FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Showdown at San Onofre

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

Two stricken California reactors may soon redefine a global movement aimed at eradicating nuclear power.

They sit in a seismic zone vulnerable to tsunamis.  Faulty steam generators have forced them shut for nearly a year.

A powerful “No Nukes” movement wants them to stay that way.  If they win, the shutdown of America’s 104 licensed reactors will seriously accelerate.

The story of San Onofre Units 2 & 3 is one of atomic idiocy.  Perched on an ocean cliff between Los Angeles and San Diego, the reactors’ owners  cut unconscionable corners in replacing their multi-million-dollar steam generators.  According to Russell Hoffman, one of California’s leading experts on San Onofre, inferior metals and major design failures turned what was meant to be an upgrade into an utter fiasco.

Installed by Mitsubishi, the generators simply did not work.  When they were shut nearly a year ago, tubes were leaking, banging together and overall rendering further operations impossible.

Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have unofficially thrown in the towel on Unit 3.  But they’re lobbying hard to get at least Unit 2 back up and running.  Their technical problems are so serious that they’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to let them run Unit 2 at 70% capacity.  In essence, they want to “see what happens” without daring to take the reactor to full power.

The NRC has expressed serious doubts.  On December 26 it demanded answers to more than 30 questions about the plant’s technical realities.  There have been assertions that unless San Onofre can be shown as operable at full power, its license should be negated.

San Onofre’s owners are desperate to get at least Unit 2 back on line so they can gouge the ratepayers for their failed expenditures.  If the California Public Utilities Commission refuses the request, there’s no way San Onofre can reopen.

So nuclear opponents can now fight restart both at the federal level and with the state PUC.  The state regulators have opened an in-depth investigation into what’s happened at San Onofre, and the picture is not expected to be pretty.

Economic analyses show the reactors to be uneconomical anyway.  “Experts” warned California would suffer blackouts and brownouts without them, but nothing of the sort has happened.  The only real reason San Onofre’s owners want to get it back up is to charge the ratepayers for their failed repairs.

The fiasco at San Onfre is being replayed at rust bucket reactors throughout the US.  Progress Energy poked some major new holes into the containment at the Crystal River reactor it was allegedly fixing.  Nebraska’s Ft. Calhoun has been flooded.   An earthquake hit Virginia’s reactors with seismic forces that exceeded design specifications.

In Wisconsin, Kewaunee’s owners will shut it for economic reasons.  A new study shows Vermont Yankee, under intense attack from a grassroots citizens’ upheaval, has major economic benefits to gain from shutting down.  Elsewhere around the US, technical and economic pressures have the industry on the brink.

Meanwhile, the conversion to green power in Germany is booming.  When 8 reactors were shut and the conversion to wind, solar and biomass became official policy, “experts” predicated energy shortages and soaring prices.  But the opposite has happened as supply has boomed and prices have dropped.

The same things will happen in California and elsewhere as these radioactive jalopies begin to shut.  The effectiveness of citizen activism in California is now vastly multiplied as these two decrepit reactors become increasingly obsolete, inoperable and economically insupportable.

As Kewaunee shuts, as Crystal River heads toward salvage, as No Nukes citizen action escalates, and as renewables and efficiency soar in performance and plummet in price, a green-powered era is dawning.

But as Fukushima Unit 4‘s spent fuel pool teeters 100 feet in the air, we are reminded that the danger from the failed nuclear power experiment is far from over.

The two reactors at San Onfre linger on atop major earthquake fault lines, just steps away from an ocean that could wash over them as sure as it did at Fukushima.

The California No Nukes movement may indeed be on the brink of a major victory.  But we had better get these reactors buried before disaster strikes yet again.

Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA!  OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is atwww.harveywasserman.ning.com, along with WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION?, co-authored with Bob Fitrakis.

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rivera Sun
Nonviolent History: South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Boycott
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail