7.1 Earthquake deepens fears of a nuclear release at failed San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

San Diego, CA, July 12, 2019 – Last week, Southern California was hit by an earthquake with a 7.1 magnitude. The earthquake shook most of Southern California including  the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), where 3.6 pounds of deadly nuclear waste is in the process of being buried  in Holtec canisters 108 ft. from the ocean.

It remains unclear if SoCal Edison has an earthquake response plan prepared in case of a disaster at SONGS (see our 29-page whitepaper, Radiological Regulatory Failure on emergency response capabilities at SONGS).

The Beachfront San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump is located 108 feet from the Pacific Ocean in a location that’s easily accessible to terrorists.  Each of the 72 squares in this photo cover a silo designed to house a thin walled canister of nuclear waste weighing up to 100,000 pounds. 

“As people update their earthquake preparedness plans, a very important thing to keep in mind is that if an incident occurs at SONGS we will not have the luxury of sheltering in place,” Said Nina Babiarz, Public Watchdogs Board member. “When the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, visited San Onofre he pressed that when one has to evacuate, they do not return, and they cannot rebuild.”

The quake swayed buildings and cracked streets throughout Southern California. Public Watchdogs is worried about what another quake of similar magnitude can do to the 76 canisters containing 3.6 million pounds of toxic nuclear waste at SONGS: the light-weight stainless steel canisters have walls that are only 5/8” thick, but they contain nuclear waste that is deadly for at least 250,000 years.  The San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump is also located in a tsunami inundation zone and fewer than two miles from an earthquake fault that is as deep and as deadly as the San Andreas (see our report, Earthquake Bay).

The canisters are made by Holtec International, a company that has been castigated in the media for questionable financial dealings (See story, Does Holtec Bribe Federal Employees?).  Critics have long questioned the stainless steel used in Holtec’s unusual thin-walled canisters.  Containers made with a nearly identical stainless steel alloy cracked after just 17 years at the Koenburg nuclear power plant near Cape Tow, South Africa.

What’s more, a cracked Holtec canister has no seismic rating, and is unlikely to withstand a magnitude of 7.0 earthquake.   Friday’s earthquake measured at least 7.1 – a force that may well exceed the design capacity of the San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump.

The repercussions following an earthquake of this magnitude, such as the thousands of aftershocks that continue to shake the canisters, could result in a serious release of radiation.  According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, more than eight million people live withinn the 50-mile plume zone that surrounds San Onofre.

Executive Director of Public Watchdogs, Charles Langley says, “We are deeply concerned about the possibility of another 7.1 earthquake hitting close enough to crack a container at SONGS, the aftermath could be deadly.”

About Public Watchdogs

Founded as a 501(c)3 tax-deductible nonprofit in 2016, Public Watchdogs is funded by individual donations from concerned California citizens.   Public Watchdogs researches and exposes government malfeasance and serves as a catalyst of reform by holding unaccountable government agencies accountable. For more information, visit www.publicwatchdogs.org or contact Charles Langley, Executive Director, at (858) 384-2140, or Langley @ publicwatchdogs.org

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