San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Seemed like a good idea at the time . . .

There's always been controversy over the wisdom—read: safety—of nuclear power, but when Southern California Edison built the nuclear generating station in 1968, they figured it was mitigating any potential danger by locating the thing in a remote backwater. That's what San Onofre was in 1968; Camp Pendleton was the closest thing to civilization, if that's what you want to call a place where a bunch of young jarheads are terrorized by drill instructors yelling things like "Shut up, fat body!" and "Only steers and queers come from Texas." Sticking a nuclear generating plant in San Onofre seemed like a fair tribute to the genius of a power company named after the guy who invented the light bulb. Now the decision looks dim. Hundreds of thousands of people live within a 10-mile radius of the plant, and all of them face the prospect of having to hurriedly put on their radiation-protection suits in the event of an "event." (The latter "event" is official jargon used by plant officials for "a radioactive emergency.") Oh, wait a minute! Nobody outside of the plant has radiation-protection suits. Not to worry, there's never been a leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station—unless if by "leak" you mean the radioactive groundwater recently discovered beneath the plant. Yeah, except for that. We think.