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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Why do we accept living near a potential major nuclear accident site?

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
The decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: In 1960, when I was 14 and growing up in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., I visited a model fallout shelter. I decided on the spot that my family needed to build one immediately. (“California’s San Onofre nuclear plant is a Chernobyl waiting to happen,” Nov. 19)

When I told my parents that they needed to do this, they laughed and explained to me that where we lived, between New York and Washington, would be a major nuclear strike zone. Plus, even if a bomb didn’t land on little ole Wilkes-Barre, the bombs sent elsewhere would kill everyone anyway. On a final grim note, my father said, the living would envy the dead.

This was not very reassuring, and the fallout shelter was never built.

Now, living in the shadow of the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, I am not afraid for myself, but I am for the young people with their lives ahead of them. As one of the 8.4 million people living within 50 miles of San Onofre, I say we must demand better than living under this threat and fear.

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David Milton, Laguna Beach

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To the editor: This piece is misleading.

The author states that scientists from the nuclear industry said that the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and explosion in 1986 killed only a few dozen people. In reality, experts estimated there would be at least 2,000 premature deaths of all kinds.

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As a nuclear physicist and hazardous materials expert for the San Diego Fire Department at the time, I also made that estimate to our leaders in San Diego. History has borne out that estimate when all the residual effects are taken together.

Furthermore, to say that little is known about the effects of chronic low-level exposures to radioactivity is also misleading. The effects of radioactive exposure have been studied for many decades. Now, it is a much more advanced science than what is understood about chemical exposures.

Finally, to say that spent fuel and waste should be removed from the San Onofre site is ironic, considering that critics of nuclear energy are the main reason that long-term storage has not proceeded as it should.

David Francis, San Diego

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To the editor: The pro-nuke crowd tries to sidestep the “thorny” issue of radioactive waste disposal and the vulnerability after an earthquake or a tsunami as a distraction.

They are mistaken. It’s the central issue. A nuclear accident will leave a Fukushima-sized footprint on the Southern California coast.

More than 8 million people live within a 50-mile radius of San Onofre. There is no escape. We willfully remain unprepared.

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Dana Hirsch, Fullerton


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