Monday, April 2, 2012

Beautiful San Onofre, California

Along the old U.S. Route 101 you will find a 3.5 mile stretch of beach which is San Onofre State Park. A very popular surfing and swimming spot in Southern California. It's not new really, if you go back 8,000 years you will find that the area, Panhe, was an ancient Acjacheman village and was the site of the first baptism in California. In 1769 the first close encounter between Spanish explorers, Catholic missionaries and the Acjachemen people took place there. You can go here for more information on the Acjacheman Nation.

Certainly modern day has brought many controversies to this little area by the sea. There was the Toll Road Controversy which was a move by the TCA to construct a six lane toll highway through San Onofre State Beach Park and a habitat reserve in Orange County. Finally in 2008 the California Coastal Commission denied a permit to  the TCA.

That same year there was the Nude Beach Controversy that prohibited nudity and ended the 'clothing optional area' that existed at the extreme south end of the San Onofre Bluffs.

So with all this rich history of protecting the public from such man-made disasters as automobile traffic and the wantoned display of naked humanness you might wonder how did these three nuclear power plants ever find there way upon the pristine beach of San Onofre, California.

The first nuclear plant at San Onofre was opened in 1968 and closed down in 1992. Plants #2 and #3 were opened in 1982 and are licensed to run until 2022. Both plants #2 and #3 are currently shut down pending further investigation of the leaks that began occurring two months ago.

They must have been grandfathered in before the creation of the California Coastal Commission in 1972 by voter initiative / Proposition 20. These days it is hard to add on bathroom to your existing home if you live within the zone of influence of the Coastal Commission.

What rattled my cage on this lovely spring day was an article in Power Engineering which states how Southern California Edison Company, operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Plants lied [mislead] to the NRC, in order to avoid having to amend their license agreement.

"The NRC lets you replace a component if you're replacing like for like," Gundersen said. "Southern California Edison said these new steam generators were like for like, and the NRC bought that.
"But they weren't like for like. On the outside, they may look identical, but on the inside, they're dramatically different. It's like taking a Model T and slapping a V-8 engine in it. Southern California Edison didn't want to admit they were dramatically different, because that would open up a license amendment, and the public would get involved.
 "They changed so many things, it was almost inevitable a problem would develop," he said. 

Read the full article in Power Engineering, it's interesting. One of the problems I have with nuclear power is that it is potentially so very dangerous and the effects of an accident so long-lasting, that every caution needs to be taken to operate these plants safely. You can't have operators lying [misleading] about what they are doing just so it makes life easier for them. The NRC has to be doubly vigilant and above reproach at all times.

And if these requirements can't be met then the correct thing for the people and the planet is to shut down all nuclear power plants right now. There are other power options available out there - use 'em!

Power Engineering:

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