The beginning of the end for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
|“San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station 2013 photo D Ramey Logan” by WPPilot – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.|
Seeing the iconic twin domes at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station as you drive the I-5 is as natural as seeing the blue water of our Pacific Coast. Like the Big A, the Castle or Matterhorn at the magic kingdom, or the piers at the beach, looking at the domes at San Onofre is part of growing up in southern California. Everyone knew it was nuclear powered, but it operated safely for so many years that not many people had concerns.
Sometime in 2010, the commonplace was interrupted when word got out of a problem at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station, of which Southern California Edison is the major owner and operator. The alert was about excessive wear being discovered on some recently replaced cooling tubes.
The vigilant Southern California news media scrambled, and a Southern California Edison spokesman went on television saying they didn’t know what was causing the problem. While their honesty was appreciated, it was disconcerting to hear the local nuclear power czar say, “they didn’t know….” This is nuclear power and is potentially catastrophically dangerous. They are supposed to know and have all the answers, aren’t they?
It was assumed the “problem” would get fixed and Southern California Edison would apply to the State for an extension of its operating permit to continue on for another few decades producing electricity for the thirsty energy grid. But a symposium at University of California, Irvine presented serious issues with the excessively worn cooling tubes, the proposed solution, and future operation.
On June 7, 2013, an announcement from Southern California Edison made everyone take pause for a quiet moment to grasp its meaning. It was the headline on all the channels all day and night: SAN ONOFRE NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION WAS SHUTTING DOWN, PERMANENTLY! This seemed out of the blue. Nobody expected it—Southern California Edison employees didn’t even have a warning.
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