August 2018 “near-miss” saw a 50-ton canister of nuclear waste left suspended for 45 minutes.
At issue are 13 pages of records concerning what happened on Aug. 3, 2018, at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, known as SONGS for short, operated by Southern California Edison.
Workers at the plant were in the process in which dozens of canisters filled with highly radioactive spent fuel were transferred from storage pools to a newly constructed dry storage facility at the north end of the facility. During the transfers, each canister is lowered into a protected cavity.
On Aug. 3, operators thought they had successfully lowered the canister but discovered it instead got stuck on the inner ring of the cavity, left unsupported by support rigging, about 18 feet from the floor of the enclosure. Eventually, the canister was safely deposited.
Edison officials said workers and the public were never in danger if the canister had fallen but called the incident a “serious near-miss.” The NRC conducted a special inspection and eventually fined Edison $116,000 for failing “to establish a rigorous process to ensure adequate procedures, training and oversight guidance.”
The incident came to light six days later, when a worker for a subcontractor at the plant spoke up at a meeting of San Onofre’s Community Engagement Panel.
Earlier in the meeting, Edison Vice President Tom Palmisano said downloading operations had been suspended to rest the crew and perform maintenance.Palmisano later told the Union-Tribune since the canister had not fallen, he did not mention it at the Aug. 9 meeting — a decision he said he regretted.
Aguirre and his law firm filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NRC, looking to obtain records of all communications between the NRC and SONGS officials. Eventually, the agency turned over 13 pages of records but five pages were withheld and eight pages were redacted.
The NRC said it did so because it determined the records were exempt from release because they could reveal trade secrets or consisted of names of people whose disclosure could “undermine the physical security at the NRC, thereby creating a risk of harm to facility personnel and other individuals living or working near the facility.”
Aguirre’s lawsuit calls on the court to order the NRC to produce all 13 pages without redactions. It also asks the court to supervise the agency to make sure the NRC has searched for all records of communications that occurred between the NRC and SONGS officials from Aug. 3 to Sept. 14, 2018.