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Do The 3.6 Million Pounds Of Nuclear Waste At San Onofre Now Have A Destination?

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Photo by exquisitur via Flickr
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At the moment, 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste currently sit on the beach in a northern corner of San Diego County, just a few miles south of the Orange County line off the 5 freeway. It's stuck for there now—for the time being it has nowhere to go.With the forthcoming departures of both Nevada Senator Harry Reid and President Barack Obama, however, the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository in Nevada could once again be an option. "There will almost certainly be efforts to reintroduce legislation that would re-start the Yucca process," Professor David Victor, chairman of San Onofre's Community Engagement Panel, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Yucca Mountain site, which is about 80 miles from Las Vegas, was approved by Congress in 2002. It was originally slated to open in 2017 and serve as the nation's long-term storage facility for nuclear waste. If Yucca Mountain ever opens, that opening date will certainly be pushed back—but its future is still up in the air.

Reid was perhaps the most vocal opponent of Yucca Mountain, once declaring, "Yucca Mountain is dead, it'll never happen," after he became Senate Majority Leader in 2006. Then-Presidential-hopeful Obama also campaigned against its opening, and under Obama its budget was effectively killed.

When asked about Yucca on the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump gave no answer on his stance, telling a local station, "I'll take a look at it, and the next time you interview me, I'll have an answer." Reid, who was vocal critic of Trump during the election, fired back at him:

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According to Bloomberg, House Republicans are keen on opening Yucca, but it does not appear to be a priority for the forthcoming Trump administration.

Democratic Senator-elect Catherine Cortez Masto, the state's former Attorney General who will take Reid's place in the Senate, has also been an opponent of the Yucca Mountain facility. A call to her communications director about Yucca Mountain received no response.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was finally closed in 2013 and is in the initial states of decommission, making it the second-to-last operating nuclear power facility in California. (Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County County will close in 2025.)

Maureen Brown, a spokesperson for Southern California Edison, says for the time being the two-thirds of the waste at San Onofre is sitting in "wet storage," of whichthe Sierra Club wrote, "Opinion is virtually unanimous that worst-case hazards are far more severe for nuclear waste stored in fuel pools rather than in dry casks." Brown says the plan is to eventually move all of the fuel to steel-lined concrete canisters by 2019.