Gary Headrick, San Clemente
On January 31, 2012, San Onofre announced an emergency shutdown due to the detection of radiation leaking from the newly replaced steam generators in Unit 3. What was thought to be a minor incident at the time could lead to the permanent closure of this troubled nuclear power plant. Interestingly, it was originally designed to last until 2013, but Edison was granted an extension by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate until 2022.
Inspections revealed that the minor pinhole leak from one of thousands of heat transfer tubes was due to a major design flaw, leading to excessive vibration. Eventually, more than 1,000 tubes were plugged due to highly unusual wear. Upon testing some tubes that appeared more worn than others, eight of them actually burst at pressures lower than they should have been able to withstand.
Had just one of those tubes burst while in full operation it may have unleashed radioactive water under 2,200 pounds per square inch of pressure in a whipping action, colliding with other tubes, causing them to burst in a cascading effect that would have been catastrophic. Thanks to cool heads and good fortune, a nuclear disaster potentially worse than Japan’s was avoided.
A year later, our gratitude for our safety is overshadowed by massive layoffs at the plant. Dedicated and loyal employees who managed to keep us safe all these years are being discarded while those responsible for poor decisions leading to this debacle continue to be rewarded with salaries in the millions of dollars.
In recognition of the first anniversary of San Onofre being shut down, San Clemente Green is holding an event this Saturday at the Community Center from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., striking a careful balance between celebration and compassion for those who will lose jobs. Actor and devoted environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. will be sharing his own experience with alternative energy sources. He will be followed by Steve Bender, President of the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, who will talk about the green jobs that are currently available and those that are on the near horizon.
Pizza, beer and wine will be served with music being provided by the Kalama Brothers. Pre-purchase tickets online at nosano.bpt.me for $10 or pay $15 at the door (includes your first slice and a drink). I hope you’ll join us for an enjoyable and informative evening regarding a topic that we should all be following closely.
Soon, the NRC will be deciding if Edison can restart at 70 percent power for five months to see if it leaks radiation without first fixing the problem. The last chance for the public to be heard about this proposed experiment will be on February 12, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Capo Beach Church. Please attend to let Edison and the NRC know that it is not okay to gamble with our lives and property values, especially considering the fact that having San Onofre out of service has not caused any blackouts for a year now. See www.facebook.com/sanclementegreen for details.