Morning Briefing - April 22, 2019
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April 22, 2019

Utility to Hire Consultant on Relocating SONGS’ Spent Fuel

By ExchangeMonitor

Southern California Edison (SCE) plans in early May to hire a consultant to help develop a strategic plan for off-site relocation of spent reactor fuel now stored at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

The anticipated hiring is one element in the utility’s effort to meet its commitments under a 2017 settlement over construction of an expanded used-fuel storage pad at the retired San Diego County power plant. The settlement enabled SCE to continue moving the material into dry storage on-site even as it took “commercially reasonable” steps to find another home for the fuel assemblies.

Part of that approach includes developing transportation and strategic plans for relocating the spent fuel. In 2018, SCE established a six-person experts team to guide this process, including former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Allison Macfarlane and former Energy Department official Thomas Isaacs.

“The selected consultant will work with SCE and the Experts Team to develop a strategic plan for offsite storage of SONGS spent fuel,” SCE spokesman John Dobken said by email Friday. “The strategic plan will identify the universe of options for offsite spent fuel storage, cull them down to those that are practicable and commercially reasonable, and then map out opportunities that SCE may pursue to advance certain options for offsite storage.”

The plan should be prepared over 18 months, Dobken said. It will cover matters ranging from stakeholder engagement to prioritizing removal of SONGS’ spent fuel relative to other nuclear power plants.

Further details about the consultant and strategic plan were not immediately available.

In total, SONGS holds about 3.5 million pounds of used fuel assemblies. Transfer of the material from wet to dry storage has been on hold since August 2018 mishap that left one canister vulnerable to being dropped nearly 20 feet into a storage slot. Southern California Edison and used fuel-transfer contractor Holtec International are waiting for NRC authorization to resume work.