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In January of 2012, one of the newly replaced steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station began leaking radiation into the environment, causing the plant to be shut down permanently. Had the leak not been detected in time, it could have easily escalated into a full-blown emergency, far worse than what Japan continues to endure today. Whistleblowers had predicted such an outcome back in 2009, accusing the company of taking reckless shortcuts. Retaliation against employees was one of several reasons why Edison had the worst safety record of all.
Now that the plant has stopped producing electricity, it might seem logical to eliminate most of the emergency plans, as was recently approved, but that is not the case. The problem is that highly radioactive waste has accumulated at the site, amounting to more than 89 times the radiation released in the Chernobyl accident. Since the Department of Energy has failed to provide a permanent solution, the waste is stuck here indefinitely. Two-thirds of it is in pools that are vulnerable to earthquakes, and everyone agrees the fuel rods would be safer in dry cask storage, the way the other third is now being stored.
In a chaotic emergency caused by a major earthquake we’d only have 17 hours to prevent fuel rods in pools from catching fire, sending plumes of radiation into the environment.
But even these casks, which they claim to be twice as safe during an earthquake, were not designed to hold this extremely long-lived, highly radioactive material indefinitely. There have been cases in which wall cracks have developed in less than 17 years at other locations near corrosive beach environments like ours. The containers used here are only licensed for 20 years, with only eight years left on some of the earliest loaded casks we have at San Onofre.
Rather than reducing our safety response capabilities, we should be enhancing them. We know that the science and technology community has grossly underestimated the power of nature, as seen in Japan’s ongoing crisis. We also know from Osama Bin Laden’s computer files that nuclear power plants are one of the preferred targets for terrorists. Ours is especially tempting with the likelihood of Camp Pendleton being destroyed in the process. With that in mind, we should be moving the nuclear waste as soon as possible to an interim storage site where seismic concerns and protection from terrorist have been addressed. That may take decades, so while the waste remains here, we must use the best casks available (not the ones they intend to use), anticipate the need to reload dry casks that are leaking, reinforce the pools and protect the waste, enhance security from cyber attacks or other terrorist plots and improve on emergency response systems to protect the public. The last thing we should do is to relax our emergency response capabilities.
Contact email@example.com to help reject this reckless policy that will be going into effect this summer if we do nothing about it. Also, please watch some very compelling evidence against those making these decisions on YouTube under “$5 Billion Cover-up at San Onofre.”