Originally published April 30, 2012 at 11:49 a.m., updated April 30, 2012 at 11:30 a.m.
About 150 people rallied near the San Onofre nuclear power plant on Sunday, many from San Diego.
The protesters rallied on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with the twin domes of the San Onofre nuclear power plant as a backdrop. The plant has been off line since January when premature wear was discovered in the steam generator tubes and a radiation leak led to a shut down.
Larry Agran, a city councilman from Irvine, 22 miles from the plant, was the only elected official to attend. His council recently voted unanimously to petition for certain conditions to be met before the plant is restarted. They also asked the NRC to enforce certain conditions before the license comes up for renewal in ten years.
Agran said San Diego is no less threatened than Irvine by the problems at San Onofre.
“I tell you,” he said, “as the wind blows, San Diego and the City of San Diego is probably even more at risk than central and northern Orange County. San Diego is an affected area - has a big stake in all this.”
Agran and half a dozen other speakers told the sympathetic crowd that, after Fukushima, the recent problems with the steam generators at San Onofre are a wake up call
“We all have to rally under the banner of the safe, orderly shutdown of San Onofre," he said.
Shaun Burnie of Friends of the Earth told the crowd that politicians in Germany have already taken a strong stand against nuclear power.
“Within days of Fukushima,“ he said, “ the chancellor - a nuclear physicist - understood that nuclear had no future in Germany. They debated the ethics of ending nuclear power. Angela Merkel had no choice: not one dissenting member of the Bundestag said ‘yes’ to nuclear power.”
One San Diego candidate for political office saw an opportunity and used it to draw a clear line between himself and his opponent, Republican Congressman Daryll Issa.
“He thinks nuclear energy is basically a sound part of the energy mix, and I don’t” said Dick Eiden, an independent, “The only reason we’re still using it frankly, is because it enriches some of the corporations that some of the politicians are beholden to.“
A first-time protestor at an anti-nuclear rally, 30-year-old Jo Dowling of Encinitas, had a professional perspective on the protest. He installs domestic solar panels
“If you incentivized people to put up their own solar panels and also gave them more knowledge about their energy use,” he said, “those things in tandem would help to offset the loss of a nuclear generating station like this.”
A teacher from San Juan Capistrano, Jennifer Blaunt, came with her husband and two young children. It was also her first time at an anti-nuclear rally. She said a recent earthquake centered in San Juan motivated her to take action. She said she’s ready to conserve more power to make nuclear unnecessary, and suggested other people would be too if the price of electricity went up.
Irvine City Councilman Agran said his council is looking at the situation from the perspective of public safety.
“It takes a while to absorb intellectually what took place in Fukushima,” he said, “and what the implications are for us. We know this area is going to incur a horrific earthquake at some point in the future. There is a strong inclination to deny the horrible -- that it will ever occur.”
Solana Beach is the only city council in San Diego County to have taken a stand on San Onofre. They have written to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ask that the plant not be returned to service before the root cause of the tube wear is determined. The NRC has already made that clear. Solana Beach also wants better emergency preparedness plans put in place.
Southern California Edison, the owner of the plant, continues to study the problem, and other power sources are being brought on line to help supplement the electricity supply for Southern California this summer.