FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Surfing From San Onofre to Fukushima

by RUSSELL D. HOFFMAN

At a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meeting about San Onofre held in Dana Point, California on October 9th, 2012, it was the unionists who tried to crowd out our shut-down message.  To entice them to do so, Southern California Edison (SCE) had offered workers all-you-can-eat dinners in the plant parking lot, free tee shirts, bus transport to and from the meeting, and best of all, but tacitly, a chance to be thought of as a team player.

The busses arrived noisily during our press conference, which had to be held outside the entrance to the hotel because they wouldn’t let the press trucks on the property for the live feeds.

The NRC PR person wasn’t any more cooperative: We had set up a literature table at the entrance to the auditorium, but he tried to move us inside because the NRC needed both tables.   “No” I said, and gave them one of them.

When we came back from the press conference, the hall was filled with union members, many of whom had taken literature from the table we had insisted on keeping.  We’d wished we had brought more literature!

The unionists were loud sometimes, but polite, and as the night wore on, we got louder, because while they rode back on their busses, which ran back and forth all evening, a much greater percentage of activists chose to stay all the way through.

At a California Public Utilities Commission hearing in Irvine last Thursday (October 25th, 2012), we were out-maneuvered by the local Chambers of Commerce.  What enticed them to come was the thousands of dollars (of ratepayer money) Edison gives local CoCs each year, so their chapter presidents will speak well of SCE at times like this.  They served up Edison’s line dutifully, one after another.  Nevertheless we “won the day” with a 5-0 unanimous vote authorizing the go-ahead with an investigation into San Onofre’s steam generator problems.

But the public comment period at the CPUC hearing, like at the NRC meeting, was a travesty.  The CPUC promised to probably, maybe, possibly give us (the ratepayers) back every penny since January 31st, 2012 if SCE can’t get the plant up and running again.  That’s more than half a billion dollars, but don’t hold your fossil-fuel-and-Fukushima-poisoned breath waiting for it.

The CPUC was required by law to begin the investigation within a few weeks anyway, and they emphasized that it would be “thorough,” but few of us were given a chance to speak about what it should cover, although dozens of people had driven or carpooled to Irvine thinking they would have a chance to tell the CPUC how they feel.  It turned out our input wasn’t welcome and the decision seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

The local Chambers of Commerce conspired both to use up the public comment period and to give themselves a bad name — with CPUC Chairman Michael Peavey’s help, who didn’t seem to notice the loaded dice.  At the very least, he could have told them to stop repeating each other, and certainly would have told us that, if we had droned on in the same fashion.

Instead, Peavey started the meeting late and let this, that, and the other thing prevent him from hearing the citizens.  Very few of us had spoken amidst the unionists and Chamber of Commerce people, who all professed their love for San Onofre’s supposedly “safe, reliable, affordable energy” as if — as Gene Stone pointed out in the press conference afterwards — they had all got the same memo with the talking points they were supposed to emphasize.

The rules for public comment had stated not to do things like that, and also said that spokespersons for organizations of people present could get extra time (that is, more than one minute).  But suddenly chairman and former SCE president Michael Peavey had heard enough, and announced the last three speakers.  And that would have been that, but Gary Headrick stood up, and with the crowd behind him, forced the issue and was granted three full minutes, which he used to read our group’s statement.  (It was a team effort all the way: His wife Laurie had already “snuck” in some comments with the Chamber of Commerce people, representing a CoC herself (a green one).)

Another small victory for our side was that the very first public speaker had been Martha Sullivan, who worked at the CPUC for 20 years, until 1998, and was speaking for the Del Mar City Council (that’s why she got to speak first).  It was a brilliant move on her part.  She had tried several times to educate us about how the CPUC operates, to varying degrees of success.  When she kicked off the public comment period, we thought things were going to go pretty well, but those CoC people just kept prattling on and on and on…. I stopped videotaping, but wish I hadn’t, just so I could demonstrate the repetitiveness of their claims.  I’m certain that none of them are familiar with the technical details of what’s gone wrong at San Onofre — they only know that it’s “off.”  They aren’t aware of the history of the steam generator replacement project, or of San Onofre’s lingering problems with its workforce, or the used reactor core storage hazards, or that children are far more likely to be harmed by radiation than adults — they just had a basic script to read.  The Chamber of Commerce folks know that Southern California Edison contributes millions of dollars (of rate payer money) to local CoC’s, as well as to children’s cancer hospitals, local nature preserves and so on — anything that looks like community caring.  The media gets millions in advertising dollars from SCE — but not if they run a lot of negative pieces.  Then that dries up.

After Gary Headrick spoke, we could see a staff member say something to Peavey, who then announced that there would be one more speaker.

It would be young Zora, 13, had come all the way in from Idyllwild with her father to speak.  As I was setting up the camera at the beginning of the meeting, she handed me a note with what she intended to say.  (I had met her in August.)  One of her friends had spoken at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing two weeks earlier while Zora and another friend stood by her in support.  This time Zora was alone at the podium, and stole the show.  Here is a link to her marvelous minute in Irvine:, along with Gary’s presentation, the CPUC decision, and the press conference activists held afterwards.

I should note that while I’m spouting off technical terms in the video, I embarrassingly got it wrong:  It’s the tube support plates (TSPs) which were machined wrong, not the Anti-Vibration Bars.  H

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail