OC Congressman Wants Resident Inspector at Nuclear Plants Being Decommissioned

OC Congressman Wants Resident Inspector at Nuclear Plants Being Decommissioned
Beachgoers walk on the sand near the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Clemente, Calif., on June 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
City News Service

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (CNS)—Congressman Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), whose district includes portions of Orange and San Diego counties, has introduced federal legislation that would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to keep a resident inspector at nuclear power plants being decommissioned until all spent fuel is transferred from spent fuel pools to canisters, his office said.

While the NRC refused to implement a resident inspector at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station during its spent fuel transfer process, Levin’s legislation “builds on the lessons learned by that failure and would ensure that other decommissioning plants have the added safety benefit of a resident inspector,” the office said in a statement.

The bill, introduced on Oct. 23, mirrors recommendations made by the SONGS Task Force, convened by Levin in January 2019. Two Democratic members of the House from Orange County, Katie Porter and Harley Rouda, cosponsored the bill.

“My top priority is keeping my constituents safe, which is why I repeatedly called for a resident NRC inspector at San Onofre during its spent fuel transfer process,” said Levin.

“While the NRC refused to take that necessary measure at San Onofre despite multiple safety incidents, we can learn from that failure and improve safety at other decommissioning plants across the country.”

The statement said Levin’s act, Increasing Nuclear Safety Protocols for Extended Canister Transfers, or INSPECT, will ensure that NRC inspectors are in place during the spent fuel transfer process, preventing incidents such as one on Aug. 3, 2018, when a canister loaded with spent nuclear fuel got caught on an inner ring while being loaded into a coastal dry storage structure at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and almost dropped 18 feet in a near-miss that triggered an NRC inspection.

An independent review by Union of Concerned Scientists determined that the drop wouldn’t have posed an immediate threat or risk to the public but could have damaged the spent fuel rods contained inside the canister.