By Andrea Swayne
A group led by Buddhist monks walked from Dana Point Harbor to San Clemente Friday in protest of the possible restart of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Senji Kanaeda, a Buddhist monk originally from Japan but now living near Seattle, contacted local activist Gary Headrick of San Clemente Green for assistance with planning the protest to kick off a weeklong fast calling for the closure of the nuclear plant.
“My wish and my purpose is very simple. We need a safe and peaceful future for us and for the next generation,” Kanaeda said. “The nuclear power plant is not safe. We want to prevent another Fukushima.”
The monks originally planned to end their march near SONGS and begin their December 1 to December 7 fast there. Instead they decided to stop in San Clemente for fear of being exposed to radiation near the plant, Kanaeda said.
Environmental activist Gene Stone of San Clemente reported that during a visit to the planned fasting location Thursday he decided to take a reading near where steam generator parts were being loaded for transport outside of the plant. Stone said his iRad Geiger counter produced a reading of higher than normal radiation.
“As I drove slowly past the old steam generator part, my Geiger counter spiked to 587. I drove by a second time a little faster and with my window closed and it showed 329. I decided to change the monks’ route to stop in San Clemente for the safety of the protesters,” Stone said.
Stone said he then called the Nuclear Regulatory Commission office in Texas to report his readings and lodge an official complaint.
“They told me my iRad reading was pretty accurate but that they were within compliance limits for transportation laws regarding radiation. I was also told they would contact an NRC official who happened to be onsite to check it out,” he said.
Jennifer Manfre, media relations representative for Southern California Edison, confirmed that the type of radiation reading Stone had found were consistent with what the utility had expected to find, as well as Department of Transportation safety standards for transport.
“It is exactly what we said it would be,” Manfre said. Manfre said if one was to stand next to the generator for an hour, the person who did so would likely receive the same amount of radiation as a dental X-Ray.
The protesters ended their march at the San Clemente pier and said they will return there on Saturday to begin their fast.
“We were contacted by Kanaeda and thought the protest idea sounded wonderful and we’re honored that they chose the San Onofre issue to focus their prayer and meditation. They could have done it anywhere but they chose us. We’re honored and look forward to seeing how this unfolds over the next few days,” Headrick said. “We want to protect the world for future generations and people here now who are in danger of a nuclear accident like we saw in Fukushima.”
According to Stone, the group plans to hold a press conference Friday at 4 p.m. before the start of the NRC public meeting with SCE officials at the Hills Hotel in Laguna Hills.
The meeting agenda will include discussion of the utility’s confirmatory action letter responding to the NRC’s inspection of the steam generator tubes at SONGS.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The NRC is encouraging the public to view the event via webcast, due to the limited capacity (400 people) of the venue.
For more information about the webcast, visit video.nrc.gov.
-Jim Shilander contributed to this article.