San Diego Says NO To Spent Nuclear Fuel

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Originally Published on the ECOreport

San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors made history today. Californians have never voted on whether to demand the Department of Energy remove nuclear waste. As San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is decommissioned, a toxic waste dump is being built 600 feet from the Pacific Ocean, and roughly the same distance from the I-5. Unless some action is taken, 1,400 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel will be stored there. The Board of Supervisors voted 4-0, to “add to the County’s Legislative Program support for legislation that would remove and relocate outside of the San Diego region the spent nuclear fuel stored at the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.” San Diego says NO to spent nuclear fuel.


San Diego Says No To Spent Nuclear Fuel

“Spent nuclear fuel has no place in San Diego County. As San Onofre is decommissioned, the U.S. Department of Energy needs to step up and find a permanent place for the deadly material,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

“Our focus must be to keep the pressure on the federal government to do what it promised many, many years ago. For the sake of the citizens of San Diego County, and indeed every other community where this waste is piling up, the Secretary of Energy must act. Get this dangerous fuel to a place of safety. Live up to what was promised,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, who joined Jacob in bringing this motion forward.


There are 8.5 million Californians, spread between San Diego and Los Angeles, within the threatened area if there was a major disaster.

The Potential To Poison

According to Charles Langely,  the executive director of Public

The San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump is currently operated by Southern California Edison, which is in line to receive $4.2 Billion in ratepayer monies to maintain safe operation and cleanup of the dump. Southern California Edison’s current plan is to store the waste in gigantic steel drums that are designed to last for at least 20 years.

“Adding to the dangers of the fragile “dry cask” storage containers is the fact that a major nuclear release at San Onofre has the potential to poison as many as 147,000 vehicles and their passengers who travel by train and car past the San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump every day.”

“There’s no foolproof way to completely protect the public from this material. It’s even harder to safeguard Southern Californians when the radioactive waste is stored between a major freeway and the ocean. The possibility of an earthquake or other natural disaster at San Onofre, or even a terrorist attack, would continue to be an endless concern,” said Jacob.

San_Onofre_Nuclear_Generating_Station_2013_photo_D_Ramey_LoganDevelop A Long Term Plan

She added, “The federal government has talked in the past about developing a long-term plan to store spent nuclear fuel at a remote location or locations. It’s time to finally make it happen. Too much is at stake.”

“I think we all learned some lessons from Japan that it isn’t a long-term solution. It isn’t a temporary solution,” added Roberts.

As a result of today’s vote, San Diego Chief Administrative Officer will draft a letter “to the United States Secretary of Energy urging the prompt removal and relocation of the spent nuclear fuel currently stored at the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and provide copies to San Diego County’s federal legislative representatives, the Governor of California, the state legislative delegation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the California Energy Commission and all other appropriate agencies or entities.”1

Endnote (1): quote taken from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Agenda for Sept 15, 2015, “ADVOCATING FOR THE REMOVAL AND RELOCATION OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL FROM THE SAN DIEGO REGION (DISTRICTS: ALL)”

Top Photo Credit: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station by Jelson25 via Wikipedia (CC BY SA, 3.0 License);San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors (l to r): Bill Horn, Ron Roberts, (Chair) Dianne Jacob, Greg Cox (reclused from vote because of involvement in Coastal Commission), Dave Roberts – Courtesy office of Dianne Jacob;San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station 2013 photo D Ramey Logan via Wikipedia (CC BY SA, 4.0 License) 

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Roy L Hales

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

Roy L Hales has 441 posts and counting. See all posts by Roy L Hales

15 thoughts on “San Diego Says NO To Spent Nuclear Fuel

  • San Diego is full of right wing idiots. I’m not feeling very sympathetic to their problems. Not at all… They wanted nuclear power. Let them pay dearly for the proper cleanup.

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    • I think that they are willing to pay, but there is a large NIMBY attitude. The energy department YEARS ago, before the plant was built, stated that the spent fuel would be removed. They just want the federal government to keep that promise.

  • “We’re done with that radioactive stuff. Now go dump in someone else’s yard.”

  • There’s plenty of apocalyptic vision and very little science in this decision, and clearly there was a fire sale on scary adjectives recently.

    Spent fuel is stored in extremely strong concrete and steel containers (“fragile”, really) called casks. You can run a locomotive full speed into these casks and they won’t break. The spent fuel inside them isn’t going anywhere – it’s a mineral, not a virus, and there is no mechanism for it to spread anyway. It doesn’t generate enough heat to melt either itself or its containers no matter how ridiculously unlikely a scenario you impose on it. There are zero people at risk and there are zero vehicles at risk from this proposal.

    Now the federal government should definitely take the fuel as soon as they have somewhere to take it, because that is what they committed to. But there is no hair-on-fire risk in the mean time with it sitting on a concrete pad in its casks.

  • This dump is for waste that would be at least 10 and perhaps 20 years
    old, after its radioactivity has died down significicantly. But since the San Orofre nuclear plant was only shut down in 2013 this
    means it still has high level nuclear waste sitting in spent fuel pools
    that will still generate a great deal of heat
    and is still quite capable of busting into flame and dispersing a cloud
    of radioactive debris should there be a catastrophic failures of the
    cooling pools. Fortunately this is not likely to occur, even in the unlikely event of a major earthquake. (As we’ve seen, for the system to break down we’d need something crazy occurring like an earthquake and a tsunami occurring at almost the same time. Or companies caring more about short term profits than people’s safety.) So there will be fuel sitting in spent fuel pools that
    will be too dangerous to handle for maybe 10 or more years.

    So what should be done with the waste once it has cooled down enough to be moved? The US should pay South Australia to store it. The US should pay South Australia a huge amount of money.

    • Make sure you buy something lasting for that money as long as it’s worth something as I have my doubts the US is able to back those dollars forever by the way they ‘print’ it.

      • Okay, you taking some crazy juice there. The US dollar has appreciated 40% to the Australian dollar over the past two years.

          • I don’t see anything at that link about a fall in the US dollar. And you do know that the US inflation rate has been about 0.2% for the year? A lack of inflation is one reason why their currency is appreciating. Here’s their inflation rates for the past 10 years:

            2014 1.6%
            2013 1.5%
            2012 2.1%
            2011 3.2%
            2010 1.6%
            2009 -0.4%
            2008 3.8%
            2007 2.8%
            2006 3.2%
            2005 3.4%
            2004 2.7%

  • You need to ask yourself a question, Daniel.

    If waste reactors, thorium, and all these other ideas which have been kicked around for years, if not decades, are such wonderful solutions then why are we not using them on a large scale?

    Cheap to run isn’t the issue when it comes to nuclear. Even uranium is less than one cent per kWh. The problem is capital cost plus the cost of financing during construction.

    If the Vogtle reactors experience no further delays the installed cost for their electricity will be over $8/kWh. Compare that to then installed cost of wind and solar in 2014, $1.64/kWh and $1.49/kWh.

    The nuclear industry has been working for six decades to bring down the cost of their produce and they have failed over and over and over.

    If the ideas that fascinate you were valid then some large company such as GE or Toshiba would have simply built those plants. They would have stepped in and underbid the Chinese/French price for the Hinkley Point reactors. They would have jumped in and underbid the current bid for new reactors at North Anna that are currently priced at $0.19/kWh.

    Business is not going to leave profits on the table. If it was possible to make money with these whiz-bang ideas then they would have already been built.

    Reactors burning waste? Old idea. Countries are spending billions storing used fuel. If waste burning reactors were the answer why wouldn’t we see them operating right now?

    Common sense. Apply some.

    • The answer here is that ultimately we get into geopolitics. Yes conventional nuclear reactors produce plutonium, and yes it is dangerous, but then if you need to build a lot of tanks and planes to defend yourself then why not just use an arguably inefficient nuclear technology to do that work for you, and generate a revenue stream on the side. Now, despite this twisted logic, it has been the route that has been most followed for the best part of 60 years. This has meant that the fuel supply infrastructrure, the construction and underlying technology is all very well understood. In fact, it hasn’t changed at all since 1960 when The oak ridge plant was shut down in favour of plutonium. The fact is, we do have a lot of waste now. So if someone can find a way of getting rid of it, she will be a very rich woman.

      • I suspect the real answer is that you find the results of applying common sense inconvenient.

      • The reason it’s impossible to get rid of the waste is that it’s a messy chemical stew. Things which deal with one component of it don’t deal with another component of it, and yet another component *interferes* with the attempt to clean up the first component.

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