San Onofre, aka San O, aka Old Man’s, packs a lot of So Cal surf history. Here is where Bob Simmons and Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison streaked across the soft, rolling breakers on redwood boards in the ‘40s. Here is where Doc Paskowitz and wife Juliette and their beautiful brood ran a surf camp for decades, launching the love of thousands of waveriders. Here is where it is not uncommon to find families that span three generations sharing wave together.
But for all its purity of ocean and spirit, San Onofre sits in a precarious place right now, as Environmental Research Associate and Community Organizer Sarah Brady explains—
I am from Encinitas, but grew up surfing at San O. My family has been involved with the San Onofre Surfing Club for three generations—my grandparents took my dad to San O as a kid and he learned how to surf there, then he taught me how to surf there, and a couple of years ago he became the president of the club. I spent a lot of time there growing up, and then I went off to school at UC Santa Cruz, where I did a minor program in Sustainability Studies. Through that program I took a class in Environmental Policy, and my teacher for that class was Daniel Hirsch, an Environmental Policy Expert whose area of expertise is in Nuclear Policy and Toxic Waste Sites. He also runs a nuclear safety research organization called Committee to Bridge the Gap that works on holding polluters accountable for a number of contained nuclear sites in California. Hirsch protested the building of units 2 and 3 at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) back in the day, and he also played a really big role in the shutdown of SONGS in 2012, which happened after the plant experienced a leak.
I learned about San Onofre in his class because he allowed us to use the class projects and assignments to research toxic waste issues in our hometowns. Through that class I started to learn more about the history of SONGS and the current issues the plant is facing. I learned about the storage of the plant’s waste onsite, and how they were building a new storage containment (now half-loaded) right next to the water’s edge, and how they had no legitimate plan to remove the waste because there’s no national repository (final resting place) for nuclear waste in this country. I was just like, ‘Wow, that’s ridiculous, they’re putting it 100 feet from the ocean! Come on, can’t we do better!’ I was just so in shock about it.
So I reached out to Daniel Hirsch asking for his guidance and how I could go about contributing in a way that would be meaningful. And he eventually hired me to do community organizing and environmental research on the issue, and then I ended up transferring to UC San Diego for my final year, so it worked out perfectly because I am able to be here on the ground spearheading this project for Committee to Bridge the Gap. We’re in the middle of an in-depth report right now all about the issues at San Onofre, including the history, current nuclear waste storage issues onsite, how it’s connected to the national nuclear waste problem—and what the possible alternatives are to the current situation. So that’s what I do, that’s how I got involved. I’m just started my senior year at UCSD but I spend quite a bit of time working on the San Onofre project because I’m really passionate about it.
In order to make change on this issue, we have to tell our elected officials that nuclear waste solutions need to be a legislative priority—that they need to work at a federal level to establish a national repository, and they also need to work at a state and local level to find a better short-term storage solution for San Onofre’s nuclear waste. It’s in the opinion of much of the non-profit community working on the issue, and also in the opinion of the former chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Obama Administration, that our only option for safe short-term storage of San Onofre’s nuclear waste is moving it a little east in Camp Pendleton to a site called The Mesa—where they could build a proper building that is away from the ocean and not going to be affected by sea level rise—while we wait for a national repository to be built.
The easiest thing that anyone in California can do about this issue is send an email or make a call to our senators. I made a link that makes it easy to send a pre-drafted message (that you can edit how you like) here. We released that link as the official Call to Action at the recent Songs for SONGS event at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, and we have a little over 900 messages sent so far thanks to that, but I know we can get even more! I also created a social media kit to make it really easy for anyone to post about the Call to Action on their Instagram or Facebook.
Call your Senators—
Diane Feinstein: (619) 231-9712
Kamala Harris: (619) 239-3884
If you want to learn more click here—