November 1, 2000
12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C.– An article in the Los Angeles Times today explains that “...the California Coastal Commission will be approving the creation of a coastal nuclear waste dump just south of the Orange County border.” The repository would be at the San Onofre nuclear power plant and thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods would be stored there by Southern California Edison until 2050, according to the article. “It is interesting that a State that has refused to even site a low-level nuclear waste dump in the Mojave Desert is now going to be home to a high-level nuclear waste dump near the beaches of Southern California,” said Chairman Frank H. Murkowski. Murkowski was referring to the proposed Ward Valley low-level nuclear waste facility, which Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt stopped from ever becoming a reality. National environmental groups and Hollywood activists made Ward Valley a rallying cry, claiming waste would seep through the desert to the water table and into the Colorado River. Low-level waste involves the clothing or lab equipment that comes in contact with radioactive materials. Hospital, power plants and research facilities store this waste and periodically transfer it to a waste facility in South Carolina or Utah. “However, those same groups are powerless to stop the San Onofre storage. Why? Because there is no federal repository for high-level nuclear waste as promised by the United States government. Such a repository was supposed to be open in 1998. Failure to do so has left states to come up with their own solutions and subjected the American taxpayer to billions of dollars in liability,” explained the Chairman. High-level waste includes the spent fuel rods removed from nuclear reactors. Murkowski had a bill in this Congress, S. 1287, that would have allowed high-level nuclear waste to come to the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level storage facility in Nevada as soon as the facility was licensed in 2006. The California delegation voted against that bill and the Clinton-Gore Administration vetoed the bill. “One of the arguments was that there was a possibility that nuclear waste could seep into the water table and move into California. How ironic that Californians will now have to cope with those fears in their own back yard,” said the Chairman. “Let me be clear, I do not believe there is danger from the dry casks that will be stored at San Onofre. Any more than there was danger from the low-level waste that would have been effectively and safely stored at Ward Valley,” said Murkowski. “This California solution simply confirms what we have been saying all along, no one wants this waste, but it has to go somewhere. If it is not shipped to Yucca Mountain, it must be stored locally at 80 sites throughout the United States. California now may have its own central repository, at least for Southern California Edison.” ###