Monday, September 12, 2011

The Sky(scraper) Is Falling -- Commentary by Ace Hoffman (written 9/11/01)

September 11th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Probably all of us spent some time today remembering and reflecting
on what happened a decade ago, now simply called "nine-eleven" and
written "9-11".

Most people on this newsletter subscription list probably remember
where they were when they heard the news. In so many ways, nothing
has been the same since that day. The costly wars. The pervasive
lies. The demoralizing Patriot Act. Enhanced interrogation
techniques. Wikileaks. Well, okay, it's not all bad!

Our nation's greatest vulnerabilities are surprisingly similar to
what they were back then.

Below are my original comments from the day of the 9-11 attacks, with
the original Subject given above. I'm sorry to say I stand by them today.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


September 11th, 2001

Fellow Citizens:

If I had told you, yesterday, that today two commercial airplanes,
loaded with passengers and fueled for cross-country flights, would
crash into New York City's World Trade Center, one into each of the
twin tower buildings, and that shortly thereafter both towers would
come crashing to the ground, and also told you that the Pentagon
would be hit at about the same time, and another plane would be
brought down too, you would have called me "Chicken Little".

America's nuclear power plants are vulnerable. And don't call me
Chicken Little.

A structural engineer who appeared on CNN today said that the World
Trade Center towers were designed to withstand a 707 crashing into
them. 757s and 767s are somewhat bigger than a 707 (but with two
less engines). However, the airplanes probably aren't directly
responsible for bringing down the towers. The real culprit was most
likely the fires they started.

My understanding is that the design criteria for the containment
domes of America's nuclear power plants was that they should be able
to withstand the impact of a 727, which is even smaller than a 707.

I don't know if the design criteria included that the plane would be
full of fuel as these planes obviously were. Whatever the design
criteria was, it was never actually tested. (Note that in a
conversation by phone with me in June 2001, Charles Marschall, from
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region IV office in Texas, claimed
that a nuclear power plant's containment dome could withstand an
impact from a 747. He refused to put his claim in writing. But
regardless, would any of us believe it today?)

It should be obvious now that we have no reason to think the nuclear
containment domes are safe from planes. But in any event, many of
the systems vital to keeping a nuclear power plant from melting down
are located OUTSIDE the containment dome, including the control room,
the primary coolant pumps, and other systems. There are numerous
holes in the containment dome for pipes, wire, personnel, and
equipment to go through. Accidents outside a containment dome can
affect systems inside the containment dome, and a subsequent meltdown
inside the containment dome WILL release radioactivity to the environment.

A meltdown at a nuclear power plant would be 1000 times worse than
everything we saw today.

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that a meltdown would have
occurred if one of the hijacked airplanes had been flown into a
nuclear power plant. We can be thankful the hijackers passed over
these targets.

The spent fuel pools are outside the containment dome, providing an
even easier target than the containment dome. And, spent fuel
storage casks located near some reactors can also be potential
targets, and thus add significantly to the danger at those facilities.

In short, America's nuclear power plants are extremely
vulnerable. And don't call me Chicken Little.

Our nation's firemen and other emergency personnel are NOT adequately
trained or equipped for handling a severe nuclear radiation
emergency, and the evacuation plans for nuclear power plants are
absolute garbage.

Everyone recognizes what an incredible job the firefighters, police,
and other emergency personnel must be doing, but their task today
pales when compared to what emergency personnel would face if a nuke
plant was attacked.

All nuclear reactors need to be shut down immediately and
permanently, and their waste needs to be stored
underground. (However, I am not advocating Yucca Mountain as a solution.)

Clean, renewable energy solutions do exist, and they are far less
vulnerable to terrorism and other calamities than our nuclear power
plants, and provide cheaper energy as well. Perhaps quickly
switching to safe renewable energy solutions would cause some
temporary hardship, but nothing is impossible for our great nation,
if we recognize our vulnerabilities and seek to eliminate them as
quickly as possible.

I for one, want to know who masterminded this wicked act of
ignorance. But even more, I want to know why we left ourselves so
vulnerable in the first place, and why we continue to leave ourselves
vulnerable to additional natural and man-made misfortunes? Today it
was an act of man. Tomorrow it could be an act of
Providence. Perhaps an asteroid smashing into a nuclear power
plant. Perhaps an Earthquake. Perhaps a Tsunami along Southern
California's coast. But whatever it is, we should no longer be able
to say it came as a complete surprise. Very little should surprise us now.


Ace Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Note: Last week (Wednesday, September 5th, 2001) I attended a
hearing in Nevada on Yucca Mountain. At that hearing I stated that
nuclear power plants are potential targets of terrorists....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fwd: zonie goof darkens southwest, and more


Dear Readers,

This description of "current" events out here in California had me in stitches and hopefully will "brighten" (or at least "electrify") your day, as well. And it drives home a lot of vital points at the same time. Thanks, Jerry, for sending it around!

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


>A zonie-tech aka Arizona electrical technician,
>either flipped the wrong switch, pulled the wrong
>plug, cross-wired his (or her) motherboard, spilled
>coffee onto his (or her) control panel, backed his
>(or her) desk chair into a stack of computing
>hard-drives, or accidently poked his (or her)
>philips head screwdriver into the wrong port,
>shorting out a huge chunk of SoCal, and Baja,
>and 1-nuke plant.
>Stop laughing. It just happened.
>It wasn't a terrorist plot, or dive bombing sea gulls.
>Not an earthquake, or tsunami.
>Just one zonie-tech, screwing up big time.
>This is why a growing number of citizens
>(especially since Fukushima) throughout
>SoCal, and most certainly us living near
>SONGS' (San Onofre's faulty-towers) aged
>nuke plant, know better than we know anything:
>it only takes one human goof, to upset a
>nuclear reactor's apple cart. Just one.
>The good news: when power went, SONGS
>shut itself down automatically. Which is
>paradoxically thought provoking, and ironic.
>One zonie-tech, 1000-miles from San Clemente
>accomplished in 1-second, what hardworking
>anti-nuke SC-residents have not achieved in
>35-years playing nice with our deaf & dangerous
>nuke industry - and or, what SC-residents have
>been demanding (since Fukushima) at every
>city council meeting -
>"SHUT SONGS NOW!, before it's too late,"
>when suddenly our prayers were answered.
>One human-oops darkened 6-million lives
>and one ol'nuker with the flip of the wrong
>switch 1000-miles away. Sept 11th is just
>around the corner. It too, came flying in on
>a picture perfect, late-summer morning.
>Omen? Coincident? A heads up? Or a clear
>message: it doesn't take much, and certainly
>not a genius, to squelch a nuke plant.
>So here's an idea:
>Let's NOT start SONGS up!
>Let sleeping dogs lie.
>What purpose does SONGS' puny 7.5%
>electrical output serve anyway? It didn't
>keep us from blacking out. It blacked-out
>too. SONGS isn't even a reliable back-up
>power source when we need one.
>One haphazard zonie-tech proved, we can
>live without SONGS. Our lights are back on,
>but SONGS is off.
>Let's keep it that way.
>So thank YOU, accident prone zonie-tech,
>for proving, SONGS is wholly unnecessary
>in our busy lives. San Clemente to World,
>"are you listening?"
>jerry collamer
>San Clemente
>Ca - 92672

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Great San Diego Black-Out of 2011...


Dear Readers,

It looks like everyone survived the Great San Diego Black-Out of 2011.

I didn't even notice there was a black-out at first, other than the printer going off while I was trying to print protest books against San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. A group of us formed up post-Fukushima, and we're going places and raising awareness. And we need books -- lots of books! People are pretty ignorant about the dangers, even post-Fukushima. There's a lot of information being kept from the public and misinformation being presented to them.

San Onofre didn't help at all to keep the power on when the grid went down.

Instead, they had to shut down themselves! Supposedly this was because "they had no place to send the power." That's how the spokesperson for the plant describes it.

But I would say it was because they had no offsite power coming INTO the plant! That's what probably really shut the plant down.

But one way or the other, here's the obvious thing: San Onofre is not helping.

San Onofre is presumably currently operating on Emergency Diesel Generators as I write this -- and generating ZERO power to help alleviate the situation. [Note (added 9/9/11 online): They were actually using their "emergency feed actuation system", they say...]

Thanks for your help, SONGS -- NOT!

About one and a half million homes -- five million people -- were without power for at least six to eight hours yesterday and today, and many of them are still without power.

There WAS a seven-car pile-up on I-5 (the main freeway that runs near San Onofre), which shut it down in both directions, and I-5 was shut down heading out of San Diego elsewhere at the same time -- it was a mess!

But I was prepared -- or so I thought. When the printer went out, my UPS beeped and the front panel lit up. Those were my clues that five million of us were in the dark. I paid little attention, being in the middle of writing a newsletter about what an atom is, an alpha particle, a beta particle, a gamma ray, a half-life, and so on.

But then the UPS beeped again, and the print job was clearly not running (the printer pauses now and then anyway, for some reason), so I went upstairs and checked the printer, and it was completely off and the on/off switch wouldn't do anything.

So then I started to grasp that there was a blackout, and shut down the computer so that I wouldn't drain the UPS battery just in case I needed it.

I tried to count up all the ways I wasn't prepared for real trouble -- like, a meltdown at San Onofre because of the "Station Black-Out" conditions (the same as occurred at Fukushima after the earthquake and tsunami, but minus the earthquake (which actually started the inexorable sequence that led to meltdown of the three reactors in Japan) and minus the tsunami (which is blamed for the meltdowns, but apparently was NOT responsible -- it was the earthquake).

We have earthquakes here, too. Bad ones. Right near San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Small-scale distributed renewable energy is a much safer way to power the grid. In an emergency, nuclear power is unlikely to be there to help at all! We've seen this now, time and again.

And the traffic! Oh, the traffic! Because the traffic lights were out everywhere, it took my wife more than an hour to get home, normally a 12 minute drive in clear traffic and a 20 minute drive at rush hour. The 60 or so trolleys in the city of San Diego all stopped at the same time, and only a couple of trains ran, so if you missed them, you missed them.

Could we evacuate five million people if San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station melted down? No! Can San Onofre melt down?

In a heartbeat. It's useless, wrong, and crazy to continue risking the enormous death and destruction that would accompany an serious accident at San Onofre. Trapped as we are with only a few roads out of the area, San Onofre actually cuts in half the main evacuation route needed in case of an accident at the plant! That is, the plant itself is located so close to the freeway that ANY accident at the plant will close I-5 immediately, and probably I-15 as well.

Meanwhile, the plant itself has been on restrictions and tightened inspections for years now because of worker apathy, anxiety, and audacious arrogance: They faked safety inspections, fire inspections, security inspections, and medical claims, work records, time sheets, and, of course, worker's own complaints were filed in the "circular" file or actually given to the supervisor about whom the complaint was filed -- the LAST person who should be seeing the complaint!

Now, these guys are all scared the power plant WILL actually be shut down! They put on a brave face, but scratch the surface, and you find out they are being told not to talk to the public, not to talk to reporters, not to talk to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission unless they absolutely have too -- and WHY are they so scared?

They're afraid they'll lose their jobs. Get thrown out in the bad economy just like so many of the rest of us. Never mind that they could be building solar and wind turbine power supplies instead. Never mind that they are generating 500 pounds of high-level nuclear waste every day that they don't know how to store or how to get rid of. (The most toxic stuff on earth, and, thanks to Fukushima, the most toxic stuff in your lungs and the rest of your body right now.)

Never mind that there is no way to evacuate San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles ....

Never mind the lives that would be lost if there was a meltdown, or a spent fuel pool fire, or a dry cask fire, or all three, due to an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a power black-out, or all three.

Never mind all that -- they are afraid they'll lose their jobs.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, 55, has been studying nuclear power for about 40 years. He is a bladder cancer survivor, educational software developer, technologist, computer animator, survivalist, humanitarian and small businessman.