Prescription for Disaster

If San Onofre is so safe, why are federal officials pushing anti-radiation pills on its neighbors?

"That's what Three Mile Island was," says Golden as he points at the chart.

Whatever the chances of such an event occuring at San Onofre, not even the simulator's $30 million computer can predict what will actually leak from the plant if an accident occurs. Nor when, if ever, radioactive iodine-as opposed to any of dozens of other radioactive gases that swirl inside the plant's two reactors-would actually be released into the atmosphere. And then there's the ominous sign that greets visitors to SONGS: "Safety Through Continuous Observation."

Meanwhile, federal officials say the only known drug that has any medical value during a radioactive leak is KI. But local officials insist that evacuation is the only appropriate response to what they like to call an "event." But an evacuation, as anyone familiar with Orange County's sluggish freeways will attest, could be sheer lunacy-except, perhaps, if the "event" were to occur on a Sunday at 11 p.m. with the toxic cloud moving slowly south and west over the Pacific Ocean.

Which leaves San Onofre's neighbors exactly where they were before the debate over KI started in earnest a year ago-some 3 million people who live and work and sleep in the shadow of a nuclear plant whose officials say is safe but also admit that all bets are off when, suddenly, it isn't.

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