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JOHN DOBKEN, SONGS Public Information Officer

San Clemente Times surf columnist Jake Howard continues to misrepresent simple facts about the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) and the spent nuclear fuel that’s safely stored there.

In his latest column on the oil spill off the Orange County coast, Howard finds a way to mention SONGS, but the reference is disconnected from the facts.

He writes, “Whether it’s a leaky oil rig or a leaky canister of nuclear waste…” First, readers should know the spent nuclear fuel canisters at SONGS are made of 5/8” thick stainless steel, welded closed and weigh 20 tons empty. They have a service life of 100 years. There has never been an instance of one of these canister designs “leaking,” either at SONGS or anywhere else in the U.S.

And what does “leaking” mean in this context? Inside the canisters are fuel assemblies (metal structures) that hold metal alloy tubes containing solid ceramic pellets of spent nuclear fuel. The canisters also contain helium. But no water, no green goo, just inert helium. It’s unclear if Howard is aware of this.

In a previous column on Sept. 23 about erosion, Howard claimed the “seawall” at SONGS is “bombarded by waves” at high tide. What he means is the lower wall that protects the pedestrian walkway gets wet. The much higher seawall on the other side of the walkway receives some ocean spray, but that could hardly be described as “bombarded.”

Howard last year wrote a column repeating wild claims regarding radiation without any citation of actual scientific research, which is simply irresponsible.

Readers deserve to know the facts, not misguided musings.

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