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Hundreds Voice Nuke Plant Concerns; NRC, Edison Try to Reassure Public

More than 300 turned out to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting to voice their concerns about the safety of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Hundreds showed up to the annual Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting Thursday night to hear an assessment of how safely the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station operated in 2010.

Residents—dozens of whom carried anti-nuclear energy placards—expressed their increased concerns that a disaster similar to the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima plant in Japan could cause a meltdown at San Onofre.

"We want to decommission San Onofre as soon as we can," said protest organizer and San Clemente Green founder Gary Headrick. "We realize it's a process, but we want the decision to be made right away."

Headrick cited ,  and other safety problems.

One of San Onofre's on-site NRC inspectors, Greg Warnick, told residents at the meeting that the plant's record was improving. He said that after 14,000 NRC man-hours of inspection over the course of 2010, he was confident that "San Onofre operated in a manner that preserved public health and safety."

, the plant's chief nuclear officer, told the public that plant officials are committed to keeping residents safe, though he acknowledged that there is still a way to go to before all of the NRC's requirements would be met and regulatory violations fixed. 

Warnick said the commission focused on potential personnel problems throughout 2010 and found no major issues. More than a year ago, the NRC issued an inspection paper stating  the programs San Onofre was implementing to address the problems were not working.

Plant Manager Tom McCool said detailed procedures are now in place to make sure workers feel comfortable reporting concerns, could easily identify errors and address them and using proper protocol.

Though there has been a sharp drop in the number of safety concerns reported by workers over the  from the beginning of 2011 to now, Warnick said the NRC still got too many reports from San Onofre.

“San Onofre is the leader still in safety concerns reported to the NRC,” Warnick said. “So far we have not closed the human performance issues.”

But, he said, the plant has made progress even since January.

“When people feel free that they can raise concerns through all available avenues, especially their direct supervisors, that’s a sign of a healthy organization,” Warnick said.

Some 40 residents and plant workers signed up to speak during the public comment period, but only about 25 got to speak. 

, who has been spearheading an effort by the City Council to get a seat at the table when it comes to decisions about the plant, outlined concerns about spent fuel stored at the plant site. She also asked for help paying to connect Avenida La Pata to the arterial street system in San Juan Capistrano.

would add a third escape route from town in the event of a nuclear disaster; the only evacuation routes now are the 5 freeway and Pacific Coast Highway.

Other residents were adamant that they wanted the plant shut down. Even the tiniest risk of meltdown, they argued, was too much.

"We want to shut down the San Onofre nuclear plant," said Nancy Nolan of San Clemente. "All nukes are unhealthy and dangerous to civilizations around the world."

Dana Point resident Jeffrey Scott agreed.

"As a resident in the area, I'm taking the risk and I don't feel like I've had a voice in the decisions regarding San Onofre," he said. "This is in a critical location near several earthquake faults."

Dietrich cited science that suggested the Christianitos Fault off the coast of San Onofre was called a "strike slip" fault, which is less risky than a "subduction" fault like the one off the coast of Japan.

Other speakers were plant workers who, themselves, attempted to assure the public their safety was in good hands. About six or eight speakers expressed their faith in nuclear power and the skilled workers at the plant.

Check back late Friday morning for video of the meeting.

Alberto Barrera April 29, 2011 at 04:58 AM
Considering that it would take several acres of solar panels to create only half of what the San Onofre plant produces, the opposition needs to present a viable source of energy to replace the plant before they go out and ask for an immediate shutdown.
Adam Townsend April 29, 2011 at 05:44 AM
I'll take your concern into consideration. I tried to use "concerns" as opposed to "worries" or "fears" to encompass all of people commenting. I guess my logic was that those plant workers and others who came to talk at the meeting were concerned that their conscientiousness was being called into question or concerned that the public wasn't properly informed about plant safety. I'll consult with my editor as I'm finishing up this final article.
JX April 29, 2011 at 02:35 PM
You CANNOT make a Nuclear Power Plant "safe". In the event of a large earthquake or tsunami, San Onofre's Power Plant would GREATLY affect/ destroy (etc.) the surrounding areas (FOR MILES) and all the people and animals would be In GRAVE DANGER. Idiots. The only people for such a power plant, basically on a BEACH, are GREEDY. There is NO good reason to want San Onofre open!!!
JX April 29, 2011 at 02:41 PM
OR, we could think about people's safety FIRST and let that motivation create alternative solutions. I don't think people want it shut down tomorrow... they want it done soon. **I should note, I was NOT in attendance at the above event. However, I feel strongly about the issue. It's another example of how short-sighted humans can be. Look at Japan! Not as a scare tactic, but as a factual example of the dangers to human life when Nuclear energy is in use. California is not immune from natural disasters!!!
Jenifer Massey April 29, 2011 at 04:36 PM
IF THERE WERE NO OTHER ISSUES, THE SPENT FUEL RODS STORED AT SAN ONOFRE, WITH NO OTHER PLACE TO GO, ARE UNACCEPTABLE. IT IS ABSOLUTELY IRRESPONSIBLE TO CONTINUE TO CREATE SUCH A LIABILITY TO HUMANS. SAN ONOFRE MUST BE SHUT DOWN ASAP !
Gary Headrick April 29, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Our objective is to dispel the illusions of safety built upon wishful thinking and a false sense of security, so that we can develop a reasonable plan of action that actually deals with the new reality that Fukushima represents. We do not need to be experts in this field in order to come up with rational solutions to what is painfully obvious to ordinary citizens. Regardless of the arrogant reassurances from the industry, the truth is that they are no match against the unpredictable forces of nature. We must first come to the conclusion that operating nuclear power plants in seismically active areas around dense populations is no longer an option, considering the incalculable risks. By doing so, we can move swiftly towards sustainable solutions. We can redirect ratepayer’s and taxpayer’s dollars to create new jobs and support the emerging green technologies which hold so much promise. The utility companies have set aside funds for decommissioning and restoring the site to its original condition, so let’s start by making a plan to safely remove the threat of storing spent fuel on site and begin the lengthy process of dismantling the plant. In confronting the truth this seems to be a reasonable response, and I would question the motives of anyone who thinks differently.
James Schumaker April 29, 2011 at 05:05 PM
San Onofre is operating safely, and the danger of an earthquake or tsunami on the level of Fukushima does not exist, as the historical record for the past two hundred years indicates. That said, I do have three concerns about San Onofre. I agree with Mayor Donchak that something has to be done about the storage of spent fuel. This is the Achilles Heel of all nuclear plants in the United States, and if we are to continue with nuclear power, this problem has to be addressed urgently. It seems to me that the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada is still the best solution. A second problem is evacuation routes. Due to population growth, the PCH and I-5 will not be enough in the unlikely event of a nuclear accident. Prudent planning dictates that the La Pata extension and 241 should be completed as soon as possible. Finally, additional seismic studies of the area around San Onofre should be completed to eliminate the possibility of undiscovered faults. With these caveats, I believe that San Onofre can continue to operate safely at least until the expiration of its current license in 2022.
Jenifer Massey April 29, 2011 at 05:05 PM
GARY - EXCELLENT ! When can we start the decommissioning of San Onofre ?
Alberto Barrera April 29, 2011 at 05:39 PM
By the time that the Yucca mountain site is open, it will already be full.
Adam Townsend April 29, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Hey everyone: Here's a video of last night's meeting I posted late this morning after I edited it: http://sanclemente.patch.com/articles/video-protesters-residents-edison-nrc-assess-nuke-plant#video-5839450
george gregory April 29, 2011 at 07:26 PM
we have a nuke plant on the beach but we cant shoot trap at the gun range we have a nuke plant on the beach but i cant park my work truck in front of my own home we have a nuke plant on the beach but we cant build rainbow sandals in california no one will loss their job just the purpose will change
Ace Hoffman April 29, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Immediate and permanent shut-down of San Onofre is exactly what thousands of people want, with over a hundred showing up to speak truth to power (literally) last night in San Juan Capistrano. The NRC and SCE both ignored the real issues, as does the commentator above who looks at 200 years of tsunami records and concludes "it can't happen here." The longer historic record, of course, shows it can. At the hearing last night I gave out about 75 copies of my new 20-page book called, not coincidentally, SHUT SAN ONOFRE. It's available online for free at my web site: http://www.acehoffman.org/petitions/shut-san-onofre.pdf It's designed as a petition and one attendee who picked up a copy at the hearing is in Sacramento today trying to give more copies to our politicians... and another concerned citizen, a reverend who is in Washington DC today for a religious conference, will also be trying to leave copies with our state's senators and representatives. The call for immediate and permanent shut-down of San Onofre is very real, very strong, and very widespread. It comes in from all over the world. Renewables are ready to take over, and mere conservation (switching to LEDs, even) would be enough to no longer need San Onofre. According to a recent report for the whole country, simply growing outdoors would go a long way toward eliminating the "need" for San Onofre without having to build a single wind turbine. Not that building wind turbines is all that difficult...
Alberto Barrera April 30, 2011 at 02:36 AM
What do you mean by "growing outdoors"? I hope you realize that the wind speed here is not sufficient enough to have a wind turbine and that solar panels here would take up more space than the plant today. So tell me, how do you plan to supply 2,200 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of 1.4 million average homes at a point in time using renewable energy in the same amount of space that is used at the Plant?
Gene Stone April 30, 2011 at 03:44 AM
Gene Stone (ROSE) Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE) emphatically believes, for the safety of the public, all 11 nuclear power plants built on or near earthquake fault lines in the United States of America, should be closed immediately. ROSE believes, tragic events in Japan, on March 11, 2011 be fully recognized as a wake-up call by: NRC, FEMA, and all state and local officials charged with public safety. ROSE believes, these same Public Safety groups, in event of nuclear disaster, be held accountable in a court of law, for the negligent act of not putting the safety of the public first. The big item last night at the NRC meeting was the fact that the NRC completely ignored any comments or concerns made for safety by the citizens in the 50 mile radius. Not only did they ignore us, they cut our three-minute time to speak to two minutes and then only allowed half of the people that signed up to speak an opportunity to do so. They would call it coincidence I would call it something else. The next person to speak was a whistle blower from the plant. He was next in line to speak and they stopped it so that he would not be able to speak. There needs to be an investigation of the NRC, because it appears to many people that the first task of the NRC is to keep the nuclear business going, we can only hope that safety is their second concern.
ms.sc. April 30, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Mr. Schumaker's comments are not convincing, even to himself. His first paragraph counteracts with his fourth paragraph stating the safety of earthquakes and tsunami's would not be an issue for SONGS. We all need to respect Mother Nature and not ASSUME we know the seismic layout of the land. I know that plant officials and anyone involved with Japan's nuclear plant were VERY confident to the safety of the plant and reasurred the public as well. Being that confident is dangerous.
Jenifer Massey April 30, 2011 at 03:46 PM
How can we find out if San Onofre is fully paid for ? I've read that new nuclear power plants are very expensive to build and that many of the older plants are fully paid for and are delivering great amounts of cash to their owners. Follow the Money !
James Schumaker April 30, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Actually, reliable historical records for earthquakes in the region around San Onofre go back only as far as the early 19th Century. To go back further, you need to consult the geological record. For the Cristianitos fault, geological evidence indicates that the fault has been inactive for several thousand years, and probably much longer. Perhaps you are thinking of other areas of the Pacific Coast, where there is strong evidence of a 9.0 earthquake or above, as well as significant tsunami activity. In particular, the Cascadia region suffers a 9.0 or above every 300-500 years. That's one reason, by the way, why you won't find any nuclear plants on the Washington/Oregon coast.
James Schumaker April 30, 2011 at 05:20 PM
I hate to contradict you, but if I were not convinced my comments were correct, I wouldn't have made them in the first place. With regard to plant safety, there is no contradiction between the first and fourth paragraphs of my comments. Very detailed seismic studies of the region around San Onofre have already been done, and based on what we know, San Onofre is capable of withstanding any foreseeable earthquake or tsunami activity in the area. That said, however, we can never know too much about the seismic environment. It would therefore be prudent to continue and expand such seismic studies, as Senators Feinstein and Boxer have proposed. If the new studies do turn up an unforeseen threat to San Onofre, I would of course be prepared to revise my opinion about the plant's safety. I will also take your point that Fukushima officials were overconfident, and in fact did not take adequate account of historical earthquake data that was already available when their plant was under construction. This was not the case with San Onofre.
Ace Hoffman April 30, 2011 at 05:34 PM
My response to James Schumaker's comment this morning is a little too long to include here, so I've posted them at my scratch-pad blog: http://acehoffman.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/37/ I would be interested if Mr. Schumaker would enlighten us as to why he has become so passionate about supporting San Onofre as to bother speaking out so soon after the tragedy in Japan has made such fools of all of nuclear power's supporters, and to do so with so little real knowledge of the issues.
Gene Stone April 30, 2011 at 06:23 PM
I'm sorry but there is no nuclear power plant that is safe. Are they run as safe as possible?? That is a major question, their safety records would indicate that they are not. Especially San Onofre. Even if you give it to the power plants that they are doing the best job possible, accidents still happen (look at the record). We have now had three major accidents, when all is said and done the recent accident in Japan will be the worst on record. We have had over 2054 nuclear test, three nuclear subs sunk in the ocean three lost nuclear bombs in the ocean (one off the coast of GA). Nuclear technology is extremely dangerous and toxic to all life forms. Just because our technology may be good, as we have just seen mother nature can undo it all very easily. No more nukes, let's clean up the mess we've made and move on to what mother nature intended free clean energy from the source itself. Living within five miles of the plant as I do I am extremely worried that the next negligent act at San Onofre will put us all in peril. If that were a solar plant and it blew up I would not be worried nor would I be radiated and my property values would not fall to zero.
Gene Stone April 30, 2011 at 06:35 PM
Alberto, as to the several acres of solar panels that would take to replace the power produced at San Onofre, that is absolutely not a problem we have many millions of square footage available on flat rooftop commercial buildings.The electric company only spent $3 million on the solar roof lease program last year, the minimum possible they thought they could get away with. As ratepayers that is our money we should demand it be spent to produce clean pollution free energy without having to build a new grid on already existing commercial flat with buildings of which in America we have billions of square footage. This would make your rates go down because the up keep to cleaning your solar panels once a month is nothing compared to upgrading a nuclear plant every five years. The economics is simple.
James Schumaker April 30, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Sorry, but when people start descending to ad hominem attacks rather than engaging in honest debate, it is time to end the conversation and move on to something else. I wish you every success in your future endeavors.
Ace Hoffman April 30, 2011 at 07:09 PM
lol, Jim! CIAO!
george gregory May 01, 2011 at 02:18 AM
A MELT DOWN think about it ,,just imagine,, you’ll have to leave and never come back where would you go, what would you take ,no time to pack ,,you may not have time to run fast enough to save your life ,your loved ones or your sentimental and valuable properties
Torgen Johnson May 04, 2011 at 04:48 PM
I purchased a geiger counter after the nuclear fuel meltdowns at Fukushima and the spread of radioactivity across the Pacific,. The local milk I buy for my 2 and 4 year old children registers slight radioactivity from the Fukushima event 6,000 miles away! How many other local foods now contain the Fukushima radionuclides that will lead to my children and I developing early cancers? http://vimeo.com/23186557 San Onofre poses the same extreme health risk as the nuclear plant at Fukushima. James Shumaker's confidence in San Onofre is meaningless because it ignores the plant’s many documented safety problems, and research from 2005 that shows that the coast in front of San Onofre has a long history of tsunami activity. The only way to protect my family and my property from the potential of a nuclear catastrophe at San Onofre is to shut the facility down permanently. Fukushima was confirmation that a nuclear disaster anywhere is a nuclear disaster everywhere. The world can no longer afford the risks of such a dangerous and uncontrollable technology and should shut down all fission power plants.
Gene Stone May 04, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Torgen logic and real safety concerns seems to be an impossible argument with people his purpose in life is to bring you nuclear power plants whether you want them or not. Logic be Damned
James Schumaker May 04, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Torgen, thanks for your comments. In response, I have two questions: First, what level of I-131 did you measure in local milk? Second, was it greater than 3 picocuries per liter (pc/l)? If so, you might want to report your findings to the EPA. The EPA detected levels slightly above 3 pc/l in some areas of the United States early on following the Fukushima disaster, but the levels have dropped since then. According to EPA's safety experts, a population exposed to 3 pc/l, and drinking two liters of milk per day, would, over a period of 70 years, experience one additional case of cancer per one million people. Also, I would note that while Southern California, like any coastal area, is subject to tsunamis, there is no evidence that there have been any within the past several thousand years that would pose a danger to a facility like San Onofre. A helpful recent news story on this question is at: http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-socal-tsunami-risk-study,0,6083848.story .
Adam Townsend June 06, 2011 at 07:26 PM
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station just invested $600 million in upgrading their plant over the last 10 years, a construction program that was approved in advance by the California Public Utilities Commission. This construction program, officials have said, will allow the plant to continue to operate through the time its license expires in 2022.
Donna Gilmore March 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM
It's 2012 and San Onofre still has the worst safety allegations record of all US nuclear plants. We don't need the energy from this plant, so why are we living with the risks of the worst managed nuclear plant in the nation? See California Independent System Operator Transmission reports stating there will be no electrical grid stability problems with SONGS shut down. http://sanonofresafety.org/energy-options/ Sign the California Nuclear Initiative petition by April 7th. Petitions can be downloaded at http://californianuclearinitiative.com/ This will let the voters decide in the November 2012 election to effectivey shut down the two unnecessary nuclear power plants in California. Government isn't protecting us, so it's up to us to do it.
Katheryn September 30, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Where is the California Attorney General, and why is she letting this happen? Tell does this sound familiar, I have provided a link to a story on the Temecula Patch. Please read the story and watch the video in the story. Add this to all your facebook accounts, get the word out. http://temecula.patch.com/articles/citizen-reader-shares-mining-sounds

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