What do you do when a newspaper runs a front-page article featuring the comments of big business and regulatory entities that contradict or denigrate what you know to be true? And when the article’s subhead takes the opposition’s stand?
You write a Letter to the Editor!
So that’s what I did when three days ago the Orange County Register ran such an article.
The Newspaper Article—Fair Or Not?
That article concerned a court filing by Southern California Edison, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the manufacturer of the nuclear waste canisters now being used at nuclear plants all over the country. They are urging the court to reject a suit seeking to halt nuclear fuel transfers at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
The suit was filed by Public Watchdogs, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization.
“They ask the judge,” the article reported, “to toss the suit for — among other things — being filed in the wrong court four years too late, and for peddling fear rather than facts.”
I don’t know about the choice of court or the timing, but I do know that Public Watchdogs has the facts in their corner—I should say “in our corner,” since it’s our safety Public Watchdogs is watching out for.
The Suit Itself
The most basic fact behind the suit is that the storage containers Edison is loading with high-burnup radioactive fuel are unsafe, due at least in part to a manufacturing flaw that causes every one of them to be gouged as they are lowered into the ground.
Edison has already loaded 33 canisters and lowered them into the ground, inadvertently gouging every one of them from top to bottom, thus setting the scene for cracks to develop.
The Newspaper’s Update
In a move toward journalistic objectiity, the Register updated its article the following day, adding this: “In a response emailed after this story posted, Public Watchdogs’ attorney Chuck La Bella took on Edison and the NRC point-by-point.” And then they listed Bella’s points.
Since the print version of the article was already on the newsstands, La Bella’s response only made it into the online version. So readers of the printed paper won’t be informed of the mere 25-year “warranty” on the cans or the fact that the silos into which they are lowered are “guaranteed to perform their function for a mere 10 years.”
Nor will they read that the “60-year design life” of the cans “does not take into consideration any of the scratches, gouges, or other defects that these canisters have,” or that “there is no viable plan to ever move the buried fuel because – as everyone from the US Congress to the NRC has admitted – there is no storage facility were the waste can be moved. Thus, the undeniable fact is this fuel will be buried right where is it for years to come.”
Still, the Register has a lot of online readers who will have a chance to see the facts that only got reported because La Bella responded with a Letter to the Editor.
Why Trouble Yourself to Speak Out?
The public speaking out is the only reason this case has made it to the hearing stage. The court refused to hear a previous suit on this matter; Public Watchdogs CEO Charles Langley told me that the judge said this is the only reason she agreed to hear this case.
I don’t know yet whether my letter got published or not. If it did, it will inform readers of additional facts supporting Public Watchdogs’ suit.
The court may rule in our favor, or it may rule for Edison and the NRC. If the latter, the battle for a safer San Onofre will continue. It has to—so much is at stake here.
The point is—It is so important that we all take the time to speak out for what’s right. You never know—your Letter to the Editor might be the one that makes the difference.