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Laguna takes stand on San Onofre

Council votes to send letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission in hopes of getting public safety concerns about plant resolved.

February 16, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

Laguna Beach will back San Clemente's appeals to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure that San Onofre works to prevent a disaster similar to the one last year in Fukushima, Japan.

The City Council on Feb. 7 voted 4 to 1 to send a letter to the commission requesting the resolution of public concerns before consideration is given to extending San Onofre's operating license, which is due to expire in 2022.

The letter had been requested by San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak, but the action might be moot.

"Southern California Edison (which operates the plant) has not made a decision on whether we'll apply for renewal," said Edison spokesman Christopher Abel.

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The majority of 14 speakers at the Feb. 7 meeting would be delighted if Edison immediately dismantled the plant, let alone opted not to renew the license.

Their protest came just a couple of days before the commission announced construction of two new nuclear reactors for the first time since 1978.

Speakers at the council meeting keyed in on the danger of the San Onofre plant, nuclear plants in general and on-site storage.

"There is no way the plant should be storing waste material," said Kathleen Jepson-Bernier.

The regulatory commission is looking for off-site storage, but to date all of the country's 104 nuclear power plants store waste material is on site, Abel said.

"This is an old plant, and we need to shut it down right now," said Marni Magda. "California is sitting on a powder keg of nuclear plants on earthquake faults."

The plant sits in proximity to the active Newport-Inglewood fault, making it vulnerable to the kind of earthquake that devastated Japan.

"Whenever there is an earthquake in the area [of San Onofre], we hold our breath until we hear whether the plant has been affected," Jinger Wallace read from a letter signed by Ginger Osborne on behalf of Village Laguna. "We've been lucky for 30 years, but the recent massive earthquake at the Japanese nuclear facility reminds us that we may not always be so blessed."

Former Laguna Beach Democratic Club President Audrey Prosser said the plant shouldn't exist and argued it provides very little of California's power supply.

"We wouldn't miss it if each of us exchanged two light bulbs," Prosser said.

Another speaker suggested the plant might provide 7% of the state energy, but Abel said Southern California Edison customers and 19% of San Diego Gas & Electric customers get their energy from nuclear power.

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