San Onofre Shuttered

San_Onofre_Nuclear_Power_Plant_tx700Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), announced in a press release this morning that the two remaining reactors at the plant are to be retired.

SONGS has not produced electricity since January 2012, when high vibration damaged tubes in steam generators acquired from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, leading to a leak of radioactive water.

Read more about the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on the generator tube degradation here.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in 2012 had requested further NRC oversight and license review, and recently went so far as to state that Southern California Edison had misled the NRC to avoid that process.

Edison had previously raised the possibility of retiring the plant if it failed to get one reactor running later this year, and had faced a significant re-licensing battle with the NRC. Citing “continuing uncertainty about when or if SONGS might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors, or the need to plan for our region’s long-term electricity needs.” Edison International Chairman and CEO Ted Craver assessed the “practical limit to how much we can absorb of that risk.”

To say nothing of the other risks plaguing SONGS and surrounding communities:  

The danger of a Fukushima-like disaster with a nuclear power plant on an earthquake fault.  The US Geological Survey, in one of history’s greatest understatements, describes the unfortunate marriage of nuclear generators and earthquakes as follows:

An earthquake releases energy that radiates from the fault and causes ground movement. As the ground moves, objects such as nuclear power plant structures on or in the ground also move….The intensity of an earthquake can be characterized by both the frequency of the shaking and by the acceleration of the ground at the plant. These characteristics describe how the energy released from the earthquake impacts the plant’s buildings as well as the systems and components that are housed and supported by those buildings…Earthquake characteristics provide information used in designing existing nuclear plants. …The licensing bases for existing nuclear power plants considered historical data at each site. This data is used to determine design basis loads from the area’s maximum credible earthquake, with an additional margin included.

Note that the USGS freely acknowledges that it cannot accurately predict the size of earthquakes. (See 2012 interview of USGS Siesmologist on ABC.)  Not to worry, the NRC, defines safety margins and requires “certain modifications of identified seismic vulnerabilities.”  Ya think??

SONGS eq map

The population density, the convergence of environmental and logistical constraints, and the absence of adequate public safety and evacuation plans.  The NRC requires two emergency planning zones (10 miles and 50 miles for risk of inhalation and ingestion of contaminated materials respectively).  Not only are prevailing winds at San Onofre westward (inland) for 9 months of the year, but the 2010 U.S. census showed population within 10 miles of the plant was approaching 100,000 with 8.5 million within 50 miles.

The excellent “San Onofre Safety” blog outlines the emergency planning deficit well:

This 50 mile map shows the location of the San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Clemente.   After the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, Americans in Japan were told by the U.S. government to evacuate 50 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  However, in the U.S., the NRC only requires a 10 mile evacuation zone.

SONGS 50 mile map

Still unanswered:  who will pay the $165M tab for having kept SONGS open and running tests for the past year and a half?  Edison customers have footed the bill thus far, and that issue is currently being debated and decided by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The SONGS closure itself if fraught with issues of costs, unemployment, and storage/disposal of the existing toxic spent material.  SCE’s $2.7 billion decommissioning fund will cover part of the cost; however, California ratepayers, insurance companies, Edison shareholders and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries may ultimately all share this burden.

But in the scheme of things, the collective sigh of relief being heard throughout southern California based on news of the SONGS closure  is a lot stronger that those prevailing winds!



College Students Leading Environmental Education

Sprout Up Environmental Education

Sprout Up, founded and run by college students in Goleta, inspires elementary-age school children from all walks of life to value the environment. Sprout Up has been selected as a nominee in the education and mentoring category in the 2012 American Giving Awards (AGAs) sponsored by Chase Community Giving.

2 Million in Chase Grants will be shared among five charities voted for by Facebook Users and Chase Customers. The AGAs will honor these organizations for their great philanthropic work through a star-studded event hosted by Joel McHale (NBC’s “Community” and “The Soup”).

Chase will grant a total of $2 million to the five charities with the most votes in their respective categories. Fans of Chase Community Giving can vote for their favorite charity on Facebook, and Chase online customers can vote on during the voting period, which runs from November 27 – December 4. Of the five top vote-getters from each category, the charity with the most votes will receive a $1 million grant, the runner-up will be granted $500,000, a third organization will receive a $250,000 grant and two will be given $125,000 grants.

The twenty-five participating charities will represent one of five categories recognizing the “building blocks” of communities.

Thanks to UCSB Environmental Sciences student Aaron Bucka for referring this information.

Leveraging Sustainability for Economic Profit

Great article by Christopher Gleadle in today’s Environmental Leader:

More and more organizations see the importance of sustainable business practices. They have recognized that there are very substantial financial benefits to be obtained by integrating sustainability thinking and practices into all their business processes. Once you take into account the wider, longer-term, and often hidden costs, the financial benefits of good, practical, sustainable, working practices are enormous.   (read more here)

So Cal Edison Announces Layoffs at San Onofre; Ratepayers Charged Over $54 Million Since January Closure

SCE announced plans to lay off over 700 workers at San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. Are they being disingenuous by stringing ratepayers along with ill-advised plans to re-open, and should ratepayers be reimbursed for the over $54 million they’ve been paying for a facility that’s been closed over 6 months?,0,119444.story

California Approves New Energy Efficiency Rules

Better Windows, Whole House Fans, Solar-Ready Roofs Considered

California officials unanimously approved amended energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings that officials are describing as the toughest in the nation.  The Energy Commission’s 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are 25 percent more efficient than previous standards for residential construction and 30 percent better for nonresidential construction. The Standards, which take effect on January 1, 2014, offer builders better windows, insulation, lighting, ventilation systems and other features that reduce energy consumption in homes and businesses.

Some improved measures in the Standards include:


  • Solar-ready roofs to allow homeowners to add solar photovoltaic panels at a future date
  • More efficient windows to allow increased sunlight, while decreasing heat gain
  • Insulated hot water pipes, to save water and energy and reduce the time it takes to deliver hot water
  • Whole house fans to cool homes and attics with evening air reducing the need for air conditioning load
  • Air conditioner installation verification to insure efficient operation


  •  High performance windows, sensors and controls that allow buildings to use “daylighting”
  • Efficient process equipment in supermarkets, computer data centers, commercial kitchens, laboratories, and parking garages

On average, the Standards will increase the cost of constructing a new home by $2,290 but will return more than $6,200 in energy savings over 30 years. Based on a 30-year mortgage, the standards will add approximately $11 per month for the average home, but save consumers $27 on on monthly heating, cooling, and lighting bills.

Two energy policy goals are driving the design of the current standards: The Loading Order, which directs that growing demand must be met first with cost-effective energy efficiency and next with renewable generation; and “Zero Net Energy” (ZNE) goals for new homes by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030. The ZNE goal means that new buildings must use a combination of improved efficiency and distributed renewable generation to meet 100 percent of their annual energy need.monthly heating, cooling, and lighting bills.

Within the first year of implementation, the Standards are projected to add up to 3,500 new building industry jobs as well as save million gallons of water per year. After 30 years of implementing the Standards, California will save nearly 14,000 megawatt hours or enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes and avoid the need to construct six new power plants.View the California Energy Commissions 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards here.Image: The Sacramento Bee,; California Energy Commission News

TEDx UCI – Individuals as Agents of Change

Ever since I began studying sustainability, environmentalism, social responsibility, and all of the related topics related to the triple bottom line, I have been frustrated by a certain feeling of futility:  so many people leading the charge, speaking on panels, waving green flags, touting initiatives, decrying environmental or social wrongs.

Even as he derides the “sustainability movement,” Jesse Baker clarifies the essence of what all of they should ultimately be attempting to accomplish.  More importantly, he articulates how each of us can embody the key ideals and be empowered as individual agents of change.

Annual “State of Green Business Report” Documents Green Economy Trends has released the fifth annual edition of its State of Green green bus rpt 2012Business report, one of the most comprehensive discussions and measurement of the environmental impacts of the emerging green economy. In addition to documenting corporate progress in improving their environmental performance, the report tracks larger trends that will affect corporate America in 2012.

This free, downloadable report measures 20 aspects of environmental performance, from carbon emissions to paper use and recycling, includes essays from industry experts.

There’s good and bad news in this year’s report; the good news is that companies continue to dedicate time, money and staff to setting and meeting ambitious environmental goals.

The bad news is that their research shows declining momentum on some of the indicators. Among the downgraded topics include investments in clean technology innovations, overall energy intensity, certifications of LEED buildings, and paper use and recycling.

How does your business rate?  How can you implement ideas presented in this report to benefit from the efficiencies outlined?


SOPA: Why Business Owners and Content Sharers Should Care

It’s next to impossible to miss today’s biggest news if you go onlinestop SOPA at any point or see a newspaper; several of the web’s most prominent sites are “going dark” in protest of SOPA and PIPA, the proposed anti-online piracy legislation.

What is SOPA?

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill that seeks to “crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host pirated content,” according to a great report by CNN Money. These bills are supposedly aimed at websites – mainly overseas – known for their access to and promotion of illegal downloads of movies and other digital content.  While many agree that restrictions on privacy are needed, there are complicated consequences that reach much farther.  The proposed legislation would require U.S.-based search engines and other service provides to withhold or block services with sites that connect to these problematic sites, but many fear that the restrictions are the beginning of a slippery slope into censorship.

Continue reading

To Catch a Dollar, Turnkey Microcredit Models That Help Millions

Sometimes, an idea is just so simple and good, it makes you slap your forehead and wonder why no one thought of it sooner.  Professor Muhammad Yunus, the “father of microcredit”, spent years developing the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh with a financial concept that turned business lending on its head:  lend self-selected groups of women up to $3,000 to get their small businesses off the ground.

The goal all along was to eradicate poverty, not to make a profit.  Yet the loans perform positively, with repayment rates in excess of 99%.  And this concept can work in any economy, and any culture, from its origins with 7.5 million Bangladesh borrowers to Grameen’s presence in 38 countries and over 100 million microcredit loans. Continue reading

Responsible Business Blog


The RBR blog reports on developments in the green business, alternative Responsible Business Reportenergy and sustainability sector.  Many far-reaching elements combine to comprise the full spectrum of environmental and social responsibility – the triple-bottom-line.  Articles reflect a range of topics from carbon footprints to ethical sourcing, to engaging employees in a culture of caring.  Add your voice to the conversation through comments or guest blogging (contact me for more  information).