SONGS – More close calls – Where is the media?

Here are the details of our conversation with the NRC and a link to a
news article showing how different the media covers this topic. I think

Here are the details of our conversation with the NRC and a link to a
news article showing how different the media covers this topic. I think
we need to find a better way of communicating between San Clemente and
SONGS. We should know more about the true conditions of the plant and
push for lower thresholds for these kinds of events. Even Jen Tucker, our Emergency Planning Officer, was
only vaguely aware that we had a close call. Please read the rather
lengthy statement I put together and compare to this article. It is very
important or I wouldn’t bother you with it. I was hoping the media would do
a better job with reporting so I would not have to be the messenger,
but that is not happening. What can/should we do as a city?

I am disappointed to see that only part of this story is being told. I brought
this matter to the attention of Paul Sisson, and it seems he has overlooked the
main point of my message. My wife and I spoke personally to the NRC officials
after being tipped off by an insider, and contacted him about it to alert the
public to a very near miss, because we may all be running out of luck!

A nuclear disaster is just waiting to happen, and when it
does, Southern California will never be the same. As an individual living near
to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) I have done my best to
communicate troubles at the plant being exposed by whistleblowers to me because
I am Co-founder of San Clemente Green, and they feel threatened by going to the
usual authorities.

The most recent troubling event took place on November 24th, Thanksgiving Day,
(I don?t know why the article says the 25th). An employee contacted
me on November 30th to ask, ” Do you or anybody in your organization have
any information about the accident at SONGS last week where an employee dropped
a 4ft piece of steel into the spent fuel pool?” I immediately looked into
it by contacting Greg Warnick at the NRC, with whom I have developed an open
line of communication.

On December 6th, a conference call was arranged between myself, my wife Laurie
(the other co-founder of SC Green), Greg Warnick (Sr. Resident Inspector),
Victor Dricks (Sr, Public Affairs Officer with the NRC), and Ryan Lantz (NRC
Branch Chief). Greg did most of the talking, and was very forthright in his
assessment of the situation. I’ll try to lay it out here for you as best I can,
but I hope you will contact Mr. Warnick yourself to verify what I am saying,
(contact info below).

In a room where anyone entering must first be inspected for having lanyards
attached to any loose articles such as hat and glasses to prevent anything from
falling into the spent reactor pool, a steel I-Beam fell from a crane into a
pool 23 feet deep, only causing minor damage to the racks below because it fell
horizontally instead of vertically. Had it fallen in the vertical position,
which was the process being simulated with the beam, testing the crane as
required before actually lowering a batch of spent fuel, the damage to the
spent fuel containers at the bottom of the pool could likely have released an
unknown quantity of radioactive gasses. This would have resulted in an
immediate shutdown and evacuation of the premises, causing a chain of events that
one can only imagine. I said,”this must have been an adrenaline moment for
all involved”, and Greg responded “it certainly was, knowing what
could have happened”.

It might surprise you to know that the official NRC Significance Threshold
regarding this incident was MINOR. This qualified as a Low Level Issue
according to policies and procedures of the NRC. They identified it as a
“Procedure Vulnerability” which needed further evaluation,
recommending things such as tethering the beam to prevent it from falling
should the hook ever fail again.

There is far more to this story which is readily available with a simple phone
call to Mr. Warnick. You may be interested to learn about the accidental
release of 14,000 gallons of “low level” radioactive water on
November 17th. Greg said that people who work at the plant are very emotional
about this and feel let down by management, (it would certainly be interesting
to hear their stories). The list of problems like this goes on, and they always
fail to reach the level of significance one would expect from an agency whose
purpose is to protect the public. The safety track record of this plant is
appalling, and yet the same corrective actions for violations is applied time
and time again, which amounts to nothing more than the NRC telling Southern
California Edison that they really have to do something about it or else there
will be even more inspections in the future. The possibility of actually
closing the plant is never seriously being considered, even if only long enough
for management to get a handle on the culture of fear employees have for
reporting concerns as was cited in the “Chilling Effect” letter
issued by the NRC last spring.

Further raising the odds for a disaster, the power plant is currently undergoing
an accident prone procedure to replace the old generators in Unit 3,
essentially adding a new, more powerful engine to an old chassis and hoping it
all holds together. The plant was designed in the 50’s, constructed in the 60’s
and originally planned for decommissioning in 2013, which lobbying efforts have
succeeded in extending to 2020. All of this is taking place at the plant that
has ten times more safety infractions than any other nuclear power plant in the
United States. There is a persistent culture of fear in contradicting
management, and there is an influx of 1000 new workers assigned to the task.
Only 3 inspectors are on site being responsible to oversee the activities of
more than 3000 employees. A new man is at the helm, the second replacement in
less than six months, but we are proceeding at full speed ahead before
addressing the problems so widely known. These are the kind of red flags so
often referred to in the aftermath of tragic events that might have been

I hope all of this information is sufficient enough to warrant further
investigation. A quick search on the internet will reveal the depth of this
problem. This truly is a matter of tremendous impact on life on the entire
Pacific Coast of a magnitude far greater than the BP oil spill. It is still
avoidable, but only if people in high places will listen and react
appropriately. Locally these concerns fall on deaf ears because many in San
Clemente are directly or indirectly tied economically to SONGS, and all of us
homeowners stand to lose considerable property values when trouble at SONGS is
exposed by the media. It is the media that should be the single most effective means of finding
a resolution prior to this pending disaster by making it public knowledge. They have the power to give
voice to the workers at SONGS who are raising the same types of concerns that
BP employees had expressed before lives were lost and the worst environmental
disaster of our times continues to persist well into the future. The huge
difference is the complications that radioactive waste contributes to the problem.
We need your help in exposing this dreadful truth now before our luck runs out!

Gary Headrick
San Clemente Green

Greg Warnick , USNRC, Sr. Resident
Inspector, 949-492-2641

Link to OC Register Article

Here is are a couple of links to examples of the kind of testimony out there ?

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