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San Onofre
Nuclear Plant Zero Zero Zero

San Onofre
Nuclear Plant Zero Zero Zero

Southern California residents, businesses and elected officials are about to be steamrollered by our own utility company, Southern California Edison.

On Jan. 31 of this year, the new $670-million steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant sprung a radioactive leak after less than a year of standard operation. This released highly radioactive water from the reactor core into the steam generator’s pool, which vents to our open air.

Leaking radiation is not only deadly, it is also simply not allowed according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rules. So, two months after the Jan. 29 accident, the NRC, the federal agency charged with protecting the public, issued a letter prohibiting the plant’s operating company, Southern California Edison (SCE), from restarting the plant until filing specific new reports with the NRC about what caused the leak, why severe damage to the steam generator tubes has occurred and how they intend to fix it.

Those of us living in Southern California are left with an aging, crippled nuclear power plant, with a safety record 10 times worse than the average of all nuclear plants in the US, sitting on the ocean’s edge among several earthquake fault lines, in a known tsunami zone.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the sole organization responsible for regulating how the plant is operated. Given that the NRC has already demonstrated that they will ignore their own published guidelines of learnings from the Fukushima disaster, can we reasonably expect the NRC to adequately protect us?

San Onofre Operates with Zero Local Input

Edison’s plan is to restart the plant and “test” the steam generators without any input from those of us who live here. Edison wants to run the units at 50-80% the normal power capacity for a few months, then measure the rate of wear on tubes inside the steam generators — assuming no more tubes burst and leak more radiation, or worse.

“If something that potentially dangerous is unsafe to operate at 100% capacity, it damn well is unsafe at 80% or 50%, too.” — Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran

Engineers are working at the San Onofre plant in an attempt to understand the problems with the steam generators. After four months with only very minor progress, the problems are clearly so fundamental that the likely conclusion should be: this generator design is just fundamentally flawed and too dangerous to return to service. Ever.

However, let’s not deceive ourselves. Given the company’s mounting revenue losses, any day now Southern California Edison will dutifully submit those required reports to the NRC and claim the right to restart the plant.

Despite not holding a single public press conference on the progress of the investigation, despite missing the due date of a Congressional request for information, and despite leaking misinformation to stockholders which required a formal retraction, Edison appears to believe they have no need to seek consent from, nor consult with, the public about plans to restart the crippled plant.

Elmo E. Collins, NRC Region IV Administrator. Photo by SanClementeTimes.com

Southern California Edison would prefer that the public have no say in the matter — and the same goes for local elected officials.

All decisions about when and whether to allow the crippled San Onofre nuclear plant to resume operation rest with the very same few men who caused the current emergency — a small staff of NRC bureaucrats who live in Texas. (More on the NRC Region IV regulators in a future post.)

If You’re Not Part of the Steamroller, You’re Part of the Road

Edison is angling for zero local jurisdiction, zero transparent independent peer review, and zero public participation. Zero, Zero, Zero. There’s nothing to like about that. How can distant, discredited bureaucrats be allowed to gamble with our money and our lives. What can be done about it?

Don't Panic, Organize!

I invite you join with me in a coordinated effort to raise general awareness of the situation at the San Onofre plant by addressing local City Councils and other governmental entities within the 50-mile evacuation zone of the plant.

In a groundswell of interest by local politicians over the past 3 weeks, there are now 23 cities in that zonewhich are being briefed by a fast-growing coalition of concerned citizens (including Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Dana Point Earth/Ocean Society, Sierra Club and over 35 other groups so far).

The first three cities to put the San Onofre plant on their city council agendas are San Clemente, Laguna Beach and Irvine, and despite having limited jurisdiction over the plant, these city councils unanimously voted to exercise their duty to protect the citizens they represent by lodging formal requests with the NRC as well as State and Federal Senators.

This effort needs support from citizens all over the Southland. If you are a resident of any city within 50 miles of the San Onofre plant, and if you feel at the very least your community deserves to have a scientific, open, public discussion of the details of San Onofre’s current situation, and if you are willing to formally request your city council put the issue on their agenda, please contact Gary Headrick of San Clemente Green, by email: gary@sanclementegreen.org

This is your chance to make your voice heard, whether some distant regulator grants permission to do so or not. Please use this form to join in!

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