Hundreds flock to public meeting debating restart of potentially dangerous San Onofre reactor
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Over 850 people turned out at the recent public meeting debating the plan to restart the highly contentious and potentially dangerous San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in Southern California which has remained offline for almost nine months.
A report published earlier this year revealed that there is a distinct possibility of even disasters occurring in the future which are significantly larger than the radioactive leaks discovered earlier this year which were later reviewed by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Augmented Inspection Team.
The relatively massive group that showed up to the public meeting was characterized by The Orange County Register as a “sometimes-boisterous crowd” and included “plant operator Southern California Edison, anti-nuclear activists, a union representative for San Onofre workers and state utility and energy regulators.”
The meeting was preceded by a demonstration outside the St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel during which some activists called for a more thorough review of Southern California Edison’s plan to restart one of the two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power station and others called for a complete shutdown of the plant.
Last week the NRC received a proposal from Edison in which they sought to restart the Unit 2 reactor at 70 percent capacity. “[Edison] expected to eliminate the vibrations among steam generator tubes believed to have caused the problems that have kept the plant closed,” according to the Register.
However, as the above-linked report reveals, the problems are far too critical to treat in a less-than-serious manner.
Officials with the NRC stated that their review of Edison’s plans themselves will likely take months. The Unit 3 reactor has problems with the steam generator tubes (see above stories for more information on the problems at San Onofre) which are far more serious than those at Unit 2.
No plans to restart or even repair Unit 3 have been handed over to the NRC by Edison as of yet.
“Let me be clear,” said Gene Stone, an activist out of San Clemente, according to the Register. “We stand for decommissioning this old nuclear plant as soon as possible, before ratepayers or taxpayers spend any more money to repair it.”
However, the Register makes a point of stating that a comment in support of continuing the review to restart the reactor was met with “loud applause from supporters in the audience.”
That’s hardly surprising seeing as the large crowd “included a large contingent of Southern California Edison employees bused by the company to the site.”
In other words, the company stuffed the audience with their own employees who have a quite clear ulterior motive behind their support for the plant restart.
The Los Angeles Times, similarly, painted the issue as one which should not be of legitimate concern in writing that the original steam generator tube problem released only “a minuscule amount of radioactive steam.”
Some of those in attendance, along with the environmental group Friends of the Earth, called on the NRC to hold an evidentiary hearing to review the plant’s safety. No decision was made during the public meeting.
“That seems to me a dangerous experiment to perform for all of us who live close to San Onofre when you already have the precedent that one of the identically designed steam generators has failed,” pointed out panelist Donald Mosier, a professor at Scripps Research Institute and a Del Mar City Council member, according to the Times.
Interestingly, both the Register and the Times quoted one of the panel members, Richard McPherson, characterizing him as a “nuclear industry veteran” and someone who “worked in the nuclear industry since 1963,” respectively.
The Times and the Register both called him a “Laguna Niguel resident.” In reality, Richard McPherson is the Executive Vice President of DownRange Global Solutions, a corporation which, according to their official website, is located in Vail, Arizona.
McPherson personally confirmed in an email response to End the Lie that he is the same individual listed on DownRange Global’s website and quoted by the Times and Register. It is unclear why neither news outlet properly identified him.
DownRange Global’s website calls McPherson a “retired Naval Nuclear Engineering Officer,” a title repeated in an article McPherson penned for National Defense Magazine.
According to their official website, DownRange Global, among other things, works in various sectors including nuclear, nuclear security, small modular reactors, risk management, project design review and more.
Clearly, McPherson, like the Edison employees, has an ulterior motive, which makes his statements questionable.
“We need to get this power plant back online as quickly as we can,” McPherson said, according to the Times. “It’s a technical problem, the people involved know how to fix it. We need to get on with fixing it and get our electricity back.”
“We need to get the steam generators back so we can enjoy many more years of secure and stable energy provided by this nuclear power plant,” said McPherson, according to the Register.
The Times points out that at some points the public meeting became quite chaotic with some in the audience screaming “Shut up!” while others cheered on a women who asked, “Is there a safe level of radiation?”
“When a union representative got up to speak on behalf of employees, crowd members shouted ‘What’s your question?!’” reports the Times.
While no final decision was reached, the NRC regional administrator, Elmo Collins, promised more public meetings and a thorough review before any decision is made regarding restarting the plant.
Ultimately, Collins admitted, the NRC will decide if they carry out the full evidentiary hearing process, meaning that the public really doesn’t have a say in the matter.
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