Ace Hoffman Is Tilting at 'Nofre

The anti-nuke activist has spent years fighting the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Now, the impossible is on his horizon: its permanent shutdown

As I listen to Hoffman's surprisingly calm and measured responses, I keep waiting for the passionate flamethrower who sends those lit-up emails and posts those angry anti-nuker denunciations. But I'm not seeing or hearing any bold bitterness, harsh outbursts or rage against the nuke machine. Instead, here's a polite guy with a good sense of humor and an engineer's composed, analytical air. In conversation, Hoffman uses logic to examine a situation; he seems to appreciate and respect any displays of intelligence in his adversaries. He comes across as an ordinary man who just wants to help solve one of the planet's biggest problems.

Hoffman's demeanor is testing my Don Quixote comparison—no trace in this guy of the gaunt, slightly mad ascetic set on bringing order to a tumultuous world. I ask him what he thinks of the Don Quixote analogy.

He laughs. "Well, nuclear power plants aren't an imaginary enemy, but even so, the lance would be a laser and the horse a mountain bike. Other than that . . ." He trails off, smiling.

The old man and the sea
Brendan Klein
The old man and the sea
Ace Hoffman at rest
Brendan Klein
Ace Hoffman at rest

I pitched this story as an interview with Ace Hoffman, reigning champion of the fight against San Onofre, I tell him. Does he agree?

He laughs. "Reigning champion . . . champion of what? It's the team that is a hundred times more powerful than I ever was by myself, but besides that, we haven't actually won anything, so I'm the champion of nothing!"

I received no response from SCE's media department to my phone calls and email messages seeking comment about Hoffman and his SONGS-related activities. So I ask Hoffman instead: What do the folks at Edison think of you?

Another broad grin. "They say, 'We love you, Ace!'"

[1] Ace Hoffman changed his legal name several years ago, after the author already knew him. A correction was made to this story on Feb. 21, 2013.

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