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Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chief Gregory Jaczko stopped short of condemning utility Southern California Edison’s plan to resume operation under partial power at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on San Diego’s northern coast, but when pressed at a forum downtown this morning he admitted that “the approach that’s being taken is not one that instills tremendous confidence in me.”

“The reality is we’re generally dealing with old technology, though there have been retrofits to some extent,” Jaczko said with regard to the bulk of nuclear technology currently in service, including the decades-old reactors in place at San Onofre. “I think to a large degree we’d be in a better place if we were replacing those with something else.”

Also appearing on a panel discussing the risks of nuclear power were former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who became a vocal critic of nuclear after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster of 2011, an event he repeatedly referred to through interpreters as “3/11” in the fashion U.S. politicians invoke the September 11 terrorist attacks, and Peter A. Bradford, an adjunct professor at the Vermont Law School, who spoke of his time on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Three Mile Island nuclear incident in 1979. Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds Associates, who was hired by environmental watchdog group Friends of the Earth to review San Onofre data, also spoke as a panel member and warned that the likelihood of and potential damage from a nuclear mishap were both higher than the public’s perception.

“We’re dealing with a technology that can have 40 great years and one bad day,” Gundersen told the audience, “and that one bad day is bad enough to destroy a country.”

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