The Coast News Group: Levin, congress members oppose proposed spent fuel inspection cuts

January 16, 2020
In The News

REGION — Congress members including Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) are concerned about proposed cuts to spent nuclear fuel storage inspection hours and want the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reconsider.

Levin, together with Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), led a letter to NRC Chairperson Kristine Svinicki stating their opposition to the proposed cuts.

“At a time when more and more nuclear reactors are beginning the process of decommissioning and in the absence of an immediate solution to permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel, we feel that NRC should avoid consideration of any proposal that would reduce inspections across the country,” the letter states.

The cuts are part of an effort within the NRC to enhance its Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) inspection program. An ISFSI is where spent fuel is stored.

According to an NRC overview of the enhancement initiative, the frequency of ISFSI inspections was identified as a “potential enhancement” of the program, along with methodology, qualification and training and level of effort with regard to inspections.

Currently, the NRC dedicates 132 hours every two years for ISFSI routine loading inspections, and 24 hours every two years for routine monitoring inspections. The first proposed cuts option would reduce routine loading inspections to 96 hours every three years while the second option proposes 20 hours every three years.

Both options suggest routine monitoring inspections go down to 24 hours every three years.

On the flip side, NRC staff has also proposed increases to pre-operational and initial loading inspection hours. NRC currently dedicates 120 hours for pre-operational inspections and 120 hours of reviewing evaluations, but the proposal would bump pre-operational inspections to 200 hours and the review of evaluations to 160 hours.

In their letter, Levin, Matsui and Kim note that they are congress members who have closed and decommissioning nuclear power reactors in the communities they represent. The decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station sits on the coastline of Levin’s district.

“Safety must be our number one priority when it comes to spent nuclear fuel stored at San Onofre and other sites across the country,” Levin said in a statement provided to The Coast News. “That means more inspections, not fewer.”

The letter also suggests cuts to inspections may hurt the public’s trust in the NRC.

Fifteen other congress members signed the letter as well.

According to NRC spokesman Victor Dricks, the NRC will respond to the congress members directly regarding the letter.