San Onofre: No questions allowed at next public workshop on nuclear waste storage

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Members of the public won't get a chance to comment or question experts on nuclear waste storage at the next public workshop on the decommissioning of the San Onofre nuclear plant, which takes place Tuesday night.

And that's not sitting well with some anti-nuclear activists.

"It's disappointing we won't be allowed time for public comments on the storage issue," said Gary Headrick with San Clemente Green. "But this will be a really good eye-opener for the people on the panel to get educated on the uncertainty on how we store nuclear waste."

RELATED: Objections filed to plan sticking ratepayers with $3.3 billion in San Onofre nuclear plant costs 

The second meeting of the Southern California Edison Community Engagement Panel is set for 6-9 p.m. Tuesday at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center in San Juan Capistrano. 

The panel was created to give the public input into the ongoing decommissioning process for the closed nuclear plant.

Headrick said he'd like to see a "broader variety" of experts at the storage workshop. 

The panel chairman, David G. Victor, a UC San Diego professor and expert on energy markets, told Headrick in a letter that the technical workshop is designed to maximize the panel's time with the waste storage experts, allowing the panel to ask questions and for the experts to offer their views. 

"It's going to be really important for the public to be there [at the storage workshop] even if they won't have a chance to speak. There's a lot to be learned," said Headrick, who added that spent fuel wasn't intended to be stored permanently at closed nuclear plants.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and other senators sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on May 2, calling on the agency to stop the "unwise policy" of issuing exemptions for emergency response requirements to decommissioning nuclear reactors that house spent nuclear fuel, such as San Onofre. 

The decommissioning of the San Onofre nuclear plant  is expected to take decades. 

The highly radioactive nuclear waste will be stored at the seaside location indefinitely, since there is no national nuclear waste repository. (High-level nuclear waste from operating and decommissioned plants is stored at the plant locations). 

On its website, the NRC states that its current storage options — steel and concrete casks and spent fuel pools — "provide adequate protection of the public health and safety and the environment. Therefore there is no pressing safety or security reason to mandate earlier transfer of fuel from pool to cask."

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