Japan-Level Nuclear Crisis Possible at San Onofre?
Adapted from article by Fred Swegles, Orange County Register.
A nuclear calamity of the intensity that struck Japan on March 11 could happen at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), a series of speakers told San Clemente’s elected leaders at a nearly five hour meeting in early October. It might never happen or it might happen tomorrow, said Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer on Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz. “If that happened tomorrow,” he said, “most of us would not be surprised.”
Dr. William Perkins, a retired pediatrician with Physicians for Social Responsibility, cited a 1982 Nuclear Regulatory Commission report that he said stated that a San Onofre meltdown could result in 130,000 prompt fatalities, 300,000 latent cancers and 600,000 cases of genetic defects within 35 miles.
Arnie Gunderson, an energy advisor and former licensed nuclear operator from Fairewinds in Burlington, Vermont, said epidemiologists have told him that as many as 1 million Japanese will develop cancers over the next 20 years as a result of Fukushima’s radioactive releases. Following is a video recorded expressly for the meeting.
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Mr. Gunderson also stated the real battle for the future of nuclear energy in California is over the “design basis” of the existing plants at Diablo Canyon and SONGS. He said that computer programs that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses to calculate the cost and benefit of using nuclear power instead of other energy production are set up to favor the utilities status quo. The state, organizations, and the public must hold regulators feet to the fire when relicensing these plants with regards to earthquake and tsunami risks.
Dr. Helen Caldicott, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said via a live video feed that “it was gross malfeasance” to build two nuclear reactors next to an earthquake fault. She said that in a worst-case nuclear plant scenario – which she sees as possible at San Onofre – 10 million people could be at risk in a nuclear release, depending on the wind direction.
She said that the Rasmussen report (1970s), updated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, stated that 3,300 people could die within several days, and 10,000 to 100,000 could develop acute radiation sickness within weeks. Hypothyroidism could afflict 250,000 people and 350,000 males could go temporarily sterile, and there could be 3,000 spontaneous abortions. Over the years, she said 250,000 could develop cancers.
“You’re sitting next to a cancer factory,” Dr. Caldicott said. “You are running a cancer factory that generates electricity.”
Hirsch said 8.5 million people live within 50 miles of San Onofre, the distance that U.S. federal regulators recommended that Americans around Fukushima should flee after March 11. Yet here the NRC’s emergency planning zone is 10 miles around San Onofre, a nuclear plant he said was approved without a workable evacuation plan.