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May 2014 wildfire near San Onofre NGS, NRC
May 2014 Wildfire Near San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Current California Wildfires
July 31 2015 California wildfires San Onofre

Despite calls by Senators in 2014 to stop elimination of emergency response measures at decommissioning nuclear reactors: “In June 2015, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved elimination of off-site emergency planning for San Onofre, even though they know the waste is extremely dangerous. This means fewer emergency planning staff, reduced funding and less radiation monitoring.The San Onofre fire staff has been reduced. The nuclear plant’s fire and rescue vehicles will be donated to new homes soon, according to Patrick Baughman, San Onofre fire marshal. San Onofre now has an agreement that makes the Camp Pendleton Fire Department the primary firefighting force for the nuclear plant. No details were provided about how this may affect ratepayers and local emergency services in this Southern California Edison July 9, 2015…” Read the rest here: http://sanonofresafety.org/emergency-planning-resources/ Learn more here: Sanonofresafety.org

Unfortunately, the Dry Cask Storage is not the miracle solution which the Senators and many others wish for. (See more at post bottom.)

Press Releases
Senators Boxer, Sanders and Markey Call on NRC to Protect Communities Living Near Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors Noting wildfires and evacuations near the San Onofre nuclear plant, Senators call on NRC to stop waiving emergency response measures at decommissioned sites

Thursday May 15, 2014
Washington, D.C. — In light of the dangerous, fast-moving wildfires that erupted in San Diego County, including in an area near the San Onofre nuclear power plant, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) urging the Commission to reverse its unwise policy of granting requests to terminate emergency response regulations at decommissioning nuclear reactors throughout the nation. Southern California Edison evacuated a dozen employees yesterday from the now closed San Onofre nuclear plant due to the wildfires. The EPW Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to examine the issues facing communities located near decommissioning nuclear reactors. During the hearing, the NRC acknowledged the dangers associated with a spent nuclear fuel fire, which could result in large radioactive releases and widespread contamination.

Senators Boxer, Sanders and Markey introduced legislation on Tuesday to address spent fuel storage, emergency preparedness and decommissioning plans at nuclear plants across the country.

The full text of the letter is below:

May 15, 2014

The Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Rockville, MD 20852

Dear Chairman Macfarlane:

As you know, we are extremely concerned about safety issues surrounding decommissioning nuclear power plants.

On the same day as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s hearing on these issues, a dangerous, fast-moving set of fires erupted in San Diego County, including in the vicinity of the San Onofre nuclear plant. In response to one of these fires, Southern California Edison evacuated a dozen employees from the plant.

As you know, San Onofre currently contains 2,600 highly radioactive fuel rods in its spent nuclear fuel pools that were originally designed to hold only 1,600. In the event of a fire at the plant, the electricity needed to keep the pools full and cooled could be cut off, causing the water in the pools to boil off and the spent fuel to spontaneously ignite. The National Academy of Sciences[1] (NAS) and the NRC[2] have both found that a spent fuel fire could result in large radioactive releases and widespread contamination. NRC’s analysis has concluded that the health and economic impacts of a spent fuel fire could equal those caused by an accident at an operating reactor. In addition, you co-authored a paper[3] that found that the consequences of such an event could exceed those that occurred at Chernobyl. At yesterday’s hearing, NRC acknowledged these dangers in response to our questions.

Southern California Edison and Entergy have recently requested exemptions from the emergency response regulations designed to protect the surrounding communities from the consequences that events such as wildfires, earthquakes or terrorist attacks could cause. The NRC has never once refused a request to terminate the emergency response measures designed to protect the safety of communities living near decommissioning reactors. We trust the Commission will reverse this unwise policy, and insist on continued compliance with all safety and security precautions at shut down plants going forward.

We also urge the Commission to require all nuclear reactor operators to move the spent fuel rods stored in spent fuel pools into safer dry cask storage as quickly as it can be done, and to require operators to also incorporate state and local government views into their plans for decommissioning reactors.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We expect the Commission’s response as soon as possible, and plan a hearing with the Commission to further discuss these and other vital safety concerns.


Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Edward J. Markey
[1] National Research Council, “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage,” 2006
[2] http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1325/ML13256A342.pdf and http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0104/ML010430066.pdf
[3] http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1209/ML120960695.pdf

Unfortunately, the Dry Cask Storage is not the miracle solution which the Senators and many others wish for. This is especially true due to the thin, flimsy nature of the inner, unvented, casks, which are also of questionable quality, and are set out unprotected on parking lots. Furthermore, Holtec requests NRC exemptions which impact safety and quality on a routine basis! For more info, do a search for Holtec within our blog, and consult Sanonofresafety.org Although most of the focus has been Holtec, the other licensed dry casks do not appear better. A Manhattan-like project for nuclear waste is needed. In the meanwhile, there appears need for adding more spent fuel pools to reduce crowding, and reinforcement of the existing ones, and somehow covering them (vented) against earthquake seiche. The spent fuel must spend some time in the pools anyway. A solution must be quickly implemented.