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Official to get public comment on San Onofre fuel

An exterior view of the shuttered San Onofre plant.
An exterior view of the shuttered San Onofre plant.
(San Diego Union-Tribune photo by Charlie Neuman)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has declined a request to hold a public forum on what should be done with spent nuclear fuel at the shuttered San Onofre plant, though a representative from the agency will seek input on the issue at a future meeting.

Congressman Darrell Issa last month asked the DOE to add Southern California to a list of previously announced public forums addressing where nuclear waste from across the nation should be moved.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to schedule an additional public meeting at this time, wrote John Kotek, the agency’s acting assistant for nuclear energy, in a response letter released last week.

However, Kotek pledged to attend an upcoming San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Engagement Panel meeting, scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on June 22 at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center. There, Kotek will listen to comments from residents, elected officials and community leaders on the matter.

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The U.S. has yet to identify a depository for the nation’s nuclear waste. Six years ago, the Obama Administration mothballed plans for a long-planned permanent storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The Encinitas City Council and other jurisdictions have supported proposed federal legislation that would allow the transfer of nuclear waste to interim storage sites, possibly in West Texas and New Mexico.

The DOE has held three public meetings, with five more to come, on where to relocate the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. Kotek noted in his letter that the public can watch the forums via webcasts and submit their comments electronically visit www.energy.gov for meeting dates and future webcasts).

Because the agency’s only meeting on the West Coast was in Sacramento, Issa advocated for an additional forum in Southern California. In a press release, Issa said he was encouraged by Kotek’s recent letter.

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“I’m pleased the Department of Energy will be sending a senior official to the 49th District to hear more from our local communities about the need to get a long-term storage facility opened as quickly as possible,” Issa wrote.

Issa also stated: “Until we can either stop the obstruction of Yucca Mountain or find an interim solution, we’re going to be stuck with more than 3.6 million pounds of high-level nuclear waste stored in less-than-optimal conditions in a highly populated area.”


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