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Preparing for nuclear incident

We cannot afford a Katrina-like disaster on the scale of Chernobyl in our neighborhood.

Southern California Edison is exchanging cooling generators and is cutting a 784-square-foot hole in the protective domes of the nuclear reactors at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The domes prevent radiation from contaminating the surrounding area should there be an accident.

The nuclear reactors were never designed for this engine replacement, and the consequences of an accident are potentially devastating for the 6 million people living within a hundred-mile radius of the nuclear power plant, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties. La Jolla and Pacific Beach communities could be at risk, as well.

Southern California Edison reported that this procedure has been done before and they are prepared. This echoes statements made by FEMA prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, when they said they experienced hurricanes in the past and were prepared for any emergencies.

Southern California Edison’s statements of confidence bring to mind President Bush’s assurance to the citizens of New Orleans that “Brownie,” the FEMA director, was doing a great job.

Earlier this month, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security stated that the community is not prepared for a nuclear incident should something go wrong. It was also reported that full-scale community safety hearings by FEMA or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have not been held to prepare people living in the expanded nuclear contamination zone.

During a recent Channel 10 news report, it was suggested that concerned members of the community could read the emergency nuclear preparedness and evacuation procedures found in their phone book. Knowledgeable members of the community concerned with the lack of community preparedness declare that this “box checking” bureaucratic response is not adequate and does not meet the obligations of public agencies responsible for securing public safety.

Schools and community members in the potential contamination zone should have the opportunity to participate in FEMA and the NRC training sessions, including public preparedness and emergency procedures.

Dr. Michael McQuary is president of the La Jolla Democratic Club.