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June 10, 2013

Victory in California: Troubled San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant Will Close

San_OnofreSan Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, as seen from the north from San Onofre State Beach (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Last Friday, Southern California Edison announced that it will permanently close its San Onofre nuclear plant, located right above a popular surfing and recreation area between Los Angeles and San Diego.

A broad coalition of community groups, including San Clemente Green, San Onofre Safety, Women’s Energy Matters, Mothers for Peace, and national groups, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club, have been working tirelessly to shut down this old and dysfunctional plant for some time.

The coalition pressed local governments across the area to pass resolutions calling for the closure of San Onofre.  They educated residents on the risks associated with San Onofre and nuclear energy and conducted studies on the effect that closing the plant would have on the surrounding area’s energy supply. All of these activities were vital in securing the closure of this plant. This is a huge victory!

For years, Southern California Edison refused to permanently shut down the San Onofre plant, falsely claiming that there would be rolling blackouts and energy shortages if they did. But since January 2012, SoCal Edison hasn’t had a choice; the San Onofre plant has been offline because of faulty steam generators and escaped radiation.  Not once have residents experienced the electricity shortfalls SoCal Ed predicted.

The decision to close the plant confirms what we’ve known all along. The risk of reopening this plant was too huge to take, especially considering it had already faced numerous failures, allowed radiation to escape into the atmosphere, and threatened the health of nearby communities. In this case, the risk was without reward because electricity demand was achievable without the plant.

The Sierra Club’s No Nukes Activist Team, whose goal is to stop proposed new nuclear plants and license extensions of old plants, and Sierra Club California, are rightfully thrilled. Leslie March, a leader from the team posted on Friday about this huge victory that is part of a long, stratgic campaign. Marie Hudspeth, a member of the No Nukes team, also posted on Friday, "This is great news and a great day in history to me and I hope all of you." And Kathryn Phillips, Sierra Club California’s Director, said in a statement, "Southern California Edison’s decision to close this cranky, unpredictable and potentially very dangerous power plant is smart for its bottom line, smart for ratepayers, and smart for the environment."

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter launched the San Onofre Task Force in 2012 to monitor the the plant's shutdown due to reported radiation leaks. Task force chair Glenn Pascall noted: "The credit for this victory should be widely shared. I believe our campaign activists and supporters correctly sensed that the key point was to prevent a restart based on fast-track approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A full process was not only called for, but could be expected to force Edison's hand -- as it has done."

While the coalition’s great work is not over, closing down the San Onofre nuclear power plant is one step in the right direction.  The next step is making sure that risky and expensive nuclear energy around the country is replaced with clean, cheap and reliable renewable energy.

-- Radha Adhar, Sierra Club Associate Washington DC Representative 


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