New Nuclear Worries
Russia’s seizure of nuclear power plants in Ukraine should sound alarms for anyone living near a nuclear site in America. Vladimir Putin has shown that any supply of nuclear material, anywhere, is an attractive target for a bad actor.
In Ukraine, Russia now controls the operations, fuel rods and waste at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, and also holds as hostage the decommissioned Chernobyl plant. Putin understands the destructive power of the waste left behind at Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear accident in history. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 sent radioactivity as far as Ireland and proved that a nuclear mishap anywhere is a nuclear mishap everywhere.
In this country, spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors has piled up at 80 locations in 34 states. This begs the question: How safe from a terrorist strike is the nuclear waste that is stranded near our own population centers?
In Southern California, nearly 9 million people live within 50 miles of the San Onofre nuclear waste dump, where Southern California Edison's 3.6 million pounds of deadly waste is stored in thin-walled, metal canisters 100 feet from the ocean.
Could rocket-propelled grenades or a short-range missile fired from the sea breech the canisters and send radioactivity across the southwest?
The waste at San Onofre is a disaster waiting to happen. On top of flooding, tsunamis, canister failure and earthquakes, we can add terrorism to our list of nuclear worries.
Bart Ziegler, PhD, is President of the Samuel Lawrence Foundation.
Del Mar Approves Resolution Opposing Nuclear Waste
Thanks to outstanding advocacy from the Coalition for Nuclear Safety, the Del Mar City Council voted unanimously Feb. 22 to adopt a resolution objecting to the nuclear waste stranded 40 miles away at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Working closely with the Coalition, Mayor Dwight Worden and Councilmember Terry Gaasterland brought forward an official document that identifies Southern California Edison as storing 3.6 million pounds of high-level radioactive waste about 108 feet from the ocean. "The City of Del Mar supports as a matter of high priority the identification of a long-term safer storage site located away from populated areas and urges the near-term relocation of all nuclear waste from San Onofre to safer interim storage, if needed as a precedent to ultimate relocation to a permanent safer site, all to assure that this waste is removed from San Onofre as soon as possible," the resolution states. The resolution further states that radiation leaks are a concern; the waste could be a target for terrorists and is vulnerable to sea level rise and other natural disasters; existing radiation monitoring is inadequate, and a radiation release could expose the region to $13.4 trillion in damages over 50 years.
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Hugs for Ukraine
Our hearts are breaking for Ukraine. To support humanitarian relief, recovery, and peace-building efforts, we recommend seeking guidance from Charity Navigator, an online tool for intelligent giving. Charity Navigator publishes rankings for groups that have been financially efficient and transparent in their operations.
Politico, March 11, 2022
BeyondNuclear, March 10, 2022
Union of Concerned Scientists, March 8, 2022
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 7, 2022