Congressman calls for action on San Onofre’s nuclear waste storage

SAN DIEGO — Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, Friday called on the federal government to determine and commit to an interim and long-term plan for nuclear waste storage.

Peters challenged the rest of the federal government to find a storage solution during a meeting of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee.

The subcommittee, on which Peters sits, held a hearing on three bills that would establish a process to send spent nuclear fuel rods from decommissioned plants to designated storage areas around the country. To do so, Peters said the government should invoke the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which requires states to follow federal law if they have conflicting statutes.

“There’s not a lot of enthusiasm among the states to accept any defined or undefined amount of nuclear waste. There just isn’t,” Peters said. “To me … the magic of federalism is the supremacy clause and the ability of the federal government to … (say) in this geology, per this engineering, (and) through this licensing process that this risk is lower.”

Two of the bills the subcommittee considered — the Spent Fuel Prioritization Act and the Storage and Transportation of Residual and Excess Nuclear Fuel Act — would directly affect San Diego County by relocating spent nuclear fuel from the defunct San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station to designated storage sites like Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert.

The plant shut down in 2012, but nearly 3.6 million pounds of spent fuel assemblies remain in a temporary storage facility about 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean. The plant sits approximately 60 miles or less from both San Diego and Los Angeles and the storage facility continues to be susceptible to a major earthquake or significant sea-level rise.

The bills remain in limbo due to pushback from legislators who represent the districts in which spent fuel rods would be stored.

However, Peters’ office hopes the bills could get a vote out of the committee by the end of the year.

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