Bye Bye San Onofre Nuclear Reactor…….and what it does for YOU

Eons ago I lived in Orange County, California, not too far from the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. Visiting San Diego made you pass right by it when using the freeway. As a science teacher in high school, it always made me wonder if it were “safe”. The mechanics of an atomic bomb were well known – radioactive materials release “nuclear bullets” as they decay. An uncontrolled increasingly large chain reaction can be created – just as all the old science films showed- dropping one ping pong ball into thousands of mouse traps set with other ping pong balls. One ball hits a trap and now 2 balls hit 2 traps and 4 balls are loose , the 4 turning into 8 balls loose, etc. The heat and energy released in an atomic chain reaction results in an explosion.

But……the nuclear reactor in a power plant has control rods that drop into the chain reaction and absorb the excess “nuclear bullets” to slow the reaction down and there is a cooling system also. Therefore the reactor heats water which produces steam to turn turbines and make electricity safely.

But…. What if it somehow got out of control. What if the unthinkable happened? What if there were human error? What if what could go wrong, did go wrong? It kept flowing through my mind. And I lived nearby.

So in 1975 I sat down to put my fears into writing. This was before the internet, when communication was through books and magazines, newspapers, and television. With the confidence produced from having no knowledge of the book industry, I dedicated myself for several years to writing a fiction novel that expressed my ideas of what would happen if an earthquake hit a nuclear reactor facility and jammed the control rods so that the nuclear chain reaction could not be slowed down and an explosion would occur. In a moment of brilliance I entitled the fiction novel, “The Nuclear Catastrophe”.

Surprisingly, I had no trouble getting the novel published with a moderate advance, a few good reviews, sales to libraries across the United States. Then: nothing. Hard to make a living that way so I moved on in life. In fact I forgot all about that adventure until the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Strangely enough, 30+ years later, an earthquake had jammed the control rods of a nuclear plant and the plant had explosions and a meltdown, totally destroying the plant.

Out of curiosity, I googled the name of my novel. It was all over the internet being sold as a second hand used book. Since it had never been brought out as a paperback, nor the now the ever present EBook, I decided to re-enter the contentious fray over nuclear power. Is it safe? Is it sane? Is it cost effective? Does it increase cancer risk? And how else does it affect YOU.

While my critics abound, so do my supporters. (Reading the reviews on my Amazon page is like a nuclear war). But the bottom line is, Southern California has 20 MILLION people who would be affected by a Fukushima type nuclear disaster. With San Onofre mothballed and shut down, we are never going to have thousands of acres abandoned and uninhabitable, with buildings sitting vacant from contamination from a nuclear plant meltdown. We are never going to have to try and evacuate more people that the existing road structure can handle, enduring massive traffic jams that last for days as people and their vehicles are radiated. We are never going to have to face leaving all our possessions behind, to be looted, to be irradiated so that they are useless. We are never going to have to realize that our losses are not covered by insurance from our home policy or insurance from the nuclear plant company. We are never going to have to figure out where to evacuate (bearing in mind that states close their borders as may Mexico or Canada – who wants your radioactive car in their neighborhood?). We are never going to be faced with starting over after a nuclear catastrophe with no job, no home, no usable car, no possessions, and no prospects.

40% of the population of the United States lives within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor. Shutting down San Onofre is certainly called for as it sits in earthquake country and is an old plant with previous problems. And YOU have the chance to keep this type solution moving forward for other nuclear plants. So YOU do not have to be subjected to starting over with nothing, email your local legislators and your friends with your thoughts that the risk is not acceptable. There is too much risk to YOU, for too little reward.

In 2013 I am donating 50% of the proceeds from the sale of the updated EBook, “The Nuclear
Catastrophe” a fiction novel of survival, to a charity that benefits the forgotten victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Towns are still sitting vacant with contaminated soil pushed into large piles. The victims have not been compensated. Your purchase of 99 cents will help them.

Barring entrance to deserted Fukushima town

In this Monday, March 4, 2013 photo, a warning sign for drivers is seen beside a roadway, near a pile of radiation-contaminated soil at the Tsushima Junior High School in Namie, outside the the nuclear exclusion zone surrounding the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan. Two years after a tsunami crippled the nuclear plant, towns surrounding it remain abandoned, too contaminated by radiation for residents to return for more than short visits. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)

Nuclear reactor chain reaction results

Kiwi TNT KIWI was an experimental nuclear-powered rocket engine. In this case “TNT” stands for “Transient Nuclear Test.” This safety experiment was a deliberate burn-up of the reactor by a run-away chain reaction. The release of energy caused portions of the reactor to vaporize and the reactor to destroy itself.

Thank you.
Barbara Griffin Billig

Available for Kindle:
Follow on twitter: @barbarabillig
Web page:
Also published as: as THE DISQUIET SURVIVORS of The Nuclear Catastrophe in Paperback
Read an excerpt now:


About Barbara Billig

Hi! I am Barbara Griffin Billig and I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis at age nineteen with a degree in biology and chemistry. After teaching for several years in St. Louis, Southern California seemed to be calling. There I started and worked at a variety of businesses including pet shops, restaurants, and a real estate brokerage firm. Deciding to take a sabbatical from the business world for several years I wrote, in conjunction with another teacher, Bett Pohnka, “The Nuclear Catastrophe”. This fiction novel portrayed what ultimately came to pass with 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the Japan Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown. A new updated edition of this is available as an EBook for the kindle. An updated paperback version entitled“THE DISQUIET SURVIVORS of The Nuclear Catastrophe” is now also available. In 2014 the sequel was published: "#Betrayal, a nuclear fiction novel of survival"
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