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ROGER JOHNSON, San Clemente

We all owe a debt to surfer Jake Howard for his Dec. 3 piece, “How Safe Is the Water at SanO?” Surfing is an important part of the history and culture of San Clemente, and we all want to preserve it. 

But Jake goes beyond that and warns about the threat to the future of our city posed by San Onofre radiation. He reports on a recent Zoom seminar here with radiation biologist Ian Fairlie entitled “Is It Safe to Live Near San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant?”

Everyone knows by now the threat of the 1,773 tons of highly radioactive uranium and plutonium on our beaches now that we are a nuclear waste dump. Officials hired by Edison have stated that it may remain here for the rest of the century in temporary thin canisters designed to last only a few decades.

Dr. Fairlie now introduces an entirely new threat that is already upon us: new evidence that tritium is much more dangerous that previously imagined. He says that the neutron bombardment of water molecules in the concrete domes has an activation reaction which contaminates the concrete and causes it to release tritium, a beta emitter which can cause cancer if inhaled or swallowed. 

The radiation continues long after a nuclear power plant closes. As Jake points out, Dr. Fairlie says that people living within three miles of San Onofre are at increased risk for cancer. That comes close to Concordia Elementary School and the residents and businesses of South San Clemente. This also includes a lot of folks who live and work in North Camp Pendleton.

The nuclear industry likes to trivialize radiation dangers and call anyone who disagrees a fearmonger. Reminds me of 50 years ago, when anyone mentioning the dangers of cigarette smoking was called a fearmonger. 

For those who missed the Samuel Lawrence Foundation Zoom meeting, you can read the science that Dr. Fairlie describes at this link:  ianfairlie.org/news/concerns-over-proposed-tritium-discharges-from-fukushima-why-no-apparent-concern-about-the-larger-tritium-releases-from-hunterston-b-and-torness.

Other recommended reading would be “Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation,” published by the National Academy of Sciences.

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