Gary Headrick, San Clemente
On Aug. 9 at Southern California Edison’s quarterly Community Engagement Panel meeting, a worker at the now-defunct San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) spoke out. He claimed that workers are underqualified and not adequately trained to load nuclear waste from spent fuel pools and insert it into silos where canisters are stored on the beach. He said safety is not put first, workers are understaffed and that on Aug. 3, one loaded canister was hanging on by a quarter inch, nearly dropping 18 feet to the concrete below. He promised his daughter he would speak out if Southern California Edison did not inform the public about what happened.
It was great to participate in the rally to support this whistleblower and demand a stop-work order until needed changes to the safety culture have been put in place. Not enough can be said about the bold, heroic figure, David Fritch, who put himself at risk in a number of ways, to do the right thing. Gratefully, Tom Palmisano, Edison’s chief nuclear officer and vice president of decommissioning, was quick to commend the act and ensured the contractor’s job was safe.
Now, we must take it a step further. We are fortunate to know a man of such integrity, who will undoubtedly take a stand for safety, even under the most difficult circumstances. I think one of the best things Edison could do from a practical perspective is to give David Fritch a much larger role in the oversight of all safety matters at SONGS. He’s earned the trust of the community. He has proven to be a reliable advocate for public safety, which I believe is the most important qualification. It is expertise and character that counts most, and that is the kind of leadership we need. For a job like this, you can’t have better credentials than that.