Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Deadly fires in SoCal once again show stupidity of nuclear power

October 23rd, 2007

Dear Readers,

Right now, I'm sequestered. I can't breath the air out there in the real world. I can't leave my computers on because they heat up the house. I can't go anywhere because most of the roads are blocked and to get anywhere, I'd have to wait in traffic and smoke for hours and hours. I'm stuck.

The cause is wildfires, a natural occurrence. But what's NOT natural is that they are combined with drought conditions due at least in part to global warming. Humidity around here is in the 5% range. Winds upwards of 60 miles an hour send noxious smoke hundreds of miles out to sea each day, only to have it drift back onshore at night. Yesterday was relatively good here in Carlsbad, because the firestorm made its own wind, and that self-made wind actually brought cleaner sea air onshore in a few places in San Diego County, California, and one of those places getting the clean air was mine. Not so today. Today you can't see the sun through the smoke. Today they are telling us -- again -- to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. Today they are telling us that downed transmission lines throughout the county are causing spot shortages of electricity, and to conserve power as much as possible.

My air cleaners are going full-blast. My computers, my televisions, my security system, my phones, my printers, my Tivo -- what to turn off, what to leave on? They say to text message a certain number to get the latest updates but the cell phone lines are all clogged up. They say to go to various web sites for the latest updates but access is slowed down by the tens of thousands of other residents who heard the message. They say they are doing all they can do. Yes, TODAY they are doing all they can do, but in all their YESTERDAYS, when they could have prepared for this disaster, they did VIRTUALLY NOTHING. More than 1000 homes have been destroyed, nearly 300,000 acres have burned, one person has died, and several dozen have been injured, including five firefighters. Billions of dollars in losses in the span of a few hours. The county of San Diego was NOT prepared for the Witch Creek and Harris fires, despite the warning provided in 2003 by the Cedar and Paradise fire!

My stand-alone hard drive is by the door, ready to go. A week's worth of food and water is also ready to go. My most precious historic books are in a canvas tote bag, ready to go. Clothes are in a knapsack. We have batteries, the car has gas, and my four-wheel drive vehicle doesn't have to stay on the pavement -- I can drive right over hill and dale to escape.

But really, there is NO escape. With more than a quarter of a million residents already under mandatory evacuations, not a hotel room within 100 miles is available, and the air is polluted everywhere in Southern California. So here I sit, windows shut, doors shut and paper towels stuck in the cracks, and wet towels along the bottom, and the air cleaners going full-blast.

But what if, instead of smoke from forest fires, it was poison gas from San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station?

San Onofre is a disaster-waiting-to-happen. Just look at it! The old rust-bucket, which breaks down regularly, feeds power lines which run for miles across rugged terrain. if they snapped in high winds, fires, or an earth-quake, it could cause a meltdown, because ALL nuclear power plants require OFF-SITE POWER continuously. Otherwise, they have to rely on emergency generators to keep them from melting down, and those generators are, themselves, old rust-buckets.

Two of San Onofre's VICE-PRESIDENTS recently were forced to retire because otherwise they were going to face disciplinary action -- including, probably, BEING FIRED FOR INCOMPETENCE. The nuclear industries' own last resort for quality-control recently put San Onofre on the list of "worst-of-the-worst" -- right alongside Palo Verde, the worst-run nuclear power station in America. A lackadaisical attitude towards training was one reason for the low grades -- people would arrive late and care little. INPO (Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, a voluntary self-regulating organization founded in 1979, in the wake of the Three Mile Island disaster) realized this and didn't like it. And they'll put up with almost ANYTHING.

People are working double-shifts at the plant because manpower is WAY SHORT and there is much work to be done, because the whole place is falling apart with age, even as they are trying to upgrade everything to take advantage of the FREE GIFT that California and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently gave them -- a 20-year life extension to go on polluting, creating mountains of hazardous radioactive waste, and risk DISASTER on an UNPRECEDENTED SCALE for another two decades.

Of course, it doesn't have to be like this. There are clean, renewable-energy alternatives which don't have any of the risks of nuclear power. But NO ELECTED OFFICIAL has enough understanding of the dangers to want to stick their own neck out to save SoCal.

Many of them DON'T EVEN REALIZE that the "spent fuel" is unsafely stored outside the containment domes. They believe the utility when its spokesperson claims that dry cask storage is safe. They believe the utility and the nuclear industry when it claims that Yucca Mountain will soon take all the nasty waste away. They believe the "Health Physicists" when they say that a little radiation is like a vitamin for the immune system, and might prolong life. They believe more research needs to be done. They believe anything they can which will relieve them of their sworn duty to protect California from nuclear disaster.

But like the fires, which come from time to time, there is a time and a place for everything, and if we don't stop taking the easy route today, we'll end up taking the hardest route of all tomorrow.

Air cleaners and wet towels won't stop the deadly radioactive gasses emitted during a meltdown. Millions of San Diegans will be killed. All the cooperation of all the emergency responders won't make a bit of difference. Every hospital will be filled with vomiting, bleeding, dying citizens, and every house will have the smell of death, and every street will be strewn with writhing victims and lifeless bodies. People will continue to die IN DROVES for decades (and in lesser quantities for thousands of years), and there won't be a thing the mayor or the governor can do about it.

No other fate can possibly await us if we don't SHUT SAN ONOFRE IMMEDIATELY.

Today would be a good day to wake up and do what's right. There is supposed to be a hearing today in Oceanside -- probably cancelled due to the fire -- but the person putting it on -- Senator Christine Kehoe -- has had DECADES to learn the truth about radiation and its effects, and about the clean alternatives which are FULLY CAPABLE of replacing San Onofre. But instead she holds more hearings so the Nuclear Energy Institute can tell her that nuclear power is the cure for global warming and for our reliance on foreign oil. (In fact, according to a scientist recently seen on CNN's Planet in Peril program, if the planet were to build 1000 new nuclear power plants immediately, it would not make 1/10th of 1% difference in carbon emissions worldwide. And from his other comments, it was clear he wasn't even against nuclear power! He just knew it wouldn't solve the problem.)

Every year or so, California builds the equivalent electrical generating capacity of ALL FOUR NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS IN THE STATE.

So why can't we close these deadly behemoths? GREEDY OWNERS and LAZY POLITICIANS. There is no other reason.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA