Press Release: Southern California's Malfunctioning Nuclear Power Plant to Close Permanently--Closure Protects Whales, Sea Turtles, People

From Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, Bill Walker, Friends of the Earth
Friday June 07, 2013 - 03:48:00 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: The first story I ever wrote for publication was an SF Bay Guardian piece about the environmental hazards which the proposed San Onofre nuclear power plant threatened. I'm happy to see, only about 40 years too late, that my analysis has finally been acknowledged. 

SAN FRANCISCO— The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will close permanently, Southern California Edison announced today. The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups have opposed restarting the leaking plant. 

“The San Onofre nuclear plant blighted the California coast, and closing it down is the best solution for the troubled, leaking facility,” said Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The plant’s coastal neighbors and marine ecosystems have something to celebrate today. Closing the station will push California toward safer, smarter energy options.” 

The plant had experienced leaks in recent years, causing its temporary shutdown, which today was made permanent. Situated directly on the coast, the nuclear plant also killed marine life by sucking millions of gallons of ocean water through its “once-through” cooling system. 

Conservationists were also concerned about Southern California Edison’s proposal to conduct a high-energy seismic survey to detect earthquake risks around the plant: The blasting airguns used for the survey would have harassed whales, dolphins, and porpoises as many as 20,000 times. The Center and Friends of the Earth opposed the survey, suggesting that the best way to protect against earthquake-related dangers was to shut the plant down. This is what finally happened today. 

“This is very good news for the people of Southern California,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate, and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind.” 

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan brought to light the enormous risk of operating coastal nuclear power plants. In addition to the human cost of such an accident, researchers are investigating effects on wildlife. Since the disaster, scientists tested California’s catches of Pacific bluefin tuna and found trace amounts of radioactive elements from the disaster. Pacific bluefin tuna — a top ocean predator that is at historically low levels due to overfishing — migrate to the U.S. and Mexico’s west coast from Japanese waters where they are born. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.