MOVE NUCLEAR WASTE OFF BEACH TO HIGHER GROUND: Oppose Sending to Low-Income Communities

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Taylor Altenbern
Taylor Altenbern signed this petition

3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive waste from the San Onofre Nuclear Plant near San Diego are being stored a mere 100 feet from the ocean.  

Sign the petition to urge California’s Senators and local Congressmembers to:

1. Work to move San Onofre’s waste to a less vulnerable location on Camp Pendleton, further inland and at a higher elevation, in a robust, atmospherically controlled building where it would be away from the ocean and more easily protected.  

2. Oppose any efforts to dump San Onofre’s waste at proposed “Consolidated Interim Storage” sites located in minority/low-income communities in Texas and New Mexico, or to restart the unsafe Yucca Mountain project in Nevada. This plan violates the principles of environmental justice.

3. Push for a scientifically rigorous process to identify environmentally appropriate location(s) and design(s) for one or more permanent national repositories that can protect thousands of future generations from these extremely dangerous and long-lived materials.

4. Oppose plans to build any new nuclear plants nationally so as to cease production of any more radioactive waste.

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, located near San Diego, closed prematurely after its steam generators failed. Now, the plan is to store, for decades, the plant’s 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste 100 feet from the ocean and only a few feet above the groundwater table.

This raises serious concerns for public health and the environment. With sea level rise, the potential for water inundation is significant. The open location is also vulnerable to terrorist attack. Therefore, it is crucial that the nuclear waste be locally relocated higher up on Camp Pendleton to a defensible site away from the water, such as the “Mesa.” This location, on land already leased by Southern California Edison, would be an improvement over the current location on the beach—it is further inland, on a higher elevation, and away from the popular surf spot which community members often frequent.

Crucially, the “Mesa” is still situated in the community that benefited from the energy produced by the nuclear plant. The Trump Administration and some legislators are, however, pushing to ship waste from San Onofre and other reactors to temporary “Consolidated Interim Sites” that would be situated in low-income, minority communities in Texas or New Mexico, and would be managed by private companies. This plan violates the principles of environmental justice and would continue of the history of environmental racism in the United States. Additionally, this would require having to move the nuclear waste twice—first to the “interim” sites and then to a permanent site if and when it opened. These shipments through populated areas pose substantial risk of accident or terrorist attack. We need to resist this proposed environmental injustice and prevent nuclear waste being dumped on these communities that do not want it and did not benefit from it, while also ensuring its interim local location is the least dangerous possible while a suitable permanent national repository is established.

Years ago, Congress passed legislation to study only one possible location for a national permanent waste repository, Yucca Mountain in Nevada.  However, scientific studies soon found it to have fatal geological issues that would prevent it from being suitable to safely contain nuclear waste for the long periods of time it remains dangerous, and thus the plan was sensibly abandoned. The Trump administration, however, now wants to force Yucca to go forward, despite these threats to public health and safety.

A scientifically rigorous process needs to be undertaken to identify the best candidate sites for one or more permanent repositories that can keep the intense radioactivity out of the environment for the immense periods of time for which it is dangerous. In the meantime, San Onofre’s waste should be moved away from the ocean to a higher, more protectible location nearby, while efforts to merely dump it on minority communities in Texas or New Mexico or to force open Yucca Mountain should be opposed.

Sign the petition to refuse this pattern of environmental injustice.