Dateline San Diego: Edison admits that poor planning and lack of management oversight caused “near-miss” at failed nuclear power plant
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 01-24-19
Today’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission Pre-decisional Enforcement Conference (PEC) webinar was the final step in the process of determining what punitive action — if any — will be taken against Southern California Edison’s documented failure to obey Federal law during the transfer of deadly nuclear waste at its beachfront nuclear waste storage facility on the site of the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
The “Spent Nuclear Fuel” or “SNF” that is being stored at SONGS is deadly for at least 250,000 years. The SNF is currently stored in a deep-water storage facility, but is slowly being transferred into thin-walled stainless steel canisters that carry a 25-year guarantee. At issue is the fact that on August 3, 2018, one of those canisters, which contained 100,000 pounds of radioactively hot spent nuclear fuel, nearly fell 18 feet in what the NRC calls an “unsecured load event” that resulted in a nuclear waste “near-miss.”
According to Scott Morris, the new NRC Regional Administrator, for Region IV, where the San Onofre nuclear waste dump is located, “Management failed to recognize the complexity and risks associated with a long-duration fuel transfer campaign, while using a relatively new system design,” stated Morris, who then asked Edison “How do you justify that as a root cause?”
Nina Babiarz, a Director at the non-profit advocacy group Public Watchdogs, said “Haste makes waste, and in this case haste resulted in a near-miss nuclear waste accident.”
According to Babiarz, “The bottom line is that Edison admitted that it was guilty of poor planning and lack of senior management and oversight. This is not a believable response. The problem is that the entire system is defective, and it is unlikely that the problems can be corrected with better management.”
Deeply Flawed Engineering
“The problem with today’s NRC Enforcement Conference is that it it was predicated on the false premise that the safety issues at the San Onofre nuclear waste dump can be fixed. The reality is that the entire system is a deeply flawed engineering disaster,” says Charles Langley, the Executive Director of Public Watchdogs.
Langley also noted that although the Commission blasted Edison for waiting 45 days to report the August 3 unsecured load event as a violation of Federal Law, it downplayed the fact that there was a previous unsecured load event that occurred on July 22 which Edison has never reported.
“It is clear to us the NRC is not enforcing its own laws,” said Langley. “The NRC has failed to investigate a separate July 22 unsecured load event. Equally troubling, it has classified the August 3 event at the lowest level of ‘Severity Level 4.’ This low-risk classification makes it unlikely that Edison will be fined or face criminal charges for its violations of Federal Law.