Nuclear, Waste Management & Decommissioning

NRC gives go-ahead for SCE to resume spent rod storage for San Onofre nuclear site

Southern California Edison is resuming dry storage of spent nuclear rods from its closed San Onofre nuclear plant on the Pacific coast.

Fuel transfer operations were halted last August when, according to news reports, a 50-ton cannister was wedged in its transport cask and in danger of falling 18 feet. The canister was eventually placed safely into storage, SCE noted.

Since then, SCE and its contractor, Holtec,  have systematically reviewed and strengthened procedures, oversight and training that directly supports a “robust fuel transfer program,” according to the California utility’s press release. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has inspected SCE’s corrective actions and enhancements to the storage program.

As a result, the commission determined that SCE can safely resume downloading spent fuel canisters. The supplemental inspection report released July 10 affirms that SCE has addressed previously identified issues regarding fuel transfer operations to the commission’s satisfaction. “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,” said Doug Bauder, SCE vice president and chief nuclear officer. “We’re confident the improvements we’ve made are effective and sustainable. Our job now is to demonstrate that to our stakeholders.”

The restart of fuel transfer operations will begin with a canister that was previously loaded with spent fuel assemblies and has been safely stored in a fuel handling building since August. There are 44 canisters remaining to be placed into the dry storage facility.  In 2013, SCE announced it was closing the San Onofre’s Units 2 and 3. The decommissioning project takes numerous years.