Monday, December 1, 2014

If Yucca Mountain and all other nuclear waste storage locations fail to open?

To: Orange County Register ( letters@ocregister.com )

December 1st, 2014

To The Editor,

Perhaps you think it's just a "thought experiment" not based in reality, but what if Yucca Mountain and all other nuclear waste storage locations fail to open?

Had I asked that 70 years ago -- even then a few years into the "nuclear" age -- I'd have been told a solution is on the way... but no one could have told me what it would be. Ditto half a century ago. Nothing. Then, for about 20 years, we were all told "Yucca Mountain" but that's gone now, too -- and well it should be.

Have you investigated what's wrong with Yucca Mountain? Four-inch-thick titanium drip shields wouldn't last nearly long enough. Volcanoes more likely (less extinct) than first thought. Underground rivers. Earthquakes too, and water intrusion from above (hence the decision to try to design 10,000-year drip shields), especially due to possible changing climatic conditions caused by the vagaries of global warming (i.e., expect MORE rain in SOME desert areas, but mostly much LESS rain everywhere. And every drop of water, wasted by a billion gallons a day in a nuclear plant, is more precious than ever. Solar and wind power use no water, and enclosing the ever-evaporating California Aqueduct in shade-giving solar panels might go a long way (literally and figuratively) to solving several of our current environmental problems all by itself. Solar panels can now be built into roadways, bike paths and sidewalks.

And speaking of your calculations for how much area in solar panels would be needed replace SanO: Assuming your estimates are correct, those are actually doable numbers. But I hope your readers noted (because you didn't) that those estimates replaced two million homes' dirty power source with clean ones: With ONLY "64,000 acres" of solar panels (which could all be located on people's rooftops, by the way, so they wouldn't take up ANY land space) or ONLY "59,000 acres" of wind turbines. As for your estimate of the "acreage" needed for wind turbines, perhaps you haven't been studying the concept of "multi-use" land projects and I guess you're including all the space needed to keep their blades separate from each other, regardless of what's on the ground underneath. Modern wind turbines produce about 6 megawatts of power, so I really have no idea how you came up with that "59,000 acres" figure.

You should also know that house cats kill orders-of-magnitude more birds than wind turbines, and better blade designs are coming with large-scale 3D printing of blade components.

Have you seen the latest ideas for wind turbines that take essentially NO space on the ground? They convert high-speed (and nearly constant) winds aloft to energy, and run that free power down long wires from miles above the earth. VERY efficient! Furthermore, they can be used to ENFORCE "no-fly zones" around existing nuclear waste dumps, just like barrage balloons did for London during WWII. Imagine that!

But you still want more nukes.

Well, take your nuclear waste and stuff it... somewhere. Seriously: Let's see you A) Propose a plan and B) Make it work -- globally. Make it work for ALL the waste that's ever been produced, that's stored here at San Onofre, and at Diablo Canyon and everywhere else, and make it work for all the current waste that's being made every day, before you conspire to produce more. (About 10 tons of spent nuclear fuel is produced in America every day, and 50 tons globally -- but NONE at San Onofre thanks to poor design of their new steam generators, caused by arrogance, ignorance, negligence and greed on the part of the power plant's operators, engineers and most of all, their executives.)

The more recently the "spent" nuclear fuel assemblies came out of the reactor, the more dangerous it is if anything goes wrong or even just for the workers who transfer it from the reactor to the spent fuel pools to the dry casks to transfer casks to move it to...well, where? Or to replacement dry casks (somehow?) sooner or later if there is no place -- and that's by far the most likely scenario. Nobody in their right minds thinks they can safely store nuclear waste for as long as necessary to protect humans from its most hazardous toxins, such as plutonium. It will have to be transferred to new containers many, many times for there to even be a chance that it will be safely stored for the duration.

So let's NOT plan on turning on any more nuclear reactors in southern California, where 30 million people have nowhere to go in an emergency, no way to get there, and no desire to leave in the first place. We like it here. We don't want anything going on which can have one bad day and destroy the entire southern half of the state -- maybe even half the country (study (Google): Worst Case Scenarios for Chernobyl, Fukushima, or any other reactor or spent fuel site).

And while we're prohibiting NEW nuclear reactors in southern California, let's reassess the earthquake safety rating of Diablo Canyon, and shut that monstrosity down, too, before something terrible happens. Nuclear power plants are NOT made to withstand all possible earthquakes that might hit them. Instead, calculations are made of the likelihood of earthquakes large enough, close enough, and aiming in the right direction with the right style of peaks and valleys of energy dissipation, within a given time frame of the reactor operating. These calculations are called Probabilistic Risks Assessments (PRIs).

Are PRIs complicated calculations? Oh, sure. But it's worse than that: There's no reliable data to go INTO the calculations -- least of all, reliable, accurate data on the quality of the workmanship that went into the nuclear reactor when it was built!

And if new data about the size, frequency, closeness, etc. of an earthquake is discovered after the "Environmental Impact Statement" has been produced, that new data is ignored. Once an EIS, always an EIS, and worse than that: One power plant's EIS becomes a generic EIS for all the others, even though the circumstances are completely different. And once a reactor survives one licensing period, the same 20-year-old EIS is used as the basis for extending it to 40, 60, or even 80 years of operation and beyond -- it's rubber-stamped (no reactor license extension request has ever been turned down by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)).

People don't want nuclear waste anywhere near them, but thanks to promoters like you, San Clemente's got a huge pile of it, and has to keep it for what might be thousands of generations.

And now you want more?

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

===========================================================


Editorial: Even after San Onofre, don't rule out a role for nuclear power


ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Published: Nov. 26, 2014 Updated: 4:23 p.m.

Edison ratepayers will be getting a $1.45 billion refund for electricity not generated from the premature shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in the settlement recently approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

However, considering the $3.3 billion cost to shut down the plant, and to pay for those failed steam generators at the center of the closure, will be paid by ratepayers until 2022, it probably doesn't seem like much of a refund.

In all, it seems likely the deal is the best Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric customers are probably going to get over the shuttered nuclear plant ­ and likelyy only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to rate increases attributable to the shutdown.

Sure, the generators were meant to pay for themselves over the lengthened lifespan of the plant, but the real costs come from the abrupt loss of nearly 20 percent of SCE's energy production, 2,200 megawatts, which powered about 1.4 million homes.

Solar and wind have been touted as worthy replacements, but it would take 64,000 acres of solar panels or 59,000 acres of wind turbines to replace San Onofre. Instead, SCE has resorted to buying electricity out of state, much of it from coal and natural gas. Before San Onofre went offline, SCE was buying nearly two-thirds of the electricity it provided to consumers; now, it is closer to seven-eights.

Rates, Edison said, likely will go up again shortly after the decrease to cover the higher cost of buying electricity, a Register report noted.

Ratepayers simply should not be on the hook for the costs associated with inattention at the plant, since, according to a Register report, "a federal investigation after the 2012 leak concluded that a botched computer analysis resulted in generator design flaws that were largely to blame for the unprecedented wear in the tubing that carried radioactive water."

That is an unfortunate byproduct of our government-protected monopoly of utility companies, where ratepayers are a captive market. Equally unfortunate is the ease with which environmentalists and their political allies capitalized on the opportunity to shut down for good one of the few clean energy sources in the state.

Despite a handful of headline-catching incidents, nuclear energy has been an extremely safe, reliable and clean source of energy. California's strained power grid simply is not keeping up with growing demandand will require a diverse energy solution. Despite recent setbacks, nuclear power should remain a key part of that energy portfolio.

WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR Letters to the Editor: E-mail to letters at ocregister.com. Please provide your name, city and telephone number (telephone numbers will not be published). Letters of about 200 words or videos of 30-seconds each will be given preference. Letters will be edited for length, grammar and clarity.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------
Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!


Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.
-----------------------------------------

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Department of Energy is a criminal organization. No doubt about it.

Note:

I can't remember the last time I sent out the wrong version of something, but yesterday's newsletter was supposed to look like what you see below. It's a bit "enhanced" and cleaned up, but otherwise pretty similar. Long-time readers might enjoy seeing how an article evolves?

In any case, my apologies for any confusion!

Ace
November 4th, 2014

----------------------------------------------------

The Department of Energy (DOE) is committing treason. Has been for years.

They are playing with Americans' minds by forcing us to accept nuclear waste in our midst. From Atoms for Peace and Too Cheap To Meter, it's been a litany of lies handed down from the AEC and carried on to this day. Nuclear power is not green. It can't solve global warming or anything else. Mere trillionths of the total production of nuclear fission reactions is of any use as medical or industrial tracers or cancer-zappers. DOE has usurped our rights as citizens. They are creating weapons of mass destruction that remain in our midst forever.

The DOE is targeting U.S. citizens with these weapons.

The DOE is a criminal organization.

They are playing a high-stakes game with Russia which, if it results in just 1% of the nuclear arsenal of each country being used, would effectively permanently destroy both countries. Several other countries are involved in this high-stakes game (China, Britain, France, etc..) but America and Russia are the bully players.

The cost of the "game"? Obama plans to put another trillion dollars into it. And he's the "peace" president! In two years, who knows what a Republican might spend? Two trillion? Three?

And to think that it's spent under the name of "stewardship"! Keeping the weapons cache safe. Keeping it current.

But nuclear weapons are useless. In nearly 3/4s of a century we've never found a use for them, not since the first two senseless attacks on Japan. Senseless because Japan was already practically beaten and we set a terrible precedent, and caused much needless pain and suffering. Senseless because the bombs did not attack soldiers, they attacked civilians (including some American POWs). Senseless because they did not consider the real consequences of the radiation, believing that any too-high doses would blow away in the wind, or that anyone close enough to be harmed by the gamma radiation would be killed by falling bricks and other debris and pressure waves anyway (but not first, I might note). Senseless because Japan could have been shown the power of the bombs without bombing dense concentrations of civilians (but I guess that was the point of the strategists's ruse: to pretend that EVERY city in Japan would soon suffer the same fate, and it worked. In reality, of course, the biggest secret about The Bomb was that we had used up the entire arsenal with the three explosions (Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki) and if the war had continued, it would have surely been over before we could use atomic weapons again).*

Senseless because we then had to send our own troops into harm's way -- into Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help with the clean-up. One survivor of that operation told me he had had close to 200 skin operations on his face, starting soon afterwards. 200 sets of stitches, how's that sound? Because the American soldiers sent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't given ANY protective equipment -- not even gloves or face-masks, the bare minimum for cleaning up after a radioactive contamination.

The Department of Energy demands that we keep the nuclear waste at closed reactor sites like San Onofre for what will surely be decades and may be centuries in the best of cases, and an eternity in the worst of cases, because if there is an accident, it will be virtually impossible to clean up, so the area will be damaged virtually forever. Areas around Chernobyl and Fukushima are not going to be open to human habitation for longer than the pyramids have stood -- and even then, it will be because the poisons, active down to the last atom, have spread out amongst the rest of the biosphere to kill, maim, disfigure and deform there as well.

Plutonium has a half-life of about 24,000 years.

DOE is committing treason by demanding that each nuclear reactor site keep the waste created there onsite for at least 60 to 300 years (maybe longer), which is also by far the most dangerous time: The waste is extremely hot, both thermally and radioactively.

For thousands of years, spent nuclear fuel is fully capable of having just as horrific an accident as Chernobyl or Fukushima -- and even far worse (all four of those meltdowns could have been far worse). And yet the next few centuries are the most hazardous by many orders of magnitude, because of the fission products which are more rapidly decaying, and some of which, the body takes up as if it were a nutrient or a normal water atom.

During this most-hazardous time, they want to keep it stored amongst millions of people.

These are some of the many dirty secrets of the nuclear industry. That there never will be a good spent fuel plan is one of their most obvious dirty secrets: Containment structures are made of atoms and molecules, in crystal lattices or in various sheets of substances in alloys. Radiation smashes through all that stuff, and rearranges molecules, energizes atoms to move around in an alloy, and so forth. Ionizing radiation can break any normal chemical bond -- any at all -- and thus, can destroy any container you put it in.

So long-term safe containment truly is impossible, hence the choice several countries have made and America is threatening to try: Bury it and try to forget about it.

America so far has been smart enough to reject that option: But now what?

Southern California Edison wants Californians to settle for what is typically used around the country as "temporary" on-site dry cask storage: 5/8th inch thick stainless steel canisters as big as a truck, holding up to 32 fuel assemblies as tight as sardines. Weld them shut, set them out in a comparatively thin (3 to 5 feet thick) cement sarcophagus, and hope nothing goes wrong.

There are more than 2,000 such canisters in America, just waiting for a little moisture to get in through an unnoticed crack and cause an explosion, or for an airplane to crash into a row of them, or for an earthquake to swallow one and crush it, or just shake it apart, or for a 41-foot tsunami to overwhelm them when they are only rated to survive submersion up to 40 feet -- and that's if a boat doesn't happen to sit on top of them as the tsunami washes back out.

Accidents will happen. They happen all the time, and it's just a matter of time until some area of America is destroyed just like Chernobyl and Fukushima were, and our "waste confidence" (as the NRC calls the current lack of a plan for the spent nuclear fuel) drops down to where it belongs: NONE.

The DOE is forcing innocent Americans to risk nuclear catastrophes, mostly without their knowledge, and certainly without their consent., but that's exactly what the DOE is doing. Other countries are just as stupid, but that's no excuse. China's nuclear power construction projects are slathered in graft and kickbacks. South Korea's are too. All of Japan's reactors have been shut down since Fukushima because the regulators (and the people) realized they weren't built strong enough to begin with. America has 23 similar reactors which cannot be made safe, and should be permanently shut down (as should all the others).

Areva, the French-government's nuclear parts manufacturer to the world, and the maker of many of the dry casks in America as well as in Europe, is awash with scandal, as usual.

England has its ongoing scandal and clean-up mess at Sellafield. And on and on and on.

DOE makes it so that even if a community gets off this death-train, the entire area around it will still be threatened with destruction as the hot nuclear waste just sits there, doing nothing, decaying the containment it's in...

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

* Note: At most, there was one more plutonium "core" or "pit" available in August, 1945.  See:
 http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2013/08/16/the-third-cores-revenge/


-----------------------------------------
Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman

Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.

-----------------------------------------

As published originally:


The Department of Energy (DOE) is committing treason.

They are playing with American's minds by forcing us to accept nuclear waste in our midst. They are usurping our rights as citizens, they are appropriating weapons of mass destruction, and they are targeting US with those weapons.

The DOE is a criminal organization. No doubt about it.

They are playing a high-stakes game with Russia which, if it results in just 1% of the nuclear arsenal of each country being used, would effectively permanently destroy both countries. Several other countries are involved in this high-stakes game (China, Britain, France, etc..) but America and Russia are the bully players.

The cost of the "game"? Obama plans to put another trillion dollars into it. And he's the "peace" president! In two years, who knows what a Republican might spend? Two trillion? Three?

And to think that it's spent under the name of "stewardship"! Keeping the weapons cache safe. Keeping it current.

But nuclear weapons are useless. In nearly 3/4s of a century we've never found a use for them, not since the first two senseless attacks on Japan (senseless because Japan was already practically beaten, senseless because they did not attack soldiers, they attacked civilians (including some American POWs), senseless because they did not consider the real consequences of the radiation, believing that any too-high doses would blow away in the wind, or that anyone close enough to be harmed by the gamma radiation would be killed by falling bricks and other debris and pressure waves anyway (but not first, I might note), senseless because Japan could have been shown the power of the bombs without bombing dense concentrations of civilians (but I guess that was the point of the strategists's ruse: to pretend that EVERY city in Japan would soon suffer the same fate, and it worked. In reality, of course, the biggest secret about The Bomb was that we had used up the entire arsenal with the three explosions (Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki) and if the war had continued, it would have surely been over before we could use atomic weapons again).

Senseless because we then had to send our own troops into harm's way -- into Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help with the clean-up. One survivor of that operation told me had had close to 200 skin operations on his face, starting soon afterwards. 200 sets of stitches, how's that sound? Because they weren't given ANY protective equipment. Not gloves or face-masks, the bare minimum for cleaning up after a radioactive contamination.

The DOE demands that we keep the nuclear waste here for what may be eternity, because if there is an accident, it will be virtually impossible to clean up. Areas around Chernobyl and Fukushima are not going to be open to human habitation for tens of thousands of years -- and only then because the poisons, active down to the last atom, have spread out amongst the rest of the biosphere to kill, maim, disfigure and deform there as well.

By demanding that each nuclear reactor site keep the waste created there for at least 60 to 300 years (maybe longer), which is also by far the most dangerous time: The waste is extremely hot, both thermally and radioactively.

For thousands of years, spent nuclear fuel is fully capable of having just as horrific an accident as Chernobyl or Fukushima -- and even far worse (all four of those meltdowns could have been far worse).

These are the dirty secrets of the nuclear industry. That there never will be a good spent fuel plan, that the local reactors are to keep the waste after the plant has closed, and that ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN.

They happen all the time, and it's just a matter of time until some area of America is destroyed, just like Chernobyl and Fukushima was, and our "waste confidence" (as the NRC calls the current lack of a plan for the spent nuclear fuel) drops down to where it belongs: NONE.

Forcing nuclear accidents on innocent Americans is treason, but that's exactly what the DOE is doing.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Speak out Monday (10/27/2014) in Carlsbad, California to protect southern California from becoming a nuclear wasteland...

Some time in the future, possibly today, a full-scale nuclear meltdown in America is virtually inevitable. There are simply too many cracks in the regulatory system for any other result.

It happened at Chernobyl in Russia, it happened at Fukushima in Japan, and it has already nearly happened many times at various nuclear power plants in America. We've been lucky, and luck runs out.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's rules for making rules are the problem, because of the layer upon layer of roadblocks to logical conclusions. The inevitable result will be a meltdown in America, because the rules are getting softer, not tougher, just as the industry is in need of more and more loopholes and shortcuts to make money and stay mildly competitive. In some states, including California, they are helped by the states' Public Utilities Commissions, which insures the utility a profit, in many cases by blocking cheaper (for the ratepayer) renewable energy options.

The NRC has many rules, and many of them change all the time. Some get weaker, if things don't go wrong, while others get stronger, if things do. (The American nuclear industry is still bucking even the relatively minor changes (which would cost about two dozen plants in America a few tens of millions of dollars) following the Fukushima accident three years ago.)

Among these rules, however, are a few very special rules designed to prevent duplication of effort, wasted expense, wasted time, and uneven regulatory enforcement.

These rules make it very difficult to revisit an issue which has been previously decided in the nuclear industry's favor. If a new plan for a replacement part is submitted to the regulators and rejected for some reason, the industry can always make a change and resubmit the application. But once the plan has been accepted, there is little that can be done to withdraw or alter that acceptance. Furthermore, the NRC assumes that fabrication of parts is always done correctly, and that every operation they fail to inspect was properly done. None of these assumptions are based on reality.

Over time, a bias is introduced in favor of anything that passed acceptance, rightly or wrongly. Over time, the effect of that bias grows, with one inevitable result: A meltdown.

For example, computer-controlled equipment abounds at nuclear power plants. It's more efficient. Efficiency means a lot when you're trying to make money by boiling water, to turn into steam, to turn into a spinning object, to turn into a magnetic field, to turn into electrons flowing back and forth in wires, to convert through many different amperages and phases along miles of wires every inch of which introduces additional losses, in order to deliver electricity to homes and businesses which are flooded with it from wind and sun daily.

The overall inefficiency is staggering, so of course they've computerized everything.

Then along came computer viruses. So the industry bought anti-virus software.

Then along came Stuxnet, which attacked the motor controller boards at a nuclear facility in Iran. Many features of it were very easy to copy, and many varieties quickly followed.

Along with these software threats came counterfeit parts inside the "mil-spec" hardware components that are used to make the motherboards that control the machines.

The military has a huge problem with counterfeit parts. Every industry does. The nuclear industry is both a major user of enormous quantities of computer equipment, and a major target of industrial, political and terrorist espionage attempts.

A perfect storm.

Late to the party, the NRC is (finally) holding special hearings (mostly or entirely closed-door, as far as I know) with other agencies about hackers, viruses, encryption and other software security issues. (I'm not sure the hardware dangers are going to be considered at this time.)

Nuclear power plants are notoriously complicated machines. Try as they might, no one has been able to simplify them. In fact, it's only gotten worse with added computerization in the control room and in the machinery throughout the plant.

The nuclear reaction itself is a complex balance of the density of neutron moderators against the available quantity of various isotopes for fissioning and for neutron absorption. To use the energy that is released by the reaction, water, which also acts as a neutron moderator, is heated under extremely high pressure (about 1200 PSI for Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), and about 2200 PSI for Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). Change the density of the water just a little bit (by changing its temperature), and the water's ability to moderate neutrons (slow them down) can change dramatically. Stop circulating the water, and the metal overheats, the zirconium catches fire, the fission products are released, and finally, the ceramic pellets of uranium and plutonium oxides melt down through the steel reactor pressure vessel in a radioactive blob known as corium.

There are three blobs of corium in Japan and one in Russia. No American reactor accident has resulted in an unapproachable (even with proper protection) blob of corium, although SL1, Santa Susana, Fermi 1** and Three Mile Island all suffered partial or complete meltdowns. (Two were relatively small "research" reactors.)

Even without a meltdown, no one can go near the reactor while it is operating for months at a time. Fixing problems usually requires shutting the reactor down, which is not risk-free. Utilities are very limited in how often they are allowed to shut a reactor down. Half a dozen times in a year would be very alarming, for instance, to the regulators. That is, until relicensing time, when all that will be forgotten as it is expected that licenses will soon routinely be extended to 80 years.

Accidents can be so severe that at least one of the reactor's backup systems "MUST" function. At least, that's the claim -- that at least one backup system will work and prevent a catastrophic release of radiation to the public.

To prevent that, reactors are designed to withstand the worst earthquake postulated for the region, the worst tornado, the worst tsunami, the worst flood, the worst fire, the worst power outage, the worst attack by a small group of lightly armed non-suicidal terrorists ... but of course, once it's been decided that something is the worst threat in a particular realm (worst earthquake expected, worst tsunami, etc.) the NRC is very reluctant to revisit that issue, even as new science comes along. In fact, especially as new science comes along that could result in getting a reactor shut down permanently. And even if a new, more strict ruling is made, it can take decades to get that rule implemented: Reactor companies ask for extensions and exemptions all the time -- and they are almost invariably granted.

All the while, each operating nuclear reactor is creating radioactive waste at the rate of about 10 pounds per hour per reactor (10 tons per day for the U.S. as a whole) which must be guarded essentially forever.

Legally, for at least a million years.

The NRC affirmed the million-year figure recently, by concluding that the proposed (and cancelled and reborn) Yucca Mountain repository would protect humanity for that long. The timing of the release of the NRC's conclusions appears to be a political move prior to the November midterm elections. The NRC did not provide backup documentation for their decision -- that's still to be published. The NRC has a habit of withdrawing documents, then rereleasing watered-down or altered versions prior to releasing any backup documentation, if it ever comes out at all. And the backup documentation may not even back up their conclusions -- this author has seen that happen many times, as well.

The State of Nevada is fighting the legal battles one might expect them to be concerned about: They don't want Yucca Mountain to happen at all and have numerous good reasons why it's inadequate: Water intrusion, earthquake issues, volcanic issues, transportation issues (they don't want that waste anywhere near Las Vegas, but that's exactly how some of the routes go), human fallibility issues (will it be constructed according to specifications and who's gonna check? And who's gonna check the checkers?).

However, the State of Nevada doesn't want to appear anti-nuclear or -- egads -- unAmerican, so in their official submissions opposing Yucca Mountain, to the NRC or to a judge, they always state that on-site storage of spent fuel at the reactor sites is safe and will remain so until an alternative site is selected.

However, onsite storage is NOT safe, and every other potential permanent repository location has already been eliminated for one reason or another, time and again. Nobody in their right mind wants the waste anywhere near them. Especially not a wised-up American.

Having no other place on earth for the highly radioactive used reactor cores puts residents of southern California at grave risk of a catastrophic spent fuel accident, with no solution in sight. Even though San Onofre is closed, the spent fuel is still a problem, and so is Diablo Canyon: Los Angeles is far closer to Diablo Canyon than Tokyo is to Fukushima. And Tokyo might have had to be abandoned if Fukushima's "corium" blobs had exploded violently (or might still have to be, if the corium explodes some time in the future...). So Los Angeles is certainly not yet safe from San Onofre, let alone, from Diablo Canyon.

Much of the risk these reactors have imposed on Californians has been the inevitable result of the NRC being a "captured" regulatory agency. And for what? For energy we don't need: Losing SanO did not cause blackouts, and there is already more than enough electricity available in California to make up for Diablo Canyon's output to the grid, and more renewable energy is coming online every day. And with a new Public Utilities Commissioner, perhaps we will see even more renewable energy (hard to believe we could do worse than Michael Peevey has been).

San Onofre's steam generator replacement project failure has become legendary within engineering circles, and somebody has to take the blame. SCE deserves a lot of the blame, but the NRC chose to absolve them of it all and instead, take the blame for the guilty-as-sin utility's engineers and executives, who the NRC protected from criminal indictments at every step. Probably to protect their own skin.

For example, after citizens demanded a "thorough" investigation into what failed in San Onofre Unit 3 on January 31, 2012, and what -- if anything -- was different about Unit 2's virtually identical replacement steam generators, NRC formed an Augmented Inspection Team (AIT) and experts were consulted. But the experts couldn't agree on the cause, and the committee concluded it might be one thing or another, but then again it might be something else, and that was the end of the investigation. The net result? It could happen again, at another reactor site. The "root cause" was never found.

The question came up (like a freight train rumbling through a small village) of whether or not Southern California Edison (SCE) should have applied for a license amendment before replacing the steam generators, -- a license amendment which SCE specifically tried to avoid. After the AIT investigation into what happened that went nowhere, NRC concluded that SCE had satisfied all the requirements for submitting data about the replacement steam generators to the NRC. However, the NRC could not produce the documentation they supposedly used to support their conclusion.

After the leak that shut down the plant, the 18-month delay (from January 31, 2012 to June 7, 2013) before deciding to permanently close San Onofre cost ratepayers in California hundreds of millions of dollars. That money could have gone directly into solar and other renewable projects.

Prior to SCE's abandoning the reactor the NRC, to their credit, delivered several dozen technical questions to San Onofre's owners for their engineers to answer. But realistically, the NRC could have and should have told Southern California Edison there was no way they were EVER going to approve any restart of EITHER reactor -- even if the steam generators are replaced again -- because SCE was no better at keeping records of what went wrong than the NRC was, and the documentation for who screwed up the calculations appears to be missing -- so who would know what else might be bogus in that hunk of junk by the sea?

NRC should never have allowed the steam generator replacement project to move forward anywhere, but especially at San Onofre. In making their decision, the NRC apparently never considered what else might have been going wrong at the plant (such as: not going on fire watches, worker intimidation, not test-starting or inspecting backup generators for years at a time, not properly setting the welding speeds on automatic welding equipment, etc. etc. etc. ).

NRC should have shut San Onofre down -- and all the others -- because of the waste problem. It's not just unsolved. It's unsolvable.

This Monday (October 27th, 2014) the NRC will hold a hearing (in Carlsbad, where I live) regarding how to proceed with decommissioning San Onofre, after SCE finally decided it couldn't squeeze the public to pay for a thousand useless high-paying jobs anymore, and so they cut the workforce to a "skeleton" size of about 350 people, and submitted a decommissioning plan (called a PSDAR) which calls for completing the project as quickly as possible -- except for the waste, which will just sit there.

The NRC meeting is to hear from the public regarding SCE's PSDAR, which is filled with utterly fantastic predictions: That the nuclear waste problem will be solved by 2024 when a national repository will open; that San Onofre's waste will be removed from the site by 2049; that giving workers a few hundred REM of radiation is okay; and that the public has been properly engaged and knows what's going on at the plant.

When the decommissioning process starts, hundreds more people will be hired. SCE is keen to see that happen. SCE already has (our) money to pay them, and the money has to just sit there, hopefully earning enough interest so that whenever decommissioning does start, there will still be enough money to pay for it. But if not, they'll just get it from the ratepayers.

Local unions want decommissioning to start -- they see jobs, and if it's dangerous -- well, that pays even better. They can't see radiation. They're not afraid of it because construction work -- and deconstruction work -- always carries a risk. That's what people do to build skyscrapers and so forth -- they take a risk that the cables and crossbeams will hold: That the design is correct. That the materials are good.

NRC has calculated the overall radiation doses the workers will receive. If deconstruction is delayed for a few generations of workers instead of started immediately as SCE is proposing, the cumulative doses those workers who finally do the deconstruction will get will be about 1/20th of the radiation dose that workers will get if the deconstruction work is started as soon as possible (10s of REM cumulatively, versus several hundred REM cumulatively).

Figures were not available for doses to the public, but those would be reduced as well -- although those are already promised to be extremely low.

The Office of Inspector General's (OIG's) report on the NRC's handling of the San Onofre steam generator replacement project was very critical of the NRC -- but still didn't go far enough. As if in response, almost immediately after the OIG's report was released, this ne'er-do-well, corrupted, captured, hook-line-and-sinker pro-nuclear regulatory agency published a ruling that is supposed to stand for a million years or more!

And the NRC's chairperson resigned -- poof, off to a cushy university.

When she was appointed, Allison Macfarlane had been lauded by Obama for her work on the Blue Ribbon Commission -- which accomplished nothing except to say that we've got to stop allowing citizens to stop a nuclear waste dump, just because they live near a small group of tribal Indians or other "sovereign" land owners who are willing to take money for taking nuclear waste.

This BRC "solution" is called such Orwellian terms as "community choice" for "interim storage solutions." (In the case of Yucca Mountain, that site is within the Nevada Test Site, which is on land already taken from the Shoshone people, and they don't want it further desecrated.)

And speaking of Orwellian terms, 70+ years and as many billions of dollars later, the unsolved nuclear waste problem is now called the "waste confidence" problem, as if half-inch thick stainless steel canisters with thousands of pounds of nuclear waste in each one is somehow safe, and as if such flimsy canisters are a defense-in-depth (as was promised by the nuclear industry and the NRC) method to store nuclear waste for hundreds of years, come what may: Fires, floods, wars... larger-than-design-basis earthquakes... the crumbling sands of time... tsunamis...

The dry casks are only tested, built for, assumed to be able to withstand 40 feet of submersion, while the waves that washed over Fukushima were nearly double that, and underwater landslides among the submerged canyons off the coast of California can cause mountainous tsunamis far taller than that. A new study was promised for decades but of course, never materialized. And even Allison Macfarlane has admitted, you can't predict when these things will happen.

The NRC says the canisters will last at least 100 years right here on our coast, but anyone who lives here knows metals don't last very long along the coast. They become embrittled, they rust, they flake, they crack... and the NRC's own studies* confirm that we'll be lucky to get 30 years from the dry casks (the ones in Diablo Canyon are showing signs of stress corrosion cracking after only about two years). If we can't figure out a good way to thoroughly inspect these canisters periodically, we won't know if they've even started to crack until it's a through-wall crack and the canisters have already started to leak.

And yet, the NRC is America's last line of defense, which is why, despite it all, I encourage all citizens to come to their meetings and complain.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

* Actually, the NRC didn't do any cask degradation studies themselves, they commissioned Sandia National Labs to do some, because the NRC doesn't have the expertise or resources to do the studies, and the industry doesn't have the interest in doing them.

** Fermi 1 was added after the following letter was received from Kay C.:

Hi Ace,

Just a reminder that one of Michigan's reactors, Fermi 1, also had a partial meltdown in 1966. John Fuller wrote a book about it: "We Almost Lost Detroit." From my understanding, it was a lot like Santa Susanna. 
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Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman

Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.
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