A group of concerned beach cities’ residents held a press conference today near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, calling for an explanation why two new reactors recently broke down.
The protest coincided with an expected statement from Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials over the future of the already decommissioned steam nuclear generators at the plant. The press conference will be followed by a meeting with local and state government officials and Gregory Jaczko, chair of the NRC. A citizens’ group known as San Clemente Green, which advocates for a shut down, also met Jaczko later in the day.
Donna Gilmore, a former IT expert who was responsible for keeping the computerized information systems online 24-7 at the state controller’s office and the department of transportation, claims there are two big issues with San Onofre. “The employees are punished for pointing out safety issues and that doesn’t make me feel very safe,” she said. “And San Onofre has the worst safety record of all 104 reactors in the U.S.”
Gilmore’s graphs plotting safety and employee complaints cite the NRC’s website as the source. Another graph illustrates a surplus of electrical energy available from non-nuclear sources to cover any high-usage summer periods in Southern California and that nuclear power is an unnecessary utility. “We don’t need this energy,” Gilmore claims. “Everybody’s afraid of rolling black-outs, that’s the panic button they use. There will be no black-outs this summer according to their information.”
Gary Headrick, SC Green organizer, said the morning press conference was called “to call out” Southern California Edison and the NRC for questionable work ethics. Headrick said Edison increased the capacity of the generators by using unapproved materials and “cramming in more tubes,” which changed the configuration, increased the pressure, and eventually caused a leak, forcing the plant to close and that the NRC was negligent in overseeing safety practices.
“All of these things contributed to what could have been a catastrophic accident, a meltdown,” he said. “We had a close call.” Headrick said his group is asking for answers about why the leak occurred before the two-year-old generators are restarted. “We’re insisting that a root cause analysis is done and that it’s independently verified by other nuclear experts and that there’s a period of interaction with the public so that we really understand the decision-making process and that we have a part to play in this. It’s our lives that are at stake.”