Monday, December 13, 2010

Corrected venue for the San Onofre hearing tomorrow... (12/14/10)

12/13/10

Dear Readers,

The venue for tomorrow's San Onofre Safety hearing is going to be Dana Point again, NOT San Clemente as I had indicated in yesterday's newsletter.

I apologize for the error. The correct information is included in Gary Headrick's San Clemente Greens San Onofre SOS newsletter, shown below.

Yours,

Ace

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From: "Gary Headrick" <gary@ha-ap.com>
Subject: SC Green - SONGS Update - SOS
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2010 14:37:28 -0800

Once again, our San Onofre Safety (SOS) issues are being addressed by the NRC at a public meeting Tuesday night, and once again, I expect to hear how the NRC will continue to apply meaningless consequences to these significant safety concerns. If you want to attend, the meeting takes place at the Double Tree Hotel on Tuesday, December 14 from 6:00 to 9:00pm at Doubletree Guest Suites Doheny Beach, CA 34402 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, CA 92629. But if you want to do more than just attend, fill out a card when you first come in so you can make a brief statement for the record. Perhaps you'll have a few questions about the incidents mentioned below. If this is any indication of what the NRC considers safe, you can only wonder if things at SONGS are actually much worse than we've been told.

Here are the details of our conversation with the NRC and a link to a news article showing how different the media covers this topic.

YOU MUST READ THIS IF YOU WANT THE WHOLE TRUTH!
I am disappointed to see that only part of this story is being told. I brought this matter to the attention of Paul Sisson, writer for North (SD)County Times and it seems he has overlooked the main point of my message. My wife and I spoke personally to the NRC officials after being tipped off by an insider, and contacted him about it to alert the public to a very near miss, because we may all be running out of luck!
A nuclear disaster is just waiting to happen, and when it does, Southern California will never be the same. As an individual living near to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) I have done my best to communicate troubles at the plant being exposed by whistleblowers to me because I am Co-founder of San Clemente Green, and they feel threatened by going to the usual authorities.

The most recent troubling event took place on November 24th, Thanksgiving Day, (I don't know why the article says the 25th). An employee contacted me on November 30th to ask, " Do you or anybody in your organization have any information about the accident at SONGS last week where an employee dropped a 4ft piece of steel into the spent fuel pool?" I immediately looked into it by contacting Greg Warnick at the NRC, with whom I have developed an open line of communication.

On December 6th, a conference call was arranged between myself, my wife Laurie (the other co-founder of SC Green), Greg Warnick (Sr. Resident Inspector), Victor Dricks (Sr, Public Affairs Officer with the NRC), and Ryan Lantz (NRC Branch Chief). Greg did most of the talking, and was very forthright in his assessment of the situation. In a room where anyone entering must first be inspected for having lanyards attached to any loose articles such as hat and glasses to prevent anything from falling into the spent reactor pool, a steel I-Beam fell from a crane into a pool 23 feet deep, only causing minor damage to the racks below because it fell horizontally instead of vertically. Had it fallen in the vertical position, which was the process being simulated with the beam, testing the crane as required before actually lowering a batch of spent fuel, the damage to the spent fuel containers at the bottom of the pool could likely have released an unknown quantity of radioactive gasses. This would have resulted in an immediate shutdown and evacuation of the premises, causing a chain of events that one can only imagine. I said,"this must have been an adrenaline moment for all involved", and Greg responded "it certainly was, knowing what could have happened".

It might surprise you to know that the official NRC Significance Threshold regarding this incident was MINOR and did not require reporting to the public. This qualified as a Low Level Issue according to policies and procedures of the NRC. They identified it as a "Procedure Vulnerability" which needed further evaluation, recommending things such as tethering the beam to prevent it from falling should the hook ever fail again.

You may be also be interested to learn about the accidental release of 14,000 gallons of "low level" radioactive water on November 17th. Greg said that people who work at the plant are very emotional about this and feel let down by management, (it would certainly be interesting to hear their stories). The list of problems like this goes on, and they always fail to reach the level of significance one would expect from an agency whose purpose is to protect the public. The safety track record of this plant is appalling, and yet the same corrective actions for violations is applied time and time again, which amounts to nothing more than the NRC telling Southern California Edison that they really have to do something about it or else there will be even more inspections in the future. The possibility of actually closing the plant is never seriously being considered, even if only long enough for management to get a handle on the culture of fear employees have for reporting concerns as was cited in the "Chilling Effect" letter issued by the NRC last spring.

Further raising the odds for a disaster, the power plant is currently undergoing an accident prone procedure to replace the old generators in Unit 3, essentially adding a new, more powerful engine to an old chassis and hoping it all holds together. The plant was designed in the 50's, constructed in the 60's and originally planned for decommissioning in 2013, which lobbying efforts have succeeded in extending to 2020. All of this is taking place at the plant that has ten times more safety infractions than any other nuclear power plant in the United States. There is a persistent culture of fear in contradicting management, and there is an influx of 1000 new workers assigned to the task. Only 3 inspectors are on site being responsible to oversee the activities of more than 3000 employees. A new man is at the helm, the second replacement in less than six months, but we are proceeding at full speed ahead before addressing the problems so widely known. These are the kind of red flags so often referred to in the aftermath of tragic events that might have been avoided.

I hope all of this information is sufficient enough to warrant further investigation. A quick search on the internet will reveal the depth of this problem. This truly is a matter of tremendous impact on life on the entire Pacific Coast of a magnitude far greater than the BP oil spill. It is still avoidable, but only if people in high places will listen and react appropriately. Locally these concerns fall on deaf ears because many in San Clemente are directly or indirectly tied economically to SONGS, and all of us homeowners stand to lose considerable property values when trouble at SONGS is exposed by the media. It is the media that should be the single most effective means of finding a resolution prior to this pending disaster by making it public knowledge. They have the power to give voice to the workers at SONGS who are raising the same types of concerns that BP employees had expressed before lives were lost and the worst environmental disaster of our times continues to persist well into the future. The huge difference is the complications that radioactive waste contributes to the problem. We need your help in exposing this dreadful truth now before our luck runs out!

Seriously,
Gary Headrick
San Clemente Green
Greg Warnick , USNRC, Sr. Resident Inspector, 949-492-2641
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http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/sdcounty/article_355a12d9-f1a8-592e-9ab2-2363e904230a.htm

SAN ONOFRE: Latest progress report on nuke plant set for Tuesday

PLANT CONFIRMS INCIDENT IN FUEL POOL AREA

By PAUL SISSON - psisson@nctimes.com | Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 5:37 pm

Federal regulators are scheduled to update the public Tuesday on progress in solving what they have said are ongoing problems with worker performance and the safety culture at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a meeting at a Dana Point hotel with executives from Southern California Edison, the plant's majority owner, to discuss ongoing inspections and findings that have resulted in increased scrutiny for San Onofre over the last two years.

In the meantime, a plant spokesman confirmed that a 4-foot metal beam was dropped into a spent fuel pool at the plant during a "routine test" on Nov. 25.

Plant spokesman Gil Alexander said in an e-mail that workers were testing a lift mechanism inside a fortified building next to one of San Onofre's twin containment domes when the bar "became detached and fell a short distance into the pool."

Alexander said the incident "caused no injuries or damage to the fuel stored in the pool."

He said Edison intends to use the unexpected drop as a learning experience.

"We take this incident very seriously even though it posed no risk to workers or the public," Alexander said. "We have put into place a number of corrective measures to prevent its reoccurrence."

Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the NRC, said in an e-mail Thursday that the federal agency agrees with Edison's assessment of the incident.

Some of the plant's most sensitive and volatile material, spent uranium fuel, sits at the bottom of San Onofre's two fuel pools. An Edison spokesperson said in 2004 that the fuel takes two to four years to cool after use, and must be kept at the bottom of the 45-foot-deep pools for seven to 10 years until its radioactivity diminishes enough for it to be stored in dry casks housed in above-ground concrete bunkers.

The Nov. 25 incident was not the first recent slip inside the plant's fuel storage area. According to a previous NRC report, released in May 2009, found that, in August 2008, a worker temporarily misplaced a fuel assembly inside one of the plant's pools.

Reports have also highlighted other issues at San Onofre, from falsified fire watch logs to incorrectly connected backup batteries that went undetected for several years. The problems have led to increased inspections and public pressure on plant management.

In a series of public meetings since 2008, regulators have said that San Onofre managers should do more to help workers learn to detect and prevent minor problems before they grow into major problems.

Tuesday's meeting will be the latest progress report from the federal government on how far San Onofre's work force has moved toward meeting that goal.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Trestles Room of the Doubletree Guest Suites, 34402 Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point.

Call staff writer Paul Sisson at 760-901-4087.

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