San Onofre News – 7-1-2020

Edison’s own assessment of tsunami and flooding risks at its ISFSI-by-the-Sea, Graphic courtesy SCE via PublicWatchdogs

– Citizens demand electeds intervene in SONGS decommissioning
-Potentially catastrophic tsunami risks to the San Onofre radioactive waste dump revealed
-Huge radioactive San Onofre pressure vessel takes a train to Utah
– Radioactive transport risks
– Critics respond to Senator Levin’s Task Force Report on radioactive waste storage at SONGS
– What’s the future of SONGS?

Citizens tell CCC “Cancel the Songs Waste Storage Permit!”
A Petition launched by the Samual Lawrence Foundation calls for the California Coastal Commission to amend its permit to decommission San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

A sample letter from Cathy Iwane reads in part:

Removing the spent fuel pools at San Onofre without a validated handling facility on-site is an irresponsible decision. The spent fuel pools are the last option for dealing with a damaged canister.

The Coastal Commission staff report lacked measures to ensure the protection of our coast and cities along the California coast from long-term environmental contamination.

…[C]riteria for granting a permit:
Require a plan for damaged nuclear waste storage canisters not fit for transportation
Require applicant to construct a handling facility on-site to mitigate damaged canisters
Retain spent fuel pools, until a validated handling facility is built (i.e. hot cell)
Damaged canisters could expose the land, air, and water to dangerous radiation which would harm California’s natural resources, coastal tourism, economy, and residents.
Coastal storage and decommissioning permits must require a condition that the applicant maintain the cooling pools and subsequently construct a hot cell on-site at the site.
This battle cry is heard at 65 similar storage sites around the US. Please respond by action, as if your office depends on it!

Info and sign-on letter:
Flood of Evidence Reveals ‘Severe’ Tsunami Risks at Edison’s San Onofre Waste Dump-by-the-Sea

On June 24, 2020, Public Watchdogs made a formal PowerPoint presentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in support of their petition to revoke Southern California Edison’s right to bury nuclear waste at the site of the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Their presentations to the NRC documented the potential results of a tsunami flood.  Edison’s own evidence shows the ISFSI is in the ‘severe damage’ zone.

For PDF’s and a video go here.

Petition snip:
“From Edison’s own submittal under oath, executed on August 26, 2013 under penalty of perjury, the area of the ISFSI may be submerged by an unspecified level of seawater during a tropical storm or tsunami resulting in potential rupture of all 72 spent fuel storage casks. This event is likely to result in rupture of multiple casks and the release of millions of curies of long-lived radioactive isotopes.The impact of the thermal shock of cold water from the Pacific Ocean immersing the 452-degree Fahrenheitmultipurpose canister (MPC)is unanalyzed and void of regulatory scrutiny. It is possible that this thermal shock could challenge the only boundary between millions of curies, the environment, and millions of people. In addition, potential criticalityas discussed in 10 CFR 72.124 has not been addressed.” [emphasis added

A huge convoy carrying a low-level nuclear reactor is making its way through Nevada. Last week it passed through the Coyote Springs Valley via U.S. Highway 93. PHOTO BY CHARLENE PAUL/The Progress.

The hazards to roads, bridges, culverts, rails and people along the journey of this radioactive San Onofre reactor vessel will be repeated 99 times if the nuclear industry gets its way.  99 more reactors need to be decommissioned.  99 more reactor vessels will be moved to dump sites.  Industry plans to also move the high level intensely radioactive waste around the country to “interim sites” and theoretically, move them again to a permanent site.  This is insanely risky.

Spent Nuclear Reactor Passes On Its Way To Disposal
July 8, 2020

By CHARLENE PAUL – The Progress

A nuclear reactor vessel from southern California’s decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station slowly made it’s way through the Coyote Springs Valley on Monday, June 29.

At about 5:30 am the convoy left the Apex Industrial Park in North Las Vegas. The 770-ton load on a 122-foot-long trailer powered by six heavy-duty Class 8 trucks began its one-way, 400-mile trip to a disposal site in the desert in Clive, Utah. Read more

Decommissioned nuclear reactor to hit Nevada roads

By Mick Akers

The largest object to travel on Nevada roads will set out on its over week-long journey next week.

The 1.5 million-pound, 16.5-foot-diameter decommissioned reactor pressure vessel from Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will hit the road early Monday morning from Apex in North Las Vegas, the Nevada Department of Transportation announced Friday.

To keep the load off Interstates 15 and 80, the vessel will mainly travel on U.S. Highway 93 and State Route 318 before crossing the Utah border on its way to Clive. Read more – Included video

Screen grab from RJ video

SONGS’ radioactive 770-ton pressure vessel takes a train to Utah

Debris from demolished nuke plants is coming to Utah, where EnergySolutions is proposing a new landfill

By Brian Maffly   Salt Lake Tribune

Across the country, aging nuclear power plants are getting retired and coming down, generating a new and potentially vast waste stream that could head to Utah.

Some remains of California’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, including its 770-ton pressure vessel, already are on train cars crossing Nevada to the nation’s largest repository for low-level, or Class A, waste in Utah’s remote West Desert. Read more…

Beyond Nuclear warns, “The transportation of radioactive waste already occurs, but will become frequent on our rails, roads and waterways, should irradiated reactor fuel be moved to interim or permanent dump sites.”

If Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) sites proposed in New Mexico & Texas are allowed, these same routes will converge on them from all around the country. Graphic – Beyond Nuclear

Levin Report Issued

Congressman looks to use report to accelerate efforts to get nuclear waste off the beach

A task force put together by Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, released a report Wednesday making 30 policy recommendations for storing and eventually finding a place to send used-up nuclear fuel — in particular, from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which is home to 3.55 million pounds of waste.

The first-term congressman said he will pursue legislation on Capitol Hill based on some of the report’s proposals. Among them: Creating a Nuclear Waste Administration and giving states a say in the environmental reviews of handling, storing and moving spent fuel. Read more…

PDF of the Levin Report is here.

Editors’ Comment –

Levin’s Task Force, Co-Chaired by Adm. Len Hering and Former NRC Head Gregory Jaczko, has issued its Report.

The 60-page document contains some good recommendations, but also comes down in favor of Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS).  No surprise, since Levin has introduced a bill that would prioritize making San Onofre’s radioactive waste first in line for shipment, once a CIS has been established, and that’s his over all agenda.

Leven Report’s Major Problems:

  • It does not recommend an on-site hot cell, which is necessary for repairing canisters and repackaging fuel.
  • It advocates for Centralized Interim Storage in New Mexico and Texas – instead of moving San Onofre’s radioactive waste  to a safer location as close as possible to San Onofre
  • It seconds President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future ‘s Report’s advocacy for creation of a ‘new Nuclear Waste Administration.’   
The new agency would, ‘establish a new facility siting process and a new framework to achieve consent for future storage and disposal sites, including mandates for accountability and enforcement. ‘ The problem with this scenario is that plans for the new Administration point to staffing it with…you guessed it…people with ‘industry experience.’  Another captive agency would be born that would do the industry’s lowest cost, never-mind safety, bidding.‘s Donna Gilmore comments:

Focusing on location will no more solve our nuclear waste storage problem than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic would have stopped it from sinking. 

The problem is the uninspectable, unmaintainable thin-wall canisters only 5/8″ thick. 

Mike Levin should be proposing legislation to require the NRC enforce existing regulations and current Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) requirement for monitored retrievable fuel storage. These thin-wall canisters do not even meet minimum ASME N3 Nuclear Pressure Vessel requirements for storage and transport. The NRC gives numerous exemptions to these and other safety requirements.

The Swiss already meet these US requirements. We don’t need more “studies” or a new government agency as this Levin report proposes.

The Swiss use thick-wall transportable storage casks up to 19.75″ thick that can be maintained and monitored to PREVENT major radioactive releases and explosions. They have an on-site hot cell facility (Dry Transfer System) for inspection, maintenance and repackaging of fuel assemblies, as needed. Thick-wall casks don’t have the short-term cracking problems that the thin-wall canisters have.

Learn more about the Switzerland solution here:

Some San Onofre canisters are already 17 years old. We’re on borrowed time with these degrading canisters. Read more

SONGS Task Force Announces Findings and Recommendations for Spent Fuel Storage

By Lillian Boyd and Shawn Raymundo / San Clemente Times

In January 2019, Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) assembled a task force with the goal of driving solutions to move and safely store sensitive waste located at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Read more

What Next for San Onofre Generating Station?

SONGS Task Force publishes recommendations on dealing with 3.5 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel sitting on our beach

By Jake Howard / San Clemente Times

With everything that’s going on in our crazy world at the moment, it’s important not to lose sight of some of the more looming issues facing our local waters. Read more

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Risks of Radioactive Waste Transport

Ooops! – A Dry Run for Disaster?

This 20-axle truck pulled by a huge trailer tipped over on a soft shoulder. It was only hauling one empty nuclear waste transport cask. But what if the cask had not been empty. And what if it were carrying a full load of many full casks as the industry is planning for with Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS)?

Truck carrying empty nuclear waste casks overturns

If this cask had contained 37 high burn-up nuclear fuel assemblies, they wouldn’t be working on it in their T-shirts!

Truck hauling new, empty nuclear storage cask crashes in Andover Recovery closes Route 11 on Friday and Saturday

A truck carrying a new, empty storage cask for nuclear fuel rods bound for Vermont Yankee in Vernon crashed just before 10 a.m. on Friday in Andover, leading to a two-day recovery effort.

According to Vermont State Police, the east-bound truck rolled over on Route 11 near Middletown Road, closing the road for several hours on Friday and Saturday, with workers returning to finish the recovery on Saturday. The driver was not injured in the crash and there were no fluid leaks, State Police said. Read more…

ANDOVER — An oversized flatbed truck carrying an empty nuclear waste cask headed to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant drove onto a soft shoulder on Route 11 in Andover and tipped over Friday morning, setting off a 36-hour effort to retrieve the cask and reopen the busy east-west highway.

The cask is slated to be used at the Vernon nuclear power plant which is undergoing demolition and decommissioning. The cask, which weighs upwards of 50 tons, is used as an on-site cask to transfer waste on site… Read more…


This type of rail accident, together with the truck overturning in Vermont, is why transporting thousands of shipments of radioactive waste from San Onofre across the country to Texas and New Mexico risks millions of people and our environment.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Operations Center
Event Reports For 6/11/2020 – 6/12/2020
“The following was received from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA; the Agency) via email:
“At approximately 0700 [CDT] on 6/4/2020, the Agency was contacted by the Texas Radiation Control Program to advise that a rail car containing radioactive material had caught fire at the Belt Railway Co. of Chicago (BRC) located 6900 Central Ave., Bedford Park, IL. The Texas program had been contacted by the railway. IEMA staff contacted BRC and was informed that a lidded gondola (car WP-9241) transporting a load of UN2912 LSA-1 was found to be smoldering at approximately 0100 on 6/4/2020. The shipping manifest listed contents as ‘solid oxides’ with 4.13 mCi of Co-60, Cs-134, Cs-137, U-234, U-235 and U-238. BRC staff agitated the railcar and continued to observe until approximately 0300. At that time, flames had engulfed approximately 10 percent of the car and the Bedford Park Fire/Hazmat team arrived on scene.”  Read more

The Problem with Transporting Radioactive Waste

Nuclear Energy Information Service NEIS

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Ian Zabarte on Yucca Mountain & Shoshone Rights

Ian Zabarte is Principal Man of the Western Shoshone

NEVADA VIEWS: Nuclear tests and the Shoshone people Ian Zabarte Special to the Review-Journal, June 27, 2020

REGARDING Gary Martin’s June 15 Review-Journal article, “Nuke test rumors spur Nevada lawmakers”: As a Shoshone, we always had horses. My grandfather always told me, “Stop kicking up dust.” Now I understand that it was because of the radioactive fallout.

To hide the impacts from nuclear weapons testing, Congress defined Shoshone Indian ponies as “wild horses.” There is no such thing as a wild horse. They are feral horses, but the Wild Horse and Burrow Acts of 1971 gave the Bureau of Land Management the affirmative act to take Shoshone livestock while blaming the Shoshone ranchers for destruction of the range caused by nuclear weapons testing. My livelihood was taken and the Shoshone economy destroyed by the BLM. On the land, radioactive fallout destroyed the delicate high desert flora and fauna, creating huge vulnerabilities where noxious and invasive plant species took hold. Read more

Ian Zabarte had this to say in a recent Congressional Hearing

“I just want to emphasize that Yucca Mountain is Shoshone property recognized under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley and it’s not going to happen. It’s not workable. It’s not doable because of that. And that is the likely reason why the application was withdrawn in the first place. But that wasn’t argued in the case that came up. Yucca Mountain would be an ongoing research and development project, not a solution. It’s in the biosphere. It’s above the water table and the original intent of deep geologic disposal with sub-seabed below the water table and what we’re looking at Yucca Mountain, it’s just a matter of time before that radiation comes out and my people expect to be around another 10,000 years with your help.

“We see our food there, we see our resources there and we need the pure water, pristine water, something that is very rare now on this planet. Pristine water’s what we need for our survival, it’s our religion. We practice these living life ways in relation to the land. It’s our identity and we expect to be there so Yucca Mountain is not going to be a solution, period.

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Holtec Faces Opposition

Questions About Competence, Quality Control & Legality

Holtec International on Thursday July 25, 2019 in Camden, N.J. Nj Tax Breaks (Photo: Tariq Zehawi and Thomas P. Costello/USA Today Network)

Who is Holtec?

Comentary by James Heddle

Holtec International, is a family-owned company, based in Camden, New Jersey, with mixed reviews from employees.  True to its name, the company has international ambitions for building small nuclear reactors (SMRs) and become dominant in the burgeoning global market of radioactive waste management.  It is working hard to convince the NRC and members of the public that concerns about its San Onofre ISFSI are over-blown and unfounded.

Holtec canisters are reportedly installed at three-dozen other reactor sites around the country, including Humboldt Bay in California.  Holtec is in the running, too, for a waste storage facility at the state’s Diablo Canyon nuclear site, scheduled for shutdown in 2025.

Holtec is also offering to buy four other US phased out nuclear power stations, – Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Pilgrim in Maine, Palisades in Michigan and Indian Point in New York.  As of this writing three of those proposed deals have yet to be approved, but on April 18, 2019, Holtec announced that it has closed the deal with Entergy to acquire the leaking and controversial Indian Point energy center just outside New York City after the last of its three reactors shuts down.

The pot of gold in the radioactive waste business is that, thanks to fees charged to ratepayers over the years, each plant has accumulated hundreds of billions of dollars in a decommissioning trust fund, which would all go to Holtec once the sales have been completed.

Profits to be Made from Nuclear Waste

Founded in 90’s by its India-born CEO Krishna ‘Kris’ Singh, Holtec is a family-owned company that has so far specialized in manufacturing reactor parts and radioactive waste storage systems.  But Mr. Singh’s vision and ambition for his company now extends to producing Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and being a major player in the burgeoning nuclear plant decommissioning and radioactive waste management business.  

Holtec’s HI-STORM UMAX dry cask storage systems – the serious flaws of which are now the focus of dispute at California’s recently shuttered San Onofre radioactive waste storage site – where loading is currently halted – are reportedly already in use at over half of US reactor sites and many other places around the world. 

Holtec is also the would-be contractor for the proposed, highly contested Eddy-Lea waste dump in New Mexico, to which ‘just-get-it-out-of-here’ advocates are pushing to send San Onofre’s waste despite the strong opposition of citizen, government, business and Tribal groups there.

Holtec has recently partnered with the Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin, to form Decommissioning International (DCI) which is so far on-pace to buy six US nuclear plants scheduled for decommissioning – including Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Pilgrim in Maine, Palisades in Michigan and Indian Point in New York.  They will acquire the plants on a ‘possession only’ basis and sub-contract with CDI to complete their decommissioning process in as little as 8 years, well ahead of the 60 year timeline allowed by the NRC.

Their business model aims to quickly and cheaply demolish the plant structures and store the on-site waste in the flawed Holtec system, hoping to then get access to the billions of dollars now accumulated in trust funds at each site, built up over the decades from rate-payer charges.

CDI says it will be using Holtec’s NRC-approved “proto-prompt decommissioning” strategy to speed up the demolition of shuttered commercial power reactors and the ‘clean up’ and ‘restoration’ of their sites. 

It is worth emphasizing that this is no ordinary industrial waste we’re talking about here.  It involves man-made substances that are biologically lethal for millennia.  Mistakes in manufacturing or procedures, lapses in the rigorous established and evolving disciplines of prevailing ‘nuclear culture,’ can result in devastating contamination.  It requires operators of impeccable professionalism and integrity.

Trouble is, in a hazardous business that demands such high qualifications, both SNC-Lavalin and Holtec have histories of bribery scandals and shady political dealings.

[ As this article goes to post, Yahoo Finance has announced that CDI “has been awarded its first commercial contract, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” ]

Bribery at the TVA

Back in 2010 Kris Singh and Holtec were involved in an alleged bribery scandal at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  As a result of a criminal investigation, the TVA created a formal suspension and debarment process and, in an unprecedented move, debarred Holtec from doing business with it for 60 days.  Holtec was also reportedly forced to agree to pay a $2 million ‘administrative fee’ and to submit to independent monitoring of its operations for twelve months. 

For its part, SNCL has, since 2012, been embroiled in a series of other similar scandals, which are currently rocking the Canadian government to the point where they recently even sparked calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

That’s the company whose shadow looms over San Onofre, New Mexico and all the reactor sites around the country where its questionable canisters are storing tons of radioactive waste.

Here are some recent developments:
State of New Mexico says nuclear waste project poses disproportionate risk, locals supportive

Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus

New Mexico’s Executive Branch and activist groups continued their fight against a nuclear waste repository proposed to be built near the Eddy-Lea county line while supporters touted promises of economic benefits to the region and southeast New Mexico’s role in addressing the nation’s nuclear waste.

The debate came during a Tuesday virtual public hearing hosted by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to seek public comments on an environmental impact statement (EIS) issued by the NRC for Holtec International’s application for a license to build a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) that would temporarily hold spent nuclear fuel at the surface while a permanent underground repository is developed.

The draft EIS issued in March found the project would have “minimal” impact on the environment if it was allowed to be built and operated. Read more…

Nine State Attorneys General file legal documents with NRC protesting Holtec as a nuclear waste vendor.

In an unprecedented act of unity, nine attorneys general from nine separate states have intervened in a case involving nuclear safety and Holtec International. Read more

Holtec under ‘criminal investigation,’ EDA says in since-redacted court filing

Holtec International, which received one of the biggest tax credits in New Jersey history, is under criminal investigation, according to a legal brief filed Monday by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The brief was in response to a lawsuit Holtec — an energy technology company — filed against the EDA in March for holding up a $26 million payment on its $260 million tax incentive to build a facility in Camden. The delay was because of an allegedly false answer Holtec gave on its 2014 tax credit application.

“Holtec’s misrepresentations — which include its failure to disclose a prior government debarment by the Tennessee Valley Authority (the ‘TVA’) for bribing an official of that agency — first came to light during an investigation conducted by the Governor’s Task Force on the Economic Development Authority’s Tax Incentive Program, and they are now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation,” reads the June 22 brief by attorney Ricardo Solano. Read more


Petitioners charge Nuclear Regulatory Commission inadequately disclosed irradiated nuclear fuel transport routes through 45 states

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 24, 2020  — Today the national grassroots environmental coalition Don’t Waste Michigan (DWM), et al. filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Case No. 20-1225), requesting review of an April 23, 2020 Order by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). NRC’s Order rejected DWM, et al.’s challenges to Holtec International/Eddy Lea Energy Alliance’s application to build a massive “consolidated interim storage facility” (CISF) for nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec proposes to store as much as 173,000 metric tons of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel – more than twice the amount currently stored at U.S. nuclear power reactors – in shallow pits on the site. 

DWM, et al. is comprised of the following seven organizations, from six states across the country: Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, MI; Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, NY; Don’t Waste Michigan; Nuclear Energy Information Service, IL; Nuclear Issues Study Group, NM; Public Citizen (DC, TX); San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, CA. Toledo, OH-based attorney Terry Lodge serves as the coalition’s legal counsel. Read more

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Victory! For the Great Lakes

Map – Detroit Free Press

Canadian utility formally drops underground radioactive waste storage next to Lake Huron

, Detroit Free Press

An Ontario nuclear power generating company has officially dropped its pursuit of a deep underground storage facility for low- to intermediate-level radioactive waste within a half-mile of Lake Huron.

Ontario Power Generation has withdrawn an application for a construction license filed with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to build a Deep Geologic Repository in Kincardine, Ontario. The utility also withdrew from an environmental assessment of the project by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the nation’s environmental regulator.

With that, OPG’s more than 16-year pursuit of a deep underground repository to store almost a half-mile underground some radioactive waste from its 20 nuclear reactors comes to an end — at least at the controversial location by Lake Huron.

Despite OPG’s repeated assurances that the repository would be a completely safe, long-term waste storage solution, opposition to the project was nearly unanimous in Michigan. Read more…

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