Two items today: One about a proposed toll road near the San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station, and the other about an essay by the Union of (Un)Concerned Scientists which was published in the San Francisco Chronicle this week.
San Onofre Toll Road essay (originally sent to a local news organization, slightly modified):
I've studied nuclear issues for more than 35 years -- since I was about 14 or so (I'm now 51). I've looked at the issues surrounding Yucca Mountain (the proposed national nuclear waste repository), and the 4 million+ pounds of extremely toxic high level nuclear waste now being stored at San Onofre, and thousands of other related issues.
I've interviewed hundreds -- literally hundreds, if not thousands -- of scientists on BOTH sides of the issues. I've attended scores of public hearings, sometimes traveling over 1000 miles (for example, round-trips to Sacramento) to do so.
Let me tell you about the San Onofre Toll Road. Sure, lots of road construction people want it -- they'll make hundreds of millions of dollars. And lots of housing construction people want it -- they'll make hundreds of millions of dollars, too. And city tax collectors all along the proposed route want the extra revenues these extra citizens will bring them.
But the REAL REASON for that road will be to take nuclear waste from San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station to Yucca Mountain.
That way, they avoid getting the waste anywhere near Hollywood, which would generate ACTIVISM FROM ACTORS -- the absolute WORST kind of publicity the nuclear industry could possibly have, with national and even international repercussions. AND, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy studies have undoubtedly suggested that trucking the waste anywhere near such a populated area as Los Angeles is a bad idea to begin with, to be avoided "if at all practical."
Frankly, Yucca Mountain probably won't ever be completed -- but the nuclear industry doesn't really care, because saying it's coming works just as well as actually having it, for now. I've attended several hearings on the subject in Nevada, and the people there absolutely HATE IT. You can't get elected there if you say you're for it. And it's fraught with technical difficulties which SHOULD stop it (but then, so are ALL nuclear power plants, and they managed to get built, somehow).
The Bush Administration believes they can ram Yucca Mountain down Nevadan's throats, and the government's nuclear regulators consider it a perfect solution to an intractable problem -- even if it won't actually work! Everyone in the nuclear industry loves it, too (just ask the San Onofre spokesperson, for example).
Even if Yucca Mountain (or some other central repository) is built, and all of San Onofre's current waste stock is transported there safely (two really big "ifs"), the very next day, we'll have hundreds of pounds of new nuclear waste at San Onofre -- enough to completely destroy SoCal, if it gets released to the environment in an earthquake, terrorist act, tsunami, or some other way (PLUS, of course, the dangerous reactors themselves (possibly three or four by then) will still be operating).
The toll road WILL be built and any vote to stop it will ONLY delay it. To me, the real sadness is that nobody understands the reason for it. But look at a map, and you can see were it really goes.
Nuclear waste, when transported, gives off dangerous levels of radiation all along the route. That's why the trucks are not permitted to stop at rest areas or gas stations for extended periods -- so any individual member of the public (especially children) will not get what even the government considers to be too much radiation (but really, "any dose is an overdose").
The proposed transport vehicles will be HUGE, and have as many as 96 wheels and more than a dozen axles, so any terrorist will be able to spot them easily, and shoot a Rocket-Propelled Grenade at them, or drive a pickup truck near them and fire hundreds of rounds of 50-caliber bullets at them -- more than enough to breach the containers.
Some proposals are for rail transport, but that's considered unlikely because few of the nation's old railroad tressels are strong enough to carry the waste safely. NONE of the proposed containers -- the rail ones or the truck ones -- are strong enough to protect the waste in ANY serious accident -- the proposed standards are too weak to be effective (because effective standards would be too expensive to be "practical").
Quite a boondoggle, with lots of criminal negligence mixed in!
To: Mary Olson <email@example.com>
Your endorsement of Jon Block's comments are shameful. Please see below, and if possible, please forward this email to Mr. Block.
October 3td, 2007
I am distressed by numerous comments in your essay in the SF Chronicle (shown below).
First of all, you say, referring to global warming solutions: "Nuclear power today does not meet these criteria." You imply therefore that nuclear power could solve global warming, with a few changes. This is untrue.
Second, you say: "Nuclear power plants are not as safe as they should - and could - be." This implies that you think they can be made safe enough to operate. In fact they are inherently too dangerous for a planet inhabited by humans (or other living things).
Third, you say: "If it had gone undetected for another several months, it could have caused a worse accident than the 1979 core meltdown at Three Mile Island." While I completely agree the potential accident could have been worse than TMI, I see no reason to suggest that Davis-Besse had "several months" left -- the reactor head was already destroyed and only the thin inner stainless steel liner was stopping the catastrophe -- and the liner itself was bulging. It could have been mere hours before an accident occurred.
Fourth, you say: "This lack of meaningful nuclear industry oversight is potentially life-threatening." The idea that better oversight could make nuclear power safe is ludicrous. Even "perfect" oversight could not stop a tsunami, earthquake, terrorist act, or scores of other disasters.
Fifth, in the same paragraph, you say: "Congress needs to ensure that the NRC enforces its own regulations before additional nuclear power plants are built." This not just suggests or implies, but clearly states that you think additional nuclear power plants just need the NRC to enforce its own regulations to be safe. That's hogwash -- they can NEVER be made safe.
Sixth, you say: "As a part of that effort, nuclear power research should continue, but with a focus on enhancing safety security and waste disposal।" This clearly states that you believe in nuclear power, albeit with reservations. You should know better, especially if you are going to speak for the opposition. Others can do much better.
Shortened version left at SF Gate web site (but not published there because it said I used "inappropriate language" -- try to guess what they are talking about!)
Nuclear power in inherently dangerous. Earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, and even meteors from space all render it so.
Furthermore, Davis-Besse's reactor head had a hole clear through it, and only the stainless steel liner was protecting Ohio from catastrophic failure -- and the liner was already bulging outwards. It is unlikely that it had "months" left before the explosion.
Yucca Mountain, even if built (Nevadans despise it) could not hold all our nuclear waste and tomorrow there will be more, so it's no solution. And transport accidents are inevitable with so many shipments planned (about 100,000), not to mention terrorism against the huge transport vehicles.
To say: "Lack of meaningful nuclear industry oversight is potentially life-threatening" is a grotesque understatement -- oversight can't stop a catastrophic accident such as the aforementioned earthquake, tsunami, etc..
The writer's pro-nuke feelings come out in the end: "nuclear power research should continue."
At 12:00 PM 10/3/2007 -0400, NukeNet wrote:
>NukeNet Anti-Nuclear Network (firstname.lastname@example.org)
> 1. Community to Confront Nuclear Weapons, "Complex
> Transformation" (Marylia Kelley)
> 2. Nuclear Power Is Not Today's Solution for Global Warming --
> SF Chron -- GO --JON BLOCK!! (Mary Olson)
>Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2007 07:55:37 -0400
>From: Mary Olson <email@example.com>
>Subject: [NukeNet] Nuclear Power Is Not Today's Solution for Global
> Warming -- SF Chron -- GO --JON BLOCK!!
>To: nnn <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nukenet
>On U.S. Energy Policy - Nuclear Power Is Not Today's Solution for Global
>San Francisco Chronicle, by Jon Block (Union of Concerned Scientists),
>October 2, 2007
>For the past year, former Environmental Protection Agency head Christy
>Todd Whitman has been working as a paid spokesperson for the nuclear power
>industry. As part of the industry's multimillion-dollar public-relations
>campaign to promote new nuclear plant construction, she recently wrote an
>Open Forum piece for this paper touting nuclear power as a key solution
>for global warming.
>Whitman's prescription for our nation's energy future is misguided. Her
>glowing description of nuclear power's benefits ignores serious issues of
>nuclear plant safety, security against sabotage and terrorist attack and
>waste disposal. To effectively address global warming, we need to deploy
>solutions that achieve the largest emissions reductions with the least
>cost and risk. Nuclear power today does not meet these criteria.
>Nuclear power plants are not as safe as they should - and could - be.
>While the United States has strong safety regulations, they are not
>consistently enforced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the
>federal oversight agency. In 2002, for example, after several deferred
>inspections, operators of the Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo, Ohio,
>discovered that boric acid had eaten a football-size hole in the reactor
>vessel. If it had gone undetected for another several months, it could
>have caused a worse accident than the 1979 core meltdown at Three Mile
>Island. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Regulatory
>complacency for the past three decades permitted the deterioration of U.S.
>reactor safety systems to reach the point where, on 38 occasions, it took
>more than a year to restore requisite safety levels.
>This lack of meaningful nuclear industry oversight is potentially
>life-threatening. A major accident could kill thousands of people and
>contaminate large regions for thousands of years. Congress needs to ensure
>that the NRC enforces its own regulations before additional nuclear power
>plants are built. Whitman would do well to acknowledge this need and call
>for improved oversight, because a nuclear accident would derail any
>increase in nuclear power capacity.
>Nuclear plants also pose serious security risks. Nuclear plants store
>highly radioactive waste in fuel pools and above-ground canisters. Both
>are potential terrorist targets. A large aircraft flown into a fuel pool
>could cause a fire that would release sufficient radioactivity to
>contaminate tens of thousands of square miles. Above-ground canisters
>could be hit with grenade launchers, which are readily available. On-site
>storage needs to be made more secure.
>The waste is accumulating at U.S. reactor sites because there is no
>permanent underground repository for it. Highly radioactive waste must be
>isolated for at least tens of thousands of years, if not longer. The U.S.
>government already has spent billions of dollars studying the suitability
>of a site at Yucca Mountain, Nev. However, technical questions remain
>unanswered, and the facility may never be licensed.
>Historically, nuclear power has been plagued by cost overruns, making it a
>financial risk. The first round of U.S. nuclear reactor construction from
>1966 to 1977 experienced 200 percent to 380 percent cost overruns.
>Problems included difficulties with concrete pours and welding, increased
>capital costs and evolving designs during construction. Today, similar
>issues are dogging new reactor construction in Finland, Taiwan and China.
>Wall Street was rightly worried about the industry's sorry track record
>when it pulled the plug on nuclear investments decades ago. Investors are
>still reluctant to back the industry's self-proclaimed renaissance, even
>with the subsidies in the 2005 federal energy bill for six new reactors.
>So now the industry is looking for federal loan guarantees to sweeten the
>pot. Provisions tucked into both the Senate and House versions of the new
>energy bill would require taxpayers to bail out nuclear plant loan
>defaults that could amount to as much as $50 billion in the short term.
>The most sensible strategy to reduce global warming is to quickly deploy
>the cleanest, fastest, lowest risk solutions first. Conservation and
>increased efficiency by energy producers and consumers are the cheapest
>and quickest measures by far. Likewise, a wide range of renewable energy
>resources, including wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power, have
>enormous potential and are inherently safe-and they would encourage
>economic development. Prudence dictates that we pursue many options to
>reduce global warming. As a part of that effort, nuclear power research
>should continue, but with a focus on enhancing safety security and waste
>End of Nukenet Digest, Vol 939, Issue 1 [Second article]