Eva Knott 10:44 a.m., May 18
Hundreds Rally to Remember Fukushima, Protest San Onofre
Hundreds of protesters converged near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station today to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Reactors there remain in a state of continuing high-level meltdown.
The action was sponsored by numerous local activist groups, several political figures, and various local factions of the Occupy movement. Two buses were filled to capacity, bringing participants from downtown San Diego and Oceanside to join others who made their own way to San Onofre. Ray Lutz of Citizens’ Oversight Projects, who has also taken a prominent role in Occupy San Diego that included an arrest for registering voters, served as emcee.
Ms. Kyoko Sugasawa and Mr. Hirohide Sakuma, Japanese citizens residing near the Fukushima plant, were flown in for the event. Both spoke of the continuing challenges their communities faced. Sakuma reported that radiation was detectable in the soil at a local kindergarten at levels close to those found near the nuclear plant, despite his living many miles outside the declared evacuation zone.
Ace Hoffman, a nuclear activist from Carlsbad, briefly lectured on the style of reactor at San Onofre and on the details of a radioactive leak that has kept the plant’s Unit 3 reactor idle for over a month, as well as procedures that have shut down the Unit 2 reactor even longer.
“They keep telling us that they’re doing ‘routine maintenance’ on Unit 2 in the last few months. But the pressure vessel head [a reactor component] was never supposed to be replaced — how can anyone call that routine?” asked Hoffman.
Torgen Johnson of Solana Beach spoke, saying he became involved after failing to hear any reports on the news of fallout or debris reaching the western U.S. in the wake of Fukushima. “That was very suspicious to me, because I know from having lived in the Caribbean that we have these things called ‘tequila sunrises’ where the Sahara Desert sand gets lifted off the surface of the desert by natural forces and carried across the Atlantic by natural forces. It descends on the Caribbean like rain, and the sand is so thick you have to wash your car before you can drive it.”
Johnson says he bought a Geiger counter to test for radiation plumes arriving on American shores in the wake of the disaster, immediately finding detectable radiation upon testing the device. He went on to state that while there is $12 billion in relief available should Southern California experience a nuclear disaster of its own, rough estimates on the value of land and buildings within the area at risk should such disaster strike currently sit at above $1 trillion.
Cori Schumacher, an internationally recognized champion surfer from Cardiff, talked about the rarely discussed dangers surfers in and around San Onofre face, even if small amounts of radiation were to be released. “We’re canaries in the coal mine, so to speak . . . we surf the runoff of progress.”
Other speakers called for the plant to remain inoperative indefinitely, pointing to the fact that renewable energies coming online make the need for nuclear less pressing, and noting that no power crisis has arisen while the plant, which can provide for approximately seven percent of the state’s energy needs, has been offline. Lutz called for further action upon announcement from Southern California Edison, the plant’s operator, that power generating activities would resume.