Late last month a radiation leak was discovered at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in San Diego County, California. It was found that radiation was leaking out of a faulty hose and into the ocean, exposing thousands of surfers and beach-goers at one of the Earth’s most well-known surf spots. The reactor in question was closed and subjected to an investigation that later revealed unsafe damage to tubing throughout the nuclear site, thus prompting the shutdown of the other reactor two days later. More than a month later, the reactors remain closed and new information about the safety of the plant, its proximity to a massive, active fault line, and concerns from SONGS workers about emergency plans have been popping up. However, despite concerted efforts by local environmentalists pushing for the permanent shutdown of the plant, the surf community seems unfazed by the threats.

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Gary Headrick is the head of San Clemente Green (a group trying to petition for a shutdown of SONGS) and told Surfer Mag about his organization’s efforts to get the word out about the reality inside SONGS. It turns out the plant only monitors radiation levels within its own boundaries, not in nearby waters, so leaks could have been going unnoticed for years. According to a reactor operator, James Chambers, who worked there for years, SONGS has a category 4 safety rating from the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations — 4 is the least safe rating on the 1-4 scale that the agency uses. In addition to all of this, the reactor was built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake, but the reactor sits just miles away from the Newport-Inglewood Fault — a line which experts say is capable of a magnitude 7.4 earthquake. In addition to these glaring safety issues, it was reported last year by employees of SONGS that they were afraid to raise questions about the plant’s safety due to “fear of retaliation”.

If nuclear fallout similar to what happened at Fukushima Daiichi last year were to occur at SONGS, 8.4 million people who live in a 50-mile radius of the plant would need to be evacuated. In addition a Chernobyl-like nuclear dead zone would be created within 12 miles surrounding the plant, essentially making the best surf spots in southern California off-limits.

“We keep running into problems with surfing organizations that are reluctant to stand with us on this issue. I don’t understand it,” said Headrick. “They put so much energy into keeping plastic bags banned, and here we have this nuclear threat everyone seems to want to ignore.”

Headrick also points out that the nuclear power plant is inefficient when in working condition, and that the State of California has a surplus of energy. In fact, the shutdown of SONGS has had absolutely no effect on rates for power in California, and thus it would seem that in its unsafe condition, it would be better just to close it.

Via Surfer Mag

Photos by Exquisitur,>Digitized Chaos and Angst Dei on Flickr