Thursday, April 9, 2015

SCE's "Citizen's Engagement Panel" versus Dr. Caldicott's symposium: Which is more worthy of your time?

Next Thursday (April 16, 2015), Southern California Edison's "Citizen's Engagement Panel" will meet again, as they do quarterly while SCE gets prepared to destroy evidence at San Onofre. Evidence of what? Of crime and grime. How rusted out is that plant, really? And why did the steam generators fail so quickly?

San Onofre's primary coolant loop should be artificially heated (non-nuclear; not a cheap experiment but doable) and run to the point of steam generator tube failure: Both to see what the steam generators will do -- what the real cause of "Fluid Elastic Instability" was -- but also to see what the operators might have done if things had gotten even worse at San Onofre. Which could easily have happened.

When the "small" radioactive leak occurred on January 31, 2012, the reactor control room operators waited to shut down the reactor until regulatory thresholds for a rising leak rate required them to do so. That took about 20 minutes from when the alarms first went off.

It is no exaggeration to say we may have been only seconds away from catastrophe -- for the benefit of a greedy corporation's profit margin.

Nuclear power is absurdly dangerous. The regulators are not doing their job. We've seen FOUR meltdowns in power reactors globally (three of them in American-designed plants) in just the first part of the first century of nuclear power. The world was promised ZERO meltdowns in 20,000 years.

Zero promised versus four actual.

Locally, Diablo Canyon and Palo Verde must close!

As the American West dries up, massive use of solar power is the ONLY thing that can save our way of life here. We need power for water desalinization and for deeper and deeper groundwater pumping -- if for nothing else. (Currently, Carlsbad's new "desal" plant claims to be "green" but merely buys "credits" for green energy produced elsewhere. It is actually powered -- needlessly -- by fossil fuels.)

Covering California's aqueducts and superhighways with solar panels -- just those -- could eliminate a lot of unnecessary evaporation (from the aqueducts) and provide MORE POWER than Diablo Canyon can provide on average. Certainly, solar power has its ups and downs, but on a good day we would be able to get more than double what we get from DCNPP. And that's just from our highways and aqueducts.

Of course, with a corrupt Public Utilities Commission (who in California hasn't been following THAT fiasco?) we haven't embarked on anything like that.

Cow feedlots are still shaded -- if at all -- with tin roofs instead of solar panels. And the poor cows are thirsty, hot, and chock full of antibiotics. And so are the sheeple. (Note: some day -- hopefully soon -- virtually all "beef" will be grown in laboratories, not in cows. It won't need ANY antibiotics, won't have to be slaughtered, will pass (or surpass) all the blind taste tests anyone can come up with, will have whatever fat/meat ratio desired, and then -- even vegetarians can eat it if they want to! It probably will still need ketchup.)

Southern California's famous burger joints can only serve these new meats if SCE hasn't destroyed southern California first. Not a safe bet.

SCE needs to use stronger dry casks for its nuclear waste -- casks which are not made of so-called "stainless" steel, which is susceptible to "stress corrosion cracking." SCE claims to want to remove the waste from here. So let them store it either at Diablo Canyon or at Palo Verde nuclear power plants! Those plants each are at least a thousand times more likely to have a catastrophic accident than San Onofre's nuclear waste is, simply because they are still operating. So what's a little additional risk, when both have much smaller populations around them than San Onofre has? Both DCNPP and PVNPP each must already store millions of pounds of nuclear waste on their properties anyway. What's a few million more?

And SCE is a part-owner in Palo Verde. So give those reactors the waste and get it away from southern California!

(Note: This nuclear waste "solution" is clearly a plot to force open reactors to close, lest they get stuck with somebody else's nuclear waste.)

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

To find Caldicott's awesome symposium, go to the link below, then click on the link following where it says: "THE EVENT WILL BE LIVE STREAMED at:"

Letter to a local reporter inquiring about whether I would be attending the April 16th, SCE/CEP meeting:


I probably won't be attending. My main concern with the CEP right now is that they do not represent the public; instead they are an impediment to public representation. We were better off without them, especially David Victor. His endorsement of Per Peterson's first visit by offering him a second chance to speak was the last straw for me. No one on the Blue Ribbon Commission deserves a voice in this discussion! All they (the BRC) wanted to do was destroy a community's ability to prevent a nuclear waste storage dump being sited near them, if someone with land to sell nearby wanted it! The BRC felt the solution to the waste problem was to kill democracy, rather than to kill nuclear power. Per Peterson was particularly awful to listen to when he spoke here, we said so, and David Victor proceeded to give him an even bigger floor to spew his absurd ideas for America's waste problem.

The only thing SCE's CEP can possibly do that would be of any use would be to write an unequivocal statement for Diablo Canyon and, perhaps most of all, for Palo Verde (since SCE is still a 20% owner of that plant, even though SCE has proven themselves incompetent at operating nuclear power plants) stating that the waste problem is intractable, unsolvable, enormous, expensive, dirty, dangerous, ill-fated, foolhardy... but no: The CEP is designed to let SCE claim there is public endorsement of the idea of storing nuclear waste amongst a population of nearly 10 million people (and that's just in the first 50 miles -- a nuclear waste accident can go much further and in fact, spread all over the globe).

We'll end up with dry casks that are ~ 5/8ths of an inch thick and susceptible to airplane strikes (intentional or accidental), tsunamis from nearby underwater landslides caused by even small earthquakes, and eventually... a ruined southern California.

In one of two NRC hearings I attended (via phone link) today, the NRC people made it pretty clear they think an interim storage location will become available within about 10 years. Before that, they always assumed Yucca Mountain would be coming along, and before that (this would be going back 30-40 years) they thought we'd probably rocket the waste to the sun, or bury it in a subduction zone, or simply vitrify it all, or put it under the polar ice caps... every one of these ideas was seriously presented by "experts." There are no experts on the CEP, including the guy from the American Nuclear Society. He has enough knowledge to make him dangerous, that's all. He's no physician, no statistician, no metallurgist, no economist (he can't compare solar power to 10,000 years of spent nuclear fuel storage problems, let alone 250,000 years, a more realistic number).

I understand there are some good people on the CEP now -- Glenn Pascal, last time I talked to him, seemed on the right track (although that was a while ago), and I'm sure Pam Patterson will do all she can, as well. But not only are they outnumbered, they are powerless to accomplish a thing. David Victor likes to remind everyone of that, each time they meet.

Another thing I heard at one of the NRC meetings today was the NRC people talking very disparagingly about the level of knowledge of the activists here in southern California. Maybe they're right, but SCE's CEP is no better, and one reason the activists are often "clueless" is because the NRC doesn't require SCE to release pertinent information: For example, regarding the steam generator failures, and why did one reactor have "fluid elastic instability" when the other didn't, the answer lies somewhere in the flow rates and temperatures of the primary coolant loop, the "circulation ratio" of the secondary loop, and a large number of other factors. But the NRC let SCE/MHI claim much of that information -- key information -- was "proprietary." And then they disparage us (the public) for not understanding what happened at San Onofre!?! Well, truth be told, the NRC doesn't understand what happened either -- they never established a definitive opinion of why one reactor failed from "FEI" and the other didn't. Without running some experiments they never bothered to run, they'll never know for sure. But the NRC doesn't care, even though they know the steam generator failure didn't have to be so "graceful" (it was only a small leak, but if the operators had waited just a little longer to shut the reactor down, or if they had, for example, closed the wrong valves at the wrong times, it could have been much, much worse).

The NRC is in its infancy in dealing with long-term nuclear waste storage issues, but all they want the public to do in the case of San Onofre is go back to sleep. SCE doesn't want to purchase the thicker dry casks that will last longer and be much more resistant to outside forces -- they want the cheap stainless steel casks. Yet at one of the NRC hearings today I heard an NRC person clearly state fears about storing anything made of stainless steel near the coast! In other words, they know they are playing with fire. But they figure if things go wrong, they can always evacuate the area, and that way, maybe 95% of the population will only get a below-regulatory-concern dose of radioactive poison (seriously: that's the standard they work towards).

And that's good enough for the NRC, good enough for David Victor, and good enough for Tom Palmisano.

In the afternoon meeting today, the NRC people were reviewing their previous meetings about SanO, and stated that some people who attended those meetings said they wanted to "get things on the record" and didn't understand that those meetings were NOT on the record. They also said that we were unruly sometimes.

I don't think we should submit to being poisoned quietly. But at the SCE CEP meetings, people can shout as loud as they want and it won't change a thing.

Best regards,

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

"The chances are one in a million..." It's time for the NRC take the possibility of intentional air strikes at nuclear facilities seriously:

Dear Readers,

The GermanWings pilot was crazy (2015, France). The MH370 pilot was crazy (2014, Indian Ocean). The Egypt Air pilot (1999, St. Lawrence Seaway) was possibly crazy, although they're not sure. The A10 Warthog pilot (1997, Utah) was definitely crazy.

But that's only a small list of the crazies who have flown planes into the ground. Those guys were all certified okay to fly by authoritative experts. They were studied and approved. They had been doing complicated things properly for years and years. Then one day they went very crazy. And there is no connection to other people, no organization driving them, and no logical (or demonic) thread that connects the incidents to each other, except that they were humans in charge of massive amounts of technology and people.

This is a trend that will continue. People abuse power at EVERY level, from the guard in the jailhouse beating his prisoners to the presidential warmonger leading his country into a war that will cost millions of lives.

People are crazy and do crazy things. The doctors who check out the professional pilots are supposed to guard us against these crazies. Yet I would bet that not a single pilot will be permanently grounded due to stepped-up inspections of the world's pilots and co-pilots as a result of the GermanWings tragedy. Not one. Maybe a few with obvious problems will be temporarily grounded, and airlines will remind all their pilots to seek medical help if they are feeling suicidal or having other emotional problems, probably telling them that it won't count against their record to go talk to the doctor etc. etc. etc..

But does anybody really think the ones who need the help most will voluntarily go? And how extreme must their behavior be before the doctor will exercise his or her authority and say: "You seem like the type, one out of a million, who might be crazy enough to crash an airplane full of passengers."

And he will be saying this about a person who has shown no symptoms -- in part, because the patient himself would never have believed they were capable of such a thing, until... their mind warped.

Their record will be spotless, their accomplishments many, their goodhearted nature obvious.

The sort of madness the GermanWings pilot exhibited is not, and never will be, something that is easy to detect.

The problem wouldn't exist if we all rode in low-pressure vacuum tunnels in tubes underground (go for it, Elon!). Texting train engineers were long ago eliminated in such "automated" systems, and the most harm that could ever happen would be one train crash, and even that is extremely unlikely.

Instead, we have airplanes and the men and women who fly them. We have suicidal pilots every once in a million, including military pilots, young pilots, old pilots, pilots from various nationalities -- and we have a whole lot of unexplained crashes in history, too.

Power corrupts, and opportunity knocks. Bringing down a whole jumbo jet loaded with people will make you famous. This article intentionally does not name the GermanWings pilot, because the crazy dude is quoted specifically as having said his name would be remembered. But that wish, in essence, was his whole excuse for committing mass murder. It evidently doesn't take much.

To claim -- as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does, by the nature of their regulation -- that no one will ever crash an airplane into a nuclear power plant is folly. Someone will try. This is not only why nuclear power must (and sooner or later will) be shut down, it is why the last remaining excuse -- that they make medical isotopes -- applies ONLY to one or at most, two well-defended sites -- those would probably have to be aircraft carriers, perhaps one on either side of the planet.

Two reactors for the whole world. That's it. That should be all we're allowed on the planet -- at most -- until replacements for those civilian medical needs are found (and a few other very specialized uses, such as oil exploration...if that's really necessary). And those two should be heavily guarded with out-facing-only guns. In fact, that idea was called for long ago for all our reactors by experts, but has yet to be implemented anywhere except on nuclear aircraft carriers, but there, not specifically to guard the reactor, but to guard the whole ship.

It would, of course, be woefully expensive to guard each reactor -- and each nuclear waste site. (Once the reactor has shut down, its waste is still poisonous for hundreds of thousands of years (but especially during the first few years, decades, centuries).)

But those crazy pilots aren't the only crazies we have to worry about. There can be crazies in the control room of the reactor, too. There is absolutely nothing on earth to prevent a meltdown if a control operator initiates one intentionally. And he or she can do that by, essentially, flipping one switch: Flood the reactor with cold water -- the pressure vessel cracks -- instant catastrophe.

They are trained not to do that.

Crazies in the cockpits are out there, and drunks and narcotics users are in the control rooms of our reactors (even heart medications have been known to cause emotional side effects including suicidal tendencies). There are also terrorists and even some states (such as North Korea) who are sworn enemies. Ukraine's reactors are in peril right now, and the middle East wants to build their own. The U.S. military has admitted -- duh -- that Israel has nuclear weapons. Shouldn't we admit a few other facts, as well? Like, that there never will be a "safe" (economical, feasible, secure...) solution to the problem of storing nuclear waste?

There does not appear to be a single "civilized" nation on earth (I use the term "civilized" loosely, to encompass more than a few nations, if any) which is not under attack either by outside forces (other nations or foreign terrorists), inside insurgents, or people who are just plain nuts -- with an airplane at their disposal, full of passengers and jet fuel.

Famous for it in World War II, Germans are the epitome of organizational lock-step functionality. Yet a German pilot has stepped out of line and committed mass murder for next to no reason at all. He was depressed.

At the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, not even lip-service is paid to the possibility of airplane strikes. Not even an acknowledgement that it not only CAN happen, but WILL happen! Nothing!

I've attended dozens of hearings where I and others (such as Ray Lutz) have brought up the subject. The response from the NRC has simply been to say that such "flying bombs" are stopped at the "TSA" level, or Homeland Security, or "National Security" (whoever that means) and so on. In other words, no jets will ever fly into a nuclear power plant. The NRC also believes there will never be a crazy person in the control room of a reactor. But a knowledgeable, evil-minded or crazy person could get in through force, or could be let in because he or she is legitimately there as part of their job duties.

The NRC has a mandate to shut down unsafe reactors. Because of the "human factor," from without and within, there are no other types of reactors (and many other reasons, besides).

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Contact information for the author of this newsletter:

Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:

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