Senator Boxer: Protecting Californians from Nuclear Disasters
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Today, as Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I held a hearing to consider the nomination of Dr. Allison Macfarlane as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the re-nomination of Kristine Svinicki to the NRC. The NRC has one critical mission -- it is the key federal agency charged with ensuring safety at the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors.
The Fukushima disaster in Japan last year was a wake-up call to each of us that safety at our nuclear power plants cannot be taken for granted. In my opening statement, I reaffirmed my strong commitment to ensuring the safety of the people who live near the two nuclear facilities in California: the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. To read my statement, please click here.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
Your Voice Counts: Californians Respond to This Message +
(NEW) Thank you for sharing your opening statement regarding the nomination of Allison Macfarlane as Chairman of the NRC as well as your concerns regarding the renomination of Kristine Svinicki. I am relieved that you place high importance on correct oversight of this agency. I am personally opposed to nuclear facilities for very obvious reasons, but it is at least comforting that you continue to make safety measures at these plants a priority. I have gone from living close to the San Onofre Plant to living close to the Diablo Canyon plant. Thank you for using your position to protect California citizens from the imminent dangers inherent in the production of nuclear energy.
(NEW) Thank you for giving the matter of nuclear energy and the makeup of the NRC some serious thought and urging affirmation of the proposed Chair of NRC along with opposition of the member who did not manage to act strongly in the public interest. Please continue to consider the need for a comprehensive energy policy that will take advantage of our vast store of the transition fuel, natural gas, as well as solar and wind and bio-fuels. We can achieve enoergy independence, reduce wars over fossil fuels, reduce dependency on other countries, support fledgling and promising alternatives, reduce the need for dirty coal (the only clean coal is in the ground!), and help slow global climate change. I appreciate your willingness to work on these issues. Peace.
Leslie, Arroyo Grande
(NEW) It is good to keep on top of the safe operation of our antique first-generation reactors as they rapidly approach the end of their safe life expectancies. But our nation does nothing to replace them with fourth-generation reactors which we know will be safer by orders of magnitude, will be far cheaper to build, will produce much cheaper electricity, will use up less space, and can slowly burn up the nuclear garbage the old reactors are producing and storing all over the country because we can't find a suitable place to bury them. And while we blindly go on building new fuel rods (its a great business) the Chinese early last year started a one-billion-dollar program to use our Oak Ridge National Laboratory designs and test results (which are freely available) to develop a Liquid Fluoride Salt Thorium Reactor (LFTR) which they will use and sell to the world (instead of us! Talk about giving away the store! ) We already have enough Thorium stored to last us 600 years, with plenty in the ground in California. It comes free with the Rare Earths which our industry so badly needs.
Charles, Menlo Park
(NEW) Many thanks for your enlightened support of our safety regarding San Onofre. You obviously are well informed about the history of mismanagement, lax safety procedures and current closing of the facility due to major danger. Also thanks for your perceptive impressions of the two nominations for NRC officials. Without Chair Jazco and unless commitment to safety improves on that body, the future of our family and friends looks very grim indeed.
Lenore, Laguna Niguel
(NEW) I read your letter with great interest and I appreciate your opposition to the re-nomination of Commissioner Svinicki and your continued vigilance on the safety of nuclear power especially the two California plants. It is obvious that the San Onofre plant should not be re-opened given the problems with the recently installed tubes and the recent revelation about the back-up generator. We need the NRC to be a public watchdog, not a nuclear energy industry rubber stamp.
(NEW) Please note, that I, as a California resident and US citizen, am adamantly opposed to nuclear power. We, as human beings, are not capable of maintaining anything that requires a 100% safety record. It just is not realistic. We have not done that in any other area and we will not do that here. What have we been sold?
Anne, Laguna Beach
(NEW) Thank you for your exhaustive evaluation in considering the selected nomination candidates. I too am very concerned the best candidates must have a solid background, skill level, impeccable integrity and sound-safe decision making background. So many lives depend upon these decision makers...
(NEW) I am very grateful that you are concerned about our safety in regards to the nuclear power plants in California. I can remember being 11 or 12 years old and hearing that nuclear power was to be used and the two power plants would be built. I was appalled that this was considered a viable option for electric power at that time. I still regard nuclear power as a grave mistake and something that needs to be phased out as quickly as possible. This being said, I appreciate your concern for our safety. Please do all that you can to assure these plants are operating at their most optimum level. And please do everything you can to usher in new sources of power so that all nuclear power plants can be dismantled and a part of history.
Patty Ann, Nevada City
(NEW) You still don't get it. You say: "The Fukushima disaster in Japan... was a wake-up call... that safety at our nuclear power plants cannot be taken for granted." NO! It was a wake up call that nuclear power is beyond our ability to control safely. There are too many treacherous variables that human hubris simply cannot control: earthquakes, floods, mechanical breakdown and human fallibility. We have released a demon from the center of this planet and we have got to get it back where it belongs: inside the earth and away from all living things.
(NEW) I do not believe, and I am adament about this, that ANY nuclear facility can be "safe." People make mistakes and mistakes in nuclear energy are disastress and last for generations. I am not alone in wanting the San Onofre plant shut down permanently. Please support a permanent closure of the plant.
Bonnie, Newport Beach
(NEW) Thanks you for your hard work and service for all of these years.. It is imperative that we move to permanently shut these Nuke plants down... What was thought to be the newest greatest source of energy has proven to be a DEAD END INDUSTRY we lived for thousands of years with out this Deadly industry and me Must now put this one to bed.. Please push to completely shut these out dated leaky death machines down and go to green energy. We will never run out of wind or sun for energy sources...So let's lead the way and show the world that Germany is not the only country the can see past these deadly time bombs.
(NEW) Thank you for the update on nuclear issues and your statement re nominees for the NRC. Thank you for being more vigilant about San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. I am one who would urge you to go for other energy sources than nuclear, as it clearly is not safe. I worked for a waste management in the planning of possible sites for storage and none were found. It is another Fukushima disaster in the waiting, much as was the BP Gulf Oil Spill.
(NEW) I want to thank you for insisting there are safety measures in place before any thought of reopening San Onofre power plant can take place. living well within the 50 mile limit, i am disturbed by the alarming reports of bad construction and possible future dangers coming from the plant. i would love it to be closed forever. After Fukishima, i would think it's obvious that nuclear power is no longer a viable option for energy. it is anything but clean. Please consider doing away with nuclear power plants in the state of California. We can not afford it.
Gerry, Laguna Woods
(NEW) We can't use Nuclear power or coal or hydro and the green energy doesn't work!!!! Were are we going to get the power from to keep our country going??????????? Regards,
Jerry, San Clemente
It is critical that there be the maximum levels of oversight by the NRC to thwart the disasters we have already witnessed at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and most recently, in Fukushima. Ultimately, for the future of the planet steps need to be taken to eventually take out nuclear reactors and new and safe means of providing energy be developed. We can do it, and we should be! Thanks for your efforts in attempting to protect the lives of Americans now living with this gigantic threat. Sincerely,
The NRC has a history of rubber stamping nuclear plant development and has a despicable record regarding the safety of the two Nuclear plants in California. The San Onofre plant upgrade and historical safety record was horrible. Personally, I see absolutely no reason to continue Nuclear power anywhere in the world as the safety records are abysmal.
William, Manhattan Beach
I remain very concerned about public safety relative to San Onofre and the unstable, deadly conditions at Fukushima. There is no way to discuss these matters with the public in general because no one wants to talk about the potential dire consequences that may arise due to lax oversight of this critically important resource, both here and internationally. I generally feel helpless and hopeless about the situation we are in. Perhaps you can make a difference. I truly hope so.
Janice, San Diego
Your diligence regarding environmental matters is very much appreciated. It occurs to me that since safety truly should be the watchword of the NRC, a sometime nuclear engineer and congressional aide, such as Kristine L. Svinicki, should be replaced by a medical specialist who has treated radiation poisoning or leukemia. It is my impression that Dr. Allison Macfarlane is a sound nominee to chair the NRC..
First, thank you for ordering the General Accounting Office study on safety issues at San Onofre nuclear reactor. I would request that another GAO study be ordered relating to the economic costs of continued operation of the reactor. I believe that a close look at the issue will confirm the understanding that continued operation of San Onofre is not only dangerous, but wastefully costly. I fear it is bleeding funds away from spending on alternative energy and conservation efforts that could safely and efficiently meet, according to CalISO, any system shortfalls caused by shutting down the nuclear facility. I hope you will have GAO investigate this important issue for the people of California.
Don, San Francisco
Thank you for the important work you are doing in service of the people of California and of the U.S.A. I am encouraged by your efforts and will continue to support you in any way that I am able to do so. As a resident of southern Orange County, living within 23 miles of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. I have great concerns for the safety and well being of my family, neighbors and local residents. It is extremely important to those of us who live here that the operators of San Onofre and all other nuclear power plants are not only monitored closely with regard to the public safety, but the most important component is a strict oversight and enforcement policy by the government on behalf of the people. Individual citizens do not have the resources nor the training to monitor, much less enforce the regulations and laws governing these plants. I have been greatly disappointed by the lack of action taken by the Congress regarding nuclear safety, and many other critical issues facing the United States today. I am registered as a republican, consider myself and independent and will vote democratic for the foreseeable future. Please continue to represent the citizens of the United States as you have during your years of service. Your work is appreciated and you have my support. Sincerely,
Roger, Mission Viejo
i have lived and worked, and raised my family within 6 miles of the san onofre NGS for about 30 years. i do not consider myself an alarmist, but i have been made aware of the lack of oversight and tangible federal regulation of the nuclear industry here in california. the fact that the energy industry has had the audacity so say that a disaster similar to fukushima "...could not happen here..." illustrates how little respect they have for the responsibility they must accept. the NRC must act as the industry's conscience, because it has none of its own. "nature always bats last"
Joel, Capistrano Beach
As a resident of San Clemente I was for many years very much for Nulcear Power and for San Onofre. Once Fukushima suffered the tsunami disaster I of course began to wonder if San Onofre' s design and site could possibly have some of the same risks. At that time there began to be more objections raised - even then I thought the objections were "excessive" and represented an un-reasonalbe "panic" - Starting with that mind set I decided to find out as much as I could about the risk that San Onofre poses. First, I read up on Fukushima and found that the Reactors at Fukushima in fact had apparently survived the earthquake itself but once the tsunami hit it made all the pumps, back-up generators and most electrical controls in-operable. I also found that San Onofre is of similar age and design and also has some of the same type expended fuel rod storage (immersed in a pool of water) plus some dry cask storage as well. At high tide the "tsunami wall" at San Onofre is just 14 feet above the water level - I do not believe anyone can say that an earthquake near 9 on the Rickter Scale is impossible - it may be unlikely but I do not believe it is impossible. I also do not believe anyone knows with certainty that So Cal can not have a tsunami and further it would seem prudent to have a wall more like 30 feet if not 50 feet above high tide. After Fukushima it finally came out that any Nuclear plant will melt down if it looses all power for 24 hours - this fact was withheld form the public from the time San Onofre was built until the Fukushima incident - not exactly a transparent presentation by the Nuclear Industry. I am told that San Onofre's back-up generators are on higher ground than those at Fukushima which is good but the pumps for the cooling are lower and almost certain to be flooded should a tsunami breach the current wall. Recently there was a fire in some of the control wiring at San Onofre - it then came out that the wiring used was a less expensive wire which does not have the level of fire resistance originally specified - Originally, I am told that a special watch team was to be in place to monitor the wiring I do not think this presently in place. In any event, the wiring is not as fireproof as the original planning called for and that situation along with all the other problems like the steam generator tubes add up to a disaster waiting to happen. I have come to believe that San Onofre should not restart - the risk of sickness and death to literally millions of people and the loss of use of about one fifth of California is really a bad bet with potential loss of use for an indeterminate time. The loss of generating power could now be covered by using gas fired generators - a possibly more economically. To permanently shut San Onofre down it will take real leadership and the "guts" to go against some well financed organizations but I believe that more and more people are realizing that we all have much more to lose with San Onofre in operation - while if it is shut down we only loose its generating capacity.
Richard, San Clemente
PLEASE do everything in your power to establish the strictest standards possible for insuring that if nuclear power plants cannot prove their safety, they will not be allowed to operate.
Dear Senator, thank you for sending the report of your hearings in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee concerning the nomination of Dr. Allison Macfarlane as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the re-nomination of Kristine Svinicki to the NRC. I read your statement to the Committee, and appreciate your concerns. In my opinion, while in the short term it is vital to maximize safety at nuclear power plants, in the long term it would be wise to end our reliance on nuclear power. Although nuclear power is called "clean," even under the best of conditions the nuclear waste is hazardous, perilous to deal with, and anything but "clean." We do have a fine thermonuclear reactor 93 million miles away: the Sun. While there are always environmental problems connected with electric power production and transmission, the hazards can be far more easily dealt with than those associated with nuclear power plants. I believe that the private insurance industry will not insure nuclear plants, and that taxpayers must therefore provide the insurance -- this does not speak well for the safety of this power source.
Julie, Menlo Park