Sunday, October 19, 2014

Judge Sullivan resorts to incomplete logic in order to bar world-renowned expert from testifying in "flowers" case...

Four grandmothers attempted to plant flowers to bring attention to the dangers at Pilgrim nuclear power plant. But Judge Sullivan refused to allow world-renowned pediatrician and nuclear expert Helen Caldicott to testify in their defense, because she (the judge) sees a huge difference -- when pushed to see it by the District Attorney -- between "potential theoretical harm" and actual imminent harm.

The defendants -- four women 60 to 80 years old -- are using the "necessity" defense. Is there an immediate danger? Is the illegal act (trespassing) effective in addressing and abating the danger? The judge refused to learn how quickly a nuclear power plant can explode. She refused to hear that the plans for evacuation require immediate action for millions of people around the plant. She refused to consider that the warning that it's time to evacuate must be sent out by people who, if they fail to do their duty, will be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, and end up in Judge Sullivan's court (if she survives the holocaust) to be sentenced for negligent homicide.

How imminent can you get?

And sticks and stones may break my bones but planting flowers never hurt anybody.

The judge would like to turn the issue of nuclear safety away. Not her concern. Not in her courtroom. That's for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide. They say it's safe. And for the judge, that's the end of the "imminent threat" defense.

But as nuclear industry veteran Arnie Gundersen puts it, a nuclear power plant "can have 40 good years and one bad day." That's forty years for activists to address the serious dangers of nuclear power, and get the plant shut down permanently. 40 years to look at the waste problem the plant is creating -- waste which, like at San Onofre, which will never generate nuclear power again -- will have to be watched closely for thousands of generations or it can become a burning cauldron of poisonous gasses, just like Fukushima but with fewer of the short-lived fission products. Zirconium is touchy, dangerous, wicked stuff. And that's just the cladding! Inside are fission products, plutonium and unfissioned uranium -- the "hot" stuff.

I don't like to break the law and don't encourage others to do so, either.

But this industry has to be stopped.

For years, activists went to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to complain about goings-on at San Onofre. From skipping fire watches to improper welding procedures for the dry casks they were building, to worker intimidations and firings -- all this leaked out, year after year, from whistleblowers and former employees of the plant.

The activists would tell the NRC, the NRC would promise to investigate, and that would be the end of that. Why did a crane fall 80 feet in the turbine room? The crane was being removed after it was rented to replace the turbine shaft, which had run out of oil during a small fire while the fire departments were arguing. Yes, these things really happened, and the turbine shaft suddenly screeched to a halt, bent, and had to be shipped to Japan for repairs which took six months. Local city firefighters who had responded weren't allowed to do their jobs because the on-site fire brigade thought they had it under control. They didn't. When they finally relented, it was too late, the shaft has seized and was damaged. The reactor was SCRAMmed, a violent and dangerous procedure.

It all happens in an instant, but the proper way to prevent it is to shut the plants down. It's shutdown or meltdown for every reactor in the country.

Over the years, local activists talked about all sorts of (non-violent) illegal actions they wanted to take, to try to raise awareness of San Onofre's dangers, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has deaf ears, the state agencies close their eyes to anything having to do with "safety" of nuclear power plants, saying the NRC has sole jurisdiction in that area, and the courts? Judge Sullivan finds a two-bit excuse to exclude the whole crux of the problem: You can't hold nuclear power accountable.

Activists fighting San Onofre were dogged in their efforts and clear about their targets: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the utility itself. Once the new replacement steam generators had failed and the reactor was inoperable, the cry was adamant: PROVE restart of Unit 2 is safe. Show us what's different. Show us how you're going to know what's going on inside the steam generator. And show us how you can be sure a cascade of tube failures can't occur, since adjacent tubes of dime-thin metal were clanging into each other and had worn 99% of the way through. Most of all, show us a plan to handle such an accident if it does occur.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) even took the NRC to court. It could have been Judge Sullivan's court, but fortunately it happened in another part of the country (I believe FOE court cases on behalf of San Onofre's citizens were filed in D.C.)

I don't like to break the law, but if planting flowers on someone's property can get a decent hearing on a critical issue of safety for the community, I'd let it happen. Shame on Judge Sullivan.

It would appear that the system worked for San Onofre and an imminent threat was averted. The people were spared all the potential disasters except (and this is a big exception) those associated with the spent ("used") fuel.

The battle to protect the public from that is a long and daunting one, but the first step is shutting down the plants -- and planting flowers instead.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Judge snubs expert at Pilgrim trial

October 18, 2014

PLYMOUTH ­ A Plymouth District Court judge barred an internationally known expert on the medical and environmental dangers of nuclear power from testifying Friday on behalf of four Cape Cod activists charged with trespassing onto the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station's property on Mother's Day.

Dr. Helen Caldicott had traveled from Australia to serve as the principal expert witness at the trial of the alleged trespassers, who argue that their actions of civil disobedience were performed for a greater good.

Related Links

Read more about Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

Defendants Diane Turco of Harwich, Sarah Thacher of East Dennis, Mary Conathan of Chatham and Susan Carpenter of South Dennis are using the "necessity" defense, which requires their attorney to prove there was an immediate danger and the action of trespassing was effective in addressing and abating the danger.

The four women, who range in age from 60 to 80 and call themselves "The Grandmothers," say they went onto the Pilgrim property to plant flowers. Their action came at the end of a Mother's Day rally intended to raise awareness of the dangers they say the plant poses to the public.

Instead of allowing Caldicott to testify Friday, Judge James Sullivan ordered her to undergo preliminary questioning so he could determine what direction her testimony would take.

The doctor told the court that while she has spoken and written on the dangers of nuclear power in general, she spent 20 years in the Boston area and has specific familiarity with the Plymouth nuclear plant.

"I've been concerned about Pilgrim for many years and have given lectures on this plant many times," she said. "This is an acute emergency. People on the Cape are at a severe risk."

Plymouth County Assistant District Attorney Amanda Fowle argued that Caldicott and future witnesses for the defense would show "potential hypothetical harm" rather than actual imminent harm.

Sullivan agreed. "She's telling the court what could happen and what the potential risks are," the judge said. "The necessity defense can't be based on speculative information. I have no choice but to preclude her testimony."

The judge told defense attorney Bruce Taub he may allow Caldicott to testify Wednesday "if you bring in other witnesses that make her testimony relative." He suggested nuclear engineers as possible expert witnesses, but then told Taub he could not add any witnesses to the existing list.

Taub intends to have state Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, kick off Monday's testimony, followed by Dr. Richard Clapp, founding director of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry, and political scientist Joseph Gerson, who will testify on acts of civil disobedience to prompt social change.

Caldicott said later she was "very annoyed" at the judge's ruling. ­He knew I'm an expert on childhood diseases and I could talk about that," said the doctor, who has been an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a staff member at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston.

"I don't think the law should be deciding the medical dangers of the nuclear plant," she said. "We who know medicine should be deciding.

"International studies show children living within 2 miles of a plant have double the incidence of leukemia, and that's almost certainly happening here," she said.

One of the alleged trespassers, Thacher, did testify Friday. The 80-year-old great-grandmother called the plant "an insult to our humanity and to our children."

Fowle asked Thacher why she went onto the Entergy-owned Pilgrim property. "I hoped to bring attention to it and get people as mad as hell about this unfeeling continuation of the poisoning of our atmosphere," Thacher answered. "My effort is for all the children in the world. They're all getting hammered."

During opening statements, Fowle said the prosecution had not been given adequate notice of the witnesses the defense would present.

She said Taub had not provided the list and the background material on the witnesses until Wednesday.

Taub apologized and said it was not intentional.

"This is a significant case," Sullivan warned. "The defendants are facing incarceration. It's important we do this the right way."

Turco, who founded the anti-Pilgrim group Cape Downwinders and who is the only defendant representing herself, agreed with the judge.

"It is serious, but it's serious because it's about public health and safety," Turco said. "Jail time is secondary."

Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @chrislegereCCT.

Re: [NukeNet] Judge denies Caldicott testimony

Cape Cod Times video: Helen Caldicott at Pilgrim Nuclear Plant Trespassing trial

[ go to Re: CCT web page for video)

At 06:47 AM 10/18/2014 -0400, "Diane Turco" <> wrote:
>Cape Cod Times article on the Grandmothers Trial!.Diane
>NukeNet Anti-Nuclear Network (
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Suggested preamble to San Clemente city resolution...

Here's a suggested preamble to San Clemente's resolution about the nuclear waste, and some comments.


Our forefathers made a mistake accepting the production of this waste within our community.

Nuclear power was and will forever remain a forbidden fruit, because the so-called by-products in the "production" of electricity are, in fact, the real products of the process, with electricity being just a fleeting byproduct (easily achieved many other ways). We want offshore wind farms. We want clean energy.

The fact that nuclear waste is the product of nuclear fission -- not "just" a by-product -- is a very important point. We're stuck with the waste. And we want to warn others who are making such waste that they should stop now -- don't wait -- the sooner you stop making waste, the less waste you'll have to deal with in the future. And to anyone contemplating this technology: Don't do it.

Nuclear waste has nowhere to go. Don't believe us? After 30 years and 15 billion dollars, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Yucca Mountain as safe for the next million years. That's a big claim. They claim the waste will be safe at San Onofre for hundreds of years. That's a big claim too.

The last big thing the NRC approved for San Clemente was San Onofre's replacement steam generators which were supposed to last 60 years or longer, but which only lasted 11 months and then nearly wiped out southern California when they failed! An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General found numerous procedural flaws in the NRC's methodology -- flaws which can be applied throughout the commission, to every decision they make. The NRC is the ultimate lap-dog agency. Every time anyone within the NRC even thinks about throwing in the towel on nuclear power, they are drummed out of the industry forever.

Were the NRC to ever decide to shut down civilian nuclear power -- AS THEY SHOULD -- the U. S. Nuclear Navy would remind the NRC that the USN uses nuclear power for ships and submarines, and where will their reactor control room operators work after their stint in the navy is through if there are no more "civilian" power reactors?

And the U.S. Air Force has its atomic bombs -- where would they get material for those bombs if not for commercial reactors producing copious quantities of plutonium "just in case" World War III breaks out and it last more than 90 minutes before we're all smoke and ruins?

"With that in mind, we resolve that:..."

After that, San Clemente can continue to beg someone to take the nuclear waste for them. Until then, at least San Clemente can be happy that SCE/CPUC plan to spread out the costs for future generations to pay for the upkeep, replacement shielding, catastrophic loss of life and property (values) -- and all other additional expenses that might be incurred -- among communities far away from San Clemente. But if even a tiny fraction of the waste got out, it would destroy San Clemente first. And the Price-Andersen insurance will limit pay-outs long before even San Clemente's destruction can be covered. A fraction of a single fuel pellet the size of an adult human pinky bone can render San Clemente uninhabitable if its contents ignite and burn. There are millions and millions of fuel pellets, each the size of one adult human pinky bone, being stored at San Onofre. And, if one burns, probably at least all those in that dry canister will also burn, possibly igniting other cani

Each pellet will be deadly for far more than a million years, although for the next few decades, and for the first few centuries, the used fuel is especially dangerous because it includes a lot of relatively short-lived fission products (with half-lives in the 30 year range).

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Notes on what might make a better dry cask:

Thick layers of copper (used in other countries for additional shielding for long-term waste storage, but long-term applicability to its use here has not been confirmed).
Thick layers of gold (probably the 2nd best protection for all the other layers, after iridium (but not enough iridium exists on the planet (nor does enough gold)).
Fewer fuel assemblies per dry cask (this reduces the risk and potential size of a criticality event).
Gold plating on the outside (protects from insects and many other things).
Alternately-magnetized layers of steel -- thousands of them (stops many substances from creeping through the material).
Canister integrity monitoring (to ensure cracks are not developing).
If a monolith is used, fewer casks per monolith (so that the monolith can move more easily as one object in an earthquake).
High stone pyramids (to protect the area from missiles and jet airplane impacts).
After closure of all power reactors, military reactors, and research reactors (they can put one on Mars if they want) -- and ONLY after that time: Reprocessing that removes the zirconium and fission products from the plutonium and uranium, and then stores everything in a safer way.

And lastly:

A global agreement on what that best way to solve the nuclear waste dilemma. Right now there are a dozen or so different "best" storage solutions for nuclear waste used around the world. None are adequate. There is no safe place to store the waste, no safe way to transport it, no safe way to reprocess it, and absolutely no reason to make more of it.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Comments on the NRC Inspector General Report on San Onofre's Steam Generator failure

The Office of Inspector General's (OIG's) report on San Onofre is out (URL below, provided by Ray Lutz).

It's pretty damning of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

NRC missed opportunities to see that the new steam generator designs were extensively different from the original. They could have seen that the designs were unworkable, or at least prone to vibration. Their procedures rely on random inspections, a method which invariably can miss big problems. They accept unsubstantiated claims by the licensee. They don't have the right experts doing the inspections. And they don't keep good enough documentation to reconstruct the basis for their decisions.

These are the guys in charge of the most dangerous technology in the history of the human race.

And the Augmented Inspection Team (AIT) that NRC set up after the failure? They never answered the question they were tasked with researching! (Namely: Should there have been a "50.59" license amendment procedure? (The answer was: "Yes."))

Perhaps worst of all, the NRC inspectors themselves -- despite many of them individually identifying serious problems -- still believe in the system. But truly, the system is broken because the goal is unreachable.

And what went wrong with San Onofre's steam generators is going wrong with the nuclear industry's dry cask long-term storage solution for spent nuclear fuel (called a "short-term," "temporary," "interim" or "indefinite" storage solution by the nuclear industry). The entire nuclear industry is ignoring "Beyond Design Basis Events (DBEs)" such as airplane strikes, terrorism, larger earthquakes than originally anticipated, larger tsunamis, and numerous other natural and manmade phenomena and combinations of phenomena.

Instead, regarding dry cask storage, the nuclear industry and the NRC are looking almost exclusively at the problem of hydride-induced stress corrosion cracking (SCC), such as occurs in a marine environment like at San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. Even for that, they plan on sampling less than 1% of dry casks in the country, and that's just for visible signs of damage. They might even get away with inspecting less than 1% of 1%, if the industry gets to do inspections of only ONE dry cask at ONE reactor site, as they have asked permission to do.

While SCC is certainly a serious issue, the NRC doesn't even look at the ramifications of that in the real world. For example, through-wall cracks as deep as 75% of the way through the dry cask container wall (which is only 5/8ths of an inch thick to begin with) will be allowed -- even though no seismic studies on how well a degraded cask can withstand even a design basis earthquake have been done!

Regarding the steam generator failure that doomed San Onofre, NRC had plenty of red flags on this project, and plenty of opportunities to step up their regulatory efforts, but made sure they looked the other way. San Onofre, like nearly every other reactor in America, is old and was prone to equipment failures. These "unexpected" occurrences were completely ignored in Southern California Edison's (SCE's) analysis of the cost/benefit of the steam generator replacement project. It was assumed there would never be a significant leakage problem, or vibration problem, just as it was assumed (and still is, at Diablo Canyon and other still-operating reactors) that a Fukushima-size accident simply can't happen. (There are currently 23 reactors in America with the exact same design flaws that doomed Fukushima, and all 87 other operating commercial reactors also have potential pathways to becoming the first American Fukushima -- or worse.)

The projected one billion dollar savings for ratepayers (over a 20 year period) from the replacement steam generator project assumed nothing would go wrong -- including a drop in the price of natural gas (which happened). And let alone, a drop in the price of renewable energy solutions (which also happened). And let alone, a bone-headed engineering SNAFU that could have been avoided if only SCE hadn't tried so hard to avoid regulatory (and public) oversight entirely.

NRC has some very strange ways of doing things. For example, they will accept two changes in opposite directions as being the exact equivalent of no change at all. This can make it very easy for a utility to squeeze by without any deep regulatory review.

In other words, let's say for example that a replacement pipe is made of thinner or weaker metal than the part it is replacing. That would, of course, increase the risk of that pipe bursting. But the utility can call it a wash if a different pipe that's also being replaced at the same time can be made stronger or thicker, which would reduce the risk of that pipe bursting! Such types of calculations MIGHT be okay from a total "risk analysis" point of view. But from the point of view of whether or not something is a change, it's completely ridiculous voodoo math. And perfectly legal at the NRC.

While this OIG report is pretty damning of the NRC, it by no means exonerates SCE.

The nuclear industry in America is dying a far-too-slow death. Lack of proper regulatory oversight has kept it alive far too long.

When the NRC was first formed in 1975, this author, naively, thought that, now that the regulatory and promotional parts of the Atomic Energy Commission have at last been separated (the Department of Energy being the other half, of course), the dangers of nuclear power will be recognized by the regulators, who will surely shut down this dangerous and useless technology.

So if I were to tell you that perhaps this report will start to change things at the NRC, you should take it with a grain of salt. And don't hold your breath.

However, after reading NRC regional chief at the time Elmo Collins' comments (see SD-U-T article, below, top), I'm not about to say that. NRC continues to stubbornly cling to the idea that its real duty is to serve the nuclear industry, not the public.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

From: San Diego Union-Tribune:


'09 inspection cited as "missed opportunity" to identify weaknesses in generator project

By Morgan Lee 5:05 A.M.OCT. 8, 2014

U.S. nuclear safety regulators missed red flags in 2009 when they agreed to pre-approve steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear plant without a thorough review, leading to the installation of faulty equipment, according to a federal inquiry released Tuesday.

San Onofre was permanently shut down last year by plant operator Southern California Edison because of the rapid degradation of newly replaced steam generators.

In a 55-page report, the Office of the Inspector General at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said a 2009 inspection by the agency failed to recognize "shortcomings" in the way the replacement of the huge steam generators was evaluated. It also raised questions about why Edison was allowed to install new generators without seeking a change in its federal operating license.

The inspection team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed a decision by Edison to replace San Onofre's steam generators without prior approval from the agency, the report said. No objections were raised by the nuclear commission at the time, and installation of the new generators began in September 2009.

Edison installed the generators under a frequently used rule that allows plant operators to replace equipment without prior approval, provided they can show the switch does not cause significant changes to plant operation or safety.

A subsequent review, after the plant broke down, turned up questions about shortcomings in Edison's evaluation of changes to the original generator design and whether there was sufficient evidence to sidestep a license amendment, which can take months or years to complete.

The inspector general's report characterized the 2009 inspection as a "missed opportunity" to identify weaknesses in Edison's screening of the project, and said there was "no assurance the NRC reached the correct conclusion" when it agreed that a license amendment wasn't needed to replace the generators.

Edison is reviewing the report and had no immediate comment.

Elmo Collins, the former regional administrator overseeing San Onofre until March 2013, told investigators that if a lengthier license amendment review had been conducted, it is unlikely the steam generators would have been approved.

"The steam generators as designed were basically unlicensable," he said. "We wouldn't approve them."

He said a more thorough review may have prompted probing questions about predictions on steam velocities. Rapid wear among generator tubes at San Onofre was linked to dry, fast-moving steam.

"Some reviewer would have said this is an outlier and we need to understand that," the inquiry report said, paraphrasing Collins.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., faulted both Edison and the nuclear commission and said a hearing is planned before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Boxer heads the committee, which oversees safety regulations for U.S. nuclear plants.

"When Southern California Edison decided to completely replace their steam generators in order to increase their profit margin, they failed to apply for an amended license as they are required to do, and the NRC stood by and did nothing," Boxer said in a statement.

The inquiry report shows that some inspectors on the 2009 team were in the midst of training on how to evaluate whether a major reactor component replacement, such as a steam generator, can go forward without a re-evaluation of the plant's safety systems. Many experts within the agency said better training and guidance is needed.

Steam generators are routinely replaced at nuclear reactors because of corrosion and wear and tear. Since 1989, 53 of the 65 plants that utilize steam generators have replaced their generators without prior approval by the commission.

Six replacements have been made following the license amendment process.

NRC spokeswoman Lara Uselding said the agency was reviewing the report.

Federal authorities traced the generator problems at San Onofre to botched computer codes used to design the generators.

Previously, the commission cited Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for flawed computer codes used in the design of the steam generators. Edison was cited for failing to properly check the design.


At 12:26 PM 10/8/2014 -0700, Ray Lutz wrote:

>UT news item:
>Actual report (55 pages):