Disposal of nuclear waste: think Camp Pendleton

Each state should manage its own spent fuel, says study lauded by experts

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
  • San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
  • songscommunity.com

Ray Lutz of Citizens' Oversight has published a new study suggesting that nuclear waste should possibly be disposed of locally, with each state responsible for its own spent fuel. Lutz says moving the waste long distances can be a difficult problem. Also, the study stresses that the waste be buried in double-layer canisters, not single-layer ones.

Ray Lutz

Ray Lutz

The study, "A New Strategy: Storing Spent Nuclear Fuel Waste," states, "'Local' implies that the waste will likely be moved from the on-site situation but not moved all the way across the country. There is a fairness to the idea that each state should be responsible for [its] own waste in a suitable location."

Southern California Edison has plans to bury spent nuclear fuel from the now-closed San Onofre plant to spots only 100 feet from the ocean. Many think that is crazy. Edison has agreed to consider moving the waste elsewhere, although it says it is "practicing" going ahead with the original plan to put it near the ocean.

An August agreement calls for all parties to investigate possible distant sites, including Palo Verde in Arizona (part-owned by Edison) and a location in New Mexico. Lutz points out that the agreement does not ban any other site — hence, a site in California could work, but there would be problems.

 William and Rosemarie Alley

 William and Rosemarie Alley

San Diegans William and Rosemarie Alley, authors of Too Hot to Touch, a book on the problems of burying radioactive waste, praise Lutz's new study. The Alleys, who concentrate on transportation problems, would like to see San Onofre waste moved a short distance to Camp Pendleton, although that would require many steps, including getting the military's permission.

"There is a mesa at Camp Pendleton, a perfect place for moving the waste," says Rosemarie Alley. Lutz says that a move to Pendleton would be permissible under the August agreement.

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


That is a very bad/crazy idea storing nuclear waste on Camp Pendleton near the ocean. It could contaminate the water, air, soil etc..

SportsFan0000: Many agree with that Pendleton is a bad/crazy idea. But many say that trying to move it a long distance -- say, to Arizona -- is crazy, too, because other states won't permit it. Best, Don Bauder

Looking for simple answers to this matter is tempting, but will not get it solved. Actually, the current situation cannot be "solved" at all. Containing it is the best you can hope for. That spent fuel/waste will be highly radioactive and dangerous for 100,000 years and beyond. Because of that, it is impossible for humans at our current stage of development to store such stuff in a way that cannot possibly cause degradation.

The plan for Yucca Mountain in Nevada is fairly well developed. Is it the perfect spot for storing this radioactive mess? No, it is not. But I've not heard or seen anything about a better spot. Part of the plan was to construct many, many miles of a brand-new railroad into Yucca mountain that would avoid hauling through Las Vegas and other population centers, although I have a hard time imagining why shipping it is such a dangerous proposition. Before that plan can go forward, a big dose of political will is needed, and the affected states cannot be allowed to block it.

State-by-state storage locations would be, at best, temporary storage sites. When/if some better place to stash the radioactive waste can be found, or some other means of disposal, then it could be moved out of those locations. Whatever we do with it, we are kicking the can down the road, and leaving it to future generations to deal with.

Visduh: San Diegan William Alley, co-author with his wife Rosemarie of the book "Too Hot to Touch," worked in a key position at Yucca for quite awhile. He is convinced it won't work. Ray Lutz is not bullish on Yucca, either. The idea of storing the radioactive fuel where it was produced -- a government-favored solution -- is OK for some plants in the U.S., but is disastrous for San Onofre. Burying spent fuel 100 feet from the ocean, in casks that won't last, is insane.

The Alleys believe that Arizona and New Mexico will nix putting the waste in their states.What's so worrisome is that this is the kind of problem that current and future leaders will just put off for later generations -- and then one day it will be too late. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh has some valid thoughts. I like Yucca mountain best of current ideas.

But I have a question: How dangerous is this stuff? We have seen plants, animals and humans survive intense exposure without serious consequences. There have been deaths among Chernobyl workers, but others were not seriously damaged. If a trainload of packaged waste passed through Las Vegas, would they have to decontaminate the city? I understand the concern about a train wreck in the center of the city; is this likely? What would be the greatest negative outcome if that happened?

Regarding Chernobyl: "Ivanov et al. (2001) [8] studied nearly 66,000 liquidators from Russia, and found no increase in overall mortality from cancer or non-cancer causes..." - a typical conclusion from this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_liquidators

Perhaps it is the political outcome that weighs heaviest in the minds of decision makers. A population of paranoid, brainwashed people would react negatively to any decision that put them at the slightest risk.

@Swell: You are not correct, and have been very selective in citing information from that Wikipedia entry! For example, you purposely left out the next sentence pertaining to that study: "However, a statistically significant dose-related excess mortality risk was found for both cancer and heart disease." Granted, this is hard to study due to lack of accurate data. However, the "typical conclusion" (your words) from the Wikipedia article is actually that there were likely thousands of premature deaths from Chernobyl. It seems you have an ulterior motive to prove your belief that environmentalists are "paranoid" and "brainwashed"...

DonFlow:"A statistically significant dose-related excess mortality risk was found for both cancer and heart disease." That seems meaningful to me. Best, Don Bauder

swell: You raise a good question. Just how dangerous is radioactive waste? It takes a long time for some effects of radiation to show up. I was surprised that Fukushima didn't seem to create as much of a health problem as many expected. However, again, these problems may show up much later. Best, Don Bauder

I was around when SONGS was built. Nuclear power was touted as cheap and safe. It seems to me that nuclear power will turn out to be the most expensive power per Kwh ever produced. This is proof that those with money and power can sell anything to the public.

AlexClarke: There is no doubt that in the 1960s and 1970s, nuclear power was considered the answer to utilities' air pollution. But people didn't consider the problems, and the magnitude of the problems, of disposing of spent nuclear fuel. We even elected a nuclear engineer, Jimmy Carter, as president. Best, Don Bauder

don bauder, Actually, Pres. Carter was not a nuclear engineer. He was chosen for the nuclear submarine program in 1952, later being assigned to Schenectady, New York in March of 1953, where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics. However, after his father died, he resigned his naval commission and he was honorably discharged from the Navy in late 1953. Not to worry though. I always thought the same thing, until I read his biography

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader