Socio-technical evaluation of long-term spent nuclear fuel management options: The case of San Onofre, California

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François Diaz-Maurin , Rodney C. Ewing 


In the absence of a federal geologic repository or consolidated, interim storage in the United States, commercial spent fuel will remain stranded at some 75 sites across the country. Currently, these include 18 “orphaned sites” where spent fuel has been left at decommissioned reactor sites. In this context, local communities living close to decommissioned nuclear power plants are increasingly concerned about this legacy of nuclear power production and are seeking alternative options to move the spent fuel away from those sites. In this paper we use a newly proposed socio-technical multi-criteria evaluation (STMCE) framework and method for nuclear waste management strategies and apply it to the case of the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in California. The case of SONGS illustrates the issues encountered for the long-term management of commercial spent fuel in the United States and how local communities attempt to participate in decision-making for plant decommissioning and spent fuel management and disposal. The case study was conducted with a group of Stanford graduate students who helped test the method. The analysis presented in this paper corresponds to the first iteration of the STMCE framework that requires the participation of stakeholders. The STMCE framework brings together social and technical dimensions of analysis, as well as concerns for the social impact of feasible options. STMCE also provides a method consisting of mathematical procedures for the multi-criteria evaluation and social conflict analysis. The case study at SONGS provides insights on how coalitions of socio-technical actors can form and how compromise solutions can be identified to inform the policy decisions. We conclude by discussing the potential impact that such an approach could have on the management of commercial spent fuel in the United States.



Environmental Engineering, Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Other Environmental Sciences, Sustainability


impact assessment, conflict analysis, radioactive waste, multi-criteria analysis, geologic repository


Published: 2020-11-06 15:29

Last Updated: 2020-11-09 15:19

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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