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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.

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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