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San Onofre’s nuclear fuel to be stored underground

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san onofre nuclear power plant

Defective steam generators caused the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station to shut down. Subsequent investigation found unusual wear in many of the tubes.

SAN ONOFRE, Calif. — Spent nuclear fuel at the idle San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County will be stored in an underground facility, operator and majority owner Southern California Edison announced Thursday.

Edison said Holtec International, which has built storage facilities at other nuclear plants in California, will create steel-and-concrete-encased canisters to hold the fuel.

The San Onofre nuclear plant has been inoperative since a small, non-injury leak happened in January 2012. Last year, Edison opted to retire the two reactors rather than pursue an expensive restart plan.

The utility hopes to transfer the fuel from steel-lined concrete storage pools by mid-2019.

“After reviewing leading designs with the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel, we concluded this underground design is best suited to safely and securely store used nuclear fuel at San Onofre until the federal government removes the fuel from site, as required,” said Chris Thompson, SCE vice president of decommissioning. “Our decision to move expeditiously to transfer the fuel also reflects feedback from community leaders who prefer dry storage of used nuclear fuel.”

Thompson said the Holtec design exceeds California earthquake requirements and protects against hazards such as water, fire or tsunamis. The dry storage technique for nuclear fuel has been used for almost three decades in the U.S., he said.

Thompson said engineering work will begin immediately, followed by fabrication of canisters.

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