The ever-evolving situation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station and its nuclear waste problem has become a hot-button issue for residents of San Clemente, Oceanside, and beyond. It’s immensely complex, but allow me, if you will, to oversimplify.
Spent nuclear fuel goes through a years-long cooling process in pools before it can be moved to dry storage where it further cools until it is safe for transport to long-term storage. “Long-term” storage facility, though, is a misnomer. It’s essentially the permanent resting place for nuclear waste stored in extremely thick metal canisters. The problem at San Onofre and many decommissioned nuclear generation stations across the country, though, is there is no long-term storage facility. Or rather, one was planned for an area called Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but in 2011 the Feds pulled the plug. As a result, short-term solutions have become defacto long-term solutions, which is where we are today at San Onofre.
Back in February, Southern California Edison and contractors involved in the SONGS decommissioning process began transferring spent nuclear fuel from pools to dry storage – or dry cask storage. Tens of thick metal canisters of spent nuclear fuel have since been stored on site adjacent to the generators beneath a concrete pad called the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI).