Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week, for San Onofre, and the summer energy needs ahead: "Can't Smile Without You"

David McNew/Getty Images

Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California.

A little over a week ago, steam generator tubes failed during a test at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Since then Edison has been testing about 1% of its 19,000-plus tubes on site. And it would seem that could take a while, based on tweets from Edison's community outreach like this: 

This week, Southern California and the California Independent System Operator began to grapple with what a shutdown at San Onofre could mean to summer energy needs. The ISO, at a meeting this week, discussed contingencies for that circumstance. System operators could consider speeding up Sunrise Powerlink and the Barre Ellis transmission projects. They could keep a power plant on its way to extinction in Huntington Beach open a little longer. They could step up calls for public conservation, and public agencies and the military could impose mandatory restrictions. 


Song of the Week: "Great Atomic Power," for San Onofre

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David McNew/Getty Images

Are you, are you ready, for that great atomic power?

Clearly the song of the week is for the ammonia spill at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. But picking a song that gestures at risk assessment and nuclear power is harder than you might think.

Nuclear power tends to be referenced in protest songs, and protest songs tend to suck. David Hajdu, the music critic for The New Republic, blogged about nuclear songs, songs about war and nuclear power, after Fukushima. For his favorite he picked Gil Scott-Heron (which, I like me some Gil Scott-Heron, but there's a terrible about 2 minutes you have to get through on the youtube video appended to Hajdu's blog where you wonder when you got onto the S.S. No-nuke's cruise ship lounge). 

I like the Louvin Brothers' classic, "Great Atomic Power." I got introduced to it by Uncle Tupelo in the nineties. Remember when Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar were in the same band? No, nobody does, but it happened.


No nuclear leak at San Onofre isn't necessarily no problem

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David McNew/Getty Images

Steam rises between reactors 2 and 3 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Clemente, Calif.

Authorities say there is an ammonia leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California, and San Diego County's emergency operations center has been activated.

Officials quickly said the ammonia leak posed no threat to the public, and stressed that no radiation has leaked. An alert, under federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission designations, is the second lowest of 4 designations for unusual events at nuclear plants in the United States. 

But an ammonia leak that's being contained still could create respiratory problems for people in the area. That's likely why SoCal Edison workers in the vicinity of the spill evacuated the area. Among the acute health impacts: Dizziness, skin irritation, and nausea. 

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is a "polluter" under federal and state law; it tells local regulators how it operates normally, and receives permission to do that. When something not normal happens, the power plant's operators must tell regulators.