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Letter to the Editor: SAN ONOFRE NUCLEAR WASTE

Editor, Times-Advocate:

I am a nuclear engineer by degree, a retired VP from a large engineering and construction company based in San Francisco, and have been a registered nuclear engineer in California, a member of the American Nuclear Society, the American Society of Military Engineers, the Project Management Institute, and a nuclear speakers bureau in San Francisco. I still make presentations at local Rotary clubs and women’s groups.

As a retired professional with over 40 years experience in the nuclear industry, I can assure you that storing the partially used nuclear fuel (often labeled nuclear waste) at San Onofre represents a minimal, and certainly acceptable, level of risk to anyone living in Escondido or North County. While there are citizens with understandable concerns, they should be aware that many of those concerns and emotions are not supported by data and often fueled by hard core anti-nuclear groups and/or by attorneys with ulterior motives.

As a former project manager for the design and construction of the proposed Nuclear Waste Repository at YUCCA Mountain in Nevada, I do believe it would be preferable to consolidate this “waste” at one US site. Unfortunately, after nearly 20 years of effort, work on this site was suspended in 2008 for political reasons after an application for construction had been submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There is currently an effort in the US Congress to restart this effort and I encourage everyone to support this initiative.

Why do I claim temporarily storing on site is acceptable? Consider the following:

* The US nuclear power industry may possibly be the most regulated industry in the world. Thus, there has never been a fatality during the more than 60 years of operation of nuclear power plants and their associated waste handling in the US (there are currently 99 in operation producing about 60% of our carbon free electricity).

* The worst nuclear power plant accident in the US resulted in the general public living nearby receiving about the same radiation exposure received by a set of dental X-rays.

* Aged nuclear waste from power plants needs a motive force to disperse the radioactivity, a force that doesn’t exist in partially buried dry storage containers.

* Even the California Coastal Commission and the Obama administration concluded that this storage is safe!

* Exposure to radiation is impossible to avoid. Our earth, buildings, air, food and even our bodies contain unstable radioactive elements–the same as found in nuclear waste. In fact, astrophysicists believe we are made from debris (Carl Sagan called in star dust) that was created from nuclear explosions (supernovas) that occur when old stars implode.

* Without various forms of radiation, life on earth as we know it would not be possible. (The sun is countless thermonuclear explosions per second).

So, I encourage concerned citizens to not worry or loose sleep over temporarily storing this waste at San Onofre.

LARRY TRAUTNER, Escondido

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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