Hearing on San Onofre nuclear waste is pushed back to August

The California Coastal Commission has rescheduled its next hearing over the 2015 permit that allows Southern California Edison to bury millions of pounds of nuclear waste along the San Diego County coast.

The hearing, previously scheduled for the July commission meeting near Monterey, has been pushed back to the August meeting in Malibu so more residents of San Diego and Orange counties will be able to attend.

“The public is always welcome to participate in public comment, but we won’t have anything formal on the July agenda on the San Onofre briefing,” spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz said. “We encourage members of the public to come to the August meeting and use this opportunity to hear directly from commission staff, Edison and potentially an invited member of the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission].”

The 2,200-megawatt San Onofre nuclear power plant, which sits on the San Diego County coast, was closed in January 2012 after a faulty steam generator leaked a small amount of radiation.

In 2015, commissioners approved a plan to entomb the plant’s 3.6 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel on site.

The permit was strongly opposed by environmentalists and others worried about burying nuclear waste on the beach, within 50 miles of where more than 8 million people live. They have pushed for the waste to be sent elsewhere.

But the commissioners were told they could not consider safety issues because waste storage is the exclusive purview of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and its members approved the permit unanimously.

The permit was challenged by the Citizens Oversight nonprofit in San Diego County Superior Court, where a judge denied a motion to dismiss the case.

That ruling prompted majority plant owner Edison to enter negotiations about potential alternative locations for the radioactive waste. Those settlement discussions are confidential, and both sides have declined to comment on any plans to relocate the waste.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported this month that nine members of the Coastal Commission had a series of private meetings with utility officials in advance of the vote to approve the on-site waste storage plan for San Onofre.

The August meeting is to be held at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Residents are invited to share their thoughts about the waste storage plan. Those who can’t attend can email the commission at SanOnofreComments@coastal.ca.gov.

jeff.mcdonald@sduniontribune.com

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