Surfers, SoCal Natives Against Nuclear Waste Storage In San Onofre


San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station | Image Credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Plans by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station to store radioactive waste along the SoCal coastline have surfers and locals understandably on edge. Visions of toxic material possibly contaminating Trestles, San Onofre and surrounding communities are worrying, to say the least.

Tom Gudauskas, father of the famed Gudauskas brothers, has voiced his concern to the OC Register. The 63-year-old surfer has said the conclusions to bury nuclear waste near the beach are short-sighted to his mind and need more evaluation.

Former world champion Ian Cairns finds the prospect shocking. In his words, people should be “freaking out,” as the plan “could kill the entire North Pacific.”

The current plan
In the 40 years before it was shut down, the San Onofre plant generated more than three million pounds of uranium waste. Its operator, Southern California Edison, had plans approved in 2015 to bury the waste less than 200 yards from shore. To this end, huge concrete structures are currently being constructed to encase the steel canisters that will contain the material. The canisters are guaranteed for only 25 years; the concrete is guaranteed for 10. The California Coastal Commission (CCC), which approved Edison’s plan, has also given them 20 years to devise a system for inspecting, repairing, monitoring and maintaining the canisters, and transporting them without cracks.

Legal actions
Shortly after Edison got the “go-ahead” for the waste burial, the public watchdog Citizens Oversight group filed suit in opposition. According to them, the CCC failed to adequately evaluate other storage alternatives or the dry-cask system that will contain the waste. They argued furthermore that the storage location would endanger more than eight million people living within 50 miles of the site.

A trial date was set for April 14 but postponed upon all parties’ request to let them work out a settlement. They have until early July to produce a plan that will satisfy all sides. While some observers say the likelihood is low that the waste will be moved elsewhere, there are those who are hopeful.

Not worried enough?
Meantime, there is a camp that thinks people lack concern. Stab Magazine‘s Jake Howard thinks more surfers should be in arms over the idea of nuclear waste so near iconic surf breaks. Likewise, some wonder why the Surfrider Foundation, which headed “Save Trestles,” isn’t more visible in opposing a much larger threat. (The group has countered that while they are not against short term storage near the beach, they are against keeping it there long-term.)

Tom Gudauskas perhaps has the best call to awareness for the SoCal and the surf community, as he expressed to the OCR: “We are all summoned to be watchdogs, we are all summoned to be custodians of the coastline.”

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