San Onofre

by Douglas Applegate

Nothing has really gotten done since Southern California Edison

announced the premature closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

[SONGS] on June 7th 2013, for nearly 10 million Southern Californians

living within 50 miles of SONGS, – one of two the defined area emergency

planning zones around nuclear power plants.

Everyone wants the 4,000 tons of nuclear waste gone from SONGS

– Congressmen, the California Senate (by resolution), the Department

of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But the DoE declined to

even add a Southern California venue to its city national tour for public input

about storing the nation’s nuclear waste. DoE’s Acting Assistant Secretary

John F. Kotek for Nuclear Energy has deigned to make a one-day three city

stop in Oceanside, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente on June 22, 2016,

presumably to assure every one that “everything” is being done as fast as

possible. But of course While the DoE is the only agency that can move SONGS millions

of pounds of spent nuclear fuel, it currently has no authority to store it even

for an interim period. In March the House of Representatives finally and

belatedly introduced H. R. 4745 authorizing an interim consolidated storage

facility but good luck moving that forward during the election-year-grid-lock on Capitol

Hill. All of our leaders line-up to hedge their responsibility (and their political exposure)

by getting their statements on the record to the effect, “I told you we should do

something.” Meanwhile, all of Orange and San Diego Counties are whistling

pass the graveyard, a nuclear-exclusion-zone graveyard.

Several things have changed at SONGS, but for the worse. First,

months after 9/11 as disclosed in open sources by the Bush Administration,

U.S. nuclear generating stations have been on Al Qaeda target lists and ISIS

now poses an even greater and increasing threat to SONGS. Counter-in-

telligence agencies do not sleep after accessing the 50-mile-radius-zones of

radioactive contamination from terrorist threats to nuclear power plants.

Second and more concerning, SONGS security personnel that numbered 100

before 9/11; then rose to more than 500 in the period after 9/11, have now

post SONGS 2013 shutdown fallen to less than 100 guards. SONGS manned

security perimeter also reduced accordingly. Terrorist threats to SONGS

certainly have not lessened SONGS is virtually a soft target with horrific


As a former Marine infantry officer, I will say nothing more about

the details of this threat. But I been trained to recognize the historical folly

inherent in impenetrable static defenses, viz: France’s Maginot Line. As

a resident of San Clemente with more than a vested interest as do all of us in

Southern California, the DoE pursuit of a consent agreement with local gov-

ernments for a national site for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive

waste storage promised since 1987, ignores the realities and threats of the

Global War on Terrorism.

We need to petition both the Department Homeland Security

and the DoD to make the removal of SONGS nuclear fuel a matter of nation-

al security. After all, any dirty bomb that might spew radioactive waste

would affect all of Camp Pendleton and nearly a third of my Marine Corps. S.

David Freeman, the former head of the California Power Authority and an-

ti-nuclear advocate, called San Onofre (and Diablo Canyon) “disasters waiting

to happen: aging, unreliable reactors sitting near earthquake fault zones on

the fragile Pacific Coast, with millions of Californians living nearby”. That is a

target description that just might catch the attention of an ISIS operations


Each of us would never want to consider that we did nothing if we

had the opportunity to stop 9/11. That woulda, shoulda, coulda dilemma is

what faces us with SONGS as it now sits literally in the backyards of South-

ern California. We need immediate action to remove millions of pounds of

nuclear materials to deserted areas far from population centers (neither un-

known nor scarce in the western states or California itself of that matter), not

platitudes from leaders hedging their bets.

I for one, see SONGS as an opportunity to stop complaining about

the failures of our Government and to make our Federal, State and local Gov-

ernment work for all of us to prevent a catastrophe of monumental propor-


Doug Applegate is a Retired Marine Colonel with a combat tour in Rama-

di, Baghdad and Fallujah and a trial attorney going on 4 decades in Southern

California. He is running in Southern California’s 49th Congressional District.

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