Can CA Set the Standard for Nuclear Waste Storage?

Donna Gilmore, founder of, addresses the Environmental Caucus of California’s Democratic Party about making California a leader in responsible, “best-available-technology” radioactive waste management.

One Woman Thinks So

When Donna Gilmore retired from the stresses of managing critical IT systems in California state government, she chose an upscale seaside town with a year-round perfect climate and bought a home with a perfect view of San Clemente’s sweeping ocean vistas, Dana Point Harbor and Santa Catalina Island.

The city chosen by Richard Nixon as the location for his ‘Western White House,’ San Clemente is a famous tourist mecca and undeniably a city of many charms.

It also happens to border Camp Pendleton, a major strategic US Marine and Navy base.

Oh, and by the way, it’s a close next door neighbor to Southern California Edison’s San Onofre nuclear power plant.

“I thought I’d found the perfect retirement location,” Gilmore says. “And then I found out about the problems at San Onofre.”

Long-story-short –
• SCE ordered a set of new steam generators for its two nuclear reactors from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
• The new, huge, souped-up, close to a billion dollar redesigned steam generators were significantly different from those they were replacing. Edison described them to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as ‘like-for-like,’ so as to avoid having to go through the relicensing review required by law.
• Edison and Mitsubishi executives exchanged now-revealed letters which show they knew at the time of the risks posed by installing the new steam generators.
• The steam generators were installed anyway.
• One leaked radiation within a year and all four showed decades of premature wear in less than two years – the worst record in the nation. This ultimately led to SCE’s June 7th, 2013 decision to permanently shut down and decommission San Onofre’s two reactors.
• Gilmore became increasingly involved in the ultimately successful grassroots campaign which led to the historic San Onofre shutdown, which was spearheaded by San Clemente Green local activists and by Friends of the Earth (FOE) at the national level.

San Onofre nuclear plant – now shutdown, but still a storage site for tons of radioactive waste in an earthquake and tsunami zone, in a heavily populated urban area along a major CA highway. Who should pay for executives’ mistakes? Is this a preview of what will happen when Diablo is shut down?

Inconvenient Data
In the process, Donna drew on her IT and data research skills to found the now exhaustive web information resource Then, as the euphoria of victory began to fade, another inconvenient truth begin to dawn: over 1600 metric tons of highly radioactive so-called ‘spent fuel’ from the plant’s years of operation had accumulated on-site, and is slated to be stored there for the foreseeable future – in an active earthquake and potential tsunami zone between the major population centers of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties – because, with no Federal radioactive waste repository or interim storage sites yet established, it has nowhere else to go.

OK. As a retired state agency manager, Gilmore assumes that those in charge will naturally be planning to employ the safest, most robust, best technology available to store highly radioactive materials, known to be deadly for millions of years, in the highly corrosive seaside environment of San Onofre. No expense should be too great to protect the population, the residential and industrial environments, the nationally and globally vital agricultural growing regions of Southern California, and the economic stability of the 5th largest economy in the world.



The ‘San Onofre Syndrome’ – Will it Spread?
Gilmore’s investigative research – shaped by years of critical systems analysis and management experience, and a commitment to the citing of reputable sources for every assertion of fact – shows that, far from rising to the challenge and opportunity of choosing the best available international radwaste storage technology, SCE and NRC officials are so far opting for inferior technology.

Will California’s scandal-plagued Public Utilities Commission step into the breach and refuse funding to inadequate and financially risky radwaste storage technologies?

Diablo is Next
And what about Diablo Canyon – on the coast between Santa Barbara and San Francisco – now California’s ‘last commercial nuke standing?’

Operated by PG&E, a company now under Federal and state investigations and felony indictments for criminal mismanagement of its gas facilities, Diablo Canyon should be shut down for multiple NRC seismic and fire safety violations as well as non-compliance with California’s ‘Once-through-Cooling’ law. Its on-site accumulation of tons of radioactive waste will also have to be stored into the indefinite future in a tsunami zone over 13 active, intersecting earthquake faults.

In exposing the inadequacy of current utility and regulatory approaches to radwaste storage, Gilmore has also pointed the way to “best technology available” alternatives and standards.

California Could Lead
If adopted by California, the strategies Gilmore is advocating could help set the national standards for responsible on-site management of radioactive waste that will be left behind by the world’s obsolete nuclear energy industry, which now shows signs of being in terminal decline from an overdose of inexorable ‘market forces.’

Video Clips:
Gilmore at the Malibu Democratic Club

Gilmore at the Coastal Commission in Santa Barbara

Gilmore at the CA Democratic Convention

To find out more:

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