By Eric Heinz

Residents of San Clemente and nearby cities are attempting to set up an alert system for radioactivity throughout the area that would incorporate citizen assistance.

Safecast, a volunteer-based organization that compiles environmental data from its users to evaluate conditions, provides citizens with Geiger counters to monitor radiation and other data simultaneously across the globe.

Since San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) started housing spent nuclear fuel at the end of last year, local activists have demanded Southern California Edison (SCE) operators install real-time monitoring at the power plant, as they currently report monitoring on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

Joe Moross, the head engineer with Safecast, spoke to dozens of people at a presentation on Oct. 17 at the Center for Spiritual Living in San Clemente, which was hosted by Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE).

Monitoring is important in case a canister is damaged or fails and radiation is leaked, Moross said.

Watch the entire forum here 

“As long as the radiation source stays put, all you have to do is get away from it. Even the strongest gamma rays, concrete’s going to block it. You’re basically shielded,” Moross said. “If it gets out and starts blowing around, that’s when we need to monitor it.”

The data from the various citizens in 100 countries sends readings to the databases at Safecast, and the data is compiled and scrutinized for any levels that may exceed what’s safe for human health.

Moross said that the readings that do spike upward of normal trends are verified with the people who collect and send the data to them before it is published. Without real-time monitoring currently available, it may be the best tool for concerned citizens to keep the public informed about any elevated radiation levels.

Moross said that he may make another trip to Southern California in January.

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At the last CEP meeting on Aug. 3, Councilmember Steve Swartz, the San Clemente representative on the panel, said he wanted to explore the possibility of installing real-time monitoring of radiation at SONGS, something that the community has demanded for years. The next CEP meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 29 at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, 25925 Camino Del Avion, but an agenda has not yet been posted.

Tom English, Ph.D., an adviser on nuclear energy to former President Jimmy Carter, spoke about what can be done in the short-term with the spent fuel. He said SCE should look into moving it to “the mesa site,” a small, elevated plateau that is located on the east side of I-5 on Camp Pendleton land. Representatives from Camp Pendleton have not entertained the project, but activists are trying to convince the Dept. of the Navy, which owns the land, to reconsider.

“One thing you can do, that’s realistic, is basically move it nearby because that’s what you have available to you, and you won’t get it across state lines until federal laws change,” English said during his speech. “It’s about 90 feet higher” than the sea level where it’s currently harbored.

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comments (5)

  • Please correct this article. Edison does not report monthly or bi-monthly. They are only required to measure radiation levels once every 3 months. They do not share this information with the public and the NRC refuses to share it with us. Some of the older canisters are showing unusually high numbers from the inlet air vents, yet the NRC refuses to tell us why and refuses to give us the readings from the outlet air vents — where levels will be highest from leaking canisters.

    Regarding moving to the Mesa, that is a bad idea unless the fuel is first repackaged safely in thick wall casks. Thin wall are vulnerable to short-term cracks and some canisters are already cracking. The condition of the fuel rods inside may be to fragile to move even short distances, so must be inspected first.

    Edison’s only real plan is to hide leaking canisters and hope they don’t explode. Tom Palmisano (SCE) admits their Areva vendor has requested a change from the NRC so they no longer have to measure or report peak radiation levels from the outlet air vents. The NRC has already approved this for other facilities.

    When I ask Palmisano what Edison will do to prevent or stop these thin-wall canisters from leaking, he says “I’ll have to get back to you on that”. He’s been saying that for years.

    Edison had MPR Associates write a white paper on this issue. That paper recommended transporting a leaking canister to a non-existent hot cell facility in Idaho. That Test Area North hot cell was destroyed in 2007! The referenced footnote in the MPR report even stated that it had been destroyed in 2007.

    The Holtec loading system at San Onofre cracked all 29 canisters. Why did Edison allow this? Edison bragged about how much overhead costs they would save by emptying the fuel from the pools. Maintaining pools is a high overhead cost.

    Learn more at

  • i think somethings wrong at songs the huge amount of cars and employees ? and the lack of permission to install shoe box size monitors tells me so

  • A minor point of clarification. It’s true that data submitted to Safecast goes through a moderation process, and will not appear on our main map until approved by a moderator. However, a shareable “preview” is available immediately.

    We think this strikes a good balance between transparency, accessibility, and reliability.

  • The nuclear waste event was Oct 18, and the last CEP meeting was Aug 9. Facts matter.

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