(Author's note: This newsletter was written on Thursday, the day before Jaczko's visit to California...)
April 5th, 2012
[On Friday April 6, 2012] a small group of California-based activists [had] the opportunity to meet with Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who [had] come out to California to personally oversee the problems at the San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station, which sprung a leak last January and has remained closed ever since (and note that the lights have remained on throughout the Southland in the 2+ months since the outage began).
Jaczko is under tremendous pressure right now. Both to keep the plant open AND to shut it down. But he has a duty to fulfill. Will he do it?
The other four commissioners have been in collusion to mutiny ever since Fukushima, if not before. They are much less interested in applying the "lessons learned" from Fukushima than he is -- "lessons" that are well short of "permanent closure everywhere", which would seem the logical thing considering how devastated the area around Fukushima is now, and will remain for hundreds or even thousands of years. And considering that the "lessons" are more like band-aids than fixes: For example, requiring several days' worth of battery backup instead of mere hours. Maybe that SOUNDS good -- but the entire battery backup concept is seriously flawed to begin with, in part because it has so many bottlenecks, and in part because it relies on humans to connect everything up correctly, test it properly, maintain it regularly, know how to use it when it's needed, AND who are willing to stick around while all hell is breaking loose around them. It's a flawed system, that's all I'm saying...
I don't know what Jaczko expects to see when he comes out here that could possibly give him confidence in San Onofre. The plant is owned and operated by belligerent liars. They lie to each other, they lie to the media, they lie to the public, they lie to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and they lies to themselves, thinking "a little radiation is safe" or even "a little radiation is good for you." So every mistake, if they are shielded properly from it, or if it is diluted sufficiently before it reaches the public, is harmless, in their eyes. A bigger leak just needs more dilution for the public, or more shielding for them, or they spread the job out among many workers, including the ever-present "disposable" sub-contractor workers.
They even leave their dosimeters off when they go into highly irradiated areas, so they don't accumulate too high a dose and have to stop working on the "fun" stuff, and maybe even get laid off. Nuclear workers do THAT all over the world! In Fukushima they even are doing it, where the doses are hundreds of times higher, or thousands of times higher than what workers are likely to receive at San Onofre.
At San Onofre they falsified inspection reports for fire rounds they were supposed to be making because they were too cheap (and still are) to install 24/7 full-time automated fire monitoring systems, which have been required at nuclear plants for decades, since a nearly-disastrous fire at the Brown's Ferry reactor site. Reactor operators were given a choice: Do the fire watch rounds, or buy the proper equipment. SanO choose to falsify doing the rounds, instead.
Now it's being reported by renowned nuclear expert whistleblower Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates that San Onofre's operators apparently tried to pull a fast one on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and on the public, by pretending the new steam generators were "like-for-like" replacements for the old ones when in fact they were redesigned to have higher heat throughput -- but the changes actually made them wear out more rapidly!
San Onofre is the #1 reactor site in the country -- #1 for problems such as intimidating workers to prevent them from reporting problems to the NRC! Yet they are ALSO #1 for safety-related complaints. I'm not sure what that proves, but it isn't good.
So what's Chairman Jaczko going to see at the plant? What's he going to hear them tell him that will make everything good? Why can't we ALL see the results of Southern California Edison's research into why their almost-new billion-dollar steam generator tubes are rupturing, wearing out prematurely, and failing pressure tests, way beyond industry standards and even way beyond safety limits set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself!
We all know Southern California Edison had already decided not to restart Unit II after a refueling outage and other maintenance was performed, because of finding hundreds of excessively-degraded steam generating tubes with no known cause.
The real question is, WHY DIDN'T THEY SHUT DOWN UNIT III once they saw the severity of the problem with Unit II?
A million dollars a day, that's why. The reactors, when operating, produce a million dollars a day per reactor in revenue for their owners. THAT clouded their thinking. (Money ALWAYS clouds people's thinking.)
Can you get much closer to Fukushima USA than a cascading failure of the steam generator tubes at San Onofre? That's without an earthquake, of course, let alone a tsunami, wildfires caused by downed power lines, cracked highways and rail lines, and general chaos all around the Southland. Just TRY getting a big-as-a-locomotive emergency diesel generator to San Onofre after a natural disaster blocks all the roads, there's no Internet or phone lines for SanO either, desperately calling out for help (satellite communications down due to solar flares, of course...).... and their onsite EDGs not working because they toppled because the "over-engineered" bolts had rusted away and no one noticed... until the earthquake! I'm not saying this EXACT scenario is going to happen, but it's one of thousands that COULD happen...
How close did we come in January, 2012 to Fukushima USA? Close enough. Southern California Edison could have EASILY avoided that near-miss by recognizing that the tube degradation they saw in Unit II's steam generators "might indicate" that there would be a problem in Unit III! That's ALL they had to do! The activists were calling for shutdown at the time, of course -- for just that reason: Inspect the steam generators, something's wrong.
But of course, they are ALWAYS calling for shutdown, because the old plant is always falling apart at the seams and is a daily threat to our homes, our lives, our children's future. It's in constant threat of meltdown if anything goes wrong, and it leaks all the time anyway.
According to the National Academy of Sciences' Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII report (a many-inches-thick multi-volume document), there is NO threshold for radiation's effects, and those effects generally occur in a linear fashion all the way down to the lowest possible measurable dose rate.
Whenever San Onofre leaks some radioactive primary coolant into the secondary loop, some radiation is released when that steam is condensed. Then the rest of the leaked radiation is released in dribs and drabs throughout the system over time.
Such leaks are always said to be "small" or even "negligible" amounts. But how much is "small"? And what does "negligible" mean anyway when the severity of many of the effects of radiation is NOT reduced as the dose is reduced -- either you get cancer or you don't, for example. What IS reduced as dose rate is reduced is the LIKELIHOOD of suffering such a health effect.
One of the ways of measuring a radiation leak is by considering how quickly the isotopes decay. Fast-decaying isotopes are asserted by the nuclear industry to be "almost harmless" because they decay away quickly and can't drift very far before they've decayed to something stable. Long-lived isotopes are said to be "almost harmless" because they decay away slowly. Those with half-lives in the range of human lives are considered to be the most dangerous -- and are the least talked about.
Another way of measuring a radiation leak is to consider how fast the wind blows (for radioactive gases) or how much water is needed to dilute a liquid release to "legal" levels. TEPCO was delighted that during their most massive releases from Fukushima in March 2011, winds were strongly out to sea (and towards the western coast of the United States). The winds around San Onofre blow inland, over the local populations, most of the time.
Another way of measuring a radiation leak is to calculate how much air the average person inhales in an average day, how much water they drink, etc.. and then guess what portion of that air or water will be radioactive. One must know what radioactive elements leaked, so you can guess what part of the body they might lodge in and what their biological effects are when they decay.
Another way of measuring radiation is to assume everyone is the average age, and multiply the presumed exposure level per person by the number of people presumed to be exposed. But since the young and old alike are more susceptible to radiation's dangers, as well as the already-infirm, that method too has obvious flaws that favor the nuclear industry's rosy assessments. Averaging such numbers doesn't help those of us who are NOT average!
By the time they're done with their calculations of the effects, as they see it, nobody gets a very high dose, and nobody gets hurt. Radiation releases, even billions of Curies such as was released at Fukushima, that caused thousands of square miles to be evacuated, much of it probably for many generations, actually harmed no one, according to the nuclear industry. It just isn't so.
San Onofre is legally allowed to release radiation to the environment all the time. For example, they can legally release about a thirtieth of a teaspoon of tritium each year -- as long as it's properly diluted. By volume, that's not a lot of tritium, but it has to be diluted in billions of gallons of water to be below the legal thresholds for tritium in drinking water. Conveniently, the plant runs billions of gallons of ocean water through its cooling system every day, so they can dilute the tritium as much as they need to, in order to be allowed to release it legally into the environment. That doesn't make it harmless, that just "hides the bodies".
And to help them out, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will INVARIABLY give any nuclear power plant that has an excessively large radiation release a SPECIAL PERMIT for that event -- post-dated, of course. And that's only if they FIND OUT about the release since they rely on industry reporting! San Onofre leaked an unknown quantity of tritium under the closed-and-dismantled (also for steam generator problems, by the way) Unit 1 for DECADES and the NRC never did anything about it, and it undoubtedly leaks tritium under Units II and III whenever it's running now, too.
Right now, San Onofre is shut down and if Chairman Jaczko looks the least bit carefully, he should be able to see up close what any fool can see at a distance: San Onofre is an accident waiting to happen. We've come close here countless times, but this latest problem is costing the ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars while Southern California Edison awaits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "go-ahead" to restart the reactors with faulty steam generators and band-aid fixes, OR they are awaiting the more obvious determination -- that the steam generators do, in fact, have to be replaced because bursting seven tubes in pressure tests and one while running is a BIG NO-NO in the nuclear business, and if ANYONE restarts that reactor NOW and EVEN ONE steam generator tube ruptures in EITHER reactor, someone should go to jail... with or without an ensuing meltdown.
Everyone admits that the steam generators are vital to keeping the reactor safely operating -- a cascading failure of the tubing could be catastrophic. Period, that's not debatable.
What isn't being mentioned is that San Onofre's are not only among the dozen or so largest steam generators in the world, they ONLY have two each and that's also unusual and NOT GOOD because a failure in one leaves ONLY one steam generator still operating -- and that's NOT a lot of backup when metal parts are flinging throughout the reactor, water is gushing out and flashing to steam at 2200 psi pressure (rapidly dropping), and the control rods aren't inserting properly because the rush of water out the hole produced unexpectedly high flow rates in the reactor! Nasty!
Okay, maybe they'll get lucky -- they have so far. But for the cost of a few billion dollars which is going to probably get spent one way or another anyway, they can do the right thing. Instead of fixing that old jalopy from head to toe (because "new" reactors are forbidden by law in California) and HOPING it works again, or worse yet, instead of only fixing what they can get away with, which is what they want to do, they COULD put that money directly into renewable energy solutions, conservation solutions -- ANYTHING but San Onofre.
Lastly, one should never forget that EVEN IF SanO NEVER melts down, we still have the GROWING problem of the nuclear waste it creates. As the waste cools, it becomes thousands of times less difficult to handle, but this happens very slowly, over a period of 5 to 10 years, and in any event, the waste does NOT become safer for hundreds of thousands of years IF something DOES go wrong -- for example, if an airplane were to crash into a "dry cask" storage container. Not irrelevant considering the dry cask "farm" at San Onofre is DIRECTLY under several major flight paths, and already contains over a MILLION POUNDS of radioactive waste, and is destined to contain TENS OF MILLIONS OF POUNDS of radioactive, vulnerable, "spent" fuel.
So we need to stop making more of this toxic waste immediately. There is no solution to the waste problem, and after 60 years and at least 60 billion dollars spent on Yucca Mountain and other proposed solutions, no scientifically credible solution is anywhere on the horizon. All that waste will just sit on our coast,. a danger to the whole world, for centuries. It's time to stop making things worse, it's time to stop increasing the risk daily. It's time to find alternatives to nuclear power. It's time to shut San Onofre forever.
The author, 55, is an educational software developer who creates, among other things, animated interactive industrial training programs for large-machinery maintenance personnel to learn their craft. His industrial training programs have been used by several branches of the U.S. government including the military, as well as by several other military training programs around the world and more than a thousand universities, colleges, etc.. He is also the co-author and programmer of a college-level statistics tutorial (statistical analysis being a mainstay of ALL maintenance policies!) and an award-winning Animated Periodic Table of the Elements. He is the author of the downloadable free ebook THE CODE KILLERS, available in pdf form at his personal web site: www.acehoffman.org . Ace has been observing San Onofre in particular for ~20 years, ever since moving to Carlsbad in the early 1990s, and has studied nuclear issues for ~40 years, including interviewing dozens of nuclear physicists as well as nuclear engineers, whistleblowers and hundreds of other scientists in all related fields. The opinions expressed in this article are his own.
Animation of San Onofre-style reactor (PWR) and Fukushima-style reactor (BWR):
(1) Roger Johnson's letter to the San Clemente Times (California)
(2) Ashok Kumar's letter to The Hindu (India)
(3) Newsletter authorship information
Link to a video of the entire citizen's press conference
Larry Agran speaking at a rally near SanO, April , 2012
(1) Roger Johnson's letter to the San Clemente Times:
Letter: Is San Clemente a Safe Place?
by Roger Johnson, San Clemente
Apr 04, 2012
On March 29, the National Academy of Sciences released a 460-page report about cancer risks associated with living near a nuclear power plant. They recommended six areas in the United States for intensive studies of possible cancer links. Our area was one of the chosen six: They want epidemiological studies done for towns within 30 miles of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Is south Orange County becoming the poster child for a place where it is dangerous to live, work or bring up a family?
While many are concerned about accidental radiation leaks such as those in January, the dirty little secret is that reactors routinely release radiation without announcement. Air ejectors release radioactivity into the atmosphere and pumps discharge radionuclides into the ocean. Regulations on the deliberate release of radioactivity are specified in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's federal code in which reference is made to ALARA or "As Low As Reasonably Achievable." Knowing that nuclear power plants cannot operate without regularly releasing low-level radiation, government agencies allow them to do so. Without monitoring, we have no idea what is released or when. Edison is not required to announce either the dates or concentrations of these secret releases. They do post yearly averages, but we have no way of knowing if the numbers are the result of possibly dangerous levels on some days averaged with no releases on other days. The industry claims that these doses are low for adult males, but to have radiation released year after year, decade after decade is problematic, especially for children.
If you want to know what San Onofre released two years ago, study Edison's own reports to the NRC. In 2010, the list included 34 radionuclides, including some of the most toxic substances on the planet. There were 44 hours of atmospheric batch releases and 550 hours of liquid radioactive releases into the ocean. How many surfers are aware of this? In addition, Edison trucked 27 flatbed trailers of radioactive solid waste to Utah, through San Clemente and lots of other towns.
Many have difficulty fearing invisible microscopic radioactive particles. We do know that radiation causes cancer, but some disregard health threats that take years to develop. Individual doses are made to sound insignificant, but the effects are cumulative. Children are 15 to 20 times more vulnerable to radiation, and the fetus is 30 to 50 times more sensitive. Recent studies published in the International Journal of Cancer, reported that children living near nuclear power plants in Germany and France are twice as likely to get childhood leukemia. In California alone, there were 56,030 cancer deaths in 2011 and 163,480 new cases of cancer. No one knows the exact cause of most cases, but experts tell us that the vast majority of cancer has environmental origins.
If San Clemente wants to be a safe place to live and work, shouldn't we have radiation monitoring of air and water plus epidemiological studies to learn if we are being harmed? This was the main issue at a recent City Council meeting where droves of citizens lined up to request radiation monitoring. When City Councilwoman Lori Donchak courageously made a motion to ask for independent publicly accessible radiation monitoring in town, the other four councilmen refused even to second the motion. The council ignored the warnings of City Manager George Scarborough who pointed out that the current real time monitoring near the plant is not available to the public. Council members said that everyone should trust the authorities and that those who favored increased safety for San Clemente were engaging in fear mongering.
Perhaps the main lesson learned from Fukushima is the collusion between government and industry. The government and the nuclear industry in Japan lied about radiation dangers before, during and after the meltdown. The tab for Fukushima is already $300 billion and still rising. It seems reasonable that anyone living in the shadow of San Onofre should be skeptical of those who are willing to risk our future. We should trust scientists long before we trust those who profit. In 2006, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev remarked that it was Chernobyl that really caused the downfall of the former Soviet Union. One serious accident here might do the same thing to our country.
(2) Ashok Kumar's letter to The Hindu (India):
Thousands of citizens in India are fighting against opening the Kudankulam nuclear reactor there. Ashok Kumar has written this poetic response to a biased, pro-nuclear article in The Hindu.
At 05:08 AM 2/29/2012 -0800, Ashok Kumar wrote:
>From: ashok kumar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>To: ramaswami kumar <email@example.com>
>Cc: ashok <firstname.lastname@example.org>; ashok kumar <email@example.com>
>Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 6:23 PM
>Subject: All nukes always are untested. So we are guinea pigs for Fukushimas, Chernobyls,Jadugodas...
>Re: The Hindu, CHENNAI, February 29, 2012, "Kudankulam will give power for 4 million people"
>Your logic betrays human fallibility. Are not the most advanced design and one off Fuku contradictory? How can Fuku be one off when there are 300 or more reactors of vintage design? If its state of the art it is untested! You cannot test it full scale for say a loss of coolant. And you have just now proved that we are all guinea pigs(including mother earth) for this new design! Nuclears require infallibility in forbidding the propagation of error! And how many hackers are there! And safety? What do you mean excellent? You have neglected the ECRR 2003 regulations for risk which show the ICRP/IAEA regulations you have followed for the most advanced are unscientific models for internal emitters! Your regulations are three orders of magnitude more risky! So it is a Kurt Goedel theorem unsafe! If you assume any small risk, that is sure to be exceeded! Because we do not have divinely perfect automata which assure us of the safety of nukes. That means that even the new ones you are planning are duds! No nukes, never. Shut them down. Thats why god created a nuke safely 150 million kilometers away, the sun which we have been harnessing via living energy. Thus we were able to return all that we took from mother earth in an acceptable fashion. Come modern civilization and all this by force is taken away from us and their ugly contraptions fed the greed of us all! And Mahatma Gandhi gave notice in 1908: Given enough time modern civilization will destroy itself! He captured the essence of modern civilization: Falsehood is the foundation.
>R. Ashok Kumar,B.E.,M.E(Power), Negentropist, Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, 299, Tardeo Road, Nana Chowk, Mumbai-400007.
(3) Newsletter authorship information:
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