New photographs from Google Earth are making the rounds among activists fighting the plan to store millions of pounds of radioactive waste from the failed San Onofre nuclear plant on the San Diego County coastline.
The pictures illustrate with more clarity than ever how close to the shoreline the casks will be once they are filled.
"I used to walk that beach so I know how close it was," said Joe Holtzman, a longtime critic of majority plant owner Southern California Edison. "But the photos are even more depictive about how scary it is."
Edison, which closed the plant in January 2012 amid a radiation leak from newly installed replacement steam generators, said the storage plan has been reviewed and approved by state and federal officials.
"The safety of the dry cask storage systems at San Onofre is underscored by the fact that this type of storage has been licensed by the (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and safely used for more than 30 years in the United States with no radiological releases," spokeswoman Maureen Brown said.
The latest Google Earth images show a series of rectangular spaces that eventually will hold the massive steel-lined casks designed to store the spent fuel.
For decades, the waste has been stored in cooling pools between the twin reactors, Brown said. Edison is now transferring it into so-called dry-storage canisters that will be within 100 feet of the shoreline.
The work is expected to be completed in 2019. The plant is being decommissioned and the property will be returned to the U.S. Navy.
Opponents of the storage plan worry that the canisters may be vulnerable to earthquakes or tsunamis. They say the casks could leak or become unable to be moved to a federal nuclear waste repository if one is ever developed.
Environmentalists sued the California Coastal Commission for issuing a permit to allow the waste to be stored within 50 miles of more than 8 million residents. A hearing in that case is scheduled later this month.
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