Tuesday, July 31, 2007

follow-ups to "Dirty Secrets" and "Rattling the Reactor"

July 31st, 2007


This is just going out to new subscribers who
joined because of wider distribution of the 16
Dirty Secrets essay. It's some follow-up
comments. Also included is a follow-up to my
Rattling the Reactor article about the Kashiwazaki earthquake.



Subject: Follow-up to popular 16-question nuke Q&A: Suggestions for activists

July 2nd, 2007

Dear Readers,

[Re:] http://www.counterpunch.com/hoffman06272007.html

In response to various comments, I've modified
the answer to question 2 a little -- mainly by
dropping the discussion about nuclear submarines
sometimes running on batteries. Although nuclear
submarines could in theory run on their emergency
backup batteries for up to about 12 hours, and
can maneuver on them, and although it would,
indeed, be quieter than when the reactors are
running, I'm assured it's seldom, if ever,
actually done that way. Of course, the Navy
defines "emergency" pretty loosely, as in: "This
is an emergency so dump those pollutants into the
sea!" And if by an "emergency" they mean needing
to cool the reactors on backup power, well, I'd
guess that's a bad time to be using those
batteries for any maneuvering, except to a better
possible grave site. The author apologizes for the confusion secrecy brings.

Another "small" change: I had used the word
"size" when I should have said "mass" when
comparing an electron to protons and
neutrons. (There will be a lot more on THAT
subject in a soon-to-be-completed newsletter.)

The "new and improved" version of the Q&A
appeared in OpEd News on June 29th. Here's the URL:


The still-wider audience drew additional --
mostly favorable -- responses. One person posted
four comments at the OpEd News site. Those
comments are presented, and answered,
below. Another person made a more rambling
attack, trying to claim I'm
"anti-technology." My answer to that also
appears below. The ridiculous statement I'm
answering can be found at the OpEd News web site given above.

If you missed the original Q&A, I will be
expanding it and (hopefully) printing it, in
order to make it available to more people, and so
it can be used as a quick-reference when
attending a nuke-related public meeting.

In the meantime, I'd like to suggestion going to
your Congressperson's web site and
"cut-and-paste" the original newsletter, or
perhaps the URLs of the CounterPunch or OpEd News
versions, or some portion of the newsletter, into
their comment form. Even if only a few people do
this, who knows? It MIGHT make a difference.

Cheney's secret energy policy continues to be
exposed, bit by bit, for the pro-nuke garbage it
is. Congress is on vacation this week, of
course. Let's give them something to think about when they get back.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Answers to OpEdNews posts about my Q&A

July 1st, 2007

In response to the first two posted comments,
which contained four claims from a pro-nuker:

The four claims are:

1) "Solar cells require ten times more energy to
create than they will ever produce."

2) "Wind will require a massive windmill in every
yard to replace the power used by the related household."

3) "Reactor pools of spent rods are not cooled."

4) "I would gladly accept a spent fuel rod, to be
placed in my yard, for a small yearly stipend.
And so would anyone else who knows and cares."


1) "Solar cells require ten times more energy to
create than they will ever produce."

This is a classic nuke-generated lie based -- at
best -- on 40-year-old data from the first
laboratory samples of solar panels -- if there's
any reality to the oft-repeated (by pro-nukers)
comment at all. A modern solar panel is a wonder
of recyclable engineering, and includes high-tech
components such as microscopic prisms, electronic
diodes and software-actuated switches. Some
modern solar panels have expected 100+ year life
spans, with a 3- to 5-year payback. People who
put solar panels on their homes in the 1980s are
still using them, and the panels paid for
themselves years ago. That's a more accurate
description of what solar cell technology has
already achieved, even without a fair regulatory
playing field to encourage consumer investment.

2) "Wind will require a massive windmill in every
yard to replace the power used by the related household."

An even worse lie. A typical wind turbine can
generate 3 to 5 megawatts whenever the wind is
blowing sufficiently. In the U.S.A., you'll find,
on average, enough wind to generate electricity
at least 7% of the time. In many places there's
enough wind 30% or more of the time. America is
considered "the Saudi Arabia of wind" because we
have so much potential wind power. But it's not
really a good comparison, since Saudi Arabia's oil WILL run out.

5 megawatts is enough juice for 5,000 homes
according to my local nuclear power plant,
although it probably could serve 50,000
energy-efficient homes utilizing passive measures
such as solar panel roofs, L.E.D. lighting,
proper insulation, geothermal heat exchangers, and energy-efficient appliances.

Even if the wind blows only 7% of the time, 7% of
5,000 homes is 350, so ONE wind turbine actually
would create ALL the juice needed for about 350
homes. And 10-megawatt wind turbines are coming.
In fact, MUCH BIGGER DESIGNS are possible! Wind
turbines are beautiful -- don't let anybody fool
you! They replace nukes, but they can also
replace coal and oil-burning solutions. And wind
technology is still in its infancy! Wind energy,
like solar energy and many other renewable energy
solutions, only needs a major manufacturing push,
which will come from a properly regulated market.

Long-distance transmission lines are one way to
solve the problem of wind power not being
available locally all the time. Since the wind IS
always blowing SOMEWHERE, you just capture THAT
energy, and distribute it to where it is needed.
Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983) proposed the
Global Energy Grid for just such a purpose.

Local storage of wind-generated power (by, for
example, pumping water into a reservoir) also
solves the problem of having the energy available when you need it.

Nuclear reactors are old, dirty, dangerous,
foolish, and faulty. And their frequent and
unexpected outages are very difficult for power
grids to handle. And, it's not uncommon to have
100-megawatt power fluctuations as nuclear power
plants come on line, along with sudden losses of
1,000-megawatt power sources, often just when you
need them most (as happened in California in
2003, when three of four nuclear power plants dropped out of the power grid).

3) "Reactor pools of spent rods are not cooled."

Reactor pool water must be circulated constantly,
to cool the fuel rods. Depending on the age of
the fuel, it can be shut off for a while, but
whatever you do, don't accidentally drain the
pool, don't drop a flaming airplane into it,
don't wash a tsunami over it and fill it with
cars and trucks from the nearby highway, or push
a bunch of fresh-from-the-reactor "hot" fuel rods
together to achieve a criticality event, etc. etc. etc..

It's only after about 3 to 5 years (at the
earliest) that the spent fuel rods can be removed
from the deep pools, and even then it's dangerous
and probably shouldn't be done for at least 50 or
100 years, if ever. All nuclear power plants
should be stopped forever, immediately! A spent
reactor fuel fire is virtually impossible to
quench (I'm not even sure why I bothered to say
"virtually" since any actual fire WILL burn
itself out, since no one will be able to get
close to it to pour INERT GASSES on it to quench the flames).

When the Department of Energy or the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission talk about possible
accident scenarios involving the transportation
of nuclear waste, they NEVER refer to ANY
accident which could release more than a tiny,
tiny fraction (say, 0.00001%) of the total in
that particular SINGLE CONTAINER shipment! Larger
accidents are considered statistically unlikely
and their consequences are completely ignored.
So, thousands of realistic accident scenarios are
ignored, and you can bet a 9-11 style attack was
NEVER considered in their calculations prior to
9-11, and STILL isn't. The actual tests they run
are contrived and unrealistic. And there's no
place to SHIP the fuel to anyway, so it stays
near the reactors. Spent reactor fuel fires are
the most likely thing to bankrupt America unless
we stop putting fresh fuel in the reactors and
spend a lot more money protecting the fuel
storage systems from terrorists, evil geniuses,
stupid humans, and normal humans who make mistakes.

4) "I would gladly accept a spent fuel rod, to be
placed in my yard, for a small yearly stipend.
And so would anyone else who knows and cares."

You want a nuclear waste dump in every yard, but
one windmill for every 350 homes is out of the
question? And you want someone to pay you for
storing the waste you, yourself, generate? That's
absurd! And anyway, please define "small" as in
"small yearly stipend" so we can calculate it out
for hundreds of thousands of years, which we
would need to do to cover the time the fuel rods
are actually dangerous. Your children, and their
children for 10,000 generations or so, will be
required to keep your spent fuel rods (in
addition to their own spent fuel rods) for THEIR
ENTIRE LIVES -- but there is no plan to give THEM
a stipend (and they might not agree with your
stipulated rate). The money is NOT charged to the
people who created the fuel rods (YOU). So WHO is
going to come up with the money?

And then there's the constant LEAKAGE from the
fuel rod. First of all, you'll need one of those
"dry casks" which, even for ONE fuel rod (or ONE
pellet of fuel (several hundred pellets per fuel
rod), for that matter) would need to be several
inches of steel, lead, etc., and then a few feet
(like, 10 or 12 or so) of CONCRETE. And that's
just to get it to a point that only nuke workers
are allowed near, because of the intense
radioactive "shine" being released from the spent fuel pellet.

And in 40 or 60 years -- maybe 100, but I
sincerely doubt it -- that whole containment will
have to be removed (and treated as extremely
hazardous rad waste) and a NEW ONE put around the
fuel, and so on every 50 or 100 years for
hundreds of thousands of years. And all day and
night, every day and night, someone will be using
electricity, and if they choose your system, that
electricity will cause ANOTHER FUEL ROD to be
created, and another and another and another. WHO
will pay the stipend for someone to take care of THOSE fuel rods?


These four points only make the folly of using
nuclear power more obvious -- so thanks for writing.

It's time to stop this evil. Nuclear power has met its match: Sanity.

"Not Very Scientific:"

The last OpEd News comment posted above this one
(titled "not very scientific") -- claiming I'm
"anti-technology" -- is at least as flawed as the
two posts discussed here, and the answers are
already in the document, which the antagonist
ignored or twisted. To respond briefly: There is
NO immunity buildup from radiation, space
missions (including missions with nuclear
materials) HAVE an extraordinarily high failure
rate, and MANY of the "early nuclear physicists"
never made it to old age because they died of
cancer. Madam Curie (1867 - 1934), who died of
leukemia in her 60s, is the most famous example.
There were thousands of scientists, so of course
some have reached the ripe old age of 90, as the
writer mentions. I work with some very old
"opposition scientists" myself, so I'm well aware
that radiation doesn't kill everyone. That,
perhaps, is why it's so exquisite at killing us silently, but in droves.

Knee-jerk pro-nukers always claim I'm
anti-technology. Such a claim is impossible to
sustain, as any look at my "Best Buy" receipts
would prove -- let alone the fact that one of the
software programs I co-authored is for sale there
as part of an educational suite of products, and
another one of my products won Adobe's "Site of
the Day" award on November 7, 2006.

Additionally, here are a few relevant URLs, all
created by this author, a computer programmer.
Does this really look like the work of someone
who is "anti-technology" to you? Or is it the
work of someone who has lost friends and family,
and who has become FED UP with being lied to, and
wants to help other people learn the truth as quickly as possible?

The public has to get a good grasp on ALL these
issues, because the pro-nukers will kill you if
you let them. And you're letting them.

Suggested URLS (all created by Russell "Ace" Hoffman):

POISON FIRE USA: An animated history of major
nuclear activities in the continental United
States, including over 1500 data points, accurately placed in time and space:

How does a nuclear power plant work (animations
of the two typical U.S. reactor designs):

Depleted Uranium: The Malignant Bullet:

Animated Periodic Table of the Elements (Adobe
"Site of the Day" November 7th, 2006) (Any login
ID will work with the password: ZINC):

by AceHoffman (5 articles, 1 comments) on Sunday, July 1, 2007 at 1:31:55 PM

Subject: How to make a nuclear bomb:

July 3rd, 2007

Dear Readers,

I'm happy to report the Q&A has been translated
into Spanish and is available at the Rebelion.org web site at:


I am grateful to Germán Leyens for doing the
translation. Also, a few additional comments
were posted at the OpEd News web site this
morning. My responses appear below, with the comments.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Op Ed News web page:

New Comments at OpEd News web site:

nuclear proliferation

A reactor is not required to proliferate nuclear
weapons. The easiest way to create an atomic
bomb is with enriched uranium which does not
require a reactor. That is the way the Hiroshima
bomb was made and it is the reason why the
Iranian enrichment program is a threat. Reactors
are required to make plutonium which is the very
difficult way to make an atomic weapon because
you have to separate it from the highly radioactive fission products.

by prc (0 articles, 1 comments) on Tuesday, July 3, 2007 at 11:39:17 AM


Dude, you're way off...

That's right, PRC... you don't need a reactor to make uranium bombs.

Actually most of the things listed in this
article are false. I'm not sure where you are
getting information... but you're way off. I
would talk to an authority on the subject before
posting anything else in the future; I know I got
directed to this piece because someone was making
fun of all the errors that were made.

by evilpixie (0 articles, 1 comments) on Tuesday, July 3, 2007 at 2:29:09 PM

My Response:

The comment by "prc" is a technicality, since
most "modern" nuclear weapons use plutonium and
tritium, products of nuclear reactors. The
comment by "Evil Pixie" doesn't have any substance to respond to (yawn).

It's true that you can make a 1940s-style A-bomb
by enriching mined uranium over and over
thousands of times, at a cost of
tens-of-billions-of-dollars, utilizing a large
quantity and variety of chemicals and poisoning
the earth terribly, especially the land downwind
of the facility, and the water downstream. And
it's true the reprocessing spent reactor fuel is even dirtier.

But either way, you will invariably SAY you are
doing it for your nuclear power plants, in order to make electricity.

Terrorists can steal Highly Enriched Uranium
("HEU") from so-called "research" reactors.

No country builds nuclear power plants without
fooling itself, either by pretending the
unsolvable problem of nuclear waste will be
solved, or by pretending that the world is so
vast, that if some other country agrees to take
the radioactive waste away, it magically disappears from humanity.

Even in Iran, where gasoline, we're told, is
still only 38 cents a gallon in 2007, they
somehow seem to think they need nuclear power
plants and a uranium enrichment facility. Curious indeed.

NPPs don't generate ANY electricity compared to
the cost of the loss for other uses of all the
materials they irradiate, the cost of caring for
all the spent fuel waste they generate, the
potential catastrophic costs associated with all
the worst-case scenarios, and compared to the
cost in democracy and health care of all the
employees and members of the public the Nuclear
Mafia first befuddle, then irradiate, and then kill.

In addition, using uranium to boil water to turn
steam turbines isn't a very efficient way to
generate electricity, so most of the energy held
within the uranium is still wasted in ANY nuclear
power plant that splits the atom to boil
water. A more efficient method IS still the
dream of "top-notch" nuclear scientists and
engineers. But what's holding them back is the
same problem the scientists who are studying how
to deal with nuclear waste keep running
into: Radiation destroys -- at the atomic level -- whatever you have near it.

What NPPs do well is disrupt the power supply
with up to 1,150 megawatts of sudden dropouts and
near-death experiences. That's why geeks like me
have spent billions of dollars, collectively, on
UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) for their
computers -- because America's power grid in
unreliable, because the energy isn't produced by a million small sources.

Instead our electricity comes from 104 unreliable
nukes, at an average of about 800 megawatts each,
and about 600 coal plants, at an average of about
500 megawatts each. Both drop out unexpectedly,
and together constitute about 60% of our
electricity generation, the rest being mainly (in
descending order) gas, hydro, and oil, plus a
very tiny amount (<1%) from ALL renewables other than hydro.

We got ourselves into this mess. The question
is: Can we dig ourselves out? My governor is
doing his part: He's converted his Hummers to run on alternative fuels!

America can and should lead the world in
designing and manufacturing the green
revolution. But we can't make the conversion if we love nuclear to death.


You COULD do a lot of things. You could build
nuclear-powered airplanes that could stay aloft
for months at a time. Nuclear wrist-watches that
never need winding! But it always comes back
to: What happens when the nuclear poison, often
in the form of a poison vapor, gets out?

July 20th, 2007 follow-up to Rattling the Reactor
(also published in CounterPunch):

[Re:] http://www.counterpunch.com/hoffman07192007.html


My responses to the pro-nuker's comments are in [[[ triple brackets ]]].



At 02:23 PM 7/20/2007 -0400, <nuspl@cox.net> wrote:
>Please help with rebuttal of this nuclear
>technologist's opinions on Japan nuclear accident.
>Michael Liesenfelt (UF) replied to your post about an hour ago:
>"Approximately four hundred drums of so-called
>"low-level" radioactive waste toppled over (of
>more than 22,000 such drums located at the site)"
>What a shame, somebody will actually have to go
>and pick up all of those bagged gloves and
>anti-contamination suits. I think they've got that under control.

[[[ They'll probably wash a lot of it into a
drain and out into the Sea of Japan, and a lot
will also evaporate (that's why the containers
had "tightly" sealed lids in the first
place). The preferred "solution" to pollution is
dilution, in their eyes. They use it whenever possible. -- Ace ]]]

>"All four automatically SCRAMed when the jarring
>started. A "SCRAM" of a reactor is a violent,
>sudden, dangerous stoppage which causes enormous
>wear and tear (and sometimes causes leaks)."
>The control rods slide in and shutdown the
>reactor. Not quite violent, or dangerous. For
>heaven's sake, it's a shutdown safety s

[[[ Every SCRAM is violent, as I stated. If a
reactor has more than one or two in a year,
that's officially cause for concern. More than a
dozen or so over two decades is also cause for
concern. Slamming on the brakes, shutting
everything down, changing the thermal and flow
characteristics of about a hundred thousand
gallons of fast-circulating, boiling-hot,
pressurized, continuously-reheated water, cooling
the metal pipes, etc., is NOT easy on the
system. And to SCRAM the reactors just when
they're needed most, right after an earthquake!

Here are some additional problems with SCRAMs, and control rods in particular:


Revelations continue
On April 6th Hitachi submitted a document
revealing an additional incident involving TEPCO.
In October 1988, one of the 185 control rod drive
mechanisms in the Fukushima II-4 reactor was out
of order. TEPCO requested Hitachi to inscribe the
serial number of the out of order control rod
drive mechanism onto a new one and load it
without subjecting it to the required government
inspection. Two of the four people involved in
this incident are still working at TEPCO. The
power company and manufacturer were fully aware
that their action was illegal when they conspired
to deceive the government, but the government's
nuclear safety inspectorate was incapable of uncovering the deception.

When three control rods fell out of position at
Hokuriku Electric's Shika-1 reactor in 1999,
criticality continued uncontrolled for 15
minutes. In 1978, five rods fell out of position
at reactor number 3 of Tokyo Electric Power
Company's Fukushima I power plant. On that
occasion criticality continued for seven and a
half hours. And in 1998 34 rods slipped 15 cm out
of position at Fukushima I unit 4, although the
reactor did not reach criticality.


... And should I mention the illogical design of
the control rods is considered a "prime suspect"
as one of the (many) "root causes" of the
Chernobyl disaster? They were designed with a tip
which actually increased the reactivity before
decreasing it! It was no cause for concern most
of the time, but it proved to be a crucial
difference April 26th, 1986. But of course, I
can't expect a pro-nuker to remember anything
that far back or in a foreign country. -- Ace ]]]

>"However, reportedly "90,000 Becquerels of radioactivity"
>or 2.432e-6 Ci
>I think I've held stronger laboratory test
>sources sources in my hand before. Cmon'

[[[ As I pointed out, simply providing the
Becquerels is an incomplete expression of the
danger. But sure, 90,000 is only about 13 times
your own personal "normal" dose of "background"
radiation. But that "normal" dose kills some
percentage of us, too. The 90,000 Bq. should
cause pause on principle, but no one thought it
was really that, anyway. No one but a pro-nuker,
that is. However, at the NIRS web site when I
checked yesterday, the current figure was given
as 402 million Becquerels. Quite a leap up, but
certainly not in an unexpected direction,
considering the 63 (up from 50 in my article)
different significant problems identified so far
(not including delayed and dishonest
reporting). Would your pro-nuker hold THAT much
radiation in his hand, absorb it into his lung,
store it in his gonads, feed it to his wife or
infant daughter, for it to lodge in THEIR
reproductive organs, to harm yet another
generation? And what right did we have to burden
humanity with 90,000 Bq, anyway? If they were
long-lived isotopes, this "punishment" will last
a correspondingly long time, poisoning people
(and other living things) for eons. But
402,000,000 Bq. -- and climbing -- ought to give anyone pause. -- Ace ]]]

>"The Japanese should be especially able to realize the insidious
>nature of radioactive poisons, since the effects of DNA damage from
>Hiroshima and Nagasaki still continue to this day, and could be
>carefully measured."
>Yet another piece of sensationalist propaganda
>published by our favorite religiously anti-nuclear activist, 'AcE' Hoffman.

[[[ The effects ARE continuing to this day -- and
will continue for generations to come. These
insults are undeserved. My opposition to nuclear
power is based on logic, reason, science and
humanity. I'm not the one doing any worshiping
or propagandizing -- they are. They worship the
Demon Hot Atom, and Demonize all who stand in
their way. We don't call pro-nukers a "Nuclear
Mafia" for nothing. -- Ace ]]]

>---- Thinkcivic@aol.com wrote:
> > BG: The following is further comment by by an environmental and energy
> > writer who covered Three Mile Island and the construction of the last two
> > commercial nuclear power plants in the US.
> > ---------------------------------
> > I am tied up on a project unrelated to
> energy, but wish i had time to really
> > review information on this. the bits and
> pieces i am seeing raise some real
> > questions not only about plant procedures but
> also about the quality of the
> > japanese nuclear regulatory system.
> > -----------------------------------------------------------------
> > BG: Well, we know the US regulatory system is horribly flawed....
> >
> > BG
> > thinkcivic@aol.com
> >

[[[ There is little question the Japanese nuclear
industry is even MORE corrupt and dishonest than
our own -- perhaps even rivaling the Russian or
French nuclear industries. Many local residents
have wanted the Kashiwazaki facility shut down for years. -- Ace. ]]]

Contact information for "Ace:"