The Inertia

Environmental issues can be a sensitive subject these days. Sometimes, though, there are just certain bad ideas throughout history that we knew were short-sighted and awful for the environment and our health. For example, putting lead in gasoline or using billions of tons of disposable plastics were things we knew were bad, yet we went ahead with them regardless. Only with hindsight do we realize the consequences of our actions, try to change our ways, and roll back our mistakes. We should consider ourselves lucky if we do get the chance to fix the damage we cause.

But what if we did something that was not reversible? What if we were stupid enough to do something where the consequences could be so devastating that there would be no second chance to change things? Can you imagine a decision so short-sighted that it would risk the lives of millions and the complete annihilation of densely populated communities and natural habitats spanning at least three counties?

Well, imagine no more because Southern California Edison is currently moving and storing their nuclear waste under the beach at one of the world’s most iconic surfing destinations, San Onofre. Yes, you heard that right. Spent nuclear waste is being transported and stored under a busy and popular beach.

Trying to research and find reliable information on this process is extremely difficult. A quick Google search will give you some fleeting articles and a paid for search result at the top of the page by So Cal Edison themselves. From what I have learned, for the past few decades, So Cal Edison couldn’t come up with a feasible plan to dispose of or store the nuclear waste from the now decommissioned nuclear power plant at San Onofre. They made approaches to other states to house the hazardous material, but quite understandably those states refused. Out of options, So Cal Edison made a risky and ridiculous decision to bury the hazardous waste 100 yards from shore at San Onofre State Beach.

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To do this, they purchased some stainless steel canisters that have a 20-year life span. These canisters are then housed in concrete caskets underground. Their hope is to find a permanent storage solution before the expiration of the canisters in 20-years’ time. So far, at least four canisters have been buried at San Onofre. Just before burying the fifth, Edison officials found a loose bolt on a malfunctioning canister and have since halted operations. This is just another example of today’s societal value systems at work. Systems that put profit and status over anything else, including our safety and the environment. Will it take a Fukushima-like disaster to help us learn our lesson? That outcome is becoming more and more likely and that is not an alarmist view, it is a realistic one. Fukushima was a coastal nuclear plant that lay on or near fault lines in an active seismic zone. San Onofre is a coastal nuclear plant that lies on or near fault lines an active seismic zone, albeit decommissioned.

The need to spread awareness of this issue is imperative. Almost all the information I have found on this issue has come from surfing related sources such as the Surfrider Foundation or podcasts, and that is unacceptable. An issue like this has potentially devastating consequences to us all, not just surfers. Due to the fact that So Cal Edison clearly didn’t have a plan in place and that Southern California is situated on active fault lines, it’s not just iconic surf spots and beaches at risk. It’s the whole region. We are all at risk and we should all have a say in this issue, not just surfers. So, what can we do?

A long-term goal would be a federal area for nuclear waste far from iconic places of natural beauty or populated areas. However, that could be decades away. What about short-term goals? First, we need to share the information we have. Go ahead and ask your friends about this issue, you will be surprised at how many are unaware. So lets spread the news far and wide and here is how we can do that:

Andrea Coleman photo and San O Surf Co have organized an effort to help fight the storage of toxic waste on our beaches. A simple purchase of a one of a kind T-Shirt designed by Southern California artist Sam Bernal. The design will only be made available for the purpose of raising awareness and fighting this toxic dump. 100 percent of all profit generated from the sale of the T-shirt will go toward purchasing the front page of one of the three major newspapers in Southern California: The LA Times, OC Register or The San Diego Union Tribune. The goal being that accomplishing this will force the influential mainstream media to finally bring what is occurring on our coastline to the millions of residents whose lives will be affected. TV media such as Fox News, KTLA, NBC and CBS will no longer be able to ignore this issue.

We are already halfway to our goal so don’t let Lowers, Trestles, San O, Malibu, and everything in between be just a picture in the history books. As a surf community, we can come together to fight this. If you love surfing Uppers, Churches or logging Four Doors or simply enjoy the ocean and all it has to offer, please help support this effort and spread the word.

You can learn more here.