SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA.com/AP) – Southern California Edison has agreed to make a good faith effort to relocate 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste away from the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, bringing an end to a nearly two-year legal battle between the utility provider and environmental groups.
“Pending development of a permanent DOE (Department of Energy) repository for the Spent Fuel, SCE shall use ‘commercially reasonable’ efforts to relocate the spent fuel to an offsite storage facility,” the summary of the agreement reads.
The DOE currently has no long-term storage site for radioactive fuel from commercial nuclear plants, forcing companies like Edison to find and operate their storage facilities.
San Onofre, located between San Diego and Los Angeles, was shut down in January 2012 after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of extensive damage to hundreds of tubes inside the virtually new generators.
The plant never produced electricity again. Edison closed San Onofre for good in 2013 amid a fight with environmentalists over whether the plant was too damaged to restart safely.
A third of the fuel on the seaside site was moved from storage pools into canisters. However, that complex reached capacity. The other two-thirds remained in what were known as wet storage pools.
In October 2015, the California Coastal Commission issued a permit allowing Edison to expand its onsite storage by moving the remaining the spent nuclear fuel rods from the storage pools into dry cask storage canisters on the coastline.
This prompted an uproar from neighbors and activists, who argued it was creating a nuclear waste dump that could leak or be damaged by flooding or an earthquake.
The permit allowed Edison to construct a complex of additional canisters, partially below ground, and move the fuel from pool storage into the steel containers by 2019.
In November 2015, an environmental nonprofit group called Citizens Oversight filed a lawsuit against Edison, challenging the CCC permit. However, under the terms of Monday’s agreement, Citizens Oversight has agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.
“The agreement plots a prudent strategy in furtherance of the goal of moving the fuel sooner than later,” said Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight in a statement.
According to the parameters of the deal, Edison will spend up to $4 million on developing a plan to move the spent fuel to an offsite facility.
Edison will also have to provide Citizens Oversight with monthly progress reports on its efforts. However, the agreement did not stipulate a deadline for when the waste must be removed from San Onofre.
SCE is proud to take a leadership role in what we expect will become an industry-wide effort over many years to work with the federal government and other key stakeholders to achieve off-site storage,” Edison President Ron Nichols said in a statement. “We will be vigilant in our efforts to prompt the federal government to act, and until we can secure off-site storage, will continue our 30-year track record of safely storing used fuel at San Onofre.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)