First Look: San Onofre’s Nuclear Storage Facility

"They're going to put nuclear waste 100 feet from the water"

Satellite images taken earlier this month reveal the reality many Southern Californians have hoped would never come to pass: just 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean, nuclear storage facilities are being built to deal with waste from the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.

“Nothing is slowing down the process of actually putting those containers in the ground 100 feet from the beach,” said Carlos Amezcua, of San Diego’s KUSI News.

The news comes after much optimism amongst Southern Californians that the plan would be slowed and reconsidered. In January, California representative Darrell Issa introduced a new bill, the Interim Consolidated Storage Act, hoping to finally move nuclear waste from sites like San Onofre.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “among the bill's features is a target to move waste from some sites across the country into a storage site in as soon as five years — provided the bill becomes law.”

Alas, satellite images confirmed the storage facility’s construction last week, meaning Orange County and San Diego residents are much closer than they think to having a very real situation on their hands: three million pounds of nuclear waste sitting pretty in their backyard.

“I’m 100 percent against any nuclear waste being buried in this area,” local resident John Gallagher told KUSI, “…and to put it in a place that’s 100 feet from the ocean, it affects the whole ecosystem, anybody that wants to use the water.”

“Those containers are meant to last 20 years,” former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre told KUSI. “Their plan is to keep it in there for at least thirty-five to fifty years. The containers, if they erode – there’s no way to get them out of there, so you just have to encase them… The containers are so large…there’s no way to move them unless you build special railway cars.”

General wear and tear notwithstanding, opponents of the storage plan worry that the canisters may be vulnerable to earthquakes or tsunamis.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to realize this is probably not a good idea,” said KUSI’s Dan Plante. “The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is not on one earthquake fault, but in-between two earthquake faults, and people can’t help but remember what happened at Fukushima.”

More than 8 million people live within fifty miles of the power plant.