Incident at San Onofre nuclear plant prompts additional training measures via The San Diego Union-Tribune

The utility operating the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station confirmed an incident occurred last week involving a canister containing spent nuclear fuel and has directed the contractor in charge of transferring the fuel to “take corrective actions, including additional training.”

Southern California Edison officials in a statement Friday cited “performance errors” by workers from contractor Holtec International when a canister containing nuclear waste got caught on an inner ring of what is called a Cavity Enclosure Container on one of the pads at a newly constructed storage site.

Since February, operators of the plant have been transferring canisters from what is called “wet storage” to a newly constructed facility on the site of the plant that is in the process of being decommissioned. Edison said the transfers have now been put on pause.

The company’s announcement came one day after a man identifying himself as an industrial safety worker associated with the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration startled those attending a public meeting in Oceanside hosted by the SONGS Community Engagement Panel by describing a litany of safety shortcomings associated with the transfer process.

David Fritch said on Aug. 3 one of the canisters being lowered into the cavity enclosure “could have fallen 18 feet.”

In remarks during the Community Engagement Panel’s public comments period, Fritch said similar problems have occurred before “but it wasn’t shared with the crew that was working. We’re under-manned. We don’t have the proper personnel to get things done safely.”

Fritch, who said he’s been on the site for about three months, said some workers are “under-trained” and that many experienced supervisors “are often sent away” and replaced by new supervisors who “don’t understand it as well.”

Fritch’s remarks were captured on video from the livestream of the panel’s quarterly meeting.


Edison ran into a problem in March during the transfer of spent fuel at SONGS. Work was delayed 10 days after workers discovered a piece of shim — essentially, a pin 4 inches by a half-inch — came loose while a canister was being loaded.

Edison received assurance from Holtec and an independent engineering firmthat the canister’s integrity was sound.

Some 50 canisters of spent fuel sit in what is called a “dry storage” installation at SONGS. A second dry storage installation, recently constructed and approved by the California Coastal Commission, is in the process of transferring 73 canistersfrom what is called “wet storage.”

Used-up fuel is thermally hot and to cool it, nuclear operators place the fuel in a metal rack and submerge it in a deep wet storage pool.

So far, 29 of of the 73 canisters have been transferred from wet storage to dry casks. Edison expects to complete the transfer by the middle of next year.

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