San Onofre & Nuclear Energy Oversight

One of Rep. Levin’s top priorities is increasing oversight and accountability at the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), and moving the spent nuclear fuel out of the region as quickly and safely as possible. 

Early in his first term in Congress, Rep. Levin launched a SONGS Task Force made up of local stakeholders and experts to address the safety challenges at SONGS and formulate policy recommendations to address the hazardous waste. The Task force is led by former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko and Rear Admiral Leendert “Len” Hering Sr., USN (Ret). To read the Task Force's report, released during the 116th Congress, click here

The SONGS site faces unique and precarious challenges, with millions of people living nearby, active fault lines running through the region, and rising sea levels. In the 116th Congress, Rep. Levin introduced the Spent Fuel Prioritization Act to prioritize the removal of spent nuclear fuel from decommissioned nuclear sites in areas with large populations and high seismic hazard. With over nine million people living within 50 miles of SONGS, and Southern California experiencing some of the greatest seismic hazard in the country, the bill would make San Onofre one of the highest priority sites in the nation for spent nuclear fuel removal. 

Rep. Levin also introduced the Increasing Nuclear Safety Protocols for Extended Canister Transfers (INSPECT) Act, which requires the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to keep a resident inspector at decommissioning nuclear power plants until all spent fuel is transferred from its spent fuel pools to canisters. That bill mirrors recommendations made by Rep. Levin’s Task Force. He followed up on the Task Force recommendation by securing report language under an appropriations bill in 2020 that encourages the NRC to use its existing regulatory authority to assign resident inspectors at nuclear power plants while the plant is in the fuel handling and transfer phases of decommissioning. Rep. Levin has regularly pressed the NRC to increase safety and accountability measures at SONGS, and met with former NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki and current Chair Chris Hanson to express his constituents’ strong desire for greater oversight at the facility. 

Rep. Levin has worked hard to advance solutions to the problem of stranded nuclear waste such as that at SONGS, whether through permanent disposal or interim storage. Regardless of the solution, he believes a consent-based process must include local, state, and tribal stakeholders. He has advocated to fund the consolidated interim storage program at the Department of Energy. Rep. Levin helped lead the effort to secure $27.5 million for the Department to restart its work on nuclear waste disposal. Under that funding, $20 million was designated for interim storage in order to help prepare for a site that can accept spent fuel from shutdown commercial nuclear plants like SONGS.

He also introduced the Spent Nuclear Fuel Solutions Research and Development Act, which would set up a research and development program at the Department of Energy to find new and innovative solutions for the storage, disposal, and transportation of spent nuclear fuel. Parts of that bill were drawn from the recommendations of the Task Force. He also cosponsored the STORE Nuclear Fuel Act, directing the Secretary of Energy to create a consent-based program for the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.

In July 2021, Rep. Levin launched a bipartisan Spent Nuclear Fuel Solutions Caucus, which he co-chairs with Rep. Davis of Illinois. In the caucus, Rep. Levin leads a bipartisan group of House members who drive progress on the safe storage, transportation, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel across the country.

Rep. Levin will continue to fight for action from the federal government to address challenges related to spent nuclear fuel, and will remain in constant contact with local stakeholders regarding the future of SONGS.