Thursday, June 27, 2013

FOE & SCGreen both endorse endless dry cask storage on site at San Onofre...

"Friends of the Earth" (FOE) released a report today which endorses moving all the spent fuel at San Onofre to on-site dry cask storage as quickly as possible.

Not "hardened" storage -- at least, the word was not used in the press release, and the finances proposed in the longer report did not provide for it.

Not transportable containers -- the funding for such things also wasn't included.

Not containers widely spread out and separated by earthen berms, with deep pits and channels for jet fuel to run off into, just in case a plane crashes into them.

Not containers stored underground, with high walls to prevent line-of-sight attacks, and strong roofs. No place for such things was named. No money for such things was allotted.

Where would FOE's "hardened" dry casks be located? Camp Pendleton? The moon? Up and down San Onofre State Beach?

No, that's not what FOE recommended. They're recommending, in the strongest terms, plain-vanilla dry cask storage such as they've been doing at San Onofre for over a decade already -- at a frantic pace, I might add -- and have been doing nationally since 1986. Over 1500 dry casks sit waiting around the country right now.

Waiting for what? To be breached!

We already have about 50 dry casks at San Onofre. The rest of the fuel is in the spent fuel pools, and Unit two's reactor is still filled with fuel at this moment.

I asked Mr. Headrick of SCGreen, who, along with FOE, has endorsed dry cask storage, if he thought it was strange that he was endorsing exactly what SCE's expected policy was.

He said he was afraid of "the big one" but admitted to not being an expert. Both dry casks and the spent fuel pools are built to the same seismic qualifications. So what's his rush?

Even the experts contracted by FOE (Arnie Gundersen, Robert Alverez and others) admit that we have a minimum of "five to seven years" before the pools can be completely emptied, because the most recently removed fuel cannot be removed from the spent fuel pools any sooner than that.

Why not put it in reusable shipping containers once, move it once, and be done with it? At least move it to Palo Verde, assuming Diablo Canyon closes soon. Move it to a place which hasn't got the sense to close their own reactor.

Why should ANYONE rush to judgement and produce a report condemning SoCal's 8.7 million residents to deadly dry cask storage? Those casks will quite likely be here for hundreds of years -- during what is by far the most deadly time for the fuel, because of the fission products it contains.

Worse, this FOE report was produced immediately after FOE had been supporting the local activists financially and in many other ways, yet without allowing the activists to have any input on FOE's decision to endorse dry cask storage. (This author commended FOE on their efforts to shut San Onofre not long ago.)

FOE's been telling the NRC (and the media) they represent the citizens of southern California. Do they? Is eternal -- until it fails -- dry cask storage what southern Californians really want for the next seven, or seventy, or seven hundred -- generations?

Friends Of the Earth ("experts") and San Clemente Green (admittedly "not experts") have done what no one else could do -- they have condemned SoCal to a virtually permanent dry cask horror. Fighting Goliath was hard enough when baby Goliath (FOE) was on our side. Fighting Goliath and mini-Goliath together will be well nigh impossible. So we're getting dry casks, with no hope of removal. Great job, FOE! NOT!

Thanks to FOE's endorsement, 8.7 million people who live within 50 miles of one of the nation's largest nuclear waste dumps -- formerly known as San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station -- can expect that dump to remain on the coast, in a tsunami inundation zone, in an earthquake zone, in a high population zone, for centuries.

Dry cask storage is NO solution to the nuclear waste problem! Not here, not anywhere!

FOE's report makes one minor allusion to the danger -- namely, admitting it's not perfectly safe. In reality, it's not even close.

I found out about FOE's press release, while surfing the Internet on my "4G Note II" smart phone amidst a widespread, but short-lived, blackout. Below are my tweets from this morning during the blackout regarding the FOE report, in reverse chronological order.

If the fission products or the plutonium or uranium in these dry casks is ever released for any reason, all the effort the activists had put into stopping San Onofre will have been for nothing. It will be centuries before the danger significantly subsides, and the most dangerous time is right now. Yet we talk about "temporary" solutions! The best permanent solutions are needed as soon as the fuel can be moved -- not "interim" anything!

There are no good solutions, so America should realize it must shut down ALL the other reactors. And remove the fuel from southern California's coast. It's just crazy not to.

But instead, FOE proposes to walk away from SanO's mess, just like SCE wants to do. What's wrong with this picture?

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Tweets during the local blackout:

NAS reports indicated serious complications AND LARGE RELEASES can occur from mishandling fuel xfer or from cask degradation, accidents&etc.

Dry casks are NO solution to the used reactor core waste storage problem. They are a holding pattern for a nuclear disaster for 8.7million

Dry cask storage enabled the nuke industry to continue decades longer than it otherwise would have been able to go with no waste "solution."

A non-overfilled spent fuel pool costs the same as a 4X overloaded SFP-half a billion dollars, at least. DKS is much CHEAPER I'll admit.

Transfer of spent reactor fuel is always risky and should be done as seldom as possible. Where will it go from the dry casks? Nowhere???

No serious incident has occurred at a dry cask "farm" but when it does it could rival a meltdown in an operating reactor. Pu could escape.

Dry cask storage was invented to allow the nuclear industry to continue operation by storing intensely radioactive waste on site cheaply.

Large earthquakes could rip those dry casks apart... greater-than-design-basis is possible. Same with tsunamis...could cause a full release.

NRC admitted dry cask storage could last 300 years; fully expect many 20 yr extensions... a lot can go wrong in a couple of centuries...

What about the whistleblower who reported that SanO's dry casks were fabricated poorly on site? Who cares? &what's next for the waste? When?

What happens when one-just one-dry cask breaches? Do you call that a manageable risk or an unacceptable one? Airplane strikes? Terrorists?

Thanks 4 the legacy of on site nuke waste storage forever in non-hardened dry casks, FOE. Gave up on SoCal, did you? No blackouts either?

(From a letter to several activists today (slightly modified)):

The FOE report admits we have one of the 10 or so largest nuclear waste dumps in the country. Then it proposes we stay that way.

It says it's calling for "hardened" on site storage but it's been announced in such a way as to force us to settle for a far less robust dry cask system (the term "hardened" wasn't even used in the press release) -- and the report's financial assumptions make it clear they are talking about a far less robust dry cask system than what, say, Arjun Makhijani means when he uses the term "hardened." Some mention of "hardened" systems are made, but no money is allocated to build them and their form and function are not provided. Hardened against what?

What the FOE report is talking about is the current system, which is NOT good enough -- we are NOT protected against anything major and the waste will be here for centuries -- during its most hazardous time, it will be the least protected in the most populated area!!

The only safe dry cask system isn't located in an earthquake zone, tsunami zone or large population zone. It's not under major air traffic routes. It's not located here.


From another letter (also modified):

The quote below is from page 43 of the United States Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board Evaluation of the Technical Basis for Extended Dry Storage and Transportation of Used Nuclear Fuel December 2010. The reference is for shipping casks. There are similar rules for stationary dry casks.

The conditions are not extreme for each test. Every cask is likely to travel over a bridge more than 30 feet high, for instance. Maybe much higher.

These rules prove that nuclear waste transport -- which MUST happen if we are to protect our most valuable land -- is a gamble. The more often you transport the waste, the more often you have to load and unload the casks, operations which can also go wrong. It's all a gamble. How many gambles should the nation take? How many gambles should the local community take? If we hadn't shut down, that'd be one thing, but we have. We're done. Get the waste out of here (and get it out of San Diego Bay, by the way).

One of the NRC's reports on the SanO steam generator failures made it clear that the regulators assume that all manufacturing is actually done to design specifications. This is true even though the whole reason for the NRC's various onsite inspection programs is because the facts don't always match the reports or the plans or anything.

So, given that accidents DO happen, and given that any given set of tests may have been done improperly or not done at all, or might not reflect the real world, and given that computer calculations for these sorts of things are notoriously inaccurate, one has to assume cask failure is a possibility. What then? What if all the casks are cracked open by an earthquake, or in a tsunami, or both? Is it really THAT unlikely here? And regardless of the frequency, was it worth the risk for what it gave us -- electricity that solar and wind power could have given us?

Should the waste remain on the ocean edge of a military base, surrounded on the land side by some of the most fertile growing environments in the world, that just need cheap access to desal plants, or cheap access to ANY clean water, to function? Our land is among the most valuable real estate on earth, although it is regularly abused by putting up buildings where farms which could feed the world should be. So instead there are 8.7 million people here and growing. Chernobyl destroyed mostly farmland yet still killed thousands, or perhaps a million or more. The evacuations of Fukushima and Chernobyl were poorly done and late in coming.

One dry cask failure would be enough to require massive permanent evacuations and would lower the local real estate values by, oh a trillion dollars or so. Is that what FOE helped us achieve?

What does "hardened" mean? Does it mean it will merely pass the standards shown below? Unless Messrs Alverez and Gundersen wish to define "hardened" such that it includes surviving an accidental (or purposeful) airplane strike, a Fukushima-sized seismic or aquatic event, sabotage or poor construction, their press release needs to be withdrawn for inaccurately portraying their document, which needs to be withdrawn and rewritten. The FOE document only provides for a minimal amount of protection, equal to current government standards for the deadliest stuff on earth. For most of the next millennia, the fission products will be the predominant danger. Many of them are far more poisonous even than the plutonium, because they bioaccumulate in the environment and because of their short half-lives, such as 30 years for many of them. In 300 years those will be a thousandth as hazardous as they are now yet still require isolation until they're radiation has declined many more orders of magnitude, over many millennia. These time frames show how important protecting the next few dozen generations is, when the fuel is especially dangerous.

The only way to "harden" nuclear waste in southern California is to move it away, and the only possible ways to "harden" it anywhere are far more expensive that what Bob Alverez / FOE / SCE are proposing / planning.

If proper protections aren't taken, a dry cask catastrophe will happen somewhere, sooner or later. And one cask would be a very serious accident: Quoting FOE's own report commenting on spent fuel pool fires, one doesn't need to extrapolate far to imagine what one dry cask failure could do:

"Far less radioactive cesium was released by the Fukushima nuclear disaster [than in a spent fuel pool fire], which resulted in significant land and aquatic contamination, forcing the eviction of approximately 150,000 people from their homes, food restrictions, and the large, costly remediation of large areas offsite."

From that quote, one can expect to lose all of San Clemente if just ONE dry cask fails, for ANY reason! Maybe we won't lose San Diego (maybe we will), but San Clemente is toast on the coast.

Besides, think about this: Fukushima only contained spent reactor cores, too, just like we have at San Onofre, but fresher -- the reactors had only been shut down for a few hours when the systems failed and they overheated. And look what a mess that made! But the point is, the reactors were already off, so they were in essentially the same setup we have: They had spent fuel in the reactor, spent fuel in the pools, and spent fuel in dry casks. The dry casks were not hit by anything (such as a boat) or tipped over or anything like that. And it was the spent fuel in the reactors that actually caused the problem -- NOT the fuel in the spent fuel pools. And our pools aren't 60 feet off the ground. And if those domes are so strong, can't we build ground-level spent fuel pools inside them for temporary storage of the fuel until we move it? Keeping something that mustn't catch fire under 40 feet of water makes sense to me.

Had Fukushima's reactors been off for five to seven years, or even as long as ours have been, there probably wouldn't have been ANY problem no matter where the fuel was -- dry casks, spent fuel pools, or left in the reactor (with water). The main difference is that with the reactors off, the fuel has time to cool, which occurs over a long time, following a logarithmic descent. It cools both thermally and radiologically, but it takes eons.

Even after a five to seven year wait the fuel is still very hot (400 degrees F at the fuel rod surface). The longer you wait, the safer the fuel transfer operation is, the less exposure the workers experience, and the safer the fuel is once it's in the dry casks or while it's in transit.

The casks that will be used at SanO are not "hardened" and only cost a million bucks per cask. They are not designed to withstand airplane strikes or many other significant hazards they might be exposed to. They are a bargain for SCE. But if they fail, they are certainly no bargain for us.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Regulations for shipping casks for spent nuclear fuel:

3.1.1 Package Performance Testing

As identified in 10 CFR 71, shipping casks or packages are required to survive a sequence of tests simulating "normal conditions of transport" (10 CFR 71.71) and "hypothetical accident conditions" (10 CFR 71.73). The more rigorous suite of accident tests are to be performed in this sequence:

free-drop test: drop package 9 m (30 ft) onto an essentially unyielding horizontal surface (strike speed will be about 48 kph or 30 mph) with the package orientation arranged so that its weakest point is struck,

puncture test: drop package 1 m onto a vertical, 15 cm (6 in) diameter, cylindrical mild steel bar striking the package at its most vulnerable spot,

thermal test: exposure of packaged, fully engulfed in a fire of at least 800ºC (1470ºF) for a period of 30 minutes with less than the specified loss of containment effectiveness, and

immersion test: package placed under a head of water of at least 15 m (50 ft) or an external pressure of about 150 kPa (21.7 psi or 3130 psf) for at least 8 hours.

The NRC permits quantitative analysis (e.g., computer simulations using physics based finite element or finite difference models), scale-model (typically one-quarter or one-half scale), and full-scale testing of packages or package components, and comparisons with existing approved package designs to be used to demonstrate compliance with the regulations. Scale model testing is limited in that some of the most important weak points in a complex structure often may not scale well, for instance bolts and welds.38 These situations require special analyses. Testing of full-scale actual packages (including both certification tests under actual accident conditions and demonstration tests under simulated accident conditions) is not a requirement of the regulations. The NRC has certified several transportation package designs that include dual and multi-purpose packages designed for both transportation and storage.


Useful URLs:

FOE SanO Dry Cask Endorsement:

NAS dry casks report (at NIRS web site):

My own July 29th, 2012 spent fuel fires report:

Kirk Sorensen on the makeup of nuclear waste:

In 2010 Kirk Sorensen gave a wonderful description of the problem of nuclear waste. It's Sorensen, so of course he misunderstands the risk factors from DNA damage, bioaccumulation and accidents, and he suggests thorium reactors can solve the plutonium problem that inevitably remains. I don't agree with Sorensen's conclusions, but it's still a great presentation about the waste. It's called Is Nuclear Waste Really Waste?

The answer -- and Sorensen misses it -- is that nuclear waste is the worst kind of waste there is. Sorensen thinks palladium might be worth extracting from the waste, if it weren't for a pesky 6-million-year half-life radioactive isotope to muddy the waters. He's sure the plutonium is worth recovering, too. I say if someone wants to try again in a thousand years (when most of the fission products have decayed away), they'll extract the stuff whether we bury it or sink it or box it or put a pretty bow on it. In any case, Sorensen does illustrate the radioactive content of nuclear waste wonderfully and his illustrations are based on standard government/nuke industry software and data produced by a program whose accuracy has been validated a number of ways. The presentation also includes a nice primer on nuclear fission (for those who need one). He just goes off on his thorium kick, so I can't recommend it beyond its value for outlining the nuke waste problem.

Matt Wald (NYT) from 2010:

"Metal parts of such casks can begin corroding in weeks if salt hits them, the N.R.C. has found. Whether this happens depends partly on the temperature of the cask (it is heated by the waste) and the humidity in the air.

"The engineer who headed the Yucca program under the Bush administration, Edward F. Sproat III, also attending the conference, said, "you can't keep that stuff in those canisters forever. They're not designed that way." "


** Ace Hoffman
** Carlsbad, CA

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ace's tweets during conference call with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's about Edward J. Snowden...

Below are my tweets from a conference call yesterday with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his team, about the National Security Agency's whistleblower Edward J. Snowden. The tweets are in reverse order (the oldest tweet is at the bottom).

All the mainstream media were on the call, and after the presentations, one by one, they took up all the available time for Q&A (the CNN reporter didn't respond when given the opportunity). Collectively, the MSM asked pretty good questions of Mr. Assange and his team, although the repetition of: "Where is Mr. Snowden right now?" got a bit tiring: He's at my house. (Just kidding.)

Does the U. S. Government really not know where Edward Snowden is? Am I to believe the NSA, which knows everything about everyone, and logs virtually every phone call made globally, has lost the most famous Waldo of all? And little old WikiLeaks, probably the most watched organization in the world, has found him?

Presumably they don't want to fly a drone directly into Moscow or Hong Kong, or wherever he happens to be. Why drone strikes are okay anywhere, I don't know. Looking at the dead and disfigured "collateral damage" -- photos shown all over the world but never in America -- I cannot possibly imagine that drone strikes, with their callous disregard for human life young and old, can possibly be legitimate or fruitful acts of foreign or domestic policy. I do not see how they foster good relationships with other countries. I do not see how drones can possibly stop terrorism: Instead, with every strike (and there have been hundreds in Pakistan alone) they plant the seeds of future terrorism, which is bred from hopelessness and despair.

Presumably the American government will not resort to using Polonium-210 against Mr. Snowden, like somebody used seven years ago to kill Russian KGB whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko. His gruesome death probably came at the hands of his former employers, but we'll never be sure.

Why is the world watching this rat-and-mouse game? Is it because only Nik Wallenda is more exciting -- but that only lasted 22:14?

Edward Snowden is a whistleblower of the highest and finest order. Whoever is running this automated, mechanized, remote-controlled war-machine known as "The U.S. Government" has got to stop harassing its whistleblowers!

I know quite a few whistleblowers. Some of my best friends are whistleblowers on nuclear reactor dangers. Serious stuff. Some are afraid to come forward.

What's happening to Snowden ("bellicose words" (as Mr. Assange put it), the revoking of Snowden's passport, etc.) is clearly meant to be a warning to all would-be whistleblowers. The warning says: "No matter how much we talked in public about our freedom, you were actually a member of a closed society, a special group, the rulers of the world: You had to obey OUR rules. If you step out of our circle jerk, if you tell "the others" about what we are and what we do, you'll be hunted down and severely punished just for telling the truth. We are above the old laws. We are the law now. Globally."

China and Russia both said, "hold on a second" and gave Snowden a free pass through their land. Where is he now? Will he make it to Ecuador, where he has been granted asylum? Did he meet "Tank-Man" while he was in China? I doubt it.

And what about Glenn Greenwald? Other so-called journalists are attacking him, suggesting he should also be charged under the espionage act for reporting what Snowden revealed to him.

What's happening to Snowden, Manning, Assange, and Greenwald is an affront to all journalists as well as all whistleblowers, and is an affront to all citizens of the United States, and to all of humanity. Whistleblowers and the journalists who report what the whistleblowers discover need and deserve the freedom we all cherish in America. If they don't have that, the populace can't possibly have it either, because it's nearly impossible to make a difference in this world without garnering media attention about your cause, even -- or maybe especially -- in this age of the Internet.

In many ways, what journalists don't report might as well not happen -- or can't be stopped. Abu Ghraib was a routine torture cell until it became a media event. Try being sure of what happened somewhere -- anywhere you can't observe firsthand -- without journalists. Try understanding the world without them. Try knowing what's going on in society without them. Journalists must not be targeted! They need freedom, including the freedom to talk to whistleblowers and then report what the whistleblowers are saying.

Press freedom is a fundamental principle of a free society. It is one of the most important checks on power there is. But what if the journalists have nothing to report because all the whistleblowers are afraid to talk to them?


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author is a U. S. citizen.

All tweets from the press conference have been included. A few minor spelling errors and other typos have been corrected.

"He should have felt that the U.S. gov't would protect him...He was right to think it wouldn't...Bradley Manning...WikiLeaks experience..."

The right to privacy is a basic right. To claim that one right has unlimited precedence over all others is not right.

"The U.S. press has exposed that many of those justifications are false" -- Assange on U.S. assertions that spying saved lives.

"We have six years of experience" in these sorts of things, [says] Assange, as to why
Snowden might seek WikiLeaks' help.

"Is it in Snowden's best interest to be binding himself to the WikiLeaks org.?" JA: "Mr. Snowden is now involved in a very grave situation."

"I have been at the Ecuadorian Embassy for over a year." Julian Assange on his own whereabouts.

"I believe Mr. Snowden was well-advised to go public when he did, to protect the journalists involved." Julian Assange, WikiLeaks.

"He has expressed no regret...about what he has done. None." Julian Assange about Edward Snowden.

"You used the term 'rendition.' Is there any evidence that any US forces have tried to
snatch him." "My comments...related to language." JA

"What advanced comms did you have with Russian officials?" "In relation to safe passage, there was no communication prior to him lvng HK."

"Mr Snowden's material was secured by the relevant journalistic organizations prior to travel" -- Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder

Faux News: "Was there any kind of debriefing by the Chinese Authorities in HK?" "That is false." responds Assange.

"Was there any 'cloak and dagger' involved?" "That is a fascinating story, which will be told one day, but not today" says Assange, about HK

"We don't see the irony" responds Assange. Reporter asks a follow-up but Julian sticks to his response that the US has much to answer for.

"What do u make of the irony of seeking asylum thru China & Russia...are u happy to use those countries to "stick it in the eye" of the US?

"We have secret courts, secret interpretations, secret oversight, and secret laws." Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional [Rights]

"The NSA is violating United Nations agreements, American law, other country's agreements... and attempting to protect the people involved."

storing it, indexing it, processing it... leads to a concentration of power... that must not be allowed... totalitarian infrastructure built

NYT asks: "Do you object to ALL types of spying?" "There's only one type of human being; that's why we protect HUMAN rights." says M. Ratner

"We are aware of where Mr. Snowden is. He is in a safe place...Due to the bellicose threats from the U.S., we cannot go into detail." -- JA

MSM asks Assange: Why did Snowden not go to the USAG or something? Because he did not want to be treated as a spy in the US, says Julian.

Obama is attempting to make news organizations criminally liable for what they do. CNN asking GG why he shouldn't be charged?!? Jen Robinson

It is outrageous that a person that reveals the NSA spying program be facing what Bradley Manning is now facing, which is also outrageous.JR

The real story is the "incredible revelation" that Snowden has revealed to the world, says Kristinn Hrafnsson.

"Countries and the press have an obligation to assist Edward Snowden." Julian Assange also assured the world that Snowden is safe right now.

Using the espionage act against journalists must be condemned. Obama has used it 8 times, >2 times all others since it was enacted (1917).

"Let us not forget that today, while Edward Snowden is seeking asylum, that Bradley Manning is on trial for bringing us the truth." J.A.

"This morning the Sec. of State called Edward Snowden a traitor... He is not a traitor. He is not a spy. He is a whistleblower." J. Assange

"We have seen extreme bellicose statements" from the US about Snowden. "Every person has the right to seek asylum" through treaties US sgnd

"There's no legal basis for-" & "asylum trumps-" extradition, says Ratner. "We should be discussing the massive worldwide surveillance."

Whistleblower activities are "protected activities" & entitled to asylum around the world under the "Refugee Convention." This is political.

Listening to WikiLeaks news conf. Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks people will be speaking. Michael Ratner, Ctr for Const. Rgts. on now.


© Ace Hoffman

Monday, June 24, 2013

Too Hot To Touch by Wm. M. Alley & Rosemarie Alley (book review)

Below is a review of the book Too Hot To Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste, followed by some comments about WIPP by Myla Reson, comments about the review by one of the book's authors follow, and those comments are in turn followed (bottom) by my response.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Review of Too Hot To Touch:

Too Hot To Touch, by William M. Alley and Rosemarie Alley (Cambridge University Press, 2013, 370 pgs) is a very thorough overview of the nuclear waste issue. The book is level-headed, in-depth, and logical. It reads as much like a mystery novel as it does a discussion of the science of nuclear waste -- my favorite kind of book.

However -- spoiler alert! -- I was disappointed -- but not surprised -- to find that in the last half dozen (of twenty-two) chapters, the authors clearly advocate for Yucca Mountain. They don't come right out and say it, but all their arguments -- and they make a lot of good ones -- are in favor of Yucca Mountain as the nation's repository of last resort.

The main argument is that it probably would work. The downside? It's not a 100% certainty, and the stakes are very, very high. However, they have an answer for that: Nothing's certain in this world. Nothing's perfect. That's their answer! Trust the scientists. (Most of them, anyway.) Go ahead with it.

For example, they assume that Yucca Mountain will be safe from water seepage downward through the site because the vegetation on the mountaintop (what vegetation?) will suck up most of the 8 inches of rain that falls each year. There's scientific evidence that this is so. The scientists (and the authors) further assume that what's not taken up from the soil by that method will travel downward so slowly as to be inconsequential.

The water table is 1000 feet beneath Yucca Mountain. Some new volcano might spring up miles away that could disturb the water table, but probably not that much. Volcanos can erupt anywhere, but some places are less likely than others. Volcanic activity seems to have ceased in the Yucca Mountain area. As I said, everything works out in Yucca Mountain's favor in the book.

If the water table ever reaches the waste -- or if the waste leaches to the water table--- it would be disastrous, but the authors see both possibilities as remote.

The authors assume that Yucca Mountain will be safe from earthquakes as well. They admit to not discussing dozens of other "known unknowns" as well as a few "unknown unknowns." (Yes, they quote Donald Rumsfeld in the book.)

They don't state the obvious: They don't explicitly endorse Yucca Mountain. But they also don't state the even more obvious: That we must shut down the reactors and stop making more of this waste. Instead, they throw up their arms and declare Yucca Mountain the nation's best answer to the whole problem. The book IS meticulous. And they paint a bleak picture of why nothing else proposed so far is any better.

But the authors also thoroughly endorse the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. However, WIPP is open only for military transuranic waste with relatively low levels of plutonium (or so the Navy tells us). It can't solve the nation's commercial reactor spent fuel problem. (Some problems with WIPP are discussed by Myla Reson, below.)

Why do the Alleys advocate (not so subtly) Yucca Mountain, even as they admit there are numerous issues which cannot be fully resolved? Is it the port of last resort? The devil we know? Well, yes, it's both. They argue that Yucca Mountain is now the most scientifically studied piece of real estate on earth. Bar none.

But then they point out that several other countries have what appear to the authors to be successful geologic burial plans (few are implemented) for those countries' nuclear waste. All the plans are different: The earth is different, the containers are different, the depths are different, the quantities are different, the make-up of the waste is different, the rules are different. Yet the authors of Too Hot To Touch endorse all these methods as equally successful: Proof that it can be done. The hard part, according to them, is overcoming "NIMS" and "NIMBY" attitudes.

Everyone knows what "NIMBY" means: Not In My Back Yard. Too Hot To Touch introduced me to a new term, "NIMS," which stands for: Not In My State. The problem, as they see it, is that too many people can say "no" to a nuclear waste dump in their yard, town, county, and state. Any of these groups can stop a project. Every state's governor has, in some way or other, said "no" to nuclear waste in THEIR state. At some point, states got veto power over the final choice.

The authors of Too Hot To Touch expect the nation to find a small community that can be properly and openly bribed to accept nuclear waste. They expect -- following the recommendations of Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on Nuclear Waste -- that somehow the laws will be changed so that surrounding communities will be unable to stop the small community's decision. This is called "community choice." I call it democracy turned on it's end. (Note: The authors don't use the term "bribed" of course. But what else are promises of tens of millions of dollars every year for as long as the waste is stored on your land, if not outright bribery?)

It's baffling that the authors do not endorse an end to nuclear power as plainly as they endorse Yucca Mountain. As long as we continue to produce more nuclear waste, of course Yucca Mountain looks good to them.

The authors of Too Hot To Touch can't see the end of nuclear power, but Japan has nearly seen an end to it, with only two of over 50 reactors now operating, over two years after Fukushima. And good riddance -- but three meltdowns too late. (Currently, the Japanese utilities are expected to ask permission to restart some of the others soon.)

Germany wants to beat the Chernobyl/Fukushima trend and is closing its nuclear reactors -- hopefully fast enough. The authors of Too Hot To Touch mention these facts, but completely discount shutdown as the only logical choice for America.

Several other countries also are planning to phase out nuclear power: Even a majority of France's population -- and their current leadership -- now want to phase out nuclear power -- but slowly, over several decades. Why wait? Why risk losing France, for a few decades' more "cheap" (not really) energy?

In America right now, nuclear power plants only close permanently from the force of direct economic pressure. New reactors have been prohibitively expensive for decades without government loans and/or loan guarantees (i.e., the taxpayer). Old reactors have been getting older, and are having major parts replaced (often at the ratepayers' expense, not the owners'). Replaced parts have included reactor pressure vessel heads, turbine blades and steam generators (steam generator replacement was a failed operation at Crystal River and at San Onofre, both of which closed permanently this year, and possibly at Davis Besse, too).

At the end of Too Hot To Touch, the authors ask the reader a series of questions. They want to know if you've got a better solution. Yes! I do! Shut down the reactors and stop making MORE waste, because if you think solving this problem "once" solves it forever, think again!

But they completely brushed "shut-down" aside. There was just one sentence, something about nuclear power plants not going away "any time soon."

Why not?

The nuclear industry in America is a mess! It needs to be shut down, but it will only be shut down by being forced to be -- and that's where the solution to the waste problem comes in.

All waste from all closed reactors that has cooled enough to be transported should be immediately moved to the nearest still-open reactor, regardless of if it crosses state lines to get there. Forcing nuclear reactor sites which stay open to take in the waste from those that close will get a lot of them -- maybe ALL of them -- closed in a hurry!

Sure, somebody out there doesn't like that solution. But think about it. The waste from San Onofre can go to Palo Verde in Arizona (part-owned by Southern California Edison so it's already their problem). If Diablo shuts down before Palo Verde, as it probably will, its waste can also go to Palo Verde, as well as the fuel stored at other already-closed reactor sites in California, such as Humbolt Bay and Rancho Seco. Palo Verde doesn't want to close: those three reactors all have new steam generators that were successfully installed a few years ago, and they are making billions of dollars a year for their owners (including SCE). Palo Verde fully expects to operate for decades. So give them California's spent fuel to store, since they have a fuel management problem anyway. It saves SCE and everyone else millions of dollars.

But of course, people living near Palo Verde won't like it, and of course, they shouldn't like it.

The point is, it's impossible to solve the nuclear waste problem properly until the reactors are closed. For 60+ years, all we've done is argue about it, with the environment the loser.

Unless we find a repository, once the reactors are closed, what we'll be left with will be "interim storage." No one has been able to decide where that should be. But in the meantime -- as the authors of Too Hot To Touch explain -- we have de-facto permanent storage at every nuclear reactor site -- more than 75 locations around the country.

Some form of consolidation makes sense, but if we don't close the reactors, nothing makes sense.

Too Hot To Touch does not go into much technical detail about how radioactivity destroys its containment, nor about how it damages DNA. It's more about the fight between politics, science, stupidity and apathy (and bribery). But one of the problems with managing nuclear waste is the scope of the problem.

Too Hot To Touch, The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste, makes it clear that there are no good solutions to the problem of nuclear waste.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


On 6/21/2013 3:39 PM, myla reson wrote:


If there's one thing I know quite a lot about, it's the Dept of Energy's dump for plutonium contaminated nuclear weapons waste - the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (or WIPP) located near the Carlsbad Nat'l Caverns in southern New Mexico.

Ace is right - the waste buried there is "disposed of" - not stored (or retrievable) - the site was never intended for the deep geologic disposal of high level waste - although commercial nuke plant operators would have loved for WIPP to be so designated - but the real problem with WIPP is that it was only allowed to open because money and corruption trumped science and truth - the dump sits in a vast area of karst - a subterrane characterized by caverns, underground rivers and solution channels - there's lots of mining in close proximity to the dump - further, there's a large, highly pressurized brine reservoir below the facility - pressurized at 2000 pounds per square inch with hydrogen sulfide gas - and there's an aquifer above which is periodically flushed into the Pecos River - the Pecos flows into the Rio Grande which in turn flows to the Gulf of Mexico. There are abundant pathways for the plutonium buried at WIPP to reach the accessible environment.

I really don't see deep geologic disposal as a solution - long term or short term - certainly not at WIPP - nor at Yucca Mountain.



Paul Gunter (referring to an informally-proposed waste dump in a salt mine under Detroit):

Thermally hot nuclear waste will heat up whatever geological medium it is buried in. That sets up a thermal convection current that can draw water. Water in salt creates corrosive brine which then attacks the storage system. Not a good idea under the largest fresh water body in the world.
Protect, not pollute

Dear Ace:

Thank you for taking such an interest in our book. Our goal in writing the book was to present the facts as accurately and as clearly as we possibly could--and let the reader come to their own conclusions.

Some specific comments for you to consider.

(1) We don't point to any country as having a successful geologic repository program. In fact; with the possible exceptions of Sweden, Finland, and France, its a mess everywhere.

(2) We don't endorse WIPP, we just tell the story of WIPP as we understand it and we certainly don't endorse salt for a high-level waste repository.

(3) We emphasize that the current situation of 75 de facto repositories in 33 states needs to be addressed. Whether you are for or against nuclear energy, this problem needs to be solved. There's no perfect solution, but leaving it lying around all over the country is asking for trouble.

(4) We think you could drop "Try as it might," from the last paragraph because we actually don't see any "good solutions" to the problem of HLW. Therefore, the only "solution" is to find the best repository site possible and get this stuff underground in a timely manner.



Hi Rosemarie,

Thanks for the comments. With reference to the first two items, I've chosen not to change the review based on your comments. I have included several quotes from your book (below) which are my justifications for not making any changes to those areas.

With reference to the third item, I changed the number from "60" to "75" accordingly. I think I was thinking about active reactors sites.

Regarding the last item (4) -- I've made that change.

The book appears to be an honest attempt to prove that we just need to move forward somehow. I recommend it to everyone. But it doesn't see the problems are insurmountable, which realistically, they are.



Regarding WIPP:

Pg 169 (last two sentences of WIPP chapter):
"One of the main conclusions from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is that when it comes to burying nuclear waste, no site is perfect. Perhaps the accomplished fact of WIPP would help pave the way for solving the much thornier problem -- 1,000 miles to the northwest -- at Yucca Mountain."

It is accompanied by a photo of the arrival of the first shipment of transuranic waste to WIPP.

Pg 325 states:
"One of the biggest stumbling blocks in developing an interim storage facility or a geologic repository is the public's fear and mistrust. Science and technology issues involving nuclear waste are incomprehensible, therefore frightening, to most nonscientists. Here is where we could learn a lesson from WIPP. The Environmental Evaluation Group (EEG), which was established as an independent technical oversight group at the WIPP site, looked out for the public's concerns."

And on page 326 is a picture of the "100th shipment of Rocky Flats waste to WIPP" on what very well could be the exact same truck, looking just as new, as in the picture on page 169.

Regarding Foreign successes:

Pg 316:
"By way of circumventing NIMBY, a cornerstone of the Swedish program has been to seek out strictly volunteer communities. (NIMS is not a problem in Sweden or Finland -- they don't have States.)"

Pg 316:
"Finland appears to be in the repository home-stretch, with a projected opening date of 2020. Like Sweden, the Finnish program enjoys local cooperation and adequate funding for their site, Onkalo (meaning 'hidden' or 'cave'). As with the US Nuclear Waste Fund, the Finnish government created a cleanup fund for their nuclear waste. However, unlike in the United States, the fund is actually funding the project."

Pg 317:
"The BRC report discussed at length the underlying reasons why the US nuclear waste program is in complete disarray, while Sweden and Finland seem to be getting the job done." The book then discusses different problems but has no hesitation concluding, "Assuming no engineering or construction defects or completely unexpected problems, the canisters have been designed to withstand these intense pressures." That was referring to bedrock shearing forces with 2 miles of ice above them. I don't happen to believe they can withstand that, but the book authors don't question the lunacy of such a claim!


Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!
Email: ace [at]

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How "David" Slew "Goliath" (i.e., How the Activists Shut Down San Onofre)

"Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast."

The glitter of gold attracted the operators of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. It did them in.

Faced with the need to upgrade an old design, SoCal Edison demanded of Mitsubishi (the contractor for the replacement steam generators) too many impossible and conflicting constraints.

Most Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) have three or four steam generators which, as the name implies, convert water to steam. San Onofre's reactors have only two steam generators each, so if one fails, the other has to handle the full task of cooling the reactor. This was one of many design flaws, but they had lived with it. The problem came when they tried to get even more output from the replacement steam generators, despite using a new, more corrosion-resistant alloy that was 10% less heat conductive than the original alloy.

They made up for the 10% loss of heat transfer capabilities by adding hundreds more tubes in the same space, packing them all closer together, and increasing their length by an average of about 50 inches. Additional changes were made as well, usually to prevent corrosion-related problems that had plagued the original steam generators. These changes may or may not have been successful -- we'll never know because somewhere along the line, they completely miscalculated how much steam would be produced inside the steam generators. Outside the tubes (but inside the steam generator casing) there was supposed to be about 96% steam and 4% water. Instead it was over 99% steam, which allowed the tubes to vibrate. The flow rate was much higher than expected, which also caused, or increased, the vibration.

The damage could probably have been prevented by operating the steam loop at a higher pressure, combined with a higher circulation ratio. (The circulation ratio indicates the number of times the water goes around the steam generator before becoming steam, and should be close to five or more, but it was less than four in the SanO SGs.). Adjusting these factors would have meant less steam production -- and less profit. But it might have saved the reactors.

The glitter of gold got them.

How greedy was SCE? Extremely! About a decade ago, they applied for, and received, a power uprate which allowed them to operate the original steam generators (and later, the replacement steam generators) at higher temperatures and flow rates in order to produce significantly more steam -- "pure" profit. The only problem was that doing so accelerated corrosion and fatigue wear in the original steam generators.

Or WAS that a problem, in their view?

Perhaps not, because they planned to bilk the ratepayers for the full cost of the replacement steam generators. And the sooner that happened the better, as far as the utility was concerned.

What they wanted to avoid was to be replacing the steam generators around the time of the next license renewal, in 2022. Accelerated wear followed by an early replacement suited them just fine: That way, they could expect to slide through the license renewal with a "like-new" pair of reactors that they planned to claim was all ready to go for the next 20 or even 40 years. Never mind the waste problem they were continuing to create for everyone, and never mind all the other components that were also wearing out.

SCE delayed some plant upgrades, and separated out the cost of a few items (such as new reactor pressure vessel heads, new turbine blades, miles of new pipes, new control equipment, etc.) to keep the cost of replacing the steam generators themselves below a billion dollars. Thus they were able to appease some activists who complained only about the cost. (Moral: Never complain only about the cost.) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the uprate, and the California Public Utilities Commission approved having the ratepayers pay for it, and SCE turned up the steam output, and the power, and the profits, and shortly thereafter, ordered four replacement steam generators from Mitsubishi.

With the new steam generators installed, the license extensions were expected to be a breeze. The NRC had never denied a license extension and still hasn't.

Then Fukushima happened, and the opposition to San Onofre in the community swelled. American ex-pats came back from Japan to California with their young families, with terrifying stories about the incredibly poor way the Japanese government and many of the Japanese people are handling the radiation crises over there. Highly radioactive rice and vegetables are being downblended with less radioactive products to reduce the dose to "acceptable" levels. Radioactive food is being exported to poor countries as "aid" supplies. Radioactive waste is being shipped around Japan only to be burned (and thus released to the environment) in cities far from Fukushima. And worst of all: Thyroid abnormalities are suddenly rampant among Japanese children and there are rumors of excess numbers of stillbirths and deformed babies that can't survive, of doctors being told not to say anything to the parents -- to just say the baby was born dead.

These returning ex-pats did not want the same thing to happen here. And much of it WILL happen if we have a nuclear disaster.

Less than a year after Fukushima, and less than two years after San Onofre's new steam generators were installed, with opposition to San Onofre in full swing, one tube inside one steam generator leaked. Nearly 40,000 tubes had been replaced, but just one leaky tube spelled doom for San Onofre. They had been hit right between the eyes.

At first, the operators of the plant didn't -- or couldn't -- believe anything serious had happened. So one tube leaked? They called it "settling in."

But then they looked more closely, and the real problem began to reveal itself. This wasn't just teething pains. The steam generators had vibrated excessively, and thousands of tubes had rubbed against tube supports and against other tubes. There was 90% through-wall wear in one tube in Unit 2, which had been shut down for the first refueling after its steam generator replacement, and more than 90% through-wall wear in numerous tubes in Unit 3, with one -- the one that leaked -- at 100% through-wall wear.

Unit 3 was ruined for sure, at least without yet another billion-dollar steam generator replacement. But the utility thought Unit 2 could be salvaged somehow. Why they thought this, I'll never know, but for more than 16 months they held onto the thought, meanwhile charging ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars for upkeep for a broken and inoperable pair of reactors.

Finally, on June 7th, 2013, the utility gave up and announced they would decommission San Onofre without trying to restart it, blaming "regulatory delay" which was fair enough, insofar as, the NRC would not grant them a license to restart Unit 2 at 70% power as they had asked. Instead, the NRC came back with dozens of highly technical questions about what assumptions SCE had made in projecting that the reactor could be safely operated at 70% power -- or any percent -- for a five-month "test" period. (Note: The word "test" is in quotes because the utility refused to call their restart plan an experiment with 8.7 million people's lives, but that's exactly what it would have been.)

Whistleblowers, activists and experts alike were also looking at the available data -- which was insufficient in many ways, with much of it held back as "proprietary." But from what was available, all were saying it would be unsafe to restart San Onofre. Even a Senator (Barbara Boxer (D-CA)) and a Congressperson (Ed Markey, D-MA)) got involved, pressuring the NRC to examine SCE's application very carefully.

But did "regulatory delay" really kill the beast? Was it the "miracle" of the busted steam generators (without an accompanying meltdown), or were the activists' campaigns what really killed San Onofre? We'll never know for sure, but the activists certainly put enormous pressure on SCE. Beginning just days after Fukushima, they (we) have been going to local city councils, to schools, political organizations, civic clubs, and to the media, explaining the horrific danger San Onofre presents. And it was working: we had been getting official letters for -- if not outright closure of San Onofre -- safer operation, open investigations, and removal of the waste. Not the brass ring, but good things. We spoke in front of hundreds of elected officials in dozens of cities. Only one or two appeared to express a strongly pro-nuclear point of view, and many that did talk (most just listened) were clearly confused about the dangers from nuclear power. They really did need an education!

The activists brought world-renowned experts to discuss the issues, and many of us spoke without notes, so that we could, with a dozen or more speakers, each telling a three-minute part of the story, offer a very compelling case against nuclear power, complete with pictures, graphs, charts and facts to go along with every claim. And these activists were respected members of the community: retired government workers, Harvard graduates, lawyers, doctors, business persons, moms, dads and kids. All understood the issues and spoke eloquently, time and again. The communities surrounding San Onofre were getting quite an education, and most of these presentations were being broadcast live on the internet.

After a while, one city council would tell another about the group of activists that would come and discuss San Onofre. We would try to have local residents of whatever city we were in speak first.

Activists pointed out, for example, that the energy San Onofre produced was not vital even during the summer months -- there did not need to be blackouts or brownouts. This was true (and is true) even though SCE has refused to convert SanO's turbines to synchronous condensers (basically, big flywheels) for voltage support, has failed to distribute nearly a billion dollars in renewable energy funds it has already collected, has failed to implement much "demand response" (which turns off people's air conditioning and dryers and so forth for an hour or so during peak periods), and has fought all varieties of solar and wind projects tooth and nail to prevent them from hooking into the grid.

San Onofre will be decommissioned -- or so we're told: I want to see those domes come down before I'll truly believe it. And let's watch out for the radiation that can be released as that happens.

The San Diego daily paper, the Union-Tribune, has always supported nuclear power. It still does. Today (6/20/2013) it published two op-eds: One pro-nuclear by the CEO of General Atomics, and one con by John Goldenring and Dan Hirsch (from Physicians for Social Responsibility and Committee to Bridge the Gap, respectively).

The CEO's claims are pathetic, ancient dogma about how we "need" energy and will get it one way or another, that renewables aren't ready, that the waste problem can be solved, that the next generation of nukes will be cleaner and safer (don't bet on it). It was sickening to read. Right next to it, John Goldenring and Dan Hirsch explain the reality.

Although San Onofre is far less likely to have a catastrophic accident now that it is shut down, the magnitude of the disaster it can have has not diminished by much, and won't diminish much for tens of thousands of years. What to do with the spent fuel -- the used reactor cores -- is a terrible problem which has never been solved by the nuclear industry.

Decommissioning will take decades, and that's not including whatever is done with the reactor cores, which have all been stored on site since the first refueling outage at San Onofre.

Diablo Canyon, a few hundred miles north of San Onofre, is also old and dilapidated , and needs to be closed forever too -- and they also have no solution for their nuclear waste problem. No plant has a solution.

Nuclear power has failed the citizens miserably in California. There has even been a meltdown here -- probably worse than Three Mile Island -- which was covered up and denied for decades. (Dan Hirsch uncovered it.)

It's time to give up on Diablo Canyon too, before something terrible happens there, such as a meltdown. Such as what was narrowly avoided at San Onofre.

Shut down Diablo. It's no better than SanO ever was.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author had been fighting to stop San Onofre for several decades prior to the announcement of its closure. He is a computer programmer and the author of The Code Killers, a handbook about nuclear issues.

Correction: A small number of fuel assemblies from Unit 1 were removed at one point, decades ago.  All the rest are still on site.

Addition: The role of the media should not be discounted, but somehow went unmentioned... "the media" were mentioned (and appreciated) in many other descriptions I (and others) have offered but alas, not that one.  The local media told the story and got involved.  Some whistleblower reports by the local 10News team in particular may have turned the tide because they pointed out that the whole plant is a rust-bucket, and if anything says, "give up" that does.

Furthermore, I have been interviewed dozens of times in the last two years, probably by nearly every station at some point, and found the local reporters to be smart, fair, and eager to hear us out on our complaints.  Then they'd go to SCE for a response.  It's the way I always heard media is supposed to act.  Speaking in front of a dozen or more cameras is quite an experience.

I can't believe I left that whole part out!


Also left out was the role "social media" played.  Early on we adopted collective email -- where everyone gets everything -- as the preferred means of communication, along with open face-to-face meetings anyone could attend.  Car pooling was encouraged for getting to the meetings.

Not everything worked all the time.  But everything worked most of the time.  And everything worked well enough.


The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!
Email: ace [at]

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cunningham's out of prison... look out, Arkansas and/or Florida!!

This past week, my former Congressman, Randall 'Duke' Cunningham, was released from Federal prison after serving an eight year, four month sentence for bribery, with about a year cut off the sentence for good behavior while in prison. It was the longest prison sentence ever handed out to a Congressperson up to that time.

"The Dukester" was a fighter pilot in Vietnam. Cunningham is credited with five victories in an F4 Phantom jet, including shooting down North Vietnam's own top ace. Cunningham earned two Navy Crosses, a Purple Heart, and "Flying Ace" status. He was the highest-scoring American pilot in the war with five victories and was (and is) the last American "ace." There will never be another, because American drones and "smart" bombs will target and destroy any opposing air force before the fighter pilots on either side have even had a chance to preflight their planes. Some day, laser weapons will beam down from satellites and high-altitude platforms more efficiently and more effectively. So Cunningham is America's last ace. Too bad he turned criminal.

At the time of his sentencing, Cunningham was called the nation's "most crooked" Congressman (and there are always soooo many contenders for that title!). Cunningham was a bribe-taker, a liar, a paranoid people-controller, an arrogant trouble-maker who was elected to represent my district for more than a decade, and who made millions of dollars letting the government pay extra money -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- for shoddy work on no-bid contracts, or even for no work at all. And oh yes, he supported San Onofre, the biggest mistake in southern California's history.

Cunningham is now free for what he has called his "last flight into the wild blue yonder" (SD U-T). Cunningham intends to live either in Arkansas or Florida. Cunningham will: "be on probation or supervised release at least for the next three years" (Fox-5).

The Dukester has beaten the system once again. Along with him, his co-conspirators have also continued to get away with their crimes and cover-ups. The terms of Cunningham's original sentencing included that he must "confess to all crimes committed while in office" or words to that effect. All kinds of things popped out once Cunningham was convinced to talk,but one thing didn't come out: An attempted murder/suicide in his final days in office.

My wife and I were the victims of his most evil plan of all.

On November 25th, 2005 at about 8:35 pm in San Marcos, California, Congressional Representative Randall "Duke" Cunningham attempted to commit suicide by smashing the car he was driving (a 2004 Chevy Tracker, a model which was originally known as a Suzuki Samurai) head-on at high speed into the one I was driving (a 2000 Honda Passport SUV). Cunningham almost succeeded, but ended up hitting the rear of my car.

The Honda Passport is bigger and slower than the Chevy Tracker, but I had a five-speed manual transmission and about 206 horsepower to work with, and knew from reading the owner's manual years ago that the "power range" for the engine is around 4,500 RPM. Always read your owner's manual.

At first, I observed Cunningham's car swerving wildly in front of us, and pointed him out to my wife and slowed down. Next thing I know, the oncoming car had straightened out -- but in my lane! I started to make a quick lane change to my right (it was a five-lane road, with two going his way, a turn lane in the middle, and two lanes going my way -- I started in the left lane, next to the turn lane in the middle).

Cunningham was about two football fields away at this point. I got about half way into the next lane over when I realized he was tracking my maneuver and still gaining speed. "Okay, buddy, if you want THAT lane you can have it!" I said, or thought, and maneuvered to the left into the lane I was originally in.

He followed me back to the original lane. We were now barely a single football field apart and he was already traveling about 50 miles an hour and continuing to gain speed.

In a head-on collision, if either car or the cumulative closing speed of both cars is more than about 50 miles per hour, air bags will not have time to inflate.

I could not out-maneuver Cunningham. I could not turn anywhere: There were no side streets, and various things blocked a complete exit off-road (a berm or wall on one side and, as I recall, a fence on the other side).

At this point, I was going very slowly. He was gaining speed and closing the distance rapidly. I felt a sense of hopelessness as I ran out of options. I said, "Oh Jesus."

Okay, maybe I said, "Oh Geez..."

But somehow the call got through. Suddenly I was calm and knew exactly what to do.

I could still outwit the old drunk.

Training made the difference: He wasn't using all of his, and just a few months earlier I had learned how to avoid this exact sort of event. As lucky as it seems, that August my local cable channel had aired a locally-made driver training video, by a comedy driving school instructor (Steve Verret, who also does comedy for our troops). I had kept a scrap of paper with his name and phone number from when I watched his videos, and although I couldn't find him or remember his name, when I found the scrap of paper about six months after the accident I knew exactly what it was right away, although it had no label. I called the number and thanked him for saving my life, my wife's life, and, "the life of an unnamed assailant named Randall Cunningham." We've been friends ever since. I've (voluntarily, so far...) taken his drivers' ed classes -- as well as his "Bible for Dummies" classes, which he also gives. Again a stroke of luck (or providence): When I was a kid my grandmother, deeply religious, had brought me to a Billy Graham revival, and I recall thinking, at about the age of eight, "If there's a God, I want him to be Jesus." I didn't give the matter much thought after that and didn't go to church (and still seldom do). But my gasp -- my prayer -- was answered, and I've been thankful for every day ever since.

I had bladder cancer about 5 years ago, but the surgery was successful, it hasn't recurred. I've been fighting to shut down the San Onofre nuclear power plant, spending thousands of hours every year for many years, and have written countless essays about nuclear power. We've just won that battle -- it was announced two days ago that San Onofre is being decommissioned. Now we need to solve the waste problem. That's much harder that closing a nuke.

Since Cunningham's failed suicide/murder attempt, the most wonderful things have happened in my life. I found, and lost, a boy who is, nevertheless, like a son to me. He made me realize how enjoyable children are, and I've straightened out other "troubled" youths since meeting him. To work with children seems to be a calling now, and it's certainly the most wonderful experience I could ever have lived for. The letter shown below is about one such youth, and by now I have received dozens of letters and comments about kids who have been influenced by my book about nuclear energy, or by my presentations, videos or conversations. I love kids, but until one called ME "dad" and wanted to outsmart me in everything (and succeeded), I was unaware of how much fun they are. I now run a non-profit which seeks to prevent bullying -- by adults, parents, or other children -- of weaker children, of geeks, of anyone "different." The different ones are, of course, often the most gifted ones, too, but in any case, they deserve our protection.

A few years after "The Cunningham Affair," I was punched in karate school improperly right between the eyes and just above the nose, by a trainee with dangerous and illegal equipment. He actually meant no harm; it was just an amateur wrong decision, but it cost me dearly. His rock-solid punch during a belt "test" a few months into training gave me headaches for six weeks, made my eyes hurt, and now they hurt when I cry -- and I do cry sometimes. But the "good news" is that it seems to have also altered my personality in ways everybody prefers to the "old" me.

I changed my name to "Ace" from "Russell David" Hoffman because Cunnningham, that old fool, was an "Ace" in Vietnam, and as one veteran said to me about the incident shortly after it happened, he must have been "back in 'Nam" at the time -- and high on about a dozen mood-altering drugs the Capital psychiatrist had prescribed for him (yes, they really did have such a person back then, and perhaps they still do). Every time I jinked, he jinked. Every time I jagged, he jagged. What he couldn't do was out-maneuver a driver who had seen what Cunningham was driving and knew its capabilities, and who was willing to wait until Cunningham had gained enough speed and was close enough that I had a maneuverability advantage. I had to wait and do nothing, or he would know my intent and win. Then I gunned it straight for him, and at the last moment turned to one side (I chose to go towards his side of the road).

Cunningham's front passenger side corner hit my rear passenger side corner -- as I had planned, as much as anyone could plan such things. The impact tore off a piece of his car (which I collected off the road).

I saw the other driver briefly as he flashed by. The following Monday, I recognized him on TV, as he resigned from Congress on other charges. I told my wife who I thought the attacker was. Suddenly watching him resign on live television, we "understood" why the 911 call had failed to produce any response.

At the last possible moment it was his choice, he could have easily turned his car away, but he chose to hit the rear of my car, which was exactly what I expected and wanted, so that he wouldn't go do the same thing to the next car he encountered, which was some way back.

Had he not collided at all, there would be no record of the incident but with the two paints intermingled, he could (theoretically, with police help) be tracked down. But police help was not forthcoming. We went back to the police station a number of times, and worked our way up and down ladder of responsibility, writing letters to the Attorney General, the U. S. Attorney, the judge in the case, etc.., but Cunningham was always given a free pass for this crime. However, it is interesting that U.S.A. Carol Lam was fired shortly thereafter on flimsy excuses. (She now has a cushy job as an executive of a large local company.)

Her role in this matter is not small. The incident occurred the Friday night after Thanksgiving. It turned out Cunningham had cut a deal with Lam to resign from Congress the following Monday, but he had decided to try to kill himself -- and take out two of his own constituents with him -- instead. Cunningham was almost surely being followed by the FBI at the time of the incident. The car was found abandoned about a mile away.

Cunningham still hasn't admitted the incident happened, or said who helped him home that night. I believe the federal government is ultimately culpable for Cunningham's behavior, since, among other reasons, he was under treatment by the Capital psychiatrist. There should be a whole scandal about how psychiatrists handle patients who tell them they are suicidal -- in this case, it was handled by giving him more drugs that were known and are still known to induce suicidal thoughts in some patients!

I made an animation of Cunningham's "final" (WE HOPE!) attack, which is available at my web site under the "links" button, viewable on any computer that can run Adobe Flash. It's called "Seven Seconds in San Marcos" (URL below).

It's too bad Cunningham has been let out without fulfilling the terms of his agreement to confess to ALL his various crimes. He's asked for permission to have a gun, but was refused. Will he be given a driver's license? I hope not! I also hope he's not allowed to come to California for the rest of his life, or associate with any police or FBI agents that were involved in his evasion of responsibility. Lastly, his refusal to confess to his involvement in this incident makes me wonder what other crimes he might be holding back from mentioning to the feds, even after promising to cooperate.

Someone mentioned that I had beaten an ace in a (two-dimensional) dogfight. My mom and dad, who have now passed, both agreed that I had earned the new name and were happy with the change. My step mom's cool with it, too. My dad was a veteran of combat in the European theater during World War II (his unit took part in the relief of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge). He helped me uncover Carol Lam's agreement with Cunningham that they had made earlier in the same week that Cunningham attacked my wife and I.

So far, the media have considered the story "too hot to handle." They're all itching to interview Cunningham -- the least they could do is ask him about it (again and again until he lets something slip).

Now that San Onofre is closed and all we have is an enormous pile of deadly waste to handle, it's time to start finding the people that supported this mistake in government, as well as the corporate executives who chose nuclear energy over wind power, conservation, and solar energy. It's time to hold them accountable for the radioactive waste problem their decisions created.

Meanwhile, the media should be asking Cunningham who helped him get away with attempted murder of two of his constituents in a failed and foolish suicide attempt. Was he back over the skies of Saigon in his mind? Does he plan to go THERE again? What medications is he on now? What foolish and impulsive things did he do in prison? Why is he out when he hasn't confessed to all his crimes while in office, as promised?

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

URL for "The Cunningham Affair" documents and animation (instructions on how to avoid a suicidal driver intent on killing you are included in the animation):


The world's most rewarding experience is turning a kid around:

Ace -- just want to send you a sincere thanks. Before you started interacting with ....., he was having serious problems in school; he was getting mostly D's on his report card and I was getting called frequently about missing assignments and bad behavior. Since you lent him the bike books and got him interested in the mechanics of bikes, his grades have risen to all A's and B's. he uses the books for everything; essays about favorite books, science essays, book reports -- you name it! You have had a great impact on a young man who really needed it. Even though these words are inadequate -- thank you.



Friday, June 7, 2013

The real reason they're closing SanO???


Dear Readers,

The letter shown below, from Pete Dietrich this morning to SanO employees, suggests that the real reason SCE is closing San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station is because of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board's involvement in the case. The ASLB would not be looking into the problems at San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station if Friends of the Earth (FOE) hadn't pushed the issue with carefully-planned legal actions.

FOE deserves enormous credit for their role in this event. Southern California narrowly avoided its own Fukushima on January 12th, 2012. Eight tubes in Unit three were worn enough to fail pressure tests, and one tube in Unit two was 90% worn. Unexpected vibration had done them in.

But with bullheaded determination, SCE tried to restart anyway. The 70% plan has been lingering around since nearly the beginning of the outage. Some restart plan, any restart plan. But first, FOE hired Arnie Gundersen to look into the matter, who is a world-renowned expert in steam generator technology, and then they hired a slew of other experts to confirm his findings. Independent experts, independent, that is, of SCE, NRC, and FOE also confirmed that SanO's u-tubes were beyond repair. But Arnie did the hard discovery work first. Then he explained it again and again, to activists, reporters, and regulators.

Arnie Gundersen is a hero to science and reason.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


To: SONGS Employees and Supplemental Workers

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you SCE's decision to permanently retire both Units 2 and 3. I recognize this difficult announcement is something none of us wanted to hear, but our decision is absolutely the right thing to do. The tough reality is that the recent Atomic Safety and Licensing Board decision creates significant additional uncertainty regarding our ability to get to an NRC decision to restart Unit 2 this year. This is not good for our customers, our investors and the region.

I could not be prouder of you, the men and women who have put their hearts and souls into addressing the steam generator and the dual unit outages, all the while working safely every day. Indeed, SONGS has served this region well for more than 40 years and each of you has played a role in it.

I recognize how difficult this news is for everyone at SONGS. Today, we will be conducting a series of All Hands meetings so I can talk face-to-face with you about what this means for us as a station, and for you. Meeting times are listed below, and I would ask that you please attend the session for your division.

I will do my best to answer your questions, but will tell you up front, I do not yet have all the answers. More information will be solidified over the next week, but I believe it is important for us to get together and discuss this news. We will work diligently, as we have before, to get answers to your questions. We will treat everyone with dignity and respect, using a process that is fair, legal and ethical.

This morning, Edison International CEO Ted Craver, and other executives, including Ron Litzinger and myself, are holding an investor briefing to inform the financial community and the media of our decision. Below is the company's press statement. Indeed, we can all anticipate a robust media cycle to follow.

I want to emphasize some aspects of what today's decision does not affect. We hold a NRC license that includes many requirements and obligations ­ including our responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public and our employees. As we move forward, we must continue to meet these license requirements as well as all the requirements of our Emergency Plan and Security Plan. I need -- and ask for -- your continuing support as Nuclear Professionals to ensure we remain as diligent about our responsibilities and obligations as you have demonstrated in the past.

We will have more time to talk in the days ahead, and I look forward to those interactions. But I want to say again how proud I am to be a part of this team, this station. You are the finest employees I have had the privilege to work with and lead. We have important things to accomplish here at SONGS as we prepare for decommissioning, and I know that we will do it together as true Nuclear Professionals. Keep your head up, stay focused on working safely, and never forget our commitment to excellence.

Be proud, but never satisfied!



Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!
Email: ace [at]

Ace Hoffman's statement on the announcement today of the permanent closing of San Onofre


Dear Readers,

I think Edison deserves credit for making a wise decision. I support the decision. It's good for business, good for California, good for the environment. It's the correct engineering decision to make. San Onofre was irreparably damaged by vibration.

Unfortunately we are now left with one of the largest, most concentrated nuclear waste piles on the planet. This will be an eternal problem, but thankfully it is no longer a growing problem and is becoming safer by the day. It will take millions of years -- not just days -- to be safe, but at least we are headed in the right direction.

The employees of San Onofre have been honorable opponents and I hope they all find jobs in the solar and wind technology energy sectors. However, the investigations should proceed, at the state level, at the federal level, and at the personal level, we should all continue to ask why nuclear power is used anywhere?

Diablo Canyon is next on my personal radar.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

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, 2.7.1885 - 1.10.1951)
"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 (a pioneer nuclear physicist who later realized the whole situation)
"Any dose is an overdose." -- Dr. John W. Gofman (another pioneer nuclear physicist who saw the light (9.21.1918 - 8.15.2007))
"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, 7.22.1947 - 2.24.2006)
"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, 7.21.1944 - 10.25.2002)
"There are no warlike peoples - just warlike leaders." -- Ralph Bunche (8.7.1903 - 12.9.1971)
In the execution room, Troy [Davis] used his last words to proclaim his innocence one final time. He then made a call for his movement -- all of our movement -- to bring about [an] end of the death penalty for good. And then, in his final breath, he asked God�s mercy upon those about to kill him.
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." -- Thomas Jefferson
"Officials from the San Onofre nuclear reactor said the warning siren that went off yesterday was just a malfunction and no one should worry. Hey, I worry, if they can't even get the siren to work right, what the hell are they doing with the reactor??" Jay Leno 1/20/10
"Please send this to everyone you know!" -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes)

This email was sent by:
Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


From: Radiation Bulletin <>
Subject: [Radbull] Major event on June 4th - will be online

... June 4, 2013 San Diego/National/Japan News Advisory ...


*** Webcast and Audio Feed Available to Media Outside of San Diego ***

Against Backdrop of Debate About Fate of Troubled San Onofre Reactor, Two Public Officials Who Led During Time of Japanese Reactor Crisis Appearing Together.

SAN DIEGO, CA.///News Advisory///Two public figures who led the response in Japan and the United States to the Fukushima reactor crisis will appear together Tuesday for the first time to outline the lessons of Fukushima for Southern California, which now awaits the decision on whether or not the crippled San Onofre reactors near San Diego will be restarted.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan will discuss his concerns about the inherent dangers posed by nuclear reactors. He will be joined by former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Gregory Jaczko, who has emerged as a leading critic of safety at U.S. nuclear power plants.

The event will be available live both to reporters in San Diego and via phone feed and Webcast to members of the news media elsewhere in the U.S.

News event speakers will be:


  • The Honorable Naoto Kan, former Prime Minister of Japan from June 2010 to August 2011;
  • Gregory Jaczko, former chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from May 2009 to July 2012;
  • Peter A. Bradford, adjunct professor at the Vermont Law School, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and a former utility commission chair in New York and Maine;
  • Arnold "Arnie" Gundersen, chief engineer of the energy consulting company Fairewinds Associates, and a former nuclear power industry executive; and  
  • Dave Roberts, County Board of Supervisors, San Diego.


FOR REPORTERS OUTSIDE OF SAN DIEGO:  A live Webcast from this news event will be available to reporters outside of San Diego, CA., starting at 8:30 a.m. PDT/11:30 a.m. EDT on June 4, 2013, at

FOR REPORTERS IN SAN DIEGO:  Members of the media in the San Diego area are  invited to attend the seminar starting at 8:30 a.m. PDT on June 4, 2013,  at the Chambers of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, 3rd Floor, 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego. (MAP)  

MEDIA CONTACT:   Alex Frank at (703) 276-3264 or

Roger Herried

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