Due to the proximity of Temecula to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, a number of public speakers on Tuesday asked Temecula City Council to take a formal stance on the proposed restart of one of the plant's reactors until its operator undergoes a rigorous license amendment process.
The nuclear plant near Camp Pendleton in coastal, northern San Diego County was shut down nearly one year ago after a small leak was discovered coming from a steam pressure tube in one of the reactors, called Unit 3. The other reactor, Unit 2, was not operating at the time due to scheduled maintenance.
Neither unit has returned to service, but plant operator Southern California Edison has proposed restarting Unit 2.
Opponents of restart plans said Edison should go through a license amendment process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because the steam generators that failed were of a different design than their predecessors. The generators were replaced two years ago, and it was discovered that vibration was causing the tubes to wear faster than expected.
Solana Beach resident Torgen Johnson implored Temecula City Council to adopt a resolution opposing the restart. The sample resolution is being presented to cities and school districts throughout coastal Southern California.
"Right now we have a nuclear generating system that has some serious mechanical problems," said Johnson, who is of the opinion the reactor as it is now is capable of causing a nuclear disaster equal to the one following the Japan earthquake in March 2011.
"You are 24 miles downwind of San Onofre," Johnson said. "Many other cities have taken a stance on this issue."
The same draft resolution was presented to the Temecula Valley Unified School District on Tuesday, he said.
The San Diego Unified School District approved its own resolution with a 4-1 vote Tuesday, he added. The resolution said: "the San Diego Unified School District believes restarting the defective Unit 2 nuclear reactor at San Onofre will have profound impacts on our children in San Diego Unified and the surrounding communities in the event of a nuclear accident regarding radiation contamination of air, water and food, evacuation plans, and long term viability of life in Southern California."
Johnson urged Temecula City Council to consider its evacuation plan should a nuclear disaster occur.
Ace Hoffman of Carlsbad told city officials he is among those who have been watching San Onofre "pretty carefully for about 20 years."
"...Nowhere else in the industry have they had failures they way we have," Hoffman said.
While some made the commute from northern San Diego County to speak at the meeting, one speaker, Kevin Higgins, said he was a Temecula real estate agent.
"San Onofre has the same conditions that caused the Japan (disaster)," Higgins said. "...A nuclear accident could be beyond anything we could handle here in Temecula...That would amount to personal and financial ruin for many of us. The city of Temecula is far too special to let it be ruined by a serious accident at San Onofre."
Meanwhile, the resolution approved Tuesday by San Diego Unified also expressed support for a California Public Utilities Commission investigation into the reliability and costs of the plant, especially compared to alternative energy sources.
"Before restarting the nuclear reactor, San Onofre should undergo a rigorous and transparent public review of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing amendment process," said SDUSD Board Member Kevin Beiser, who was among those who introduced the resolution. "We must make certain that before restarting San Onofre nuclear power plant, it is safe for our community and our kids."
Chris Abel, community outreach manager for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, urged the San Diego Unified board to postpone action until SCE could better inform them.
"We have said from the beginning, as has the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that we will not restart Unit 2 or Unit 3 until both us and the NRC has deemed that is safe to do so -- in other words, there is no time line on its safety," Abel said.
Abel offered board members a briefing and invited them to visit the plant "to understand the rigorous regulatory process by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well as the current situation at SONGS, especially as it relates to greater liability and clean air."
Following the public comments made in Temecula, Mayor Mike Naggar directed City Manager Aaron Adams to assign a staff member to look into what is going on with the plant and report back to City Council. He also asked for a copy of the draft resolution.
"If it is everything (the public speakers) say...at least we should support that or at least make preparations for it," Naggar said.
—Maggie Avants and City News Service contributed to this report