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June 12, 2013

Victory Over Nukes: “Grassroots Politics At Its Best”

Nuclear sanoGary & Laurie Headrick, founders of San Clemente Green, with San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in the background.


On Friday June 7, 2013, Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, announced the permanent closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, which had been offline since January 2012.  The Sierra Club’s No Nukes Activist Team, who campaigned tirelessly to decommission this nuclear power plant, was elated by this action. Leslie March, the Retire the Old Nukes Taskforce leader explained how this campaign began. “Closing San Onofre is the best example of grassroots politics at its best,” she said. “It started with the concern of everyday people that they were living near a time-bomb; then fueled by community concerns, the movement grew to a tsunami of its own as thousands of people joined into the fight.”

The Sierra Club’s campaign to close this power plant was invigorated in May 2012 at a national summit for Sierra Club nuclear activists in Washington, DC. This summit was a rejuvenation, celebrating Sierra Club’s work to move beyond risky nuclear power and preparing to continue the work.  It brought an opportunity for the California activists to meet and learn from national technical experts and veteran organizers from across the United States.  The networking opportunities at this event resulted in building communication between national experts, community groups, statewide utility experts, and the Sierra Club. After the summit, the Sierra Club’s No Nukes Activist Team began ramping up their campaign efforts to close down the San Onofre power plant.

In their campaign efforts, the Activist Team supported community groups led by San Clemente Green and the Los Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. They also sent out action alerts to California Sierra Club members, which targeted the California Public Utility Commission. Through these online actions, Sierra Club members worked with the Los Angeles City Council and other local governments to get them to pass resolutions calling for the closure of the plant. Additionally, the Team was there in April when the Los Angeles City Council formally opposed reopening the plant.


After the plant had been closed for a year but still loomed over surfers, beachgoers, and coastal residents in Southern California, it was clear that those in favor of keeping San Onofre open were wrong about their beliefs that there would be rolling blackouts with the decommissioning of this plant. The arguments for closing the plant became stronger than the arguments to keep it open. Additionally, that year, the Sierra Club celebrated the anniversary of the plant's closure, with a 250-person event, “No Sano 2013,” which featured various celebrities.

Environmental groups rejoiced when the CEO and Chairman of Southern California Edison announced the permanent closing of the plant this past Friday. This came after a coalition of community groups including the Sierra Club campaigned to local governments to close the plant and educated residents about the risks of keeping it open.  

The No Nukes Activist Team is very happy that the plant is closed and attributed this victory to the hard work and dedication from their members. March explained, “I am convinced that without the dedication of people like Gary and Laurie Headrick, Donna Gilmore and Barbara George, this day wouldn’t have happened….I am proud that they are active Sierra Club [No Nuke Activist Team] members because they embody the spirit that we all need to accomplish our goals of replacing dirty fuels with renewables and efficiency.”

Gary Headrick, founder of San Clemente Green and member of the No Nukes Activist Team added, “Organizations like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth provided essential support and key insights and advice to those of us on the ground.... By working together we covered the full spectrum of environmental activism from the ground up.” He continued expressing his excitement over the Team’s victory, “Succeeding in shutting down San Onofre was a victory for all environmentalists, regardless of what issues they are confronting. This is an extreme example of truth overcoming staggering odds and we should all be emboldened by the fact that people standing together for what is good and right can and will prevail."

While the Team celebrates this victory, they believe that there is still more to do in the fight against nuclear power. For example, March noted that the Team is concerned about the oversight in decommissioning the plant so that the 8 million Los Angeles residents will be safe. Their next step is to phase out the Diablo Canyon and Palos Verde power plants with the goal of having a nuclear free California.

[To join the No Nukes Activist Team or for more information, go to sc.org/no_nukes]

--Lindsay Garten, Sierra Club Media Team Intern


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