Just a few months into Southern California Edison’s very controversial plan to relocate spent nuclear fuel to holding tanks on the beach at San Onofre, crews are finding the holding tanks aren’t working properly.
The LA Times reported last month that when workers tried to move spent fuel from a cooling tank to dry storage tanks—that are kept a mere 100-feet from the shoreline—broken bolts were found in the long-term storage tanks. Those tanks are meant to hold and stabilize the spent fuel rods indefinitely.
Work stopped for ten days after the bolts were found, but has since resumed, angering nearby residents and people opposed to the plan to store waste at San Onofre, who were already worried about the safety of keeping nuclear waste so near the ocean and major population centers.
Now that broken bolts have been found, those fears are heightening.
The broken bolts are part of a system that helps keep the rods balanced in the storage tanks. They’re apparently a new design, and four of them have already been filled with radioactive waste. Unfortunately, there’s no way for Southern California Edison to test the already-filled containers for the same issue.
Edison is trying to assuage fears and insists there’s no threat to the public. And they’ve resumed filling more storage tanks, but not the newly-designed tanks with bolt issues.
But for watchdog groups who were already warning that unforeseen problems made storing this waste highly dangerous, malfunctioning tanks so early in the relocation process isn’t sitting very well.
“We warned them that this was going to happen, and nobody listened to us,” Donna Gilmore of SanOnofreSafety.org told the LA Times. “Now they are trying to tell us: ‘Everything is OK. Don’t worry.’ This is insane. Edison has proven they can’t keep us safe.”
As part of a lawsuit settlement, Edison has agreed to look into options to store the spent fuel permanently in New Mexico or Arizona, far from millions of Orange County and San Diego County residents.
For now though, the waste is still headed to San Onofre, busted bolts and all. All 3.6 million pounds of it.