Church. Photo: Ellis
Church. Photo: Ellis

What’s Going On At San Onofre?

Town hall-style meeting on Thursday hopes to bring latest information on nuclear waste storage to light

Southern California Edison will move forward with its plans to bury spent fuel from the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant (SONGS) in canisters 100 feet from the ocean. The process to remove 3.6 million pounds of radioactive waste out of spent fuel pools and into a dry-cask storage site, according to a report from KPBS, will start at the end of this year and will take around 18 months to complete.

Wait — you didn’t hear?

You’re not alone. For all the legitimately disastrous implications in storing the nuclear waste so near to the ocean, with nothing safeguarding against a Fukushima-like leak apart from dry-cask containment units around 5/8″ thick, developments on the plans for storage are alarmingly quiet. Think about it. What was the last substantial bit you heard about San-O, besides this, or this, or this?

Todd Furuike, former CFO for HUF, began to understand a few months ago when he spoke with a close friend, a scientific geologist, who was at work on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Furuike’s friend filled him in on the numbers: 3.6 million pounds of waste, stored 100 feet from the shoreline at less than three feet above the water table. Two fault lines just five miles offshore from San Onofre that are due for a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Furuike thought, there’s no way. How could the public risks fly so far under the radar?

“It was a few months later that I saw an article come out with those same facts,” says Furuike. “I started looking at old articles in publications like The OC Register and The San Clemente Times, and I couldn’t believe that there hadn’t been more pushback. Being a lifelong surfer, I wondered how many people actually knew about this.”

Furuike started asking around — to his friends who were up to speed on current events, to different people he'd meet in the water. Of the first 50 or so people he asked about the latest news on San-O, only one had a clue.

The public mystery compelled Furuike and Derek Sabori, former Global VP of sustainability at Volcom (now at Kozm), to organize “Save San Onofre,” a town hall-style meeting in Costa Mesa this Thursday, October 5th, to better inform the surf industry and the wider public about the current situation for San-O’s nuclear waste storage. A panel comprised of representatives from four different organizations and non-profits — Surfrider Foundation; Public Watchdogs; the Mayor of Dana Point, Debra Lewis; and the Sierra Club — will speak about the newest details to emerge from SONGS.

“The goal for the evening is to give our participants four different, important angles on what's going on, and to convey why it's so important to understand the issue, why it's so dangerous, and what people can do about it,” says Sabori.

The evening, hosted at the Westside Museum, will begin with introductions from both Furuike and Sabori before the panel kicks off, each representative having 10-15 minutes each to outline their thoughts on, and objections to, San-O’s waste storage plan. The panelists will have around five minutes each to inquire into the perspectives of each side, including clarification on key points. The event will close with an opportunity for questions from the audience.

“We want to keep this moving, orderly, and civil, and to give some structure and flow to these presentations,” says Sabori. “There are so many players involved in this issue, and the issue is complex, so we wanted to offer a few different sides.”

While the idea originally began as an industry event, and while registering for the event with a monetary sponsorship is encouraged, both Furuike and Sabori say that the event is open to the public. The reason: the costs of hosting, which include the venue, food, and drinks. The sponsorships are not on behalf of the organizers, nor the nonprofits.

“Initially, we asked the brands if they could sponsor their group with a $250 donation to get five people in, because we’re hosting this at the museum,” says Sabori. “We asked for $150 from retailers, and then $25 from individuals. We're getting to the point where, if people arrive who don’t register online with the link, they can pitch in whatever they can. If they can’t, they're still welcome. But we’re not making any money from this.”

Furuike and Sabori stress that the night is for wider awareness about the plans for San Onofre’s nuclear waste. An public educated on the scope of its consequences could be the difference between creating news and remaining its passive audience.

“We're just helping to facilitate this conversation and bring some of the information to light,” says Furuike. “It’s up to the public to decide on their conclusions as to where they want to go with this. But it's an opportunity for them to really get informed on the subject. It's their evening.”

[You can register for the event here.]

San Onofre. Photo: Coleman