Tuesday, January 31 looked like any other weekday along the coastline of San Onofre. From the freeway, you could see black dots crowding the peak at Lowers and spreading north to Cottons. The parking lot at Old Mans, perpetually full, as old men and blue-collared workers fit a session into their workday. Down the trails at San O, longboarders and SUPers cruised in the shadow of the bluffs, with the busty outline of the nuclear power plant looming from the landscape above.
But on this Tuesday, a warning sensor detected a small leak of radiation released into the local atmosphere, triggered by a malfunction in the Unit 3 reactor, which potentially exposed hundreds of local surfers and beachgoers to nuclear radiation. The facility claims that they were acceptable levels, yet the only monitoring of radiation comes from inside the energy company itself. The incident led to the discovery of extensive damage to tubes carrying radioactive water within the facility and the eventual shutdown of the other reactor two days later. The story, however, has made few headlines. Other than a brief mention on the local news and some online coverage, it has been developing under the radar for more than a month now. Today, both reactors are still offline, and the facility remains under inspection.