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Surfrider Partners with Oceanographic Institution to Measure Beach Water Radiation at San Onofre

To gain a better understanding of how radioactive wastewater from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station impacts the ambient water quality and beachgoer exposure, Surfrider is partnering with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Our Radioactive Ocean campaign to test the radioactive effluent at San Onofre State Beach.

Our plan is to conduct six sampling events: two before a planned radioactive effluent release, two during, and two after. 

Surfrider worked with state agencies to convince the plant majority owner and operator, Southern California Edison, to publicly notify the local community and beachgoers of planned batch releases of radioactive effluent into the Pacific Ocean. For instance, there is a batch radioactive effluent release scheduled for tomorrow, November 19. To date, SONGS is the only nuclear plant in the United States to give batch release notifications, posting details on the volume, radiation dose and time of release 48-hours in advance.

This gives community scientists and organizations like Surfrider the rare opportunity to actually test the waterways before, during, and after a release to measure how nuclear effluent alters the local water quality. The levels reportedly released by San Onofre are extremely low and not considered a health threat (e.g. if you surfed San Onofre every day for 100 years, the estimated dose level would be less than that a single dental X-ray), yet these levels are self-tested and self-reported by Edison. 

Surfrider will coordinate with volunteers to collect water samples both in the surf zone and at the outfall site (1.1 miles offshore) before, during, and after a planned release of radioactive effluent from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Samples will be shipped to Woods Hole for testing and processing. While there are multiple isotopes of interest, this sampling effort will mainly help us measure levels of Cesium-137.  Thanks to local donations and grassroots support, we'll begin our effluent testing in February 2021.

With San Onofre Nuclear Plant’s tainted history, from a 2012 radiation leak essentially resulting in the plant's initial shutdown, to federal penalties due to severe lack of oversight and safety precautions at the plant, and now the plant’s imminent demolition of onsite structures (including cooling pools and the infamous reactor domes visible from I-5 slated to be demolished by 2025); the ability to have community scientists help track and measure radioactive effluent at their beloved beach and surf break would provide important information for beachgoers, and further contribute to Our Radioactive Ocean’s research and knowledge of radiation levels in our coastal marine environment. 

Learn more about Surfrider’s campaign to get nuclear waste of the California Coast.