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Gary Headrick,
Co-Founder of San Clemente Green,

Billions have been spent over the last fifty years trying to come up with a permanent solution for nuclear waste. In 2016, the Department of Energy (DOE) adopted a policy of consent based siting to avoid the kinds of resistance they faced in the Yucca Mountain fiasco. Communities near proposed Consolidated Interim Storage sites in New Mexico and Texas are being enticed with financial incentives and unsubstantiated promises for their long-term safety. They will face many technical, legal and societal challenges, causing unpredictable delays . However, consent based siting does not apply to us. Instead, we have become the default nuclear waste dump, with no decision-making power over a ludicrous plan that is being imposed on us. It is a relatively cheap, shortsighted solution that leaves us extremely vulnerable until all nuclear waste has been removed.

Some of the above-ground dry cask storage is situated on the SONGS campus. The rest of the fuel at the plant will be buried in casks in cement structures. Photo: File
Some of the above-ground dry cask storage is situated on the SONGS campus. The rest of the fuel at the plant will be buried in casks in cement structures. Photo: File

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) approved Edison’s plan to partially bury nuclear waste in silos only inches above the rising sea level, 100 feet from the ocean, protected by a crumbling 15-foot sea wall, (a hearing is scheduled for April 14). One canister holding used fuel assemblies contains more radiation than was released at Chernobyl. Currently, about fifty “Chernobyl Cans” are being stored, with another hundred to come out of pools. Transportation will not be allowed by the NRC if these are in questionable condition. Canisters can only be reloaded if returned to pools. Edison plans to dismantle pools once they are emptied. It is possible that damaged fuel assemblies have been placed into dry cask storage. If so, it could eventually result in an uncontrollable nuclear reaction, causing widespread contamination.

“Regulators” at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) generically approved using short term storage containers for hundreds of years if needed. The maker of these thin steel canisters admits cracking is a problem and that it is not feasible to repair them. Even a microscopic crack can emit millions of curies of deadly radiation. A comparable container leaked in only 17 years. Some canisters here have already been in service for 14 years. No remedy is currently in place at San Onofre. There is no way to anticipate problems once canisters have been welded shut.

You could not choose a worse location to keep nuclear waste, in this fault-ridden tsunami zone. The facility was designed for a 7.0 earthquake, but USGS now predicts a 7.4, which is up to four times more powerful. More than 8.5 million people live within 50 miles. The long overdue “Big One” could destroy pools where 700-degree nuclear waste is being cooled. If exposed to air, these fuel rods can spontaneously catch fire, releasing a constant plume of radiation into the environment. It can’t be put out with water. Edison dismantled the onsite fire department specialized in nuclear fires. NRC “regulators” have granted Edison an exemption for providing off site emergency preparedness, even though nuclear waste continues to pose a great danger to our communities. Edison should be required to gain our consent for a plan that is vetted by independent nuclear experts to ensure our safety.


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comments (7)

  • I’m glad this message finally got printed, but I provided many graphics that do not seem to be available here, I’ll add another comment with a link to them as soon as I can get it together. Also, the call to action, “Send an email to for more information” is missing. Nevertheless, I do appreciate getting this much out there. Let me know if you want to get updates on this major issue facing our community.

  • thanks gary we all agree get it off the beach and stop using radioactive materials until we can render radioactive materials inert atwill ,,,,,,we all know that the hot breath of lying ceo’s and crooked politicians does not render it inert

    • @ George Gregory

      It is the anti-nukes, including Headrick, who have been doing the lying.

      The local anti-nuke zealots lied about San Onofre’s emergency batteries claiming they were disconnected for 4 years (could you drive your car with the battery disconnected…for 4 years!?). Anti-nuke and former CEP member, Gene Stone, made statements at the first CEP claiming TMI’s canisters were leaking and that 2000 MWs of solar generation, apart from roof top solar, had replaced San Onofre’s generation just since the shutdown. Both statements are utterly FALSE. Or, Roger Johnson’s malarkey regarding the physics defying truck bomb that he claims could take out a Spent Fuel Pool from OUTSIDE the PERIMETER! Or his jaw dropping statement at the first CEP about how North Korea has nuclear missiles aimed…AT SAN ONOFRE! Or his false statements regarding the secrecy of effluent releases even though they are a matter of record any citizen can look up on his or her computer.

      Do you endorse Gary’s bogus statements to news gal, Vikki Vargas, that San Onofre planned to rotate fuel in and out of canisters and that moving used nuclear fuel is dangerous despite the fact that it has been moved at least a million times in the US alone (this is not an exaggeration). Or how about anti-nuke, Ace Hoffman’s, WHOPPER he told to the Malibu Times:

      “But there are literally a thousand ways to melt down a reactor. A pipe could break; an operator could flip the wrong switch. (Yes, it’s that easy, or nearly so, and there’s nothing to stop him or her from melting the reactor down on purpose, for that matter.)”

      Needless to say, Ace didn’t enlighten his readers as to what this magical switch might be.

      Do you subscribe to Gary’s foolish claim that SONGs’ tube leak almost resulted in an accident worse than Fukushima? Did he ever explain to you how San Onofre’s tube leak “could have easily escalated into a full-blown emergency, far worse than what Japan continues to endure today”? Or, do you simply take his word for it?

      Have you seen Pandora’s Promise, the pro-nulcear documentary produced by FORMER anti-nukes who discarded the false narrative they once championed?

  • In response to Gary Headrick’s anti-nuclear propaganda piece: 

    He claims San Onofre’s sea wall is crumbling; false, as anyone can verify by simply looking at it.  He has already been personally corrected by the NRC for his mischaracterization of the sea wall, a lesson he continues to ignore.  He uses loaded language such as “Chernobyl canisters” or “extremely vulnerable” without ever acknowledging that never has a commercial canister leaked, cracked, or failed in any way.  He says one spent fuel canister holds more radiation than was released at Chernobyl, a meaningless claim when one realizes the oceans contain vastly more radiation than Chernobyl, Fukushima, and all the canisters at San Onofre combined. In addition, there is neither the heat generation nor the pressure required to disburse this canister radiation should a theoretical hair line crack occur.
    Gary claims damaged fuel “could eventually result in an uncontrollable nuclear reaction”, complete malarkey.  The fuel is called “spent” for a reason and canisters are specifically designed to prevent criticality. 

    He continues to deliberately misstate what the manufacturer of the canisters said regarding cracking.  Dr. Singh did NOT say cracking is a problem but discussed his chosen method of dealing with the situation “in the most unlikely circumstance” a crack developed, and specifically said we “can EASILY, easily isolate that canister in a cask that keeps it cool”, words Gary chose to ignore in favor of his alarmist message.
    Ignoring the information from a recent meeting and even linking to the SCT article about the meeting that refutes his claim, Gary maintains San Onofre is in a tsunami zone. Dr. Neal Driscoll, a professor of geosciences at the University of California-San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography had this to say:  “Certain features of San Clemente’s coastline—and the area just west of it—are not suitable for tsunamis. The bathymetry (the measurement of depth of water) gives the San Onofre location a ‘unique’ buffer.”

    Likewise, his statement about the magnitude of the earthquake the plant was designed for is bogus. In addition to the fact that SONG’s earthquake designs are based on acceleration (earth movement) at the site and not on a richter scale reading which could be miles away or deep within the earth, California has already experienced at least 5 quakes larger than 7.0 richter scale since San Onofre was built and not one of them caused ANY plant damage. Furthermore, he ignores Holtec’s assessment that their canisters could withstand a quake of 9.5 on the Richter scale.  In fact, like other activists, Gary tunes out all studies and documentation that don’t comport with his world view in favor of the most specious and exaggerated claims, such as those above.

    His claim that the fuel in the pools could spontaneously catch fire if exposed to air is again, hyperbole. The plant has been shut down greater than 5 years and I believe Headrick has been made aware that engineering analysis has already been completed to verify this situation can’t happen, given simple mitigating actions.

    Lastly, he refers to Yucca Mt., the proposed site for long term storage of spent fuel, as a fiasco. If so, it is precisely because of people like him…activists who push an alarmist narrative despite the mountain of evidence and documentation refuting their claims.

    I’ve worked at SONGs for more than 32 years, most as a licensed reactor operator. However, my views are my own; I have neither the permission nor blessing of Southern California Edison to write.

    • many motors and systems run with out batteries especially self generating types like power plants, , ships engines and most cars

      maybe we can convert to lng at the songs site ? but for that jobs program and greenish electrical generation to go on at the site ,, spent fuel needs to be moved first

      the bigger problem isnt yucca mountain its that hundreds if not thousands of these sights are world wide

      • @ George Gregory

        It’s irrelevant whether the plant can run without its emergency batteries, the point is that anti-nukes lied about them…they are untrustworthy, without integrity. In point of fact, SONGs is, or was a power plant and the emergency batteries were critical to its safe operation.

        Is an LNG plant going to replace SONGs? NO, could it, yes but it is not necessary to move the spent fuel in order to do so. Both plants were on line producing a combined 2300 MWs of green house gas free electricity when the first spent fuel pad was placed in service in 2003.

        Storing spent fuel on this site, or any other, is NOT a problem. We’ve had fuel on site for almost 50 years, did it even inconvenience anyone during that whole period? There are not thousands of these sites but if there were, the complete absence of any news suggesting problems should give you great confidence in their safety. Per MWHr of electricity produced, nuclear power has the least impact on the environment.

        The prudent course of action would be to reprocess the used fuel so that it can be reused and build nuclear power plants all over the country, ones that could make use of this used fuel. Thus, the fuel would become an asset to be sold vice a waste to be stored.

        • sorry david ill never agree even refining leaves a mess until it can be rendered inert and cleaned up its a non starter ,please note 50 years is a drop in the bucket compared with its thousands of years of legacy and break down ,,,. the dopes and corporations that say its safe and they are responsible is a lie that i hope never gets proven,,, because david you and me will not be here to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand in thousands of years or even 50 years

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