San Onofre Nightmare Generating Station

10 reasons we should say so long to SONGS

If $10 billion sounds like a lot of money, consider this: the estimated cost of a nuclear accident, according to 1982 estimates, would be as high as $590 billion per reactor. "The proposed law says contractors are not liable for one extra cent of any damages they cause, even if they are found to be negligent in the accident," said Diane D'Arrigo, radioactive-waste project director at the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

8. Nuclear power is a rip-off. When all its reactors are up and running, SONGS produces only about 20 percent of SCE's energy, but every penny of SONGS' $4.3 billion construction cost has been paid for by California taxpayers, thanks to a unique deal with the California Public Utilities Commission. But that's only half the story: the public is also paying every cent of the cost of "decommissioning" the plants, which basically involves classifying each part of the reactor by radioactivity, breaking up the plant into pieces, and burying them on some Indian reservation. SCE has already started taking apart SONGS' Unit 1 reactor, but it won't be finished until 2008, and remember, there are still two more reactors to go. Because there's still no place to safely bury all this waste—see No. 3 above—the cost of decommissioning is still unknown but definitely measurable in the billions of dollars. 9. Although SONGS was designed to be operated safely for just 20 to 30 years, SCE has already extended its license to operate the plant until 2022. As the concrete-lined reactor walls get older, their ability to contain the pressure involved in containing a nuclear accident gets weaker. Think of the aging passenger jet that lost its roof 24,000 feet over Hawaii a few years back. "When the chain reaction that creates nuclear energy takes place, it embrittles the containment vessel," said PSR's Parfrey. "Then, if you ever have to cool the rods in an emergency, you will have a structure that will not be able to contain the pressure." 10. Even without the threat of terrorism, the damn thing is just too dangerous. San Onofre's environmental-impact report estimates that if a major release of radiation occurs at SONGS, here's what we can expect: 130,000 immediate fatalities, 300,000 latent cancers and 600,000 genetic effects passed on to Southern California residents and their children. Have a nice day!
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