Last night I attended a CPUC Public Participation Hearing in Costa Mesa regarding San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant which has been off line for the past year because of defective steam generators. It is a rare opportunity to have a CPUC meeting in Orange County. CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio presided, and (with Administrative Law Judge Melanie Darling) sat patiently listening to various speakers.
Even though San Onofre’s been temporarily shut down for safety reasons, the ratepayers are still being charged for a non-existent service. Mindy Spatt, a representative from TURN (The Utility Reform Network) who was also at the meeting, said, “The CPUC allowed Edison to begin charging customers for replacing the old steam generators with the new, defective ones that cost $665 million.”
The main issue for California residents, of course, is safety. The activists who gave public comments said that San Onofre has the worst safety record of all the 104 nuclear plants. They called it a “creaky, leaky, rusty thing.” They talked about a letter that Senator Boxer wrote which said that Edison knew four years ago, before they installed some steam generator tubes, that they were defective. There is also no feasible evacuation plan for the millions of residents who live near San Onofre if something goes wrong. [Perhaps we can hop from car roof top to car roof top on the stalled 405 freeway?]
One speaker, who was familiar with Fukishima, spoke about how in a nuclear accident it’s “different from just getting an X ray. Radioactive isotopes are released into the air.” We “eat” and breathe them. It’s called, she said, “internal radiation exposure.” She had a petition for the Japanese consulate because she says they are not allowing (or helping to pay for?) children to evacuate from a dangerous area near Fukishima. She said that thyroid cancer is a very rare disease in children, but now they are starting to see many cases.
Also in attendance was what appeared to be an orchestrated parade of local officials. They were from all the little cities in Orange County (and even someone from Cypress College). They were current mayors or former mayors and city councilmembers; one now is head of some pro-business taxpayer’s association. Their message was similar: Edison’s great. Edison’s trustworthy and has helped them out (such as given money to Cypress College); kept them in the loop and they definitely need (for business reasons) to have SONGS to be started back up right away. One former mayor even said San Onofre is the reason that our air is so nice and clean.
Here is a short video interview of Arnie Gunderson (from July) talking about the defective steam tubes. It’s worth viewing especially for those who want a quick overview of this topic, which applies not just to San Onofre but to other nuclear power plants in the United States. (See also his discussion of storing nuclear waste versus solar power.) Regarding the steam generators at San Onofre, Mindy Spatt of Turn says, “hundreds of other steam tubes are also compromised in both nuclear units.”
Also on this video from the NRC meeting last week (February 13, 2013) listen (at 11:44 minutes) to this elected official’s representative (Andy Shrader, Legislative Deputy, L.A. District 5, representing L.A. City Council Member Paul Koretz and the 250,000 people in his district) talk about the real financial devastation that could happen if San Onofre blows.