Whistle blower describes near-miss nuclear accident at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS)

San Onofre safety worker exposes unreported (and secret) “near-miss” accident at Southern California Edsion’s Community Engagement Panel

Dateline, Oceanside California, August 10, 2018

Get the whistle blower video here.

When San Onofre worker and Orange County Resident David Fritch stepped up to the microphone last night, he dropped a bombshell:  his first words were “I may not have a job tomorrow.”

The whistle blower went on to explain that he was speaking out publicly at  Southern California Edison’s Community Engagement Panel meeting yesterday because he was concerned for the safety of his daughter.

In the following four minutes, Mr.  Fritch describes in harrowing detail, how a  fully loaded canister packed with as many as 37 heavy spent nuclear fuel assemblies almost dropped nearly 18 feet into a steel lined concrete silo at the beachfront San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump.
There were gross errors on the part of two individuals, the Operator and the Rigger, that are inexplicable,” said Fritch.  “So what we have is a canister that could have fallen 18 feet. It’s a bad day.  That happened, and you haven’t heard about it, and that’s not right.”
“That problem had occurred before, but it wasn’t shared with the crew that was working.  We’re under-manned,” Fritch continued. 
Get a transcript of the Fritch statement here.
Why this video is explosive
The nuclear waste at San Onofre is being stored in  thin-walled stainless steel cans that are about 17 feet high. The steel walls on the cans are only 5/8″ thick, compared to other cask designs that have walls that are 10″ or thicker.  The cans, which are manufactured by Holtec International, have the thinnest walls of any nuclear waste trash can on the market.
Each can contains a payload of up to 37 Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) assemblies. On average, the cans will weigh about 38,000 pounds, but are allegedly designed to hold up to 110,000 pounds of deadly nuclear fuel, including uranium, one of the heaviest metals on earth, and plutonium, which is many times denser than gold.
Using proportional math, Public Watchdogs has released a report showing that if the cans of nuclear waste were shrunk down to the size of an egg, the walls on each can would be about as thick as an eggshell and would weigh many pounds.

Although the nuclear fuel in the cans is “spent fuel,” the contents remain sizzling hot, capable of producing temperatures high enough to vaporize human hair.

The plutonium inside each fuel assembly is deadly to all human life for 250,000 years. In the event of a hairline crack, each canister would release millions of curies of deadly radiation. One curie of radiation can be lethal, and each canister contains roughly the same amount of deadly radiation, on average, as what was released into the atmosphere during the entire Chernobyl meltdown, causing some critics to refer to the cans as “Mobile Chernobyls.”

At San Onofre, about 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste is being stored in more than 70 Holtec HiStorm brand nuclear waste trash cans.  The stainless steel cans are being buried below ground in specially constructed silos 108 feet from the beach and a few feet above the salt water table.
Edison recently admitted that four of the cans that it has buried in its beachfront silos were defective (see story in San Diego Union Tribune, and also in the Orange County Register.
After Mr. Fritch finished addressing Edison’s Community Engagement Panel, local safety advocate Gene Stone of ROSE (Residents Organized for a Safe Environment), asked Edison’s Chief Nuclear Officer Tom Palmisano, if he was going to terminate Mr. Fritch for blowing the whistle on safety issues at San Onofre.
Mr. Palmisano replied that Mr. Fritch would not be terminated.  At the beginning of the meeting, Palmisano had portrayed the work stoppage at San Onofre as a break for the workers. At no time did he mention that a harrowing “near-miss” was the reason all work was stopped.
For more information or background, contact: 
Charles Langley, Executive Director
Public Watchdogs (858) 752-4600

One thought on “Whistle blower describes near-miss nuclear accident at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS)

  1. A curie is the unit of the activity of radioactive material. You can’t have a curie of radiation because radiation is the particle/energy emitted from radioactive materials. Radiation fields are generally measured in energy deposited per unit mass per time, typically rad/hour. The radiation field from a curie of radioactive material depends on the isotope present. A curie of tritium is very different than a curie of cobalt 60, for example. Reporting on what’s happening at San Onofre is very important but it helps to use accurate information. The public is generally not educated on these topics and it would be a step in the right direction to use accurate language.

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