Issa asks for hearing on San Onofre nuclear waste

Congressman Darrell Issa this week urged the U.S. Department of Energy to hold a public forum in Southern California on what should be done with spent nuclear fuel, citing concerns over the shuttered San Onofre power plant in his district.

In an April 5 letter to the agency, Issa said Southern California should be added to a list of six previously announced public forums addressing where spent nuclear waste from around the U.S. should be transferred. Following an awards presentation at his office on April 6, Issa said it’s critical to hold a meeting in the region given that so many residents are impacted.

Issa said there’s a significant financial cost to storing nuclear waste at the San Onofre plant, along with safety risks.

“We really are a classic example of a place that you cannot wait,” Issa said, noting the San Onofre plant is positioned near an active fault line, by the ocean and bordering densely-populated areas. He also stated the plant could be a target for terrorism.

The U.S. has failed to find a depository for the nation’s nuclear waste. In 2010, the Obama Administration shelved plans for a long-planned permanent storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Federal legislation, which has been assigned to a congressional subcommittee, would allow the transfer of spent nuclear fuel to interim storage sites, potentially in West Texas and New Mexico. The Encinitas City Council and other jurisdictions have approved resolutions in support of that bill.

Recently, the Department of Energy announced it would get public feedback on where to relocate the nation’s spent nuclear waste. The agency’s only meeting on the West Coast is in Sacramento on April 26, leading Issa to press the department for an additional forum in Southern California.

Issa said he’s optimistic that the department will accommodate the request.

He said the San Onofre plant was never intended as a long-term storage site, adding a forum in the region would help determine where the nuclear waste should be moved.

“We have a right to demand that some site be found,” Issa said.

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