Engineer blasts San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Community Engagement Panel as “not credible”

San Onofre, too close to the beach
The San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump: Vulnerable to flooding and other “credible” events

Paul Blanch, a prominent engineer and energy consultant with more than 50 years of experience with nuclear energy issues is questioning the credibility of a citizen panel designed to provide public oversight of the decommissioning at the the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) beachfront nuclear waste dump.  The nuclear reactors at SONGS were permanently shut down in 2013 when unlicensed equipment at the facility blew an unknown quantity of radioactive steam into the environment in 2012.

According to Blanch, the SONGS Community Engagement Panel is an outlier in the way it treats the public and attempts to control to control public discourse, public opinion, and public criticism of the failed nuclear plant’s owner, Southern California Edison.

“I have participated in many panels at decommissioning nuclear power plants, and I have never seen one that was completely controlled by the utility that owns the power plant” says Blanch.

The letter, dated March 31, 2021, blasts the Community Engagement Panel for lacking credibility.  Of particular concern to Mr. Blanch is the lack of dialogue allowed by the Panel’s moderator, UCSD professor David G. Victor.

Get the letter  According to Blanch:  “After a detailed review of the published video and the deceptive information being conveyed to the public, you should be very concerned about your continued leadership of the panel that “is intended to serve as a conduit for public information and encourage community involvement and communication with the SONGS Co-owners on matters related to SONGS decommissioning.”

Mr. Blanch, who has participated in proceedings of decommissioning plants such as Millstone1, Connecticut Yankee, Maine Yankee, Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, and Pilgrim,  says San Onofre is an outlier  “All of the other decommissioning plants had panels that were truly independent, or were subject to some type of oversight by State Regulatory bodies,” says Blanch.  “At SONGS, the CEP is nothing more than a public relations organ for Edison.”

Unlike other decommissioning “panels” most of the members of the SONGS Community Engagement Panel are hand-selected by Southern California Edison.  A few of the members are local elected officials, but the agendas for the meetings are controlled completely by Edison.

According to Blanch, “I asked the panel a very simple question. I wanted to know how Edison decided in its safety analysis that a release of deadly radiation at the site is ‘not credible.’  Instead of answering the question, they simply answered that it ‘was not credible.’  The public deserves real answers, not condescending child-like responses to direct questions.

According to Charles Langley, executive director of Public Watchdogs, the biggest challenge to the panel’s independence is that it is completely funded an controlled by Southern California Edison. “Edison controls the agenda, the budget, the selection  of CEP members, and the questions that are asked by the public,” says Langley.

“Anyone attending a CEP meeting has to understand that it is not a forum for free and open debate.  You won’t get truthful answers to real questions. It  is a public relations spectacle, run by public relations professionals, dedicated to keeping the truth from the public” says Langley.

In the letter, Paul Blanch asks three basic safety questions.  So far, Edison has not responded.

According to Public Watchdogs’ board member and public advocate, Nina Babiarz, “This is why some people call it the Community EnRagement Panel.”

The San Onfore Nuclear waste dump is located 108 feet from the beach at the site of the former power plant, which was the subject of a criminal investigation for regulatory and financial fraud. by the California Department of Justice.  The canisters that store the waste are guaranteed to last 25 years, although the waste inside them is deadly for 250,000 years.   The site is located on top of an earthquake fault in a tsunami inundation zone.  According to Blanch, the location of the facility makes it prone to flood risks (get the report).  These flood risks are confirmed in a letter to the NRC from Southern California Edison in August of 2013.

Get the Petition to the NRC.





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