San Onofre neighbors no longer felt safe, welcome closure


While activists praised Friday’s announcement that the San Onofre nuclear power plant would be retired, those who live near the coastal facility expressed mixed emotions about the fate of what has become a familiar landmark and a nagging source of controversy.

“It’s a shame about the jobs, but I don’t think anybody feels safe anymore,” says Jonel Miller, a 12-year San Clemente resident. With the plant’s closure, Southern California Edison said about 1,100 will lose their jobs.

Miller said she is curious about what will become of the land where the familiar twin-domes contrast sharply with the otherwise wide-open coastal property, which sits just south of San Clemente and within eyesight of the famed Trestles surf spot.


Q&A: Why is it closing and what will it cost?

The land is owned by the military, but its cleanup will be extensive.

“There is an astronomical environmental question attached to it. If they end up cleaning it up, that could be a huge amount of jobs for folks needing them,” she added.

Tracy Foth and her family for years have had a summer home in nearby Capistrano Beach and she has kept up with news about the site.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

“Of course, I don’t want people to lose their jobs but if they have to close because of public safety, then they should close,” said the mother of three. “Can you imagine if there’s a bad earthquake, that area could be so bad to be around.”

In the end, it was less the safety concerns than the actual cost of the closure that seemed to seal the plant’s fate.


On Friday, Edison International Chief Executive Ted Craver said a ruling by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel last month became a “definitive” moment in the decision to shut down the plant for good.

GRAPHIC: Wear and tear at San Onofre

The regulatory process to restart the plant likely would have stretched into next year, possibly beyond.

The decision to shut the power plant had an immediate effect on more than 1,100 workers who will lose their jobs and left unanswered daunting questions -- how will the loss of San Onofre’s power be made up, who ultimately picks up the tab on the costs and what becomes of the nuclear waste that remains at the facility in northern San Diego County?

On the patio of Surfin’ Donuts, Steve Mullin shared his sausage and hash brown breakfast with his wife. Both lamented their high energy bill, totaling more than $200 monthly for the home they share with their three dogs.

San Onofre once had supplied power to about 1.4 million homes.

“The problem is balancing the need for electricity with public safety,” he said. “It will cost so much money to get everything fixed so the public can be happy, and you know, the public can never be happy.

“Every area of the country has its environmental issues,” he added, “and those generators should have been vetted long before they put them in San Onofre.”


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