What is our City Council thinking?

I have personally tried everything I can to bring about a public meeting to uncover the facts about safety issues we face as neighbors to the second most dangerous nuclear power plant out of all 104 in the United States. More than two years ago, I began to receive credible information from people who work at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). They feared retaliation for reporting safety concerns to management, so they used San Clemente Green as a shield to protect their identities. In doing so, they opened my eyes to the unsettling reality that there may be real vulnerabilities at SONGS exposing us to consequences of unimaginable proportions.

Now I am deeply concerned by the actions taken by our City Council on September 6th about a public meeting regarding "Lessons Learned From Fukushima". Finally it seemed there would be a hearing that was to be informative and balanced, so the public could understand if we should be concerned about living next to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The format of the meeting was acceptable to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), until they realized that three experts in nuclear power, that were not affiliated with the industry, would also be allowed to present contrasting viewpoints at this meeting. Suddenly, the NRC had doubts about attending the meeting that was scheduled at their convenience four months prior.

City Manager, George Scarborough, satisfied the NRC by concluding that adding three more speakers to the mix would make for a meeting that went far too long. Instead he recommended that the NRC have one meeting and that outside experts have another meeting at some time in the future. While I was out of town due to a family emergency, my wife, Laurie, presented an alternative plan to the City Council on behalf of concerned citizens that want to know the truth about our exposure to risk. Our solution still provided the public with an opportunity to get answers from the NRC, SONGS and experts who have no ties to the industry. Our remedy was to reduce the number of independent experts from three to one, and cut our time from ninety minutes to thirty minutes. That half hour time slot would replace the time that Mr.Scarborough had allocated to Emergency Responders. While we agree that the public needs much more information on what to do in the event of a catastrophic event at SONGS, we feel that it deserves to be a presentation unto itself. Our rationale was that in a public meeting concerned with "Lessons Learned From Fukushima" we should be focused on preventing the disaster, not on what to do after one takes place.

Unfortunately the City Council rejected our offer for no apparent reason, leaving the public to speculate about their rationale. Rather than dwell on the unknown, we are moving forward with plans for a second meeting. It may not offer the exchange of ideas that we were hoping for, but it will be a more complete discussion from experts who have points of view which are not affiliated with the industry. With more time available for our presenters, we intend to provide the public with an even more informative meeting by inviting the most highly qualified experts on this topic to come speak at length to our citizens. The NRC and SONGS representatives will also be invited to respond to public concerns at this meeting, but it is doubtful they will attend. It also remains to be seen if the City Council will support this second public meeting as promised or conveniently leave the concerned citizens on their own to seek the truth about the risks we face living next to SONGS.

The City Manager has called for an extensive discussion on the chain of command regarding this issue at the NRC meeting on September 27th, providing cover for the City Council, who has no direct jurisdiction over SONGS. Of course, they have no obligation to take a position on something outside of their purview, but they have done so in the past. A similar situation regarding noise from train horns prompted them to hire a lobbyist to raise their complaints in Washington DC and spend countless city resources in finding a solution to this Federal matter. They have also weighed in on the controversial Toll Road issue in the past. It will be interesting to see if they follow through on their promise to take up this far more significant matter of safety at SONGS as a topic on the agenda following these meetings. They deferred the matter until they and the public had a chance to listen to the "Lessons Learned From Fukushima", but I see the stage being set to dodge the issue when the time comes. We hope to be proven wrong but have been given ample reasons to have doubts. Regardless of what the City decides to do, we intend to provide the public with another meeting that will be truly informative and will empower them to demand policies that will protect our city from a fate like Fukushima. Check our calendar at sanonofre.com for details on our meeting to be posted soon, and sign up for future email updates.