May 2012 home page

silent Songs
Donald Mosier | Councilmember, City of Del Mar


San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is in trouble---big trouble. The aging facility 32 miles to the north, northwest of Del Mar was first commissioned in 1968, and, until recently, had 2 active pressurized water reactors (units 2 and 3; unit 1 is decommissioned but still used to store spent fuel rods). New steam generators were installed in units 2 and 3 in the last 2 years, and leaking tubes that allowed radioactive steam to vent to the atmosphere forced the closure of both units this January. The big question is, should SONGS be restarted or closed forever?

Lee Haydu and I accompanied Solana Beach Council members Lesa Heebner and Mike Nichols to a meeting with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko on Friday, April 6th, just after he had finished inspecting SONGS. We were among a number of elected officials attending, along with local environmentalists opposed to reopening SONGS. What we heard was surprising given the usually conservative leaning of politicians from Orange County. Irvine City Council member Larry Agran and Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido both spoke in favor of closing SONGS. “Like Fukushima Daiichi (the Japanese nuclear facility destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011), San Onofre is an aging nuclear power plant with a troubled history located in a geologically uncertain and unstable place,” said Mr. Agran. SONGS is within 5 miles of an offshore fault line, and has the worst safety record of any nuclear facility in the United States.

After the Fukushima disaster, the evacuation zone was 50 miles from the plant. Current NRC regulations have a 10 mile evacuation zone around SONGS, but a 50 mile evacuation zone is being considered by the NRC, which would of course include Del Mar. Any disaster at SONGS would close I-5 and 1-15 north, leaving our residents to join the over 8 million people in the evacuation area competing for limited routes of escape. Safe return to the evacuation zone could be years to decades to never (as at Chernobyl).

This is an issue of vital regional importance, and Lee and I will be bringing more information to our city council in the near future. Meanwhile, we need to hear from our residents.

And what about the birds? If you look closely at the satellite picture of SONGS (or just look for yourself the next time you drive past on I-5), you will note that the north containment dome has been liberally anointed by the seagulls, but the south dome is remarkably clean. Are the seagulls trying to tell us something?

Note that the north tower has been "anointed" by seagulls. 
2008.  Photo from Google Earth site.


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