Photo: Ellis
Photo: Ellis

Dane Gudauskas On The Plan To Store Nuclear Waste Near Trestles

3.6 million pounds, to be exact

Every couple of years, we revisit the subject of saving Trestles, and it's a battle we'll likely wage well into the future. Especially considering the State Parks lease comes up in 2020, and who knows what sort of greedy developers might try to sneak in around that time. It's certainly possible.

At the moment, there's another, more immediate cause for concern: 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste is currently sitting on the coastline at the now defunct San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, and if Southern California Edison, the operators of SONGS, gets its way, they'll soon develop a storage facility inside the 84-acre site, and that's where the waste will stay, indefinitely. 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste. In an earthquake zone. 100 feet from the beach.

Fortunately, the plan hasn't fallen on deaf ears, and thanks to a lawsuit against Southern California Edison by Citizens Oversight, there's a chance SONGS will be forced to move that ticking nuclear time bomb to a different, TBD location somewhere far from the ocean. We caught up with San Clemente local Dane Gudauskas to get his thoughts on the matter, and also how important Trestles is to the local community, and so far beyond.

So, it looks like we need to rally to help save Trestles, again. What are your thoughts on the proposed plan to store millions of pounds of nuclear waste so close to the ocean?

It was always gonna be an interesting situation with the nuclear power plant being right there, that close to the ocean. You feel a bit vulnerable. I'm not totally versed on the viable alternative options, but I know it would be way better to move it all to another site away from the ocean and away from so many humans. At this point, I just hope they [Southern California Edison] explore every option, not just the easy option, which is to keep it stored on-site. There is so much at risk having it stored there, not just for every person who lives between San Diego and Los Angeles, but all of that amazing coastline, and, obviously, Trestles. It's a really alarming thought that something very bad could happen if they don't get it out of there.

And it sounds like the containers they're planning to store the waste in are only guaranteed to hold up for 25 years. Sooo, then what?

Exactly, it's just a band-aid fix, and they need to take in the broader scope of everything, and not make the hasty, easy decision. There is so much room for error. Those things could be cracked, an earthquake could hit, it's sitting right near a military base…there is so much that could go wrong, why risk even the tiny chance of a major catastrophe? I know you can't snap your fingers and have it all go away immediately, but there is no way the best decision for the long term is storing it all right there.

I imagine it'd be awfully unsettling living, and surfing, so close to millions of pounds of nuclear waste, even if nothing awful ever happens.

Yeah, and it's not only gonna affect San Clemente if something bad happens. It's a ripple effect, up and down the whole coast and across the Pacific Ocean.

I know this nuclear issue goes well beyond Lowers, but why is it so tough to just preserve the most amazing State Park in coastal Southern California? Do you think we'll have to revisit this in a couple years when the State Parks lease comes up?

You know, I hope not. I know the San Onofre Foundation has been working hard behind the scenes to preserve that stretch of coast for the future generations. It'd be devastating to lose Lowers. But it can happen. Nothing is a guarantee. That's why we really have to work hard to get the word out. The more people that feel inspired and can take ownership in the preservation process, the better chance we have to make sure Trestles never changes, that we can always find the solution to make sure it's preserved, that the ecosystem never changes, and, most importantly, that we never melt away into some awful, nuclear warzone.

Dane Gudauskas. Photo: Glaser