Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those working to create a nuclear free world. Here is out March 2018 report.
1. Broken Promises, Broken Bolts: The San Onofre Nuclear Follies Just Won't Stop
The decline and fall of of Southern California's San Onofre nuclear power plant still has not hit bottom. Located in Orange county, home of Disneyland, the plant operated 3 nuclear reactors. The first one started up in 1969, while Richard Nixon occupied the Western White House in San Clemente nearby. Nuclear reactors are designed to operate 40 years. But this one lasted only until 1992,then subsequently leaked radiation under the beach of this iconic surfing spot.
The other 2 reactors started up in 1983 and 1984, but their lives too were cut short.. In 2012 the failure of recently installed major replacement equipment caused radiation to leak into the air of surrounding communities, and the shutdown of both reactors. They never started up again. Subsequent investigation found that the leaking equipment, called steam generators (one in each reactor) had turned to junk in just a few years-they were supposed to last decades.
Their owner, Southern California Edison (San Diego Gas & Electric is a minority owner) was in a hurry to get them back online. but local communities and environmental group organized to prevent that from happening until the utility could demonstrate the public's health and safety would not be harmed by doing so.
This caused Edison to lose large amounts of money, but rather than cough up the big bucks to make necessary repairs, the utility announced in June 2013 that San Onofre's closure would be permanent.
End of story? Hardly.
Not long after the shutdown, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) decided that San Onofre utility customers would get stuck with most of the cost of the nuke plant's shutdown costs, an astounding billion +! Later it emerged that the deal had originated at a secret meeting in Warsaw Poland, of a high level Edison official and the president of the CPUC.
On March 1 of this year, KPBS radio, 87.5 FM San Diego, reported "Consumer Watchdog Urges CPUC to Reject San Onofre Settlement." The report cited Charles Langley of the San Diego consumer group Public Watchdog, who, KPBS reported, "said the CPUC should not approve the settlement because it allows the utility to unlawfully charge ratepayers for useless equipment," that is, San Onofre's ruined steam generators."
Langley also objected to the settlement being reached "behind closed doors," similar to the Warsaw deal.
The settlement was reached last January, the result of a lawsuit challenging the CPUC's decision five years ago, Lead attorney Mike Aguirre, a former San Diego city attorney, accepted the settlement, which would save customers billion but still drop a billion bomb on them, because he believed it was the best one possible. The KPBS report noted the "Aguirre received million as part of the settlement."
The Waste Of It All
But that's not all.When nuclear plants shut down, they;re full of nuclear fuel that then becomes called spent fuel.This is high level nuclear waste, hot enough to quickly kill anyone who gets close enough to it, consisting of radioactive chemicals like plutonium that remain lethal for thousands of years. And there's nowhere else to put it.
In San Onofre's case there's 3.55 million pounds of this stuff, while 8.4 million people live within 50 miles. The Pacific Ocean is on the west side of the plant, with highly traveled Interstate 5 and Camp Pendleton the the east.
After doing such a great job of running its nuclear plant into the ground, Southern California Edison's plan for its nuke waste is to take it out of the nuke plant and put it into containers that will end up 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean.
Not to worry, all will be well, they tell us. Or is that hell? Despite objections from local folks and environmental groups like San Clemente Greens, Edison went ahead earlier this year with this scheme. In the February 5 San Diego Union-Tribune, Edison spokesperson Maureen Brown assured the public, "We're on track to transfer spent fuel to dry cask storage by mid-2019 or earlier."
Because on March 24 the Union-Tribune reported, "Work ceasing for 10 days at San Onofre after loose bolt discovered in radioactive waste containers." Actually it proved to be a broken bolt. but why quibble?
It turns out that the container was one of 43--you guessed it-new and improved containers provided by Holtec Co. of New Jersey. The U-T reported, "Edison said it already had filled 4 of these canisters," but was "unable to check whether those casks have the same flaws."
Unable to check? Is Homer Simpson in charge, or is it Bart?
And so this dirty work was allowed to resume on March 15, otherwise known as the Ides of March, 10 days later.
An Edison official bleated," Safety is our top priority."
Nevertheless Donna Gilmore, a community activist from San Onofre Safety.org, responded, "We warned them this was going to happen. Now they are trying to tell us, 'Everything is OK. Don't worry.' This is insane. Edison has proven it can't keep us safe."
Sources: KPBS radio FM 87.5, apbs.org; San Diego Union Tribune, uniontribune.com.
2. Three More Nuke Plants To Shut Down
On March 28, Cleveland Business reported that utility First Energy Solution announced that it would be shutting down three nuclear power plants for good within three years. Davis Bessie. which started up in 1978, will close in 2020. It's probably best known for having its massive lid on top of its nuclear reactor, that keeps all the radioactivity in, wearing down to only a half inch thick.
In 2021, the Perry nuke plant, also in Ohio, will shut down, as will Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania, which started up in 1976.
The utility said the shutdowns are motivated by the plants inability to compete amy longer.