VISTA — On Nov. 8 at the Vista Public Library,Public Watchdogs and North County Climate Change Alliance hosted a forum to discuss radiation exposure and other public health issues that may arise from the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente.
While quite a trek from inland North County, Public Watchdogs emphasized during the presentation that a 50-mile radius exists for the impact of nuclear radiation, as forewarned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The group also said it believes it will take an upsurge in citizen activism to push for increased safety precautions at and around the facility.
“The primary issue is that 3.6 million pounds of radioactive nuclear waste is being buried 108 feet from the Pacific Ocean, on an earthquake fault, in an identified tsunami zone and in the midst of millions of unsuspecting families,” Nina Babiarz, board of directors member for Public Watchdogs and one of two presenters at the forum, told The Coast News. “If Edison (the company proposing the plan) gets away with doing that on one of the most pristine beaches in the country, they are going to do it anywhere they want; it sets a national precedent. This is not a little local issue but one of national consequence.”
Mike Levin, the recently elected congressman set to represent the 49th Congressional District, which includes Orange County and parts of North County including Oceanside, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Carlsbad and Del Mar, has also been put on notice about San Onofre by Public Watchdogs.
“We are hopeful that Mr. Levin will engage with us on this issue,” said Charles Langley, the other presenter at the forum and the executive director of Public Watchdogs. “He has mentioned safety at San Onofre as being top concern on numerous instances, but the devil is always in the details, and when you are talking about San Onofre, the details are devilishly complex.”
During the talk, both Langley and Babiarz also pointed repeatedly to the fact that the facility remains afloat via billions of ratepayer dollars.
“Edison has stuck the public for the costs of their design flaws,” Babiarz said. “For all the money the public has provided Edison to safely dispose of the deadly radioactive nuclear waste, they gifted us a ticking time bomb.”
Langley further explained that he believes that, due to its high cost on the backs of taxpayers, nuclear power sits on the wane.
“At Public Watchdogs, we are not anti-nuclear, but we believe that in terms of economics, new advances in battery storage technology and solar energy will make nuclear obsolete as an energy source in purely economic terms in the next two years,” Langley said. “The facts are that every nuclear power plant is deeply subsidized. Until the nuclear industry solves the problem of nuclear waste, it is not a viable or sustainable solution.”
Residents and visitors may liken ocean-side cities like Oceanside, Carlsbad and Encinitas to paradise. But Babiarz said that could change if a catastrophic event ensues at San Onofre.
“One leak, one terrorist attack, one design mistake, is all that stands between us and turning Southern California into a permanent nuclear wasteland, uninhabitable for thousands of years,” she said.
Public Watchdogs will soon take a sojourn to Sacramento to lobby members of the California Legislature on nuclear safety issues, both Langley and Babiarz said.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.