuclear fuel . The worker described in chilling detail how a 17-foot high can weighing upwards of 100,000 pounds became wedged in on a thin metal flange in the throat of a carbon steel storage silo. The silos, known as “Cask Enclosure Cavities” have a quarter-inch thick steel “Shield Ring” as shown in the photograph below.
Although the manufacturer claims that the thin-walled steel canisters can withstand a 20-foot drop, no sane person is willing to test the hypothesis.
Edison Violated Federal Law
Southern California Edison failed to notify the public about the incident, which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission called a “near-miss” failure of equipment essential to safety. Public Watchdogs has documented a similar incident that occurred on July 22 (see Sworn Affidavit of Nina Babiarz) that was precursor to the July 3 event. Edison failed to report the July 22 event, and the NRC helped Edison keep the July 22 event a secret by claiming that the failure of safety equipment did not meet NRC’s reporting standards.
Since the August 3 “near-miss,” Southern California Edison and the manufacturer of the thin-walled stainless steel cans, Holtec, have engaged in what they claim is “rigorous regulatory, internal and third-party readiness and operational reviews,” and have “systematically reviewed and strengthened procedures, oversight and training” according to the Southern California Edison press release.
The restart of fuel transfer operations begins with canister 29, which has been stored in a fuel transfer cask inside the fuel handling handling building since August. There are 44 canisters remaining to be placed into the dry storage facility.
One of the disturbing aspects of the San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump is that although the nuclear waste is eternally deadly, much of the dump will be submerged in saltwater with rising sea levels expected from global warming. The canisters at Edison’s beachfront dump are made of stainless steel, which is resistant to rust, but the walls on the partially above-ground storage silos are made of carbon steel, which is vulnerable to rust.
Most rational observers would say that storing nuclear waste in rusting steel silos next to an ocean filled with saltwater is a bad idea. They’d be right. If you agree, then please consider funding the fight to force Southern California Edison to be more responsible with a small tax-deductible donation.