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By Jake Howard

To be frank, the surf community’s response to the nuclear waste situation at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) has been apathetic at best. Somehow, the toll road dilemma generates more attention and more buzz than the fact that at this moment there are four questionable canisters of nuclear waste buried yards from the waterline at San O. Why aren’t there more “No Nukes” bumper stickers on cars around town?

The amount of nuclear waste stored at the SONGS site includes 51 old canisters and potentially 73 new ones, which can be hazardous to human health—there are even signs posted by the fences that ward off people from going near the facility.

Meanwhile, everyone from local rippers to old salts to young hipsters and first-time surfers have been playing in the ocean, contently disregarding the threat of exposure to radiation lurking over their shoulders.

But recently, the conscience of the local surf community has been stirred by an impassioned photographer, surfer, mother and San Clemente resident, Andrea Coleman. In recent weeks, Coleman has partnered with her friends at the San Onofre Surf Co. to launch an awareness campaign.

“The vibe at San O is shock and disgust, but most don’t know how they can help. It’s bigger than most of us. My theory was that I needed to make everyone wake up and pay attention,” said Coleman, who launched a campaign to sell T-shirts to raise money for marketing her cause. “I met with Joey Lambert, the creator of San Onofre Surf Co., and asked if he would be willing to help with a T-shirt design that we could sell and put 100 percent of the profits to a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times. Joey didn’t even hesitate. He and the San Onofre Surf Co. jumped right in.”

Coleman and crew launched a social media campaign that was an immediate success. Surf publications like SURFER Magazine and Surfline picked up on it and amplified their voice. As of press time, Coleman was halfway to her fundraising goal.

The support was overwhelming, but one thing that struck Coleman was the hesitancy of some of the community’s most influential athletes to jump into the fray.

She said because of their social media presence, it would help to have some notable faces supporting her efforts.
“They surf here, have skateparks named after them here, yet can’t do a quick post to support something so serious in their own backyard?” Coleman said.

The latest development at the SONGS site should be enough to alarm everyone. After the first four new canisters were placed in storage last month, it was discovered that they’ve had issues.

“Four-inch-long, stainless-steel pins inserted at the bottom of 18-foot aluminum shims are defective,” said Gary Headrick, the founder of San Clemente Green and an activist who opposes the storage of spent nuclear fuel at SONGS. “Southern California Edison (SCE) found a loose pin at the bottom of one canister after loading four canisters with fuel. This new shim design aids helium cooling of the fuel. Although Edison attempts to assure us that the four canisters that have already been loaded using this flawed design will be safe for storage, they admit that transporting them later may prove to be problematic. They also admitted they cannot inspect the bottom of the shims, so they do not know the condition of the pins in the loaded canisters.”
SCE is the majority owner of SONGS.

Compounding the design issues is the location. Storing the canisters brings up a litany of potential environmental-related problems.

“As sea level rises, the containers are subjected to elements that they are simply not designed to handle,” San Diego Mayor Len Hering told KPBS. “That in itself should be a significant risk that is of concern to the citizens, but also to the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense, recognizing that, should there be a breach, that Pendleton would basically be useless. God only knows what the contamination containment area might be. The risks are significantly greater than we should have to endure.”

Coleman and her friends at the San Onfore Surf Co. have got the ball rolling in the surf community, but it’s going to take long, dedicated fight to save their beach and Southern California. Who else is in?
“I’m not a scientist or nuclear physicist, but you don’t need to be to know that this is a disaster waiting to happen,” Coleman concluded.


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About The Author Dana Point Times

comments (5)

  • It’s unclear what Coleman is advocating for. A call to her has not been returned. This waste is going nowhere for decades or longer. No one wants it, in spite of Edison’s and others claims to the contrary. The best we can hope for is advocating for thick wall transportable storage casks that don’t crack. These thin-wall canisters (only 5/8″ thick steel) are vulnerable to short-term cracks and leaks, yet cannot be inspected for cracks, repaired, maintained or monitored to PREVENT leaks. We expect as much in a car.

    Edison has no plan in place to prevent or stop leaks. If fuel assemblies inside are exposed to air they can explode. If unborated water enters the cans they will go critical. Learn more and what you can do to help stop Edison from destroying California. If we don’t stop this, nothing else matters. Some canisters are 15 years old, so risk of leaks is growing. Each of these cans holds roughly a Chernobyl nuclear disaster. I thought the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was protecting our safety. Instead, they are complicit in allowing inferior storage canisters. See government and other evidence at

  • Lying Donna still misinforming the public.

    Donna’s lies have been refuted time and again yet she keeps repeating them. Pathetic.

    The cast iron casks Donna prefers will NOT be used, are too heavy for SONGS’ crane equipment, are NOT licensed to either store or ship in the U.S. and are indeed, inferior to the canisters Edison is using for the purpose of storage.

    They are NOT vulnerable to short-term cracking, Donna’s one example she based this on has been thoroughly debunked as she is well aware.

    Inspection techniques were demonstrated with pictures and videos at the last CEP yet none of that matters to lying Donna. Canisters have NEVER needed to be repaired but contrary to her false statements, they can be. Any theoretical cracked canister (it has never happened) can also be placed inside a transport canister, Donna knows this. But as the NRC told her to her face, the goal is to prevent thru-wall cracks from ever occurring. The NRC website details the aging management programs nuclear plants use as does the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and MPR & Associates, an independent engineering firm. Any concerned citizen can peruse these details on the NRC and EPRI websites, or on the CEP’s website where MPR & Associates’ white paper can be found. Donna’s narrative can only be found on her crackpot website or other anti-nuke editorials parroting her falsehoods.

    As far as Edison’s plans, they are REQUIRED by the NRC to have an aging management program in place by the end of the first 20-year license period (at least if they wish to continue storing fuel). A summary of these plans has been presented at the CEP for public consumption so when Donna says Edison has no plan, you know she is lying.

    When new fuel arrives at a nuclear plant, it sits in racks open to the air, there is no risk of explosion. Donna has repeatedly been made aware that in one case some 40 years ago, a canister was pumped full of air and because the fuel assemblies had a defect that exposed the fuel, there was some further cladding damage but NOT the explosion Donna wishes to frighten the public with.

    Unborated water will NOT cause the fuel to go critical, that is just pure crap! The fuel is called “spent” or “used” because it could no longer keep the reactor critical (in the very location it was designed to initiate criticality). In addition, the grid baskets the fuel assemblies go inside are made of Metamic, a neutron absorbing material (to go critical, the fuel needs a sufficient # of neutrons). Finally, the control rods that are used in the reactor to shut down or reduce fission (they are neutron absorbing), are also stored inside these canisters with the fuel. And just how is a canister supposed to fill up with water?

    What is destroying California is too many people willing to lie to achieve a certain measure of notoriety even if only by those they have managed to hoodwink.

    Buyer beware of the labyrinth of lies trumpeted by disingenuous deceivers more concerned with personal aggrandizement than civic duty as well as the worthless website they hawk.

  • Apathy rules! When cancer rates get our attention, maybe we will do something–or not.

    • Fuel storage at San Onofre is state of the art, used by the entire US nuclear industry as well as many foreign nuclear facilities.

      @ Daniel Hodul

      If there is ever any increase in cancer rates in Dana Point, don’t blame San Onofre’s nuclear fuel storage facility, the public receives zero radiation dose from it. This fact is documented.

  • California voted for Obama knowing that he promised to unconstitutionally stop the nation’s nuclear waste repository development. To now be shocked that nuclear waste will stay at San Onofre for 50 to 100 years is just typical of illogical Californians.

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