San Onofre Siren Test Renews Nuclear Debate

Protesters want the San Onfore Nuclear plant permanently shut down.

On paper it's a worst case scenario. First, an equipment failure, then a radioactive leak, and finally a notice to evacuate. Some version of this exercise gets played out at San Onofre five times each year.

Southern California Edison said the drills take place even when San Onofre is off line, which has been the case since January, while engineers figure out why tubes inside two steam generators are wearing out.

"We have not seen this kind of degradation in new steam generators before and that is a concern for the agency," said Victor Dricks of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Gene Stone lives in San Clemente. He questions whether the facility should ever be allowed to power up again. He is part of a group that wants the plant to be decommissioned. That means it would be shut down forever.

Stone doesn't feel safe even with the plant shut down.

"The process of cooling still has to go on and while we’re some percentage safer an accident could happen at any time," Stone said.

According to Edison, the nuclear plant provides power to 1.4 million homes. Those customers are now getting electricity from other gas power plants, which should be able to keep the lights on unless demand goes up.

"We are planning for those contingencies," said Edison's Jennifer Manfreiso. The company is also encouraging customers to think about conservation, regardless of what happens at San Onfofre.

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