East County News Service
November 7, 2015 (San Diego) – On November 3rd, the utility fraud attorneys at Aguirre & Severson filed an action in Superior Court seeking to prevent construction of the world’s first beach-front nuclear waste dump at San Onofre, or what critics call the “most irresponsible nuclear dump ever,” according to a press release issued by the attorneys, who filed the suit on behalf of Citizens Oversight.
The California Coastal Commission is chartered to protect our state’s coastal resources. But on October 6 approved the dump just 100 feet from the beach near San Onofre State Park in San Diego County to hold nuclear waste that remains toxic for thousands of years. Wastes would be stored in thin-walled steel casks guaranteed by the manufacturer to last only 10 years, though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved them for up to 20 years of use. Salt water spray soaking casks could result in even earlier corrosion, yet there is no plan to remove casks even after 20 years. By then, the casks, each weighing 400,000 pounds, are apt to have degraded to the point where moving them safely would be nearly impossible, a press release issued by plantiff's attorneys contends.
Attorney Mike Aguirre called the Coastal Commission’s unanimous vote “an outrageous departure from its chartered responsibilities and the California Coastal Act,” adding, “We want the court to revoke Southern California Edison’s permit to pollute, and force Edison to find a safer location.” The suit seeks revocation of the permit for the dump.
The press release issued by attorneys for the plaintiffs note that Edison, which operated the shut-down San Onofre generating stations, lobbied Coastal Commissioners prior to the vote. “Apparently Edison sweetened the deal for the Commissioners by offering free legal help in exchange for violating the law. According to the petition, “The [Coastal] Commissioners obtained an unenforceable indemnity agreement from Edison in which Edison agreed to indemnify the CC Commissioner for the intentionally unlawful act of issuing a permit,” the release states.
The suit further alleges that Edison failed to seriously examine alternative locations and lists 10 commom sense reasons why the dump should be moved now:
1) The new dump is located within a few dozen yards of the ocean, which is also a public park.
2) The waste will be buried, but just barely … The new thin-walled waste canisters will be buried below-grade, but the beach-front water table is so high that it can be only partially buried with an earthen berm added, putting the water table within inches from the bottom of structure.
3) Coastal erosion is set to destroy the earthwork berms protecting the dump. According to the Coastal Commission’s own staff, the area where the casks are going to be partially buried will be eroded by one third within 35 years.
4) The dump is in a tsunami and earthquake zone. The State of California recognizes the nuke dump at San Onofre Beach as being in the center of a prime tsunami inundation zone. What’s more, the San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump is also situated on moving tectonic plates that make it vulnerable to earthquake damage.
5) The dump is located next to a major transportation corridor. Unlike any other nuclear waste dump in America, the San Onofre Dump is bordered by Interstate 5 -- a major freeway which handles more than 147,000 vehicles per day. It is also contiguous to the LOSSAN Rail Corridor which handles 150 passenger trains daily. A shut down of LOSSAN and the I-5 will paralyze all traffic and commerce in Southern California.
6) It is in one of the most densely populated regions in the USA. More than 8.5 million people live within the 50-mile evacuation zone.
7) Thin-walled storage tanks corrode when exposed to ocean air. Despite safer locations that are free from hazardous corrosion, the new dump and its thin-walled storage tanks are subject to salt-air corrosion and may last only a few years before cracking due to chloride-induced stress occurs. According to experts, once the corrosion takes hold, transporting the heavy thin walled casks without risking a nuclear disaster becomes difficult.
8) The canisters are only warranted for ten years. Although the thin-walled waste receptacles are holding toxins that are dangerous to humans for thousands of years, the manufacturer, Holtec, will only guarantee their receptacles for 10-years.
9) Thin-walled canisters are not designed to be transported. The canisters are too large to transport economically using conventional rail cars, which are limited to 286,000 pounds net weight. Each canister weighs more than 400,000 pounds.
10) Edison doesn’t have a plan. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that Edison have an “aging management plan” in place for managing the waste and monitoring any toxic releases from the thin-walled canisters at the dump. At this time, no such plan exists. In fact, no such plan is even expected to be developed within the next 20-years … ten years after the guaranteed lifetime of the canisters.
Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens Oversight, plaintiff in the case, issued this statement. “The proposed facility is within 100 ft of the ocean and only inches over the water level, in a tsunami inundation zone, on the moving Pacific tectonic plate, where 8.4 million people live within the 50 mile zone, and by a ten-lane freeway and very difficult to defend against various terrorist attacks.”
Lutz added, “We understand that with this plant having run for decades, Edison now has 3.6 million pounds of spent fuel that will be dangerous for thousands of years -- essentially forever. There is no way to snap our fingers and make it disappear. We need to do our best job to find a safe place for the fuel. Edison has not done their job to review other sites for storage. The installation of the "Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility" (ISFSI -- pronounced iss-fissy) is folded into the decommissioning project, but should be considered a separate ($408 million) construction project with more consideration for where the fuel will be moved, how it can be moved, and the like.”
H noteded that consideration by the California Coastal Commission approved this facility without “any serious challenge from other parties.” All members of the public who testified opposed the project and Supervisor Dianne Jacob also sent a letter in opposition; no members of the public testified in support.
The petition also asserts that Edison knew in advance that its nuclear generators weren’t safe and how pulled the wool over the eyes of regulators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by portraying its proposed experimental generator designs as a safe replacement of the old reliable generators that had been in service at San Onofre for almost 40-years.
“Edison’s deception was so outrageous, says the report, that its executives told the NRC that the new monster generators were exactly the same height as the old ones. Not only is this not true, but the generators weighed nearly 24 tons more than the old design,” the release continues. In the process of deceiving NRC regulators, Southern California Edison’s executives stripped vital safety equipment from the new experimental design while touting the changes as “improved designs
Southern California Edison claims that dry cask storage near the public park is “safe and secure,” but despite Edison’s assurances about the proven safety record of beach-front nuclear facilities, many nuclear experts have serious reservations about storing the waste in a State Park that is bordered by a beach, four railroad lines and a freeway that handles 147,000 vehicles a day, Aguirre conclude.
“It’s time to dump this dump,” says Aguirre. “It isn’t safe, it isn’t smart, and it places every Southern California resident under a nuclear sword of Damocles.”