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Archive for August 16th, 2011

About 250 people turn out in San Clemente to talk to employees of the nuclear plant about its operation and safety. Some people who said they were unsure about nuclear power beforehand say they still are afterward.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- Jenessa Stemke felt so strongly about attending Monday evening’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station“open house” in San Clemente that she rode her bicycle from Riverside.

Stemke, 23, is too young to remember the Chernobyl nuclear-plant accident in 1986 in the former Soviet Union but says she became aware of the dangers of nuclear energy after the damage to the Fukushima plant in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Now she is determined to find out as much as she can.

Article Tab: R.J. Prescott, right, a licensed nuclear operator who works for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, has a disagreement with Gary Headrick, left, of San Clemente Green over Headrick's poster depicting the 30-foot-tall sea wall at San Onofre as incapable of protecting against the type of tsunami that damaged Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant.
R.J. Prescott, right, a licensed nuclear operator who works for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, has a disagreement with Gary Headrick, left, of San Clemente Green over Headrick’s poster depicting the 30-foot-tall sea wall at San Onofre as incapable of protecting against the type of tsunami that damaged Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Her mission Monday, she said, was to speak face-to-face with people who run the San Onofre plant about 2½ miles south of San Clemente. The self-described fanatic for sustainable energy said she left the event unconvinced that the energy San Onofre provides to Southern California homes and businesses is safe for residents.

According to the plant’s operator, Southern California Edison, San Onofre’s two nuclear reactors are capable of generating 2,200 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of 1.4 million homes at a given time.

“It’s located near an earthquake fault, and (an earthquake) is coming,” Stemke said.

Edison has said the plant was designed to withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake – more than the largest quake the nearest fault (five miles from the plant) was expected to produce at the time the plant was planned. Its first reactor was commissioned in 1968.

Stemke also expressed concern about San Onofre’s documented safety violations.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission letter dated Sept. 1, 2010, stated that while SONGS passed its “regulatory response,” the NRC sited 33 human-performance issues along with 19 “problem identification and resolution” issues. The same letter cited continued concern about employees’ fears of retaliation from supervisors in reporting safety problems at the plant.

SONGS spokesman Scott Andresen estimated about 250 people attended the three-hour event at the San Clemente Community Center, where about 50 plant employees were on hand to talk with attendees about how nuclear energy is made, security, waste disposal, safety, evacuation routes, emergency preparedness and siren alerts. In addition, there was a dinner buffet as well as children’s face painting and crafts.

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

The “open house” was the third in a series of such events in the past year. Previous exhibits were held in Oceanside and at San Clemente High School. Another is planned for Oct. 29 at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center.

Dan and Tina McIntosh moved to San Clemente from Minnesota a year ago. They were wondering more about earthquakes until they signed real estate papers acknowledging their new home’s proximity to SONGS. They attended Monday’s event because of curiosity about nuclear power. Their biggest safety concern, they said, is whether the plant is secure against a terrorist attack.

“We don’t feel fearful,” Tina McIntosh said. “We wanted to see how it works.”

Jeff and Daisy Howell of Capistrano Beach said they support nuclear power and attended Monday because they wanted to find out more about how the generators work.

“I am a visual person,” Daisy Howell said. “I have to talk to someone. … I learned the new sirens have seven different sounds now.”

Gary Headrick, a leader of environmental group San Clemente Green, a vocal opponent of nuclear power, joined 10 to 15 people with similar views in lining the entrance to the Community Center to hand out information and hold up colorful placards describing their opposition to SONGS.

“I am reporting to the NRC the safety concerns of seven people at the plant because they are afraid of retaliation,” Headrick said.

Sylvia Hassard-Johnson of San Clemente said she hasn’t made up her mind yet about nuclear power. Her husband, Jerome Johnson, a FedEx pilot, said he’s in favor of it. The couple have two elementary-school-age children and wanted them to check out the exhibit for themselves.

Hassard-Johnson said that although much information from both sides of the issue is available online and in print, it’s good to see the people involved.

Still, she wasn’t relying on what she saw and heard at the exhibit Monday. “They (SONGS) are going to say what they want us to hear,” Hassard-Johnson said.

She said she’s still waiting to learn more about San Onofre’s safety preparedness, especially after Fukushima, and its effects on the environment.

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