SoCal Edison in talks to resolve lawsuit challenging San Onofre fuel storage plan

Dive Brief:

  • Southern California Edison and other parties have asked a San Diego Superior Court judge to postpone a hearing scheduled for Friday, as they negotiate a possible settlement related to the storage of spent nuclear fuel.
  • The California Coastal Commission in 2015 approved expansion of interim dry cask storage for spent fuel at the San Onofre nuclear plant, but advocacy group Citizens Oversight filed a lawsuit to stop the project.
  • Officials for SCE say they believe the parties share a common goal of removing spent fuel from the facility, and a solution is possible. However, the Orange County Register reports construction of the expanded storage facility is already underway and it is unlikely to be abandoned completely.

Dive Insight:

Utility officials, the state attorney general and counsel for Citizens Oversight have indicated they may be nearing a settlement regarding spent fuel storage, but until an off-site facility is available the options are limited. About a third of San Onofre’s used fuel is in dry cask storage, but the remainder is currently stored in steel-lined concrete pools.

Southern California Edison closed the plant after radioactive steam leaks were discovered in 2012, and in order to move forward with decommissioning the plant, SCE wants to move the fuel from the pools into dry storage by 2019.

“We believe the parties in the case and many community leaders share a common goal to transfer San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel off-site as soon as reasonably possible,”  SCE Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Tom Palmisano said in a statement issued jointly with the plaintiffs. “We are hopeful that settlement discussions will permit the parties to reach a mutually agreeable solution.”

The cautious optimism was echoed by Michael Aguirre, an attorney representing Citizens Oversight. “People of good will must come together and work to find a solution that is in the best interests of the people of the state of California,” he said.

The San Diego Tribune said news of the settlement talks is a "significant" change of heart for Edison, which has maintained that storing roughly 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste at the site was the safest option. The facility sits just a few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean.

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