Thursday, December 27, 2007


BOYCOTT TOSHIBA: Stop thousands of 1/5th megawatt ("tiny") nuclear reactors in YOUR city! (resend)

December 27th, 2007

Dear Readers,

Here is a technical correction to my previous newsletter: The "cute" little radioactive gizmos from Toshiba are cooled with liquid sodium, not lithium, as previously described. To shut the reaction down, reservoirs of lithium-6 are emptied into the coolant loop. In the copy of my previous essay shown below, the paragraph that starts "The Toshiba baby-nukes will rely..." has been modified to reflect this correction. My apologies.

Of course, this correction assumes Toshiba's newest nuke is a scaled-down version of their 4S prototype "mini-nuke." The 4S, in turn, is basically a scaled down version of an older 50 megawatt breeder reactor which was deemed not viable for large-scale situations decades ago.

Small-scale nuclear power appears viable because its proponents pretend the nuclear waste problem has been solved, and the spent reactor cores can be safely trucked away to a place that doesn't exist, except in politician's (and pro-nukers) dreams.

Small-scale nuclear power appears viable because the government has learned how to write earthquake and tsunami and other specifications which do not reflect the real world. Manufacturers then claim to meet these "standards," and say their reactors are "earthquake-proof" and "tsunami-proof" when they are nothing of the kind.

Small-scale nuclear power appears viable because Toshiba (and others) pretend that all the metallurgical issues are well understood. Just look at how many large parts of older nuclear reactors are falling apart, such as their steam generators, which were supposed to last the entire extended life of the plant. Or look at Davis-Besse, which in 2002 had a nearly catastrophic "hole in its head."

Small-scale nuclear power also appears viable because people pretend that terrorism doesn't happen.

Toshiba's mini-nukes are being advertised by the manufacturer as "zero maintenance" but that applies ONLY to the reactor core itself: Not to all the pumps, pipes, valves, and vessels of the steam generator / turbine energy conversion system.

The commentary below describes some of the difficult work that is entailed in operating a steam generator, and below that is the corrected version of my previous newsletter.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Steam Generator maintenance is no piece of cake:

(From a reader): "Atomic Insights newsletter, points out something very practical -- the designers and marketers spend all their time describing the nuclear reactor side of things, and no time on the power plant steam generation side of things. The author makes good points."


"The 4S is a very nice reactor system, but my reading of all available materials indicate that only passing attention has been paid to the secondary (steam) side of the plant. As is common among plant design documents produced by nuclear engineers, there are dozens to hundreds of pages of details about the reactor system and a few paragraphs about the "balance of plant" (BoP). Though steam is an old and well understood technology, it is not particularly simple or cheap. There is a reason why there are few steam plants being produced today, the plants tend to be labor intensive, heavy, and relatively expensive compared to alternatives like diesel engines or gas turbines.

I spent a lot of time early in my career supervising the operation and maintenance of a steam plant that was almost exactly the same capacity as the one proposed for Galena. I will admit that it was a rather venerable and well worn system by the time I arrived, but I am pretty sure that many of the maintenance issues that made for some long days have not disappeared. Steel steam piping still rusts, packing around valves still wears out, condensers still need periodic cleaning and inspection, steam leaks are still potentially deadly for operators, steam generators still require careful chemistry control and monitoring, water purification systems are still a must, and turbine bearing lubrication oil systems still require careful attention."

Boycott Toshiba (resend with corrected paragraph):

December 27th, 2007 (Corrected version of December 25th, 2007 newsletter, to the paragraph that begins "The Toshiba baby-nukes will rely..." reflecting the use of sodium as the coolant and )

Dear Readers,

Toshiba, famous for electronics products around the world, plans to build "small" (room-sized) fully-automated nuclear reactors.

These new reactors are just 1/5000th the size of today's old, massive, deteriorating (and did I mention unsafe?) boiling water reactors (BWRs) and pressurized water reactors (PWRs). But, each new reactor will still contain enough lethal poison to wipe out a city.

Today's reactors are operated by about eight hundred to a thousand people each, and produce an average of about one megawatt of electricity per employee.

Toshiba's proposed new reactors are completely automatic -- NOBODY operates them. Nobody guards them. Nobody even watches them.

An apartment complex for the rich can guarantee itself steady power "for up to 40 years" according to the (optimistic) manufacturer. The cost is rumored to be about $3.5 million. After the 40 years are up, not only will the fuel need to be stored for millions of years, but the entire reactor will have to be isolated from humanity on a finite planet with limited resources. WHO will pay for THAT? Whose land will Toshiba take to store the waste?

Even after 60 years, tens of billions of dollars, and thousands of the world's best scientists working on it, NOBODY knows what to do with radioactive waste BECAUSE IT DESTROYS ANY CONTAINER YOU PUT IT IN.

Toshiba hasn't solved THAT problem because they can't perform miracles. The nuclear waste problem is unsolvable at the atomic level -- but the nuclear industry continues to create more waste, on the fallacy (and false promise) that a solution is just around the corner. It isn't. (Yucca Mountain isn't a safe and proper solution, and nothing else is even being considered.)

Toshiba plans to bring the first of the new reactors online in 2008 in Japan, and in Europe and America in 2009. They are that close to production of these awful things.

So boycott Toshiba. Let them know that pocket nukes are a bad idea.

The energy source used in the new Toshiba reactors is the same uranium-based fuel used by just about every other nuclear power plant, which, of course, should also all be closed down in favor of alternative energy sources. Renewable energy solutions are available, affordable, and effective today, but they don't make millions of dollars for large utilities. They make it for the average citizen who invests in solar panels, wind turbines, and such.

So I say: Break up the utilities! It should be illegal to make electricity AND be in control of the distribution grid. It should be illegal for utilities to refuse to purchase renewable energy at fair prices.

A properly-thought-out renewable energy system would have thousands of small sources, and could therefore be very reliable even if some of those sources shut off for parts of every day.

The Toshiba baby-nukes will rely on a closed-loop sodium primary coolant system, instead of water. Reservoirs of Lithium-6 are designed to serve as a moderator to stop the reactor if necessary, the manufacturer claims.

Firefighters will have to treat a Toshiba pocket-reactor fire completely differently from what they are equipped for, trained for, or capable of handling.

Worse, the Toshiba reactors can be blown up by a bomb, which means: Osama will love them. He would love Toshiba to sell thousands of these "dirty bombs" throughout America.

But even worse is the terrorist lurking in the structural quality of the materials used in these petite power generators, which contain enough radioactive uranium and various fission products and transuranics to cause cancer to tens of thousands of people, even millions, if the radioactive material were to be released for any reason: Earthquake, tornado, tsunami, terrorist, poor workmanship, poor materials, poor design, etc.

In addition to these "baby nukes," Toshiba also wants to introduce a line of midsize nukes, called the 4S series ("Super, Safe, Small, Simple" they say), with fuel enriched to 19.9 percent U-235. (Highly Enriched Uranium, by convention, is enriched to 20.0% or more U-235.) The new 200-kilowatt nukes are said to be small versions of the 4S design -- just what Osama is looking for!

Techno-nerd's reactions to the new reactors on the Internet would make you think these were puppy-dog-friendly, never-could-harm-a-flea energy sources. But the articles are being written by geeks who know nothing about nuclear waste issues, or terrorism, or economics. They just love the idea of "unlimited" cheap power. Well, they should all look under the hood a little harder before they endorse these things.

Toshiba is also involved (with General Electric) in large BWRs. And in October 2006 Toshiba purchased what used to be called Westinghouse from British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (BNFL) for about 5.4 billion dollars, adding PWR manufacturing and support to their portfolio. Toshiba's purchase of Westinghouse, of which only the nuclear division existed anymore, possibly prevented a perfectly appropriate bankruptcy of BNFL, who had bought the ailing Westinghouse in 1999 for about 1.1 billion dollars.

Mainly through its new Westinghouse subsidiary, Toshiba now has half a dozen different reactor designs they are certifying with nuclear agencies around the world -- with almost ZERO public scrutiny!

The purchase of Westinghouse seems to have invigorated Toshiba to be completely arrogant about nuclear energy at all levels. Nuclear reactors and equipment for those reactors (and for other reactors) accounts for about 25% of Toshiba's business.

Completing the cycle of greed, Toshiba's nuclear ambitions will ultimately mean more business for Toshiba's Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance (MR) machines, which they sell to hospitals and which are used to diagnose (NOT cure!) the very diseases Toshiba's new nuclear reactors will cause.

So boycott Toshiba. Boycott Toshiba laptops. Boycott Toshiba camcorders. Boycott Toshiba hard drives. Boycott Toshiba telephone systems. Boycott Toshiba DVD players.

Boycott Toshiba. Return Toshiba gifts you received for Christmas. Remove Toshiba stock from your portfolio. Bankrupt them, if necessary -- anything to stop their ability to support nuclear power.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, an award-winning educational software developer, has investigated nuclear power for more than three decades, and has interviewed hundreds of nuclear physicists, scientists, medical experts and whistleblowers. Hoffman writes frequently about the numerous hidden hazards of nuclear energy, and the potential benefits to humanity of a switch to renewable technologies in combination with a global energy grid. He can be reached at:
His web site:

Ace Hoffman
P.O. Box 1936
Carlsbad, CA 92018
(760) 720-7261

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Curse of Atomic Weapons and Power

December 10th, 2007

Dear Readers,

On average, every working American spends about TWO DAYS A WEEK building, using, or paying for America's weaponry, and the means to convey that weaponry to where it will be used. At least a quarter of all fuel -- including nuclear fuel -- used by this country goes to war-related activities.

It is impossible to be a productive nation when so many raw materials and so much talent and time is spent on destruction.

But the most insidious thing about modern warfare is that it kills civilians -- lots of civilians. People like you and me.

The United States military operates, day or night, war or peace, under dozens of special exemptions to environmental regulations. Regulations which everyone else on the planet MUST adhere to. The result is radioactive and chemical pollution on a global scale -- not just where the wars occur, but also at training areas and manufacturing facilities.

The tools of modern war include Uranium-238 munitions (aka "DU"), now infamous for causing "flaming pee" (a terrible burning sensation when you urinate) and other ailments in our own veterans, and for causing grossly deformed children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

The tools also include U-235 / Pu-239 munitions (aka "nuclear weapons" or "atomic bombs"). Although these "tools" have only been used twice in war so far, in Hiroshima (primarily a U-235 weapon) and Nagasaki (primarily a Pu-239 weapon of slightly greater sophistication), those uses were demonstration projects for the world to see what was to come.

Total destruction. Not just your soldiers killed, but your records destroyed, your buildings burned, your history obliterated, your museums, schools, factories, sewage systems, water systems -- everything, blasted, burned, and worst of all -- irradiated.

Thousands, even millions of people in desperate need of medical care which is utterly unavailable. Suffering beyond words. A holocaust. A war crime.

Nuclear war has been threatened a thousand times since its invention and early use. Our current president has threatened it frequently, which constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself -- the threat is distressing to those threatened.

Which is all of us. Every nuclear threat has a counterthreat somewhere. Every escalation of a war has a counterinsurgency to match. Every time George Bush gets us into another war, America becomes more vulnerable to retaliation.

The military has long pushed the idea that our mighty armies are the only thing that keeps us free, safe, secure, and comfortable at home.

But I'll wager we were safe because we were the shining city on the hill for so long. The place everyone wanted to be. The place that people wanted to honor with tributes such as the Statue of Liberty -- THAT place was safe! People came here NOT to terrorize us, but to BE us! But we've become greedy, cloistered, cold-hearted, and ignorant.

In addition to bombing two cities in Japan during World War II, the U.S. alone has conducted more than a thousand nuclear "tests." We've irradiated dozens of islands in the Pacific, and parts of Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, and Mississippi, with atomic bomb debris. And that's not counting the "downwind" effect on Utah, Wyoming, and every other state (and every nation).

Additionally, we've piled up nuclear reactor cores -- spent fuel -- at nuclear power plants in dozens of states -- all with an unkept promise that the waste would be quickly removed. For 60 years the nuclear weapons and power industries have looked for a solution, but they keep coming back to: "Drive it 50 miles into Indian territory and dump it" which is all Yucca Mountain really amounts to.

While in transit, the waste is vulnerable to bridge collapses, train derailments and tunnel fires, sabotage, and a thousand other things. The government claims their transport containers are "safe" but they define "safe" very narrowly -- for example, as being able to probably survive a 30 foot drop onto a 6 inch post. Such testing does not reflect the real-world hazards. In their carefully-contrived theoretical "worst case" scenarios, almost no fuel is ever actually released, which means they don't have to calculate what happens if just one hour's worth of one reactor's spent fuel -- about 10 pounds's worth -- ever got out into the environment. The size of the catastrophe from that 10 pounds would depend on the precise location and weather conditions at the time. But one hour's worth of spent fuel could kill MILLIONS if released to the environment. And yet, we keep making more.

We're waiting for a solution to the physically unsolvable -- that is to say, impossible -- problem of storing something that destroys its container by irradiating it (and thus breaking down the molecular and atomic structure of the steel, concrete, glass, or what-have-you). In the meantime, the deformity-causing, cancer-causing, disease-causing, boiling-hot (thermally) concentrations of "hot" (radioactive) isotopes are each glowing, growing targets for retaliatory strikes against America, along with the operating reactors.

As little-known expert Bennett Ramberg put it in a UPI Op-Ed from May 2005: "Nuclear power plants are naked against a Sept. 11, 2001-like air attack." Twenty years earlier Ramberg wrote a whole book on the subject of nuclear terrorism, which was ignored by government and the nuclear industry, and was called: "Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy: An Unrecognized Military Peril." We still ignore him, at our own risk.

In the drive to create a nuclear-powered, nuclear-weaponized society, profits were made all along the way. Lying to ourselves about how corporations make profits on other people's misery does not stop evil from happening. Rather, it enables it.

Uranium-238 munitions, the shells and bombs used by the thousands every day in Iraq, leave a poisonous legacy. America, right now, is poisoning the area known as the cradle of civilization. We grew up calling it Mesopotamia. The name Iraq doesn't convey its 10,000+ year history of human settlement.

An interesting side-effect of our use of Depleted Uranium weapons is that, because of their extraordinarily-long half-life of four and a half billion years, the evidence of our assault on civilians who have not even been born yet, will be detectable (with sophisticated equipment) for about 50 to 100 billion years. The earth is only about 5 billion years old, according to the geological record!

Two, or ten, or a hundred generations from now, or a thousand, anyone will be able to find clear evidence of our use of uranium weaponry. Uranium fragments. Deformities among the local population. All these things will be discernable. Future generations of Americans will probably have to pay reparations for today's use of radioactive tools of war.

Tools which are already illegal by numerous international conventions.

Tools which also sicken and endanger the lives of our own soldiers and their families.

Profitable? VERY! Depleted Uranium is free -- the nuclear fuel reprocessing centers are just DYING to give it away. And it cuts through buildings and enemy tanks (and bodies) like a hot knife through butter. AND THEN IT TURNS INTO POISON GAS! You can find radioactive fragments, and you can detect the uranium with a Geiger Counter, but the bombs and bullets will have mostly vaporized -- become poison gas -- and some of that will spread out globally before getting into crops, drinking water, babies, you and I.

Modern warfare is, more than anything else, an assault -- largely hidden -- on civilians, and on humanity at large. Just as with each breath, we each breath some part of Caesar's last breath, so too the deadly DU dust from EACH war will poison ALL seven billion+ people on the planet, including more than a billion children.

The deadly dust will poison the rich and the poor alike, but the poor will have no access to health care.

We, the American Couch Potato, allow this in our name. Our government is currently the world's greatest terrorist, JUST on the basis of its use of U-238, and threatened use of U-235 and Pu-239 weapons. The shining hill now glows with radioactivity, and its citizens suffer with cancer.

Our inability to admit that radioactive weapons MUST be banned, and that large radioactive targets (aka "nuclear power plants") must ALSO be closed forever, makes us guilty of mass murder by complacency.

None of us are innocent anymore -- except the children of course, who are 10 to 100 times or more, MORE VULNERABLE than adults to nuclear radiation dangers, and who trust us to protect them from ALL the horrors of the real world, even the invisible and insidious ones.

Stop the radiation assault, and you go a long way towards stopping cancer, leukemia, birth defects and other ailments. Those who promote nuclear power promote death, destruction, undemocratic principles, and global suffering. But those who say nothing and simply let it happen are their single biggest and most powerful group of supporters.

When the tsunami occurred in 2004, many people died because they ran out to where fish were flapping, where the water used to be. A tidal wave of ignorance and apathy is occurring on this planet. New technologies COULD replace ALL the nuclear power in use on earth in a matter of MONTHS -- maybe even weeks -- if society put its global industrial strength to work building alternative energy systems with currently-available designs.

But instead, we continue to upgrade old nukes, and even build new nukes. Each one creates about 250 pounds per day of radioactive "spent" fuel. Enormous amounts of fossil fuels and chemicals are used to process the nuclear materials, and to keep the nuclear power plants in "working" order -- producing more waste. Nuclear power is not the solution to global warming or anything else.

There is NOTHING good about nuclear power. Those who run the plants, build the weapons, and process the fuel staunchly defend their "right" to pollute your body with odorless, colorless, tasteless, and extremely carcinogenic radioactive isotopes, and few of us even know it is happening.

Those who DO know can and MUST stop this madness. Cancer rates are soaring; every family suffers.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, an educational software developer, has studied nuclear issues for more than 35 years, and writes frequently about nuclear weapons and nuclear power. He offers a large collection of free, informative nuclear animations at his web site. To receive his newsletters directly, please contact him at:

To visit the author's web site:

December 8, 2007: Child cancer risk higher near nuclear plants: study

A German study has found that young children living near nuclear power plants have a significantly higher risk of developing leukemia and other forms of cancer, a German newspaper reported on Saturday.

"Our study confirmed that in Germany a connection has been observed between the distance of a domicile to the nearest nuclear power plant .... and the risk of developing cancer, such as leukemia, before the fifth birthday," Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper quoted the report as saying.

The newspaper said the study was done by the University of Mainz for Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BFS). A copy of the report was not immediately available.

The researchers found that 37 children within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius of nuclear power plants had developed leukemia between 1980 and 2003, while the statistical average during this time period was 17, the paper said.

The newspaper cited an unnamed radiation protection expert familiar with the study who said its conclusions understated the problem. He said the data showed there was an increased cancer risk for children living within 50 kilometers of a reactor.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement that he would examine the study. He said the BFS should also evaluate its findings.

Germany plans to prematurely shut down all of its nuclear power plants by the early 2020s.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau)

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited

Quotes collected by Ace Hoffman:

"Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details." -- Paul Brians (Author; quote is from: Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction)
"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis (first American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, d. 1951)
"There is no such thing as a pro-nuclear environmentalist." -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa, 1992)
"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." -- Sun Tzu (Chinese General b.500 BC)
"The most intolerable reactor of all may be one which comes successfully to the end of its planned life having produced mountains of radioactive waste for which there is no disposal safe from earthquake damage or sabotage." -- A. Stanley Thompson (Pioneer Nuclear Physicist who saw the light)
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery." -- Octavia Butler (Science Fiction writer)
"If you want real welfare reform, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to reduce poverty, you focus on a good education, good healthcare, and a good job.

If you want a stable middle class, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to have citizens who can participate in democracy, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

And if you want to end the violence, you could build a million new prisons and you could fill them up, but you never end this cycle of violence unless you invest in the health and the skill and the intellect and the character of our children. you focus on a good education, good health care and a good job.

And other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything."

-- Paul Wellstone (US Senator, D-Minnesota, 7.21.44 - 10.25.02)
"Please send this to everyone you know! Together we can force a change." -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes, November, 2007)

This email was sent by:

Ace Hoffman
"Ace Hoffman" <>
POBox 1936
Carlsbad, CA 92018

Thursday, December 6, 2007

AREVA: Once again this French company appears to be the culprit!

December 6th, 2007

Dear Readers,

The Bush Administration pushes nuclear power without concern for human life, especially the lives of infants and children. In Bush's simplistic view, cancer is something to be cured by irradiating you, not something to be prevented in the first place, by cleaning the environment of radiation.

But behind the scenes, a French company named Areva does most of the dirtiest pro-nuclear work around the globe. Areva loves Bush, and Bush loves Areva. Despite any comments you might recall Bush saying about the French when they weren't fooled into going into Iraq, the Bush Administration has had a very cozy relationship with Areva all along.

Recently Areva signed the largest nuclear power plant deal in history, worth about U.S. $12 billion, for two reactors in Guangdong, China. They also promote nuclear energy interests in Canada, South Africa, India, Libya, and many other countries.

Areva is an international criminal organization run by a ruthless megalomaniac named Anne Lauvergeon. However, 94% of Areva is owned by the French government, who can be no less ruthless. It makes for a very effective covert system, since whatever Areva needs that laws or public scrutiny forbid a corporation from doing, the French government can -- and will -- do instead.

Massive funding for pseudo-scientists promoting pro-nuclear "solutions" to global warming results in a misled media, a misled public, misdirected national policies, and a doomed planet.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #936, Dec. 6, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Joseph J. Mangano

Nuclear power plants employ a controlled atomic fission reaction,
splitting uranium atoms to create heat to boil water to make steam to
turn a turbine to generate electricity. Because nuclear power is so
complex, it is accident-prone and unforgiving -- small errors can have
large consequences. Because of these important disadvantages, for the
past three decades it has looked as if nuclear power were a dying

But now the nuclear industry has seized on global warming to promote
atomic power plants once again as necessary and safe. From politicians
to corporate executives and conservative pundits, we hear that
reactors are "clean" or "emission free" -- with no evidence offered to
support the claims. Unfortunately, this baseless promotion emanates
from a long-standing culture of deception that has plagued the
industry since its beginnings. Earlier this year the British
magazine, the Economist, characterized the U.S. nuclear industry as
"a byword for mendacity, secrecy and profligacy with taxpayers'

Half a century ago, as America produced and exploded hundreds of
atomic bombs (1054 nuclear tests in all, 331 in the atmosphere),
public officials assured everyone that low-dose radiation exposures
were harmless. But after the Cold War ended, barriers to the truth
gave way. Government-funded research found that nuclear weapons
workers and those exposed to fallout from atomic bomb tests in
Nevada suffered from cancer in large numbers. The BEIR VII study.
published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2005, ended the
debate on this question: it is now firmly established that any
amount of radioactive exposure carries some risk of harm. The
only safe dose is zero.

In the U.S., atomic bombs are no longer being tested. However, 104
nuclear power reactors still operate here, producing the same
radioactive elements found in bomb test fallout, and people living
downwind are routinely exposed to low levels of radioactivity.
Government regulators have established "permissible limits" for
radioactive reactor emissions, declaring the resulting exposures
"safe" -- contrary to the findings of the National Academy's BEIR VII

The U.S. nuclear power industry stopped growing in the mid-1970s.
Until this year, no new reactors have been ordered in the U.S. since
1978, and several dozen reactors have been closed permanently.[1] But
fears of global warming and an ardently pro-nuclear Administration in
Washington have laid the groundwork for an industry revival.

The industry's revival plan has four parts:

1) Enlarging the capacity of existing reactors;

2) Keeping old reactors running beyond their design lifetime;

3) Operating old reactors more hours per year; and

4) Building new reactors.

To help promote the so-called nuclear renaissance, health risks from
low-level radiation are once again being ignored or denied -- even
though evidence of harm exists.

1. Expanding Existing Reactors -- Vermont Yankee

Since March 1993, utilities have submitted 99 requests to the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for licenses to expand reactor
capacity, and the NRC has approved all 99. The added capacity of 4400
megawatts is the equivalent of four large reactors. The NRC is
considering 12 more applications, totaling another 1100 megawatts.

Most expansions have been small, but 10 of the 99 have raised capacity
by 15 to 20%. Almost all sailed through with little public opposition.
One exception was the Vermont Yankee reactor on the Connecticut River
where Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire converge. It is the
11th oldest of the U.S.'s 104 reactors, and at 510 megawatts
electrical, the 5th smallest.

Entergy Nuclear of Jackson, Miss. acquired Vermont Yankee in 2002 as
part of its campaign to buy aging reactors to maximize their output
and profit potential. Entergy wanted more than a 510 megawatt reactor,
so it requested a 20% upgrade for Vermont Yankee -- the oldest U.S.
reactor considered for an upgrade. The estimated cost was $60

Since 1972, when Vermont Yankee first generated power, Vermont has
become an increasingly liberal state, especially on environmental
issues. Hundreds of local residents opposed the expansion by packing
auditoriums at several public meetings, making their fury known. Ira
Helfand, a local emergency room physician, spoke up at one of them:

"My emergency room cannot deal with the casualties that would be
produced by an accident at this plant... Now Entergy wants to make
this plant even more dangerous by upgrading its production beyond what
it was supposed to tolerate?.. . This plant should not be uprated. It
shouldn't be allowed to operate. It should be shut down."[3]

Residents of Windham County, Vt., where the reactor is located, are
well educated. The county poverty rate is low, and the mostly rural
county of 44,000 has few polluting industries. Along with world class
medical care in nearby Boston, these factors suggest that no unusually
high rates of disease should exist. However, from 1979-2004 the county
death rate was 7.2% below the U.S. -- except for cancer, which was
1.6% higher. These figures are age-adjusted, so the excess cancers are
not attributable to an aging population. And the anomaly in Windham
appears to be growing; most recently (1999-2004), the cancer death
rate in Windham county has risen to 5.7% above the national

The NRC refused to consider that radioactive emissions from Vermont
Yankee might be contributing to the rise in cancer deaths in Windham
county. In March 2006, the NRC approved the expansion, and an appeal
by the New England Coalition Against Nuclear Power was turned down by
the state Supreme Court in September 2007. Entergy is now operating an
expanded Vermont Yankee reactor.

2. Keeping Old Reactors Running -- Oyster Creek, New Jersey

With Wall Street refusing to finance new reactors after the accident
at Three Mile Island, utilities decided to increase profits by
operating old reactors longer than originally planned. The NRC eased
regulations and in this decade has approved 47 of 47 applications to
allow reactors to operate past the initial 40-year design period up to
a total of 60 years.[1] Dozens more applications are expected.

One exception to the federal rubber-stamping of license extensions is
the Oyster Creek reactor in Lacey, New Jersey, about 60 miles from
both Philadelphia and New York City. Oyster Creek is the oldest of the
104 U.S. reactors and one of the smallest (636 megawatts electrical).
In the 1990s, the New Jersey-based GPU Corporation planned to close
the reactor. This changed when AmerGen (a subsidiary of Exelon, the
largest U.S. reactor operator) bought Oyster Creek and requested a
license extension in 2005.[1]

The fight is going on now. Public hearings have been well attended by
supporters and opponents of license extension. Local media has taken
an interest; the Asbury Park Press, the most widely read newspaper in
central New Jersey, has published numerous editorials opposing re-
licensing. Governors James McGreevey and Jon Corzine have both
publicly opposed re-licensing, as have many state and local elected
officials. Governments in 19 local towns have passed resolutions of
opposition. Legal interventions allowed by the NRC were filed by a
coalition of citizen groups and by the state Department of
Environmental Protection.

Information on radioactive contamination and local health became part
of the Oyster Creek dialogue. A well publicized study (partly funded
by the state legislature) of more than 300 baby teeth of New Jersey
children, many living near Oyster Creek, found that average levels of
radioactive Strontium-90 (Sr-90) had doubled from the late 1980s to
the late 1990s.[5] More importantly, increases in Sr-90 near Oyster
Creek were followed by similar increases in childhood cancer rates
several years later.[6]

Ocean County, where the reactor is situated, has a population of
nearly 600,000, up from 108,000 in 1960. Its residents are relatively
well off, and have access to good medical care locally and in nearby
major cities. But the low death rate for all causes other than cancer
from 1979-2004 (8.4% below the U.S.) has been offset by an
unexpectedly high cancer death rate (8.8% above the U.S. average).[4]
With 39,000 county residents dying in the past quarter century, the
number of "excess cancer deaths" exceeds 6,000.

The fate of Oyster Creek remains uncertain. In July, Exelon funded a
group led by heavy-duty New Jersey lobbyists to ensure the application
is pushed through. Local activist Janet Tauro reacted to the new
group's formation by declaring,

"Exelon is putting its money into creating a bogus environmental group
designed to lure the public's attention away from safety issues and
scare us into believing that Oyster Creek's closure would hurt the
region economically."[7]

3. Operating Old Reactors More Often -- Indian Point, New York

As recently as the late 1980s, U.S. reactors only ran at 63% of
capacity; they were shut down 37% of the time for maintenance and
repair. But larger corporations buying old reactors in the 1990s made
it their mission to boost productivity, and now U.S. reactors run 90%
of the time.[8] This is good news for the balance sheet, but running
old reactors more hours per year raises safety and health concerns.

The two reactors at Indian Point, 35 miles north of New York City,
represent a good example of this change. Until the mid-1990s, they
only operated 57% of the time. But after Entergy Nuclear bought Indian
Point, it raised the current productivity rate to 95%.[1]

Indian Point is in Westchester County, a wealthy area with a
population of nearly one million. In the period 1979-2004, the cancer
death rate in the county was just slightly below the national average
(-1.8%), but well below the U.S. average for all other causes
(-12.9%). If the cancer death rate in Westchester had been as far
below the national average as deaths from all other causes (-12.9%),
there would have been about 6,000 fewer cancer deaths in Westchester
during the period.

Unlike reactor upgrades, license extensions, and new reactor orders,
there are no mandated public hearings when a nuclear utility simply
raises productivity. Thus, this issue has largely been ignored, at
Indian Point and elsewhere.

4. Ordering New Reactors -- Calvert Cliffs, Maryland.

In 2005 the Bush Administration convinced Congress to enact billions
in loan guarantees for new reactor construction because of continued
disinterest from Wall Street; billions more in federal subsidies are
currently under discussion now on Capitol Hill. With the loan
guarantees put in place in 2005, utilities got serious about ordering
new reactors. Over 30 have been discussed, and the dry spell of no
orders since 1978 ended on July 31, 2007 when Unistar Nuclear
submitted an application to the NRC for a new reactor at Calvert
Cliffs, Md.

Unistar was formed when Constellation Energy of Baltimore failed to
secure funds from Wall Street financiers for its new Calvert Cliffs
reactor. The 2005 federal guarantees would only back 90% of costs, and
private bankers have flatly refused to put up the other 10%.
Constellation teamed up with the French company Areva to form Unistar.
Areva put up $350 million in cash, promising to up the ante to $625
million. With financing secured, the new reactor was ordered.[9]

Unistar proposes to build a $4 billion, 1600 megawatt reactor at
Calvert Cliffs. There is no precedent for a reactor this size; the
average for the current U.S. reactors is about 1000 megawatts, with
the largest being 1250. At the very earliest, assuming a fast, smooth
regulatory review, rapid construction, and no legal holdups, the
reactor would begin operating in 2014.

The Calvert Cliffs plant is on the west bank of the Chesapeake Bay, 45
miles southeast of Washington. Since the mid-1970s, two reactors have
operated at the site. Until recently, the area was sparsely populated;
but the Calvert County population has swelled from 16,000 to 90,000
since 1960. The county enjoys a high living standard, with a low
poverty rate and good access to medical care in Washington.

Calvert County is a healthy place -- with the exception of cancer.
From 1979-2004, the death rate was 9.2% above the U.S. for cancer, but
3.0% below the nation for other causes. Most recently (1999-2004), the
cancer rate rose to 13.8% above the national average.

All local leaders support the new nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs.
Wilson Parran, the chair of the Calvert Board of Commissioners,
sounded the clarion call that the promise of economic gain trumps any
possible health hazards:

"From a national perspective, nuclear energy is our largest source of
clean energy and a critical piece of our nation's energy strategy. It
is imperative to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and
Calvert County stands ready to share in our nation's responsibility to
provide resources that produce energy."[9]

Putting Health First is Essential in Energy Policy

Unusually high cancer rates in counties like Windham, Ocean, Calvert,
and Westchester should be taken seriously; they are not what you would
expect among relatively well-off populations.[10] Even if a large
scale reactor accident never occurs in this country, nuclear plants
will still continuously emit about 100 different radioactive
chemicals. The number of casualties is difficult to estimate, but it
may well be in the thousands. And any expansion of nuclear power would
only increase radioactive emissions.

Furthermore, threats to human health are not the only problem
associated with the nuclear power industry. As we know from the recent
history of India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa, North Korea, and
Syria, a nation that aims to build an atomic bomb begins by building a
nuclear power plant. This is where they develop the expertise, the
techniques, and the experience needed to build a bomb. The only sure
way to minimize the proliferation of nuclear weapons would be to shut
down the nuclear power industry world-wide. So long as the civilian
nuclear power industry exists, there will be a well-worn path from
nuclear power to nuclear weapons, accompanied by a growing threat of
terrorist attack beyond anything we have yet imagined.

Fortunately, we do not need nuclear power at all. There are many
alternatives readily available. Many of these were discussed recently
in Arjun Makhijani's thorough study, "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free:
A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy." Nuclear power is simply too dirty,
too dangerous, and too unnecessary to warrant further support.


Joseph J. Mangano MPH MBA is Executive Director of the Radiation and
Public Health Project, a research and educational organization based
in New York.


[1] U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,

[2] Matthew L. Wald. Safety of Adding to Nuclear Plants' Capacity is
Questioned. New York Times, January 26, 2004.

[3] Eesha Williams, Hundreds Attend Hearing on Vermont Yankee.
Transcript of New Hampshire Public Radio broadcast, April 1, 2004.

[4] National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality -- underlying
cause of death. Includes ICD-9 cancer codes 140.0-239.9 (1979-1998)
and ICD-10 cancer codes C00-D48.9 (1999-2004).

[5] Mangano J.J. and others. An unexpected rise in Strontium-90 in US
deciduous teeth in the 1990s. The Science of the Total Environment
Vol. 317 (2003), pgs. 37-51.

[6] Mangano J.J. A short latency between radiation exposure from
nuclear plants and cancer in young children. International Journal of
Health Services Vol. 36, No. 1 (2006), pgs. 113-135.

[7] Janet Tauro, But Safety Issues at Oyster Creek Can't Be Ignored.
Asbury Park Press, September 9, 2007.

[8] Division of Planning, Budget, and Analysis. Information Digest.
NUREG-1350. Washington DC: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, annual

[9] Dan Morse. Agency Describes Process to License Calvert Cliffs
Plant. Washington Post, August 15, 2007.

[10] U.S. Bureau of the census, 2000 census, state and county quick
facts. The national average of U.S. residents living below the poverty
levels was 12.7%, which is higher than the average for Windham County,
Vt. (9.0%), Ocean County, N.J. (7.6%), Westchester County, N.Y.
(8.9%), and Calvert County, Md. (5.4%). The national average percent
of residents over age 25 who graduated from high school was 80.4%, but
was higher for Windham County, Vt. (87.3%), Ocean County, N.J.
(83.0%), Westchester County, N.Y. (83.6%), and Calvert County, Md.