Nuclear waste transfers resume at San Onofre

San Onofre
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SAN DIEGO — Southern California Edison resumed the transfer of nuclear waste at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Tuesday nearly one year after a 50-ton canister of nuclear waste became wedged 18 feet off the ground within a storage chamber.

SCE is in the process of moving the plant’s canisters of nuclear waste from their current location in a wet storage facility to dry storage, which will allow the company to begin dismantling the plant. According to SCE, 44 canisters still need to be transferred to the dry storage facility, which is on the plant’s premises.

Canister transfers were suspended Aug. 3 last year when a canister became wedged within a dry storage chamber roughly 18 feet off the ground. Workers at the plant eventually lowered the canister to the bottom of the 20- foot chamber without incident, but it was left unsupported on an inner rung of the chamber for nearly an hour while the plant worked to correct the mistake.

SCE officials argued the canister would not have released radioactive material into the atmosphere even if it were to fall, but suspended transfers regardless.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined the company had addressed issues that could lead to similar potential incidents by increasing oversight of plant workers and increasing the number of employees involved in the transfer process, and would be allowed to continue the transfers.

“We’ve done a lot of work to ensure that going forward we will be successful in safely loading and storing each and every spent fuel canister,” SCE Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Doug Bauder said Monday. “We’re confident the improvements we’ve made are effective and sustainable. Our job now is to demonstrate that to our stakeholders.”

The plant, which shut down in 2012, still holds roughly 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel and is currently being decommissioned. SCE expects to complete the transfers by early 2020, according to the San Diego Union- Tribune.

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