First in a two-part series on the storage of used radioactive fuel at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Concerns about the safety of spent fuel rods being stored at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station have inspired action by residents and city officials in Laguna Beach, which lies 20 miles north of the plant.
Residents fear a nuclear disaster could result from a terrorist attack, earthquake or fire.
But the chance of a catastrophe at the site is minuscule, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Nonetheless, community group Let Laguna Vote organized a letter-writing campaign in early January urging the NRC, Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to remove the spent fuel.
And city officials adopted a resolution last month insisting the fuel — ceramic pellets made of uranium oxide that are stored in metal rods — be removed as soon as possible from San Onofre, which was closed in June 2013 as a result of faulty steam generators.
Southern California Edison’s emergency management plan for San Onofre, made public last month, said a leak from a pool that cools radioactive matter is one of the most realistic, though unlikely, disaster scenarios.
Edison, which owns 80% of the plant, is holding used nuclear fuel on-site in steel-lined pools or encased in concrete casks, waiting, as are other plant operators across the country, for the U.S. Department of Energy to designate a permanent disposal site.
But Let Laguna Vote Chairwoman Rita Conn said one can’t be too careful when it comes to nuclear fuel.
“No matter how safe a design, there are always random, unplanned events that can’t be imagined,” she said. “We feel like the Department of Defense should guard this as it guards its weapons. The stakes are too high.”