Seven Years After the Shutdown of the San Onofre Nuke Plant, the Scandals Continue

by on July 6, 2020 · 1 comment

in Environment, San Diego

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear power industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those working for a nuclear free world.

By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press

On June 30 the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, “Worker At San Onofre Nuclear Plant Tests Positive For Covid 19.” Plant owner Southern California Edison admitted the infected person was a contract worker at the plant until June 23, but refused to reveal the person’s name or position at the plant. There was no explanation of how the worker acquired the virus or what measures were being taken to protect others in the workplace or surrounding communities.

Seven  years after San Onofre closed permanently on June 7, 2013, the same pattern of hiding incriminating evidence in pursuit of profit over people permeates Edison’ corporate culture.

San Onofre closed decades early because of gross mismanagement and a rush by the utility to restart its two reactors back into operation without proving it could do so safely.

Key components in the reactors called steam generators were replaced with defective models. without notifying the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which let Edison get away with this. Supposed to last for decades, they turned to junk in just a few years, releasing radiation into the environment, and forcing what became the plants’ final shutdown.

When Edison acted like it had a perfect right to rush restart, a campaign by environmental and community groups stopped it in its tracks. The nuke plant never produced another electron of electricity.

Subsequently Edison’s effort to make customers  pay for huge losses it caused by its own misbehavior was thwarted, at least partially, after it was revealed that a high level Edison official conspired with a bigwig from the state’s public utility commission at a secret meeting in Warsaw, Poland to  plot this multi-million dollar scam.

Another scandal occurred around Edison’s handling of its so-called ‘spent’ fuel, 3.6 million pounds of high level nuclear waste piled up inside reactor buildings over the life of the plant. This contains long lived and long lethal toxic chemicals like plutonium.

Edison hired out of state outfit Holtec to to take all this hot stuff out of the plant, and put it into canisters (barrels) that were supposed to end up buried only 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean on this iconic surfing state park. Similar to the steam generator fiasco, Holtec was using newly designed canisters that were not as robust (but cheaper) than those used at other nuclear sites.

In April 2018 one such 50 ton canister lodged in the burial cavity when it was being lowered into the nuke dump. It stayed that way for almost an hour. If it fell it could have been meltdown city at the beach. But this “near miss” was exposed by a whistleblower, resulting in the operation being shut down for 11 months and a relatively paltry $116,000 fine from the NRC. Now this hyper-risky work is going on full speed during the pandemic.

In the latest outrage, Edison has shipped a reactor vessel (used to contain a reactor). This is from reactor 1 at San Onofre, which operated from 1968 to 1992, then had hung around the site since 2002. The 770 ton load left on a train at midnight at the end of May. After passing through Las Vegas, it took two weeks to transfer it to a 45 axle, 180 tire trailer headed for Energy Solutions in the Clive, Utah west desert, after a 400 mile drive at 10mph where it was expected to arrive around the 4th o July for its burial.

The whole thing is radioactive, but all the proper authorities say its safe. The scientific consensus,outside of the nuclear empire however, is that there is no such thing as a risk free dose of radiation. There will be many more such shipment from the shores of Southern California over the next eight years, where evidently it is supposed to be someone else’s problem. Forever.

There was no report about how much this will all cost and who will pay for it.

Sources: San Diego Union-Tribune, sandiegouniontribune.com; San Clemente Green, sanclementegreen.org; Las Vegas Review Journal, the paperboy.com.

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Avatar Donna Gilmore July 7, 2020 at 10:14 am

These thin-wall canisters are not barrels. They are nuclear pressure vessels (about as tall as a giraffe). They have no pressure monitors or pressure relief valves. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gives numerous exemptions to ASME N3 Nuclear Pressure Vessel codes and other safety requirements, putting nuclear industry profits over public safety.

There is no evidence these uninspectable and unmaintainable thin-wall (5/8″ thick) canisters are “cheaper” than better quality thick-wall casks (10″ to over 19″ thick). Edison refuses to tell us how much the Holtec system cost, even though ratepayers fund this through the Decommissioning Fund. The nuclear utility in Vermont said they are more expensive than what alternative systems cost.

And since they are vulnerable to cracking and cannot be repaired, their lifespan is shorter than thick-wall cask designs.

Also, the Holtec canisters are NOT buried. The storage holes have huge air vents in the lids covering each storage hole. The media should stop using the above Edison photo for the Holtec system. It’s missing the vented lids. More info and photos at SanOnofreSafety.org

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