San Onofre is Dead, the Nuclear Waste Isn’t


I think Edison deserves credit for making a wise decision to permanently close the San Onofre nuclear plant.  I support the decision.  It’s good for business, good for California, good for the environment.  It’s the correct engineering decision to make.  San Onofre was irreparably damaged by vibration.

Unfortunately we are now left with one of the largest, most concentrated nuclear waste piles on the planet.  This will be an eternal problem, but thankfully it is no longer a growing  problem and is becoming safer by the day.  It will take millions of years — not just days — to be safe, but at least we are  headed in the right direction.

The employees of San Onofre have been honorable opponents and I hope they all find jobs in the solar and wind technology energy sectors.  However, the investigations should proceed, at the state level, at the federal level, and at the personal level, we should all continue to ask why nuclear power is used anywhere?

Diablo Canyon is next on my personal radar.

Note: The letter shown below, from Pete Dietrich this morning to SanO employees, suggests that the real reason SCE is closing San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station is because of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board’s involvement in the case.  The ASLB would not be looking into the problems at San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station if Friends of the Earth (FOE) hadn’t pushed the issue with carefully-planned legal actions.

FOE deserves enormous credit for their role in this event.  Southern California narrowly avoided its own Fukushima on January 12th, 2012.  Eight tubes in Unit three were worn enough to fail pressure tests, and one tube in Unit two was 90% worn.  Unexpected vibration had done them in.

But with bullheaded determination, SCE tried to restart anyway.  The 70% plan has been lingering around since nearly the beginning of the outage.  Some restart plan, any restart plan.  But first, FOE hired Arnie Gundersen to look into the matter, who is a world-renowned expert in steam generator technology, and then they hired a slew of other experts to confirm his findings.  Independent experts, independent, that is, of SCE, NRC, and FOE also confirmed that SanO’s u-tubes were beyond repair.  But Arnie did the hard discovery work first.  Then he explained it again and again, to activists, reporters, and regulators.

Arnie Gundersen is a hero to science and reason.

To:        SONGS Employees and Supplemental Workers

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you SCE’s decision to permanently retire both Units 2 and 3. I recognize this difficult announcement is something none of us wanted to hear, but our decision is absolutely the right thing to do. The tough reality is that the recent Atomic Safety and Licensing Board decision creates significant additional uncertainty regarding our ability to get to an NRC decision to restart Unit 2 this year. This is not good for our customers, our investors and the region.

I could not be prouder of you, the men and women who have put their hearts and souls into addressing the steam generator and the dual unit outages, all the while working safely every day. Indeed, SONGS has served this region well for more than 40 years and each of you has played a role in it.

I recognize how difficult this news is for everyone at SONGS. Today, we will be conducting a series of All Hands meetings so I can talk face-to-face with you about what this means for us as a station, and for you. Meeting times are listed below, and I would ask that you please attend the session for your division.

I will do my best to answer your questions, but will tell you up front, I do not yet have all the answers. More information will be solidified over the next week, but I believe it is important for us to get together and discuss this news. We will work diligently, as we have before, to get answers to your questions. We will treat everyone with dignity and respect, using a process that is fair, legal and ethical.

This morning, Edison International CEO Ted Craver, and other executives, including Ron Litzinger and myself, are holding an investor briefing to inform the financial community and the media of our decision. Below is the company’s press statement. Indeed, we can all anticipate a robust media cycle to follow.

I want to emphasize some aspects of what today’s decision does not affect. We hold a NRC license that includes many requirements and obligations ­ including our responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public and our employees. As we move forward, we must continue to meet these license requirements as well as all the requirements of our Emergency Plan and Security Plan. I need — and ask for — your continuing support as Nuclear Professionals to ensure we remain as diligent about our responsibilities and obligations as you have demonstrated in the past.

We will have more time to talk in the days ahead, and I look forward to those interactions. But I want to say again how proud I am to be a part of this team, this station. You are the finest employees I have had the privilege to work with and lead. We have important things to accomplish here at SONGS as we prepare for decommissioning, and I know that we will do it together as true Nuclear Professionals. Keep your head up, stay focused on working safely, and never forget our commitment to excellence.

Be proud, but never satisfied!


Ace Hoffman lives in Carlsbad, California. He is an educational software developer and bladder cancer survivor, as well as a collector of military and nuclear historical documents and books. He is the author and programmer of the award-winning Animated Periodic Table of the Elements. He can be reached at: rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com

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