Midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, the San Onofre Nuclear Plant waits to be dismantled. After more than 40 years of protests, lawsuits and safety scares, its two concrete-encased reactors, jutting from the pristine California coastline, are powered down and its massive steam turbines, once deafening, are quiet.
For the activists who fought to close the plant, the victory is bittersweet.
The reactors will disappear, but 1,600 metric tons of radioactive waste remain. While some is stacked in steel-lined casks, and the rest is submerged in cooling pools, all of it is trapped in a political and regulatory limbo that keeps it from going anywhere anytime soon. And San Onofre isn’t alone: More than 76,000 metric tons of waste is stranded at dozens of commercial sites, just as the U.S. approaches a critical mass of nuclear-plant retirements. Continue Reading.