SCE seeks Coastal Commission approval for extended interim nuclear fuel storage

Edison International (NYSE:EIX) utility Southern California Edison (SCE) has asked the California Coastal Commission for permission to expand the interim used nuclear fuel storage facility at the now-retired San Onofre nuclear plant.

SCE said in a Feb. 23 news release that it has filed to amend the company’s coastal development permit.

In an application filed with the commission, SCE notes that the existing storage facility approved in 2001 will soon reach capacity.

SCE anticipates a need for up to 80 more steel-and-concrete-encased canisters, a technology known as dry storage. About two-thirds of San Onofre’s used fuel is currently stored on site in steel-lined, concrete storage pools known as wet storage; about one-third is already in dry storage.

“Local community leaders and a wide range of stakeholders in California have told us they want San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel moved to dry storage as expeditiously as possible,” said Chris Thompson, SCE vice president of Decommissioning.

“We want to be responsive to that preference while continuing to safely manage this fuel until the federal government does its job and opens a used nuclear fuel repository,” Thompson said. He noted that state approval to expand San Onofre’s Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, which currently holds 51 canisters, is required before SCE can complete the transfer to dry storage in 2019, as planned.

It was unclear when the state Coastal Commission might rule upon the request. “Our understanding is that the commission will consider this issue before the end of the year,” an SCE spokesperson said. “Probably late summer would be the soonest the commission would take it up,” the spokesperson added.  

SCE has selected below-ground dry fuel storage technology provided by Holtec International for San Onofre. The concrete monolith that will house the dry storage canisters will be below ground. The robust design exceeds California earthquake requirements and protects against hazards such as fire or tsunamis, the utility said.

SCE announced in June 2013 that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3 in San Clemente, Calif. The dual-unit nuclear plant had a total generating capacity of 2,200 MW.

Units 2 and 3 have been idle since January 2012 after unusual tube wear was discovered in two Mitsubishi Heavy Industries steam generators that were replaced a few years earlier.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at