Out of the Blue: Speak up against San Onofre

Amid a spate of promising economic news, home values are climbing. Now for the bad news.

For the first time in human history, the concentration of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing the milestone level of 400 parts per million.

We continue to ingest the hazardous waste known as processed and genetically modified foods. And if that's not enough to kill ya, there's talk of opening San Onofre again.

The Nuclear Regulatory Committee, a notoriously fractured committee composed of industry insiders, is about to rubber stamp a "no significant hazard" certification, allowing San Onofre to reopen its failed reactors as early as June.

"This is all based on hypothesis that has never been tested, so NRC is essentially approving an experiment," said Kendra Ulrich, of Friends of the Earth, a global network of nearly 2 million activists who urge policymakers to defend the environment.

Here's the background: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries replaced the 30-year-old San Onofre generators in 2010, and they failed two years later. We still don't know the cause. But we do know that thousands of cooling tubes have weakened.

Now Southern California Edison tells us that the reactor could not run safely for more than 11 months at 100% capacity. So it is proposing a test of five months at 70% capacity. Do you think this an acceptable risk to the 8.7 million of us who live within 50 miles?

This old, shuttered relic is built in a seismic zone on the Pacific. Hey, sounds like Fukushima. And we know how that played out.

A recent article in the New York Times showed, in a horrifying graphic, the hundreds of massive storage tanks at the 42-acre site in Japan filled with radioactive wastewater. Turns out that "groundwater is pouring into the plant's ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute" and becomes radioactive, the article said.

A small army of workers is struggling to contain the continuous flow, and now Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) is chopping down a small adjacent forest to make room for more tanks. This doesn't mitigate the problem of another perfect storm of earthquake and tsunami.

But here's the deal, folks. We don't need nuclear power. We did fine last summer, right? The Independent Systems Operator (ISO), California's grid operator and evaluator of the likelihood of blackouts, has said that we have no additional risks without San Onofre. And we've also learned that buying energy on the market is cheaper than running San Onofre. So let's shutter it for good.

Edison and the NRC tried to cut this deal out of the public eye, with NRC allowing a 30-day evaluation period to determine whether a public hearing is necessary before Edison is given the go-ahead. Does this sound like democracy to you?

Fortunately, the good folks at Friends of the Earth fought the good fight, and on Tuesday announced the following on its website:

"In a stunning rebuke to Southern California Edison's bid to start up the crippled San Onofre nuclear power plant, the U.S. Atomic Safety Licensing Board ruled today that the reactors can not be restarted before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds a formal license amendment proceeding with full public participation.

"The prospects for Edison's plans to restart the San Onofre nuclear reactor unit two this summer have been dealt a major blow by this important decision."

This is a great step but is by no means over. We need to continue to put pressure on our local, state and federal representatives to counter Edison's considerable lobbying efforts. We need to let Henry Waxman, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, know that we stand with Barbara Boxer in stopping the NRC from this potentially catastrophic decision. Tell your senators and congressmen that putting your family at risk so that Edison can recoup its losses is unacceptable.

We have zero tolerance for failure. And no time to waste.

BILLY FRIED is the chief paddling officer of La Vida Laguna and on the board of Transition Laguna.

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