Walter Mencken 9 a.m., May 23
San Onofre Faces More Challenges on Multiple Fronts
Opponents of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County are making noise on multiple fronts.
Yesterday, the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility filed comments with the California Public Utilities Commission concerning a proposed ruling by Administrative Law Judge Robert Barnett that concludes that seismic studies proposed by plant operator Southern California Edison “fulfill state regulatory objectives.”
The Alliance argues that the proposed ruling makes incorrect assumptions about the adequacy of the studies suggested by SoCal Edison, particularly in light of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s enhanced seismic standards in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
“The 2011 experience in Japan clarifies that decisions based on this work might one day prove the most consequential ever made by California state government,” the Alliance states in arguing for the Public Utilities Commission to “demand the highest standards of intellectual rigor, vigorous peer review, and public transparency.”
Translation: another look needs to be taken at SoCal Edison’s proposed studies, the scope of which may need to be significantly expanded, at a considerably higher cost than what the utility is suggesting is necessary at this point.
While the Alliance continues in its role as a watchdog of regulatory proceedings, other environmental groups with a more direct message: keep the temporarily suspended reactors at San Onofre out of commission – permanently.
Ray Lutz, who as a member of Citizens Oversight Projects has been involved with numerous progressive movements of late (including hosting a March 11 event commemorating the anniversary of Fukushima), spoke on the numerous safety concerns being voiced about the plant.
“The inside [of the plant] was completely redesigned . . . the engineers themselves wrote about how proud they were that they worked around public scrutiny, and were able to avoid review by the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission],” Lutz said, speaking on the new steam generators whose tubing has been failing and showing excess wear at an alarming rate, prompting the emergency shutdown.
“The problem here is that our elected officials have all taken money from Southern California Edison and SDG&E and Sempra Energy – massive amounts of money. The media takes money from these organizations as well, they advertise on all of your stations,” Lutz told the crowd of news cameras gathered on the coast near the power plant. “So it’s hard to get the message out there sometimes, about what’s going on . . . it isn’t a pretty picture here, folks.”
He went on to criticize the plant’s 14 foot seawall, stating that the maximum wave swell generated during Japan’s earthquake reached 133 feet in height. Lutz further said that battery-powered pumps intended to relocate water in the event of a seawall breach had once gone disconnected for a period of four full years.
Donna Gilmore, founder of the sanonofresafety.org website, also spoke, saying she became involved in the anti-nuclear movement after reading a news article a few years ago saying plant employees were being punished for reporting safety problems.
“I thought that had to be a crock. Nobody in their right mind would run a nuclear plant and punish employees for safety concerns. Guess what? I was wrong. San Onofre has the worst safety record of all nuclear plants in the entire country,” said Gilmore, who also provided a chart to demonstrate the level of safety concerns reported at San Onofre as compared to other facilities.
Between January 2007 and August 2011, San Onofre logged 133 safety problems as reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by employees and contractors at the site. Diablo Canyon, California’s other nuclear plant, had 49 reports, still well above the median of 20 problems per site reported during the sample period.
A closed-door meeting was scheduled this afternoon between activists and representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, whose chairman, Gregory Jaczko, is visiting the plant in light of the recent events. Groups planned to demand a thorough investigation into the cause of the premature failure of the new generators, which cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars to install.
After touring the plant’s reactors, Jaczko promised to conduct a “tough review” of the facility before allowing either unit to go back online, but indicated that the Unit 2 reactor, which had been shuttered for routine maintenance, might be allowed to restart sooner than Unit 3, where radioactive leaks were found.
“We have to have assurance of safety before we will allow the plant to restart,” said Jaczko.
Pictured speaking: Ray Lutz, Citizens Oversight
More like this:
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Resigns — May 22, 2012
- NRC Not Receptive to San Onofre Reactivation Proposal — May 8, 2012
- Shutdown at San Onofre no Longer "Precautionary" — March 28, 2012
- PG&E Ordered to Complete Seismic Studies, Same Sought for SCE/SDG&E — Dec. 23, 2011
- Money for Studies at San Onofre — July 6, 2011