2011-10-12 "Panel: Japan-level nuclear crisis possible at San Onofre" by Fred Swegles from "Orange County Register"
San Clemente City Council hosts a nearly five-hour community meeting featuring speakers organized by San Clemente Green on lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.
A nuclear calamity of the intensity that struck Japan on March 11 could happen at San Onofre, a series of speakers told San Clemente's elected leaders at a nearly five-hour community meeting Tuesday night.
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."
More than 200 people from all over Southern California gathered in the San Clemente Community Center for the second of three meetings in which the San Clemente City Council is addressing lessons learned from Japan's Fukushima disaster. At a community meeting two weeks ago, the council heard from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Southern California Edison and an Interjurisdictional Planning Committee that would coordinate an evacuation of San Clemente if that were ever necessary.
On Oct. 18 at a regular 6 p.m. City Council meeting at City Hall, the council will consider whether to take any actions in response to what it has heard.
At Tuesday's community meeting, Arnold Gunderson, an energy advisor and former licensed nuclear operator, 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.
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.
Southern California Edison's spokesman Gil Alexander sat through Tuesday's presentations but said that Edison would make no comment, having had its chance to speak to the City Council two weeks earlier. On Sept. 27, Edison said San Onofre is much better designed to withstand an earthquake and tsunami than Fukushima [http://www.ocregister.com/news/san-319002-nuclear-clemente.html], and the emergency planning committee said it believes it's possible to evacuate a 10-mile radius around San Onofre with coordinated plans in place.
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."
When George Allen, a local resident, asked why no one has died at Fukushima, Caldicott said the wind blew initially out to sea so there were no early high doses. She said cancer deaths will develop over the next five to 70 years.
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.
Roger Johnson, local resident, said the two community meetings have left him convinced that "we are really unprepared" and that the emergency planning committee seems to be "a public relations arm of San Onofre." He asked the City Council to re-examine the Interjurisdictional Planning Committee and establish a radiation monitor in San Clemente.
Gary Headrick, leader of San Clemente Green [http://www.sanclementegreen.org/], who organized the speakers, described them as world-class experts whose testimony indicated "how serious they think our problem is." He said the plant at San Onofre has a "finite lifespan, and to keep pushing it and risking it ... it's a reality that we need to come to."