The Great San Diego Blackout

It looks like everyone survived the Great San Diego Black-Out of 2011.

I didn’t even notice there was a black-out at first, other than the printer going off while I was trying to print protest books against San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.   A group of us formed up post-Fukushima, and we’re going places and raising awareness.  And we need books — lots of books!  People are pretty ignorant about the dangers, even post-Fukushima. There’s a lot of information being kept from the public and misinformation being presented to them.

San Onofre didn’t help at all to keep the power on when the grid went down.

Instead, they had to shut down themselves!  Supposedly this was because “they had no place to send the power.”  That’s how the spokesperson for the plant describes it.

But I would say it was because they had no offsite power coming INTO the plant!  That’s what probably really shut the plant down.

But one way or the other, here’s the obvious thing:  San Onofre is not helping.

San Onofre is presumably currently operating on Emergency Diesel Generators as I write this — and generating ZERO power to help alleviate the situation.

Thanks for your help, SONGS — NOT!

About one and a half million homes — five million people — were without power for at least six to eight hours yesterday and today, and many of them are still without power.

There WAS a seven-car pile-up on I-5 (the main freeway that runs near San Onofre), which shut it down in both directions, and I-5 was shut down heading out of San Diego elsewhere at the same time — it was a mess!

But I was prepared — or so I thought.  When the printer went out, my UPS beeped and the front panel lit up.  Those were my clues that five million of us were in the dark.  I paid little attention, being in the middle of writing a newsletter about what an atom is, an alpha particle, a beta particle, a gamma ray, a half-life, and so on.

But then the UPS beeped again, and the print job was clearly not running (the printer pauses now and then anyway, for some reason), so I went upstairs and checked the printer, and it was completely off and the on/off switch wouldn’t do anything.

So then I started to grasp that there was a blackout, and shut down the computer so that I wouldn’t drain the UPS battery just in case I needed it.

I tried to count up all the ways I wasn’t prepared for real trouble — like, a meltdown at San Onofre because of the “Station Black-Out” conditions (the same as occurred at Fukushima after the earthquake and tsunami, but minus the earthquake (which actually started the inexorable sequence that led to meltdown of the three reactors in Japan) and minus the tsunami (which is blamed for the meltdowns, but apparently was NOT responsible — it was the earthquake).

We have earthquakes here, too.  Bad ones.  Right near San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Small-scale distributed renewable energy is a much safer way to power the grid.  In an emergency, nuclear power is unlikely to be there to help at all!  We’ve seen this now, time and again.

And the traffic!  Oh, the traffic!  Because the traffic lights were out everywhere, it took my wife more than an hour to get home, normally a 12 minute drive in clear traffic and a 20 minute drive at rush hour.  The 60 or so trollies in the city of San Diego all stopped at the same time, and only a couple of trains ran, so if you missed them, you missed them.

Could we evacuate five million people if San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station melted down?  No!  Can San Onofre melt down?

In a heartbeat.  It’s useless, wrong, and crazy to continue risking the enormous death and destruction that would accompany an serious accident at San Onofre.  Trapped as we are with only a few roads out of the area, San Onofre actually cuts in half the main evacuation route needed in case of an accident at the plant!  That is, the plant itself is located so close to the freeway that ANY accident at the plant will close I-5 immediately, and probably I-15 as well.

Meanwhile, the plant itself has been on restrictions and tightened inspections for years now because of worker apathy, anxiety, and audacious arrogance:  They faked safety inspections, fire inspections, security inspections, and medical claims, work records, time sheets, and, of course, worker’s own complaints were filed in the “circular” file or actually given to the supervisor about whom the complaint was filed — the LAST person who should be seeing the complaint!

Now, these guys are all scared the power plant WILL actually be shut down!  They put on a brave face, but scratch the surface, and you find out they are being told not to talk to the public, not to talk to reporters, not to talk to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission unless they absolutely have too — and WHY are they so scared?

They’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs.  Get thrown out in the bad economy just like so many of the rest of us.  Never mind that they could be building solar and wind turbine power supplies instead.  Never mind that they are generating 500 pounds of high-level nuclear waste every day that they don’t know how to store or how to get rid of. (The most toxic stuff on earth, and, thanks to Fukushima, the most toxic stuff in your lungs and the rest of your body right now.)

Never mind that there is no way to evacuate San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles ….

Never mind the lives that would be lost if there was a meltdown, or a spent fuel pool fire, or a dry cask fire, or all three, due to an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a power black-out, or all three.

Never mind all that — they are afraid they’ll lose their jobs.

Russell D. 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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