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SOURCE: Los Angeles Times

DATE: August 15, 2018

SNIP: Southern California Edison is keeping 3.6 million pounds of lethal radioactive waste at the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant in San Clemente.

The waste poses a significant threat to the health, safety and economic vitality of the region’s more than 8 million residents. But Edison’s plan for storing it is unnerving at best.

The idea is to bury the spent fuel on site, about 100 feet from the ocean and just a few feet above the water table. Edison has already begun transferring the waste from cooling pools into specially designed steel canisters. The containers are prone to corrosion and cracking, and cannot be monitored or repaired.

But flawed storage containers are just one of many worrisome aspects of the scheme. San Onofre sits on an active earthquake fault, in an area where there is a record of past tsunamis. It is close to Interstate 5, the railroad line that Amtrak runs on, and the Marines’ Camp Pendleton.

The ocean is expected to keep rising over the next few decades, bringing seawater closer to the canisters. If hairline cracks or pinholes in the containers were to let in even a little bit of air, it could make the waste explosive.

And although San Onofre is in a no-fly zone, it is not being guarded with radar and surface-to-air-missiles, as nuclear aircraft carriers are. It is protected by a handful of guards carrying pistols.

This leaves the site susceptible to terrorist attacks. San Juan Capistrano Councilwoman Pam Patterson warned President Trump of this vulnerability at a roundtable meeting in May. She reminded him that, in 2001, terrorists were targeting nuclear power plants in addition to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Patterson also pointed out that some of the 9/11 terrorists received their flight training at San Diego’s Montgomery Field, only 50 miles from San Onofre, which is itself only 62 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The power plant, she told Trump, is a “Fukushima waiting to happen.”

When it was discovered that San Onofre’s reactor was so flawed that the plant had to be shut down, the former prime minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, testified in San Diego. He said that if the radioactive cooling pools at Fukushima had caught fire, he was prepared to evacuate not only Tokyo, with its population of 9 million people, but also the larger metropolitan area of 38 million, including regions 160 miles away from the plant. Martial law would have been declared.

Had the fire proved uncontainable, Kan said, nobody would have been able to move back to the region for 100,000 years. “The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake,” Kan told a British newspaper later. “Something on that scale, an evacuation of 50 million, it would have been like a losing a huge war.” His words echoed those of Mikhail Gorbachev, who once remarked that a second explosion at Chernobyl would have rendered Europe uninhabitable.