Commission approves nuclear storage facility near San Onofre

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- The California Coastal Commission on Tuesday approved the building of a nuclear waste storage facility near San Onofre.

If it's built, this will be California's first beach-front nuclear waste dump.

Activists gathered outside Tuesday's meeting in a last-ditch effort to stop the project. There was a lot of going back and forth between those opposed to the plan and Southern California Edison, which owns the property.

The San Onofre nuclear power plant went offline a couple of years ago, so all that nuclear waste has been stored there. Part of it is dry. SoCal Edison wants to put about 75 percent of the stored waste in a dry storage facility underground on the beach.

"We then hereby approve the coastal development permit for the proposed project and adopt the findings associated with it," said Steve Kinsey with the California Coastal Commission.

SoCal Edison got its permit to turn the former San Onofre nuclear generating station into a nuclear waste dump site.

The commission heard from SoCal Edison saying that about 1/3 of the nuclear waste in the facility is in dry stored containers. The rest is in a pool-like system that's being cooled. SoCal Edison wants to build the facility right next door to the property to store the rest of that liquid waste.

SoCal Edison says it is the best and safest way to store the nuclear waste until the federal government comes up with a facility to permanently store it.

Those opposed to the plan worry about their safety and if the dump site will only be a temporary storage facility.

"If you allow the plan to proceed as suggested, it's almost certain that we will end up with a nuclear waste site permanently, as far as we're concerned indefinitely," said Gary Hedrick of San Clemente.

"We have been storing and managing spent fuel - wet and dry - for over 40 years. So one assurance is our track record in managing spent fuel," said Tom Palmisano with SoCal Edison. "Nationwide, you'll see there are 34 states that have similar installations. No dry cask has ever leaked in service. So we have a good track record of over 30 years of using dry fuel storage."

SoCal Edison's timeline calls for construction of that storage facility to start in 2016. It will take about a year to build. Their goal is to have all the nuclear waste stored underground by 2019.

A judge may have a final say in this. Opponents say they plan on filing a lawsuit in federal court to stop the construction.
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