Did you know that southern California suffered from a partial core meltdown in 1959?
Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima in Japan have all triggered increased scrutinization of the use of nuclear energy. In the United States, the fear of a nuclear disaster is particularly relevant to major cities in earthquakes zones like Los Angeles.
But how have Angelenos responded to nuclear power in the past?
Santa Susana Partial Meltdown
While nuclear energy was still in its’ infancy, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, located in hills between Simi Valley and Ventura, was created as a Cold War testing facility for the development of such things as rocket engines and new sources of energy.
It was in 1957 when the laboratory activated its’ first sodium cooled nuclear energy generator, and it was in 1959 when that reactor began to leak radiation.
Amazingly, it wasn’t until 1979 that the accident was publicly acknowledged by Rocketdyne, and clean up, starting in 1975, is still an ongoing process.
Local regulatory and political organizations reacted harshly by implementing heavy fines to Rocketdyne, federal agents search Rocketdyne facilities for records, and political leaders like Senator Feinstein campaigned for a closely monitored clean up procedure.
With the facility a mere thirty miles from Los Angeles, cancer and radiation related issues have been a concern of residents and local officials.
Click here for a timeline of events.
Operating since 1968, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Facility, run by Southern California Edison, has been a focus of safety concerns in the past.
Since the seventies, organizations like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have closely evaluated the facilities safety, particularly in regards to seismic concerns. In one evaluation by the NRC in 1976, the NRC found Unit 1 of the San Onofre Facility to be below the safety criteria regarding seismic preparation.
For nearly a decade following the report, a back and forth began with Southern California Edison arguing it should still be allowed to operate, while the NRC and other political activists in Southern California wanted it shut down until repairs were made.
Some sixteen years later, following broad coalitions of residents, politicians, and activists, Unit 1 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Facility was permanently closed on November 30, 1992 rather than performing the $125 million in upgrades required.
Unit 1 currently stores spent nuclear fuel.
Click here for an overview of Nuclear Power in California.