The Coast News Group
A judge ruled against Del Mar-based nonprofit Samuel Lawrence Foundation in its attemp to halt demolition of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Courtesy photo
A judge ruled against Del Mar-based nonprofit Samuel Lawrence Foundation in its attempt to halt Southern California Edison's demolition of the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Courtesy photo
Community CommentaryOpinion

Commentary: Edison panel should build trust, not stone walls

By Cathy Iwane

Southern California Edison’s ratepayer-funded Community Engagement Panel is a sham. The panel’s brand of public outreach is quick to advance the utility’s agenda but sluggish, if not silent, in responding to tough questions. At this point, panelists have taken to ignoring my questions altogether.

I have attended a dozen of their meetings. The perspective I bring is unique: My family fled Japan after the Fukushima meltdowns. You would think I could get the ear of panelists who purport to be a two-way conduit to manage concerns. But my questions crash right into stone walls, including:

• Please explain how damaged spent nuclear fuel canisters can be repaired with nickel-based paint, as the utility has suggested. What evidence can be shown that this method works?

• The utility discharges radioactive liquid into the ocean and has done so for more than 50 years. The public should be able to pose questions about cumulative radiation exposure — especially to women, children and fetuses — to someone with medical credentials. Why does the Community Engagement Panel not include a physician?

• Can someone explain the references in liquid batch release reports that state monitoring equipment was out of service for more than a month? What was the exposure and risk profile during that period?

• The spent fuel pools at SONGS are approved for demolition. Help us understand what, how and where the utility would repair a spent fuel canister and repackage the waste once the pools are gone.

• Can the utility show proof that it can safely transport a damaged canister?

• Can it show an emergency plan in the event of canister damage caused by an earthquake, terrorism or flooding?

The public deserves answers to these questions. An acceptable answer would sound something like this:

“Dear Mrs. Iwane. Thank you for contacting us. Your questions are important and deserve the benefit of a substantive reply. In cooperation with the utility and its consultants, we will provide that reply with supporting data within 10 days. In addition, we will make all of it available to the public on our website.”

I expect I will need to find my information someplace else.

Instead of building trust, the Community Engagement Panel builds stone walls. Instead of producing good data in response to serious questions, the panel produces slick videos and commentaries that trumpet a trust relationship that simply does not exist.

Cathy Iwane is a member of the Samuel Lawrence Foundation Board of Directors.