The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, shut down since 2012 and now being decommissioned. Photo courtesy Southern California Edison
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was shut down in 2012. Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Spent nuclear fuel at the idle San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County will be stored in an underground facility, operator and majority owner Southern California Edison announced Friday.

Edison said Holtec International, which has built storage facilities at other nuclear plants in California, will create steel-and-concrete-encased canisters to hold the fuel.

The San Onofre nuclear plant has been inoperative since a small, non- injury leak happened in January 2012. Last year, Edison opted to retire the two reactors rather than pursue an expensive restart plan.

The utility hopes to transfer the fuel from steel-lined concrete storage pools by mid-2019.

“After reviewing leading designs with the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel, we concluded this underground design is best suited to safely and securely store used nuclear fuel at San Onofre until the federal government removes the fuel from site, as required,” said Chris Thompson, SCE vice president of decommissioning. “Our decision to move expeditiously to transfer the fuel also reflects feedback from community leaders who prefer dry storage of used nuclear fuel.”

Thompson said the Holtec design exceeds California earthquake requirements and protects against hazards such as water, fire or tsunamis. The dry storage technique for nuclear fuel has been used for almost three decades in the U.S., he said.

Thompson said engineering work will begin immediately, followed by fabrication of canisters.

—City News Service