Overflow Turnout at NRC Meeting - Crippled San Onofre May Be on it's Way Out

Channel 5 story just one of many.

Much of the information being shared by the NRC and Edison was not "news" to many of the 500 or more people who showed up for the meeting. The real news had to do with Friends of the Earth, who announced the legal filing they initiated to challenge the process which allowed the new but flawed steam generators to be installed in the first place. Edison's claim that they were exchanging generators that were "like for like" parts allowed them to evade further scrutiny by the NRC to conduct a thorough review process. NRC seems to have been negligent in not probing further and accepting Edison's claim without question. 

Friends of the Earth aims with the petition to have the decision of when the power plant can be reactivated taken away from the commission. Instead, according to the legal process the group set in motion, a judge would decide when the San Onofre plant could start up again, said Bill Walker of Friends of the Earth. Eventually, the lawsuit would lead to a court trial with witness testimony, Walker said. "We're asking for a federal judge to step in and handle the issue as opposed to the NRC. The changes were significant and a full re-licensing is required," Walker said. 

In the meeting, a weary crowd listened to the drone of technical information being espoused by the officials, hanging in there long enough to finally get to the real reason they were in attendance. Finally the floor was opened to the public. Some very astute questions were posed by a surprisingly well informed audience. Dan Hirsch of Committee to Bridge the Gap, was especially effective at squeezing specific information from Edison regarding the number of tubes damaged, after several failed attempts at deflecting his questions. The number turned out to be far higher than anyone seemed to want to admit, but persistence paid off. He also amped up the pressure on the NRC to handle this matter in the courts and not simply resolve this crucial concern through the normal procedures between the NRC and Edison. NRC said that was being taken into consideration at the highest levels of the NRC.

As for my own contribution to the meeting, I decided to approach the situation from a broad perspective, taking the steam generator issue as just a part of the bigger picture. I made an analogy comparing the relationship between NRC and Edison to a co-dependent gambling addiction. Of course, that went over like any intervention might, and the NRC facilitator cut me off before I could complete the conclusion I was building up to. At the end of the night they finally gave me an opportunity to complete my thoughts, but by 9:30, half the audience had gone home. If this was a test of the NRC's claim to want to become more transparent and open, I'd say they fell short. However, I do give them credit for staying longer and getting much more public input than in the past.

Below is the full text of my three minute speech.

This is an intervention. The people that you are sworn to protect, the ones you ultimately serve, are speaking up in a strong and forceful way because you are blindly following the path that has become a habitual routine. Unfortunately, it eventually will lead to the destruction of everyone and everything for miles around, if allowed to continue indefinitely.

We simply can’t let this situation continue any longer. We have been extremely lucky so far. The reckless behavior that Edison has been exhibiting over the years has got to stop. Edison’s insatiable appetite for gambling continues to escalate when loosing is virtually impossible, thanks to the Price-Anderson Act, and winning is practically guaranteed simply by staying in the game. This situation would be an irresistible temptation for even the most timid gambler. Having never lost, the obsession becomes even stronger. Yet the longer one goes on a winning streak, the more likely it is that luck will run out.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is equally responsible for this situation reaching such an intolerable condition. Your good intentions, aiming to make sure that the power we need is delivered in a safe manner, has an inherent conflict of interest that can’t be avoided. You either have to put safety first or follow your loyalty to the industry from which you came. You have become the “ENABLER” in this relationship, a co-dependent partner, torn between what is best for those you work closely with and the public at large. It is with concern for the good of all that we must step in as interveners, reminding you that you must act responsibly and remember your original obligations to the people and the environment.

The plain truth is that we don’t need to gamble our families and our possessions in order to get the power we need for the comfortable lifestyle we are accustomed to. The last four months have been living proof of that fact. The cost of continuing to support this aging nuclear power plant is not necessary. All of the consternation over evacuation routes and sheltering in place to escape radiation has vanished with this recent revelation. The only responsible action to take is for Edison to transition to truly sustainable and safe alternatives before the competition gets too far ahead, and for the NRC to recognize that it is time to retire this old racehorse and deal with the extremely toxic waste that has been piling up in the stall for more than 30 years now.

It has been a rewarding game for some, and we are grateful, especially considering Japan’s fate, that we have not lost everything in one bad bet. Nature holds the wild card where anything is possible, but so far she has been kind to us. We are here to tell you it is time to take your winnings and go home. Don’t even ask to place just one more bet. That would only confirm your gambling disorder and co-dependent relationship. This is the time for introspection and reconciliation. We look forward to getting to a place where everybody wins, embracing the future with a healthy renewed perspective.