Public Watchdogs 2.206 Petition for Enforcement Action against SONGS, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Public Watchdogs seeks Enforcement Action against Southern California Edison:

Yesterday, January 21, 2020, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) convened a public meeting via teleconference to evaluate Public Watchdogs Supplemental 2.206 Petition seeking enforcement action against Southern California Edison, the owners of the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) “ISFSI.”  You can get our unofficial transcript of the proceedings here.

A 2.206 Petition is a legal tool that can be used by the public to revoke a nuclear facility’s license to operate, or to request enforcement action by the NRC.

The nuclear waste at San Onofre is called SNF, or “Spent Nuclear Fuel.”  The problem is that the SNF at SONGS  is deadly for at least a quarter-million years. Yet the NRC has allowed Edison to store this eternally deadly material 108 feet from a public beach in thin-walled stainless steel canisters that are only warranted to last 25 years (get warranty).  The thin-walled cans are enclosed in rusting steel-lined concrete silos that rest inches above the water table (see cutaway illustration below).

The beachfront nuclear waste dump is located inches above a brackish water table. Click for larger image


The public Watchdogs 2.206 Supplemental Petition makes multiple points:


  1. The current “plan” is based on wildly optimistic false assumptions.
    Edison’s plan is based on the specious assumption that the Federal Government will magically provide a permanent or interim storage area for SONGS’ deadly high-level radioactive waste between the the Year 2024 or 2049.  Given the current laws involving the transport and storage of spent nuclear fuel, and the fact that no such facility exists, the time range is ludicrous.
  2. There may not be enough funding.
    The petition argues that the publicly funded Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund, which at one time had upwards of $4.2 billion, is being rapidly depleted. On December 24 of 2019, Public Watchdogs filed a protest of Edison’s recent request to withdraw more than $400 million from the fund in response to its claims that costs have doubled or even tripled. Our deep concern is that Edison may be artificially inflating the costs is using this money as a potential profit-center or “get-well” fund for its shareholders.
  3. That Edison is unable to retrieve the nuclear waste.
    NRC laws require Edison to use a system that allows the waste to be removed later.  At this time, Edison has not demonstrated the ability to safely remove the 100,000 pound canisters from their current beachfront location. Moreover, on at least two occasions, these red hot radioactive canisters have become stuck in the downloading process.  Odds are very high that same canisters will become stuck in the uploading process, which could cause serious additional damage.
  4. Edison is storing the waste in defective, corroding canisters.
    The 5/8″ thick “thin-walled” canisters that were selected by Edison are not robust enough to withstand the harsh marine environment at SONGS. Many of the canisters are defective, with loose or detached internal bolts known as “stand-off shims.”  In addition, every single canister downloaded so far has deep gouges that are in violation of the NRC’s “Certificate of Compliance.”  Gouges in stainless steel in a marine environment make the canister susceptible to a through-wall cracking from Chloride-Induced -Stress-Corrosion Cracking (CISCC).  Photos of downloaded canisters at SONGS already show signs of corrosion after just 18 months.

    The cans at SONGS are corroding
    Deep gouges can occur during every download
  5. The SONGS Nuclear Waste Dump is underinsured
    The NRC has granted exemptions to insurance for the facility by reducing the requirement for onsite liability insurance from more than one billion dollars, to a paltry $50 million.

  6. Edison has engaged in coverups of serious “near-miss” accidents.
    On July 22, and on August 3 of 2018, Southern California Edison violated federal laws by failing to report two instances where red-hot canisters of deadly nuclear waste were caught on a narrow flange at the top of the steel silos that hold the canisters. If the flange had broken under the 100,000 pound load, or if the canister had slipped off the flange, the can could have crashed 18 feet.    The only reason we know that these two major safety lapses occurred is because a whistleblower stepped forward and reported them (Get video of the whistleblower’s public report here).

Next Steps: 

After the petition is evaluated by the NRC, the NRC will eventually  issue a proposed director’s decision.

The NRC’s written decision, signed by the director of the relevant agency office, addresses a 2.206 petition’s concerns. The NRC tries to to issue a proposed director’s decision for comment within 120 days of issuing the acknowledgment letter.

The decision can have multiple outcomes. The NRC can deny or  grant the petition in full.   It can also partially deny, or partially grant approval to a petition, opting to take action on specific issues while ignoring others. The NRC also has the option of taking actions that are not requested in the petition to address the issues raised.

Under NRC rules a director’s decision cannot be appealed.    Get the Supplemental 2.206 Petition here.

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