Settlement talks to move deadly nuke waste fail to remove the waste to a new location

Contrary to public expectations, settlement talks about finding an alternative location for nuclear waste burial at San Onofre have failed to prevent the burial of waste at the beach. But it isn’t stopping the plaintiffs from declaring victory.

AUGUST 28, 2017, SAN DIEGO:  Today, the activist group Citizens Oversight announced that it has successfully negotiated an out-of-court settlement (get a copy of the settlement here) that allows a local utility to bury deadly high-level nuclear waste indefinitely on the beach at San Onofre State Beach Park.  Burial is slated to begin in January. The waste is deadly to all human life for millions of years and will be buried using a system that carries a manufacturer’s warranty of as few as ten years.

Although the plaintiff, Citizens Oversight is claiming “victory” in its unsuccessful efforts to remove the waste from the beach, some observers think the settlement has the look of overwhelming  defeat at the hands of Edison’s attorneys. In exchange for settling the case, the attorneys for Citizens Oversight received an $800,000.00 check.

According to Charles Langley, the executive director of Public Watchdogs, the settlement is a loss not a victory. “They’re doing their best to put a pretty face on it, but the details are ugly. As the result of this settlement, Edison will begin burying substandard containers filled with deadly high-level nuclear waste on the beach in 137 days.”

“Where’s the victory?” says Langley, “Edison is allowed to keep the waste on the beach until the year 2035, just like the original permit they were supposed to be fighting.”

The settlement is a disappointment to Southern California residents who had hoped that the secret negotiations would result in removal of the waste to a safer location as promised at the start of the negotiations, which began in early July. The settlement permanently resolves a lawsuit alleging that the California Coastal Commission violated the law when it issued a permit to bury nuclear waste 108 feet from beach in a thin-walled canister system that is guaranteed to last as few as ten years by the manufacturer (click here to read the manufacturer’s 10-year guarantee for the storage system, or here, to view a brief Public Watchdogs video on the subject).

The Coastal Commission’s mission statement states that it is committed to “protecting and enhancing California’s coast and ocean for present and future generations” which is why the original Coastal Commission permit allowing burial of the waste on the beach alarmed impartial observers. The newly reaffirmed permit allows Edison to bury up to 75 canisters of high-level nuclear waste 108 feet from the beach in a tsunami zone, on top of an earthquake fault line, and inches above the Pacific Ocean’s corrosive water table.

“What could possibly go wrong?” asks Langley.

Critics of the settlement point to multiple weaknesses:

  • The settlement affirms Edison’s right to bury nuclear waste on the beach.
    Under the terms of the settlement, deadly nuclear waste will be buried on the beach as planned in January of 2018.
  • It does not guarantee removal of the waste at any time in the near future. Instead , the settlement relies on Edison’s dubious “commitment” to seek out alternative locations some time before the year 2035.
  • The settlement affirms the Coastal Commission Permit, which allows Edison to bury the waste on the beach for twenty years.
  • It is unlikely the waste will be moved by the year 2035, if ever given the complex legal and regulatory requirements involved in moving the waste through populated areas, and obtaining the consent of state and local governments. For more background on the complexities of moving the waste, click here  for an excellent summary by Don Bauder of the San Diego Reader which explores the complexity of moving  “Mobile Chernobyls.”
  • There is no approved alternative location.
    A specific alternative location has not been identified, which was the premise and the implied promise of the original negotiations.  Nothing has changed.  Under the terms of the settlement, Edison is required to look at two possible alternative locations.
  • There is no schedule for moving the waste.
    Edison has made a series of unenforceable ‘commitments’ with numerous provisions that will allow them to keep the waste on the beach eternally.  Specifically, none of the barriers to removing the waste legally have been solved.
  • Edison may not honor its dubious ‘commitments.’
    Edison is under no meaningful obligation to remove the waste. Specifically, if an offsite storage facility is not ‘commercially reasonable’ (i.e. too expensive).  Edison is off the hook if local laws prevents relocation.
  • It relies on the false hope of an approved nuclear waste dump.
    The likelihood of an NRC-licensed DOE Offsite Storage Facility being approved and built in the next 20-years is near zero.

At this time Southern California Edison is slated to begin the burial of its deadly waste in 137 days, according to the official  Beachfront Burial Countdown Clock at the Public Watchdogs web site at


Related Stories in the media:

John and Ken Podcast “Deal Stinks like a Bolivian Fish Barrel.”  KFI AM radio
 “Nuke Waste Deal a Sham” – KUSI
 “Deal could push nuke waste Out” – We call it a “Nuthin’ Burger” – OC Register
Potential for Mobile Chernobyls” – San Diego Reader 

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