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Seminar Brings Perspective On Risks Of Nuclear Power To San Diego

Aired 6/4/13 on KPBS News.

As the future of the San Onofre nuclear power plant hangs in the balance, a public seminar on nuclear power is planned for Tuesday in San Diego County Chambers. It is billed as an alternative to the public meetings hosted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A seminar called “The Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Accident - Lessons for California,” will bring speakers to San Diego who have a unique perspective on nuclear power.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan leaves the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. after meeting with the company's staff Tuesday.
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Above: Prime Minister Naoto Kan leaves the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. after meeting with the company's staff Tuesday.

Top of the billing is Naoto Kan, who was the prime minister of Japan when the Fukushima plant was knocked offline following a tsunami triggered by a major earthquake in March of 2011. He is credited with intervening to prevent Tepco, the company operating the plant, from pulling all its employees out after the accident, possibly preventing an even worse meltdown that would have prompted the evacuation of Tokyo.

Kan has kept a low profile since leaving office, but spoke out in Japan last week to say the current government is rushing to resume nuclear operations without paying enough attention to safety. He told a Japanese parliamentary inquiry the accident pushed the country to the brink of a national collapse.

Gregory Jaczko, Head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, speaking to the media after a visit to the San Onofre nuclear power plant, April 6th, 2012.
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Above: Gregory Jaczko, Head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, speaking to the media after a visit to the San Onofre nuclear power plant, April 6th, 2012.

A second speaker is Gregory Jaczko, former head of the US Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Jaczko came to Dana Point in April 2012 after San Onofre shut down in January, and offered community groups assurances that he would focus on safety. He was subsequently pressured to resign from the NRC. He has recently been appointed to a post on a Congressional panel overseeing the National Nuclear Security Administration.

A former NRC Commissioner, Peter Bradford, is also on the speakers’ list, as well as nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, who is a consultant to the group Friends of the Earth.

San Diego resident Torgen Johnson said groups concerned about a possible restart of San Onofre organized the forum as an alternative to the public meetings hosted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the past year.

“What we’ve noticed from these NRC-Edison public meetings is sometimes it’s hard for us to tell the difference between the regulator and the licensee, “ he said. “They seem to be too close for our comfort.”

San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts will welcome the participants.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. in the San Diego County Administration Building on Pacific Highway. It will also be recorded for web distribution.

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