The City Council made it clear that it planned to approve a resolution listing complaints about San Onofre's operation and concerns about its future, but that didn't keep the public from expressing opinions.
Speakers came from San Clemente, Washington, D.C., Mission Viejo and Laguna to Tuesday's meeting, where they castigated Southern California Edison for its management of the nuclear power plant and the nuclear industry in general.
They complimented the city for its proposed resolution, which demands that Edison not restart its San Onofre generators unless it completes a transparent public process regarding their replacement, and they commended the city for telling Edison it shouldn't make customers pay for its mistakes. The resolution also called for a review of the financial status and viability of San Onofre.
"We have done without San Onofre for seven months," said Laguna Beach resident Theresa Cordova, one of the 15 speakers. "We don't need it. Just turn off the air conditioners and open windows."
San Onofre's Unit 2 was shut down Jan. 9 for a planned outage, according to a press release issued by Edison. Unit 3 was taken offline Jan. 31 after station operators detected a leak in a steam generator tube.
The city also took the position that the alternatives to San Onofre, including renewable energy sources, are needed and should be explored.
Mayor Jane Egly and Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger sponsored the resolution. In their report to the council, they noted the significant concern in South County about the safety and long-term viability of the aging San Onofre plant since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Like Japan, Southern California is plagued by earthquakes and San Onofre, like Fukushima, sits next to the Pacific Ocean.
Edison representative Jo Ellen Chatham said the safety of the public and Edison employees are the utility's first priority.
"We won't restart until we and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are satisfied about safety," Chatham said.
Councilwoman Toni Iseman thanked Edison for what it does well, but pointed out that San Onofre had the highest rate of whistle-blowers for four years in a row.
"We have a plant with the worst safety record in the country and we have the chance to close it," Iseman said.
Rollinger said she would prefer to shut down the plant. She settled for strengthening some of the language in the resolution, substituting "urges" for "strongly encourages" the California Public Utilities Commission to proceed with an order that would determine publicly which parties are responsible for paying for the costs associated with faulty generators installed by Edison and the costs incurred during the shutdown for replacement power, inspections and monitoring and repairs.
Laguna resident Chris Prelitz said the language in the resolution should be stronger about catastrophic safety issues.
"I visited Hiroshima as a young man," said Joe Holtzman of Mission Viejo. "I saw the devastation of radiation. The effect is horrible.
"I have been concerned about San Onofre for seven or eight years. Edison violated regulations. It's in their DNA."
Edison issued a press release and fact sheet that was included in the agenda bill.
"We are committed to continuing to work with NRC on the steam generator issues and will continue to use conservative decision making as we work on repairs and planning for the future," said Edison Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich. "The No. 1 priority is the safety of the public and our employees."
City staff has been in contact with Edison management and attended a briefing with Egly at San Onofre on June 15. Other city officials have been invited to the facility.