When I recently read that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is arguing for leaving the nuclear waste on site at San Onofre for, potentially, three hundred years, I was disgusted.
I wasn’t shocked, because Einstein had prepared me well: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
The idea that we might leave loads of nuclear waste in an earthquake zone surrounded by some ten million people does, in fact, test the limits of human stupidity. Is it really possible that the kind of scientific thinkers who created the power plant in the first place could have painted us into such a corner? If so, it could well go down as one of the most monumental and horrifying screw-ups in the history of humankind.
The NRC’s Victor Dricks says there’s just no other place to ship the nuclear waste to, so it must remain in place. If that’s true, it is a pitiful excuse for both logic and leadership. Had no one thought this problem through all the way? Is that really possible? Again, this suggests deeply embarrassing things about the great minds of our society, perhaps even our society as a whole. Are we really that stupid?
And no, leaving the nuclear waste in crowded Southern California is not just as good as leaving it somewhere else, such as a desert in Nevada. If nuclear waste were to leak in the desert, far from population centers, it would be very unfortunate indeed. But it would be surmountable. On the other hand, a Fukushima type of accident here in So Cal could cost millions of lives, the destruction of food sources, the destruction of cultural and economic resources the likes of which the world has never seen.
An accident at that particular location, near both San Diego and Los Angeles, would have economic impacts that would last generations. Such economic impacts would dwarf those of the Great Recession, the Great Depression, for that matter, as real estate values in Southern California would fall, permanently. A major accident at San Onofre would likely end California as we know it. Can we really take such chances?
No, I refuse to accept Mr. Dricks’ evaluation of the situation — that the nuclear waste must remain on site for three hundred years. And I hope others will also refuse to accept it. Let’s pay whatever it takes and get those materials away from this population center. If we don’t, our children and their children’s children will never have real security.
Darius Degher is a Leucadia resident.