The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

“Free Enterprise” and the San Onofre Nuclear Reactor

Jun 24, 2013

This month Southern California Edison decided to permanently shut down its San Onofre nuclear plant, located in California.

This plant had many problems caused by the way its owners – Edison and Sempra Energy – ran it. They built it on a well-known earthquake zone, near the major geological faults north of San Diego. A strong earthquake could easily damage the reactor and endanger the whole world. It sits on a beach of the Pacific Ocean, using seawater to cool down its reactors. Any leak from the nuclear reactor could easily contaminate the whole ocean with radioactivity and also, the whole West Coast. And faulty engineering caused its steam generator tubes to corrode years ahead of their planned expiration date.

The reactor has not been producing electricity since January 2012, but Edison still charged the public close to one billion dollars as “operational” costs of the reactor during that time. This was on top of 530 million dollars they charged in the electricity bills. The shut-down costs are estimated to reach 3.4 billion dollars. Edison says that “all material costs related to San Onofre are recoverable.” In other words, they will put their hands into our pockets again.

Was Edison reckless in taking risks to construct this reactor on the earthquake zone next to a major ocean, operating its very flawed power generators for a long time at a huge cost? Yes, but supposedly they took these risks on our account – meaning we pay for it!

After all, this is why capitalism is called “free enterprise”: we are captive in taking their risks and paying for them and they are free to profit and to do anything they want.