In early October, the Califoria Coastal Commission voted on a plan to bury 75 nuclear fuel assembly canisters under bluffs 125 from the ocean in San Onofre.
These canisters contain radioactive rods that once stored uranium dioxide fuel mined from natural uranium sites. A staff report from the commission explains that this exhausted fuel rod “is considered high-level radioactive waste and must be stored securely for tens of thousands of years”. The Commision voted for the plan to span until 2035, and after that, the company who owns this waste, Southern California Edison, will have to find another place for their nuclear waste to be stored. Finding a place for our nuclear by-products and excess is not easy nor is it sustainable. Nuclear waste will outlive most humans on this Earth today, and because of this slow decomposition rate, most methods of storing the waste are temporary solutions until something better is discovered.
However challenging and complex storing nuclear waste may be, depositing it dangerously close to the Pacific is not a stable temporary solution. The shore will erode and one day down the road the sea level will rise high enough to touch those radioactive cannisters stored in the sand. What will SCE do then? Will they find a better solution before that happens? Will the Commission allow this waste to stay forever? The nuclear reactors of San Onofre are already close to the ocean.
(Surfers at San Onofre. Power plants visible in background )
By 2035 the shoreline could erode 29 feet, according to Commission staff estimates.
In 20 years 23% of the space between the ocean and that nuclear waste will disappear.
What will happen in 50?
The unpredictability and uncertainty that comes with nucelar waste storage are just two frustrating components of this global energy source. It’s hard to get angry about the terror being proposed and committed to this Earth when it is presented as the only solution to a manmade problem. There is no where for this nuclear waste to go once it is ripped out of the ground and converted into something we can consume. I should, as a consumer, feel some peace in the fact that this waste will be out of sight and seemingly incapable of harming my environment. But I, as an aware environmental activist, feel no peace in the radiactive toxicity being buried in the same sand I’ve dug for sand crabs in.
I only feel sadness for the land being poisoned and the surrounding organisms that will suffer . I also fear for the day when that poison spreads to the ocean and all it’s creatures. I fear for the ecosystem of San Onofre and all other areas where certain members of society vote okay on disposing our nuclear waste.
I used to listen to the same Counting Crows song whenever I left the beach because I liked to be symbolic like that when I was a little kid. The song goes:
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got til it’s gone. They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”
(San Onofre, CA)
It might not seem like we are destroying the ocean and the surrounding climate, but we are, slowly and deliberately, building a parking lot of toxic and harmful human waste over a beautiful natural paradise.