San Onofre State Beach is located in the city of San Clemente, about ½ hour south from where I live. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I was heading down there, since it appeared to be just another beach, however, I came to find that San Onofre really is a Southern California treasure. First off, the beach was close to empty, creating a completely different atmosphere than what you would see at Laguna or Huntington Beach.
When you first enter the parking lot, you are at a higher elevation – you will not be able to see the ocean right away. In fact, reaching the coast does require a very short hike through the breathtaking San Onofre Bluffs. Upon reaching the coast, you’ll realize that after passing the sand, the coast is lined up with several stones. The lifeguard towers there are so large that you could have a picnic underneath them. I’ve noticed that the majority of people who come there are surfers and/or people who are camping on site, making the atmosphere that much more organic and relaxing.
On a more serious note, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), a nuclear power plant is posing a threat to the health and environment of Southern California, specifically San Onofre State Beach. In 2012, SONGS was shut down because of a tube leak that had caused immense damage, placing the responsibility into the hands of Southern California Edison (SCE). NBC San Diego writer Wendy Fry, stated that SCE’s plan is to “bury 3,600,000 pounds of nuclear waste underground along the coast” which is what shocked me, leading me to question what effect this decision will have down the line. The OC Register confirmed that this project was only permitted by the Coastal Commission for the next twenty years, however this fuel is categorized as “high-level nuclear waste”, meaning it needs to be stored for thousands of years. By October 2035, SCE will have to find a new location for the waste. Although twenty years is a small number compared to the tens of thousands of years the nuclear waste will remain, the region of Southern California is enduring erosion and is highly prone to earthquakes, creating many risk factors of the San Onofre storage location.
It is unfortunate that our beautiful coast is at risk of pollution. Just like SONGS, nuclear power plants have many locations around the world. The Nuclear Energy Institute’s world statistics notes that there are currently 438 nuclear power plants worldwide, with 67 new plants under construction. The current controversy is of how and where SoCal Edison will place the nuclear waste, while avoiding further damages.
San Onofre State Beach’s beauty is still preserved to this day, and I will continue to visit and enjoy it. But, I do suggest you all to be more conscious of the environment that surrounds you – not only the air that you are inhaling, but what you decide to consume. For seafood lovers like myself, I recommend doing research and becoming more aware of where your food is coming from, since a lot of SoCal seafood is caught locally.
If you’re interested in learning about how Nuclear Power Plants work and/or about plans for Nuclear Waste storage, click on the links below!