Gary Headrick, San Clemente
Recently, Southern California Edison appointed what they call a committee of “diverse stakeholders” to sit on their community engagement panel, regarding the decommission process about to begin at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. As displayed by past actions, we can’t expect Edison to do anything other than meet their legal obligations and quickly shed their financial liability as custodians of nuclear waste. Safety is paramount on this issue, and Edison’s track record on safety is questionable. Creating an advisory committee handpicked by the owners of the plant, where it appears that all but one person is for nuclear power, is a thinly veiled attempt to obscure their intentions to continue to act in their own best interests.
But who will oversee Edison and make sure this is all done in the best way possible? History has demonstrated that we can’t count on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC is funded by the industry and is currently under congressional investigation for their role in allowing the faulty steam generators to be installed in the first place.
The fact that San Clemente Green was not offered a seat at the table creates doubt over Edison’s true objectives. Did they think the public would not notice that the largest and most vocal local citizens’ group was passed over? If we had been asked, it would have taken some thoughtful deliberation before replying. But after seeing the lineup of panelists, it is perfectly clear that our involvement would only lend the lopsided committee more undeserved credibility. While we are grateful to have Gene Stone of Residents Organized for a Safe Environment on the panel, he does not represent San Clemente Green.
Fortunately, there are aspects of decommissioning that we can all agree on. There is highly radioactive waste that is cool enough to be put into dry cask storage immediately. That takes it out of overcrowded pools, leaving the hotter nuclear waste better protected and the already cooled waste more secure and ready for transport as soon as there is somewhere to take it.
However, best practices should not be hampered by “judicious investing,” which is one of the goals stated by Edison. To begin with, investments should be made now to avoid a nuclear disaster in the event of a major earthquake. Serious questions about storing and transporting nuclear waste need to be resolved by highly qualified independent nuclear experts. A robust staff of nuclear technicians, NRC inspectors and emergency responders should be on site, not the skeleton crew that Edison has left in place now.
San Clemente Green will continue to hold Edison and the NRC accountable to the public they serve. We will do our best to make a positive contribution to the community engagement panel, even though we are not part of the committee selected by Edison. We intend to continue representing the public’s best interests in the same effective ways we have done in the past, with a sense of civic duty and factual credibility.