Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

This past summer’s fuel-loading incident involving the transport of nuclear waste at decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has led to a civil penalty from federal regulators.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a final enforcement decision to Southern California Edison, imposing a $116,000 civil penalty for two violations of federal requirements.

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A four-page letter outlining the proposed sanctions was sent to Edison Monday following a special inspection report and preliminary enforcement conference earlier this year in Arlington, Texas.

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Both violations relate to Edison’s handling of an Aug. 3 incident after a stainless steel Holtec canister containing 50 tons of spent nuclear fuel rods got stuck on a shield ring as it was lowered into its concrete housing.

The first violation involved the lack of “important-to-safety” equipment to help provide redundant drop protection during loading operations at the plant.

The NRC classified the violation at Severity Level II, finding it “could have resulted in a significant safety consequence,” according to the release.

The second violation was a “failure to make a timely notification” to NRC headquarters regarding the event.

According to the NRC website, the agency may implement varying degrees of civil penalties based on discretion, severity, type of activity and whether a company had a violation within the last two years.

Edison has 30 days to dispute the fine or request neutral third-party mediation.

During a tour of the storage facilities at San Onofre last week, Edison officials said they will not resume dry-storage operations without still-pending NRC approval.

Top management officials said they take the violations very seriously and assume full ownership of their mistakes.

Ron Pontes, Edison’s decommissioning environmental strategy manager, said the company has implemented much more rigorous safety procedures and hired a full-time staff of 16 experienced operators dedicated to overseeing the dry cask loading process.

“We took away a big lesson from that (canister) event,” Pontes said. “The lesson is we need to be more intrusive and we will be more intrusive going forward with all of our contractors.”

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