No plan for disposal of San Onofre’s radioactive trash

Is San Onofre a good location for a nuclear waste dump, permanent or not?  Hardly!  Earthquakes, tsunamis, sabotage, large surrounding population, poor egress, no radiation emergency supplies to speak of anywhere in the nearby counties to handle a spent fuel fire resulting from an airplane impact… and it’s upwind from the entire United States, so everyone in the country will be contaminated if there is an accident at SanO.
Get Rid of It! But Where? How? When? And Who’s Gonna Pay for It? The Nuclear Waste Dilemma  CounterPunch by ACE HOFFMAN DECEMBER 19, 2013“…….Edison has NO plans for removing the nuclear waste, and neither does the NRC.  Outrageous!

I have attended nearly every Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing on San Onofre for nearly 20 years.  For more than a decade we were told by Southern California Edison (with no objection from the NRC) that the waste problem was essentially solved because the waste would go to Yucca Mountain.  But Yucca Mountain is an imperfect solution:  Before the federal government stopped the project (or at least slowed it to a crawl), one of the last problems they could not be sure they had any good science about was “drip shields” which were to protect the fuel rods — that were to be permanently entombed at the site — from water dripping from above.  The shape, material, thickness, and expected durability of the shields were all undecided, but my recollection is that the last design was an upside-down flattened out V shape made out of 4-inch thick titanium.  And no one knew how long it would last, but 300 years was an outside estimate, or at least the hope.  After that, good luck.

What the transport vehicles would look like, and whether they would use rail or roads or both, was all undecided when the project was stopped, despite 10s of billions of dollars having been spent.

Geologic storage, if we choose that route, will not be easy and will not be risk free.  And we’re nowhere near it at this point.

Instead, we’ve apparently chosen to practically randomly assign approximately 75 sites around the country to be nearly-permanent or virtually-permanent (100s of years, which only George Orwell and the NRC can call temporary) nuclear waste dumps.  SanO is one of them.

I say “randomly” because the sites were never picked because they would be waste dumps at all, let alone appropriate ones:  When the reactors were built, the public was told the waste would be removed within a few MONTHS after it is discharged from the reactor!  Instead, virtually all of SanO’s used reactor cores remain on site.  (It should be noted that the used fuel is actually much easier to transport if its temperature is above about 800 degrees Fahrenheit, because the zirconium cladding is much more ductile above that temperature.  However, when the fuel is naturally that hot thermally, the damage if an accident were to occur would be much greater, because the fuel is also radioactively much “hotter” a few months after discharge than it is, say, 20 years or 50 years afterwards.)

Is San Onofre a good location for a nuclear waste dump, permanent or not?  Hardly!  Earthquakes, tsunamis, sabotage, large surrounding population, poor egress, no radiation emergency supplies to speak of anywhere in the nearby counties to handle a spent fuel fire resulting from an airplane impact… and it’s upwind from the entire United States, so everyone in the country will be contaminated if there is an accident at SanO.

Frankly, I can’t think of many WORSE places to store nuclear waste than most of the places we are currently storing it nationally:  Invariably near population centers, because that’s where the energy was/is produced.

Diablo Canyon, 250 miles to the north of SanO, is even more dangerous than SanO:  Its freshest spent fuel is dozens of times more radioactive than anything at San Onofre — now that SanO has been shut for nearly 2 years.  And the fuel that’s still inside DC’s reactors is thousands of times more radioactive than that!

At the very least, all the used reactor cores (aka “spent” or “used” fuel) in California should be consolidated into ONE protected location, the best one possible, wherever we decide that is — with DC shut down, of course, so no more waste is being produced here.  There is reason for California to wait for a national repository — it could be centuries away.  The fuel should be retrievable in case a permanent national repository does become available.  Spent fuel should NOT be reprocessed.  Reprocessing takes an enormous amount of energy and creates additional radioactive and chemical waste streams (no matter how many nuclear proponents claim otherwise).

Ace Hoffman, an independent investigator, has been studying the problems of nuclear power for many decades.  His 2008 handbook of nuclear facts, called The Code Killers, is available for free download here: www.acehoffman.org     http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/19/the-nuclear-waste-dilemma

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