SAN LUIS OBISPO — According to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) there are 214 Atascadero residents currently working in what economists would term “head of household” jobs at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
Currently, in the midst of one of its last scheduled reactor fueling cycles, the plant is expected to cease operations and begin dismantling by 2025.
The economic well-being of neighbors that far in the future may not be enough to get many North County residents to give up a Saturday for an all-day engagement panel in San Luis Obispo, but the topics being discussed by the Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel on Feb. 23 and again in a different format on March 13 are some of the oldest, and scariest of the atomic-age: nuclear waste.
Specifically, the panel has been concerned about the spent fuel being semi-permanently stored at the site in cooling pools and large “casks” designed to prevent the radioactive material from coming in contact with the environment.
Mothers for Peace and past members of the SLO Nuclear Waste Management Committee lined up during a day of information gathering presentations Feb. 23 to tell the panel variations on just how bad radiation is for people, and how little they trust the utility company not to flub important safety protocol in the wake of PG&E’s role in recent devastating Northern California fires and a gas line explosion in San Bruno in 2010.
Voicing those concerns did little to address a longterm problem however, the lack of a federally approved long-term repository for spent fuel.
Decades under consideration, the U.S. Department of Energy still doesn’t know if Yucca Mountain is a viable site, explained Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24). The Congressman was met with some derision after the meeting, not from constituents, from Washington, D.C. based environmental activists over his support of a bill which would see a New Mexico facility take the waste.
Rep. Carbajal’s legislative update focused on H.R.3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, which he said would put waste currently stored at Diablo at, “near the top of the list” for removal to any proposed interim storage facility if a permanent one is not developed.
Seismic risk, earthquakes, possible near Diablo Canyon put the local waste higher in the que ahead of sites waiting longer under more stable conditions.
“I prefer not to test Mother Nature,” he said, adding that he expects legislation to push the Department of Energy to come to a conclusion on Yucca Mountain or immediately begin a search for alternatives. He added that he was not in favor of forcing communities anywhere else in the nation to take on the problem material against their will.
The update comes as PG&E is soliciting proposals from private manufactures of dry cask storage to enable storage and transport of the spent fuel currently sitting in its cooling pool.
Representatives of Holtec International did not get address the panel directly Feb. 23 but sat in an adjoining chamber with displays depicting a private “Consolidated Interim Storage Facility” they’re currently licensing in southeastern New Mexico with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance. They also offered information on another partnership entity, Comprehensive Decommissioning International. CDI may bid to operate Diablo through dismantling after 2025.
The next scheduled meeting is March 13, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo, with the open house session for the panel at 6 p.m.