San Onofre nuclear power plant decommission under fire amid safety concerns

SAN DIEGO (KABC) -- Controversy surrounds the future of the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant. And now, two freshmen congressmen toured the plant and announced legislation amid serious environmental and safety concerns.

The efforts to decommission the nuclear facility continue to come under fire.

"We both recognize that we have an issue here," said Democratic Congressman Harley Rouda during a visit at the plant. Rouda and Democratic Congressman Mike Levin got a first-hand look at the controversial conditions inside the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, also known as SONGS.

The two representatives serve districts that cover north coastal San Diego and into Orange County, where SONGS is located.

"I'm pleased to announce that when I return to Washington, I'll be introducing new legislation to ensure the spent fuel here at SONGS receives top priority from the federal government for disposal," Levin said in a press conference. His newest effort will be called the spent fuel prioritization bill.

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To decommission the power plant, crews have been transferring spent nuclear fuel into square vaults on the beach until the government figures out what to do with them next, which will likely involve transferring them to a remote out-of-state location.

The congressmen are calling for more federal oversight after safety concerns were raised about the integrity of the storage canisters. Last summer, a loaded canister was nearly dropped several feet. "There is significant dispute and I think well-intentioned dispute about what the outcome would have been had that 18 -foot drop occurred," Levin said.

The operator of SONGS, Southern California Edison, reaffirms its commitment to safety and adds: "Southern California Edison welcomes the congressmen's efforts to develop solutions to the issues of transportation and long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel."

"It should be important to you, and certainly it should be important to your children and grandchildren," Rouda explained.

The congressmen told reporters that a best-case scenario would be full removal of the waste in 10 years. Worst case, things could drag on until 2050.
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