Thursday, December 31, 2015

Re: SONGS story to air (my response to David Victor)

Here's my opinion of Mr. Victor's management of Southern California Edison's Citizen's Engagement Panel, prompted by his dressing-down of a local reporter over an upcoming news item (expected to be aired this evening).

Best regards,

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Postscript: Here is the news story on the internet:


Mr. Victor,

Outside your ivory tower, today was a work day for most working-class people. And the news never sleeps.

It's a lot like rust in that respect -- something that should concern you greatly, since you are helping "authorize" (although you claim to have no "authority" and no power) the storage of extremely large quantities of extremely poisonous, extremely delicate, extremely "hot" (radioactively and thermally) nuclear waste in our midst (in rust-prone "stainless" steel containers).

The waste is dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years and could remain at San Onofre for centuries (or longer). You say you want it moved out of here, of course, but that's not the reality. And you've done nothing to prevent a catastrophic release at Diablo Canyon, having learned nothing about how much LESS dangerous nuclear waste is even just a few years after the reactor is shut down. Can you imagine being responsible for something that is a thousand times more dangerous than spent fuel, and a thousand times more likely to suffer an accident? That's the sorry situation at Diablo Canyon, but you've said nothing to them about what a mess you have on your hands here -- a mess that grows every day in San Luis Obispo, but fortunately, is no longer growing here.

My humble opinion, having attended (and filmed) many of the CEP meetings, and watched all but one of the rest of them, is that you were picked for the job because someone at Southern California Edison was sure you would do their bidding. And they have no intention of getting rid of you, I'm sure of that.

From early on, you've been cutting off discussions you don't like. From early on, you've helped SCE ignore the fact that by delaying demolition of the reactor site for up to 60 years, SAFSTOR reduces exposure to radiation, for both workers and the public. The cumulative dose (especially to workers) is much higher if we demolish the plant sooner rather than later. But SCE doesn't want to wait, so...neither do you.

SCE wants to move forward, but probably for financial reasons. What's your reason? SCE also has willing workers (who presumably are unaware of the full extent of the dangers). Who knows who they'll be able to find to do that dirty work in the future?

One thing there is unlikely to be in the future is a cheap place to store the waste. Few options are available for long-term storage of the radioactive debris from decommissioning, and those options are becoming more and more rare, and more and more expensive. So Edison certainly feels it's in their best interest to dismantle SanO quickly, but is it in ours (including the workers who eagerly wish to be irradiated)? And what's best for America? To "solve" one nuclear waste problem by creating another one somewhere else?

Google "Cactus Crater Marshall Islands" to learn what a mess nuclear "experts" have made of long-term storage of irradiated debris in the past. The cement dome is cracking, water is leaching in, radionuclides are leaching out, and the radioactive metals dumped in the middle of the lagoon are being brought to the surface for scrap by poor natives, and then sold to unscrupulous buyers who recycle the metal into everyday things.

So even the broken-up radioactive cement -- and the dust -- will have to be guarded for centuries! And you're in charge. Can't work holidays? Somebody's got to do it.

But the debris from decommissioning, and the worker exposures during the process, are minor worries compared to thinking about the spent fuel. 365 days a year -- for what is essentially an eternity (thousands of years), it will have to be guarded. Someone will have to not be with their families, not just holidays, but day and night, 24/7, as long as it's here and probably a lot longer than that. In thin casks, in a corrosive environment (our beach).

You say that the spent fuel is "just one of many issues" and evidently don't seem to grasp that it's almost the ONLY issue.

Every day that waste sits here, it's vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, airplane strikes (accidental or otherwise), terrorist attacks, and decaying, cracking, embrittling metallurgical issues. For a couple of hours every three months, you control a room full of people, most of whom haven't got any idea of the biological consequences of their decisions. Nor are they aware that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is practically clueless about what condition the cement will be in, or the metals. Nor does the NRC know of any way of inspecting the casks on the inside -- or much of the outside. They know of no way of burrowing below the cement base to check on the condition of the Holtec Honeycomb-Style Waste Storage Pits without risking structural damage, water intrusion damage, etc.. Cement experts weren't invited to your CEP meetings, but they were invited to speak at some NRC hearings this past summer (which is how I know the NRC is practically clueless). I don't think you were in attendance then, nor, as far as I can tell, are you at most of the NRC hearings on San Onofre issues (I attend (and record) as many of them as possible). You certainly don't speak up if you do attend.

Holtec has decided not to use reinforced concrete overpacks in the spent fuel "islands" (ISFSIs) they want SCE to buy (with ratepayer money, of course). No demolition experts were invited to the CEP to knock holes in that decision!

You never allow enough time for public comment, and it's far too rigidly controlled. If a lot of people show up, you act like you're running some sort of government hearing and cut down the minutes each person gets to speak. You actually have used the lamest excuse of all -- that the room was only rented for so long, and no longer! (The seats are dreadfully uncomfortable in Oceanside, so I guess when the meetings are held there, it's just as well they're short.) SCE can afford better. The CEP chairman should demand it.

Any lost time during the "main" portion of the meeting invariably comes out of the public comment period at the end. Panelists will not respond to questions they don't like -- just like a government hearing.

You act like you think you're king of something -- and you are: You're king of the most deadly substance in California. Your efforts are a major factor in determining how that deadly waste will be guarded -- or not -- for the next 300 years -- or longer.

You're forcing it down our throats. And don't say it's not your fault that the waste is (still) here. I've attended more than 20 years of hearings on San Onofre. Never saw you at one before the plant closed. So you had decades to help shut the plant down sooner, knowing -- as we all knew, who bothered to look -- that there was no place to put the waste once the plant closed. So yes, of course it's your fault as much as anybody's.

In short, you've done little since the beginning except push SCE's agenda -- and you ignore criticism. Regarding the upcoming NBC news item, it's very specifically concerned about statistical shenanigans Southern California Edison has apparently been playing for years -- that directly relate to their ability to properly and safely dismantle a nuclear power plant! Specifically, the allegation is that they co-mingle measured samples from highly contaminated areas with measurements from lightly contaminated areas in order to achieve a passing level in the NRC's far-too-lenient allowable releases. Such behavior leaves a lot of room for bias, if not outright cover-up of accidental large releases. It's a serious allegation which evidence clearly suggests was happening.

So I find it strange that as head of the Citizen's Engagement Panel, you would have no comment yourself!

Except, of course, that all this was to be expected. The very purpose of the CEP has been, and IS, to block activists from "controlling" the conversation. With your efforts the CEP has done far better than SCE, NRC or NEI could ever have imagined -- SanO's public participation system for decommissioning a reactor is being held up nationwide by the nuclear industry and even the NRC as a great example of how to do it right! You've even traveled across the country to talk about it, haven't you? (The only time you've spoken at an NRC event, as far as I can recall. Correct me if it's what bothers you about this letter, of course. Was it NEI you spoke to? Or both?)

In the two years during which you've almost completely controlled the post-near-apocalyptic-steam-generator-failure discussion about San Onofre's terrifying legacy of nuclear waste (pun intended), you've accomplished nothing that has helped get the waste removed, and blocked activist's attempts to get better, thicker dry casks and stronger cement overpacks (steel reinforced, for starters, with drainage systems for jet fuel to be removed in well under 20 minutes).

Citizens attempting to work with SCE through the CEP have found it a fruitless endeavor in large part due to your attitude towards opinions you don't share. You've listened to nuclear industry representatives for many hours -- not experts (except Dr. Singh, of course) but merely salesmen -- tell bald-faced lies to the CEP panelists and said nothing. But you control the conversation immediately when any activist -- or even other panelists -- try to speak out on any subject you don't agree with.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

At 12:05 AM 12/31/2015 +0000, David G. Victor wrote:
>Dear JW August
>At 11:14am this morning you sent me an email requesting comment from me and the Community Engagement Panel on a story that, I gather, your station has already completed and intends to air tomorrow evening. Barely two hours later, at 1:01pm, you sent an email to 39 people (to which I am replying all) that elliptically suggests that the Community Engagement Panel (which I chair) has failed to comment. That is an extraordinary claim that has no basis in fact nor does it reflect any reasonable standard for professional news reporting.
>Nearly the entire nation (myself included) is on vacation this week and we are not sitting next to our email, ignoring our families waiting to respond to your random requests for information. You have been working on this story for months and yet you demand, in the middle of a holiday with no advance warning, responses to a complicated story for which the facts really matter. And your offer a schedule that allows no realistic opportunity to do a thorough review of all the materials and solicit feedback from a wide array of sources so that we can help provide to the public truly accurate information about the decommissioning process. I saw your earlier (Sept 22, 2015) story and was deeply disturbed by your reliance upon unnamed expert sources as well as on-camera interviews with individuals who are engaged in other legal actions that clearly raise questions about the reliability of their information. For such reasons I would want to be doubly careful before commenting that I had seen all the materials you allege to have on hand and read the full reports—not just pluck phrases out of context here and there. My interest is in accuracy—not sensatiionalism.
>Your email to me this morning referred to earlier requests for information on 11 December and 18 December. Yet those emails were addressed “To Whom it May Concern” and sent to a list of people (copying me) with sprawling, unfocused questions that referred to unnamed “experts” regarding how "SCE does damage control.” You also demanded to know if SCE or the Navy were “lying.” These questions are the stuff of gotcha campaigns and not a serious, focused and professional exchange of information aimed at obtaining the truth. Moreover, those questions seemed to be addressed to SCE and other officials on your email list—not to me. You should not,, in any way, pretend that because I happened to be copied on those messages, which were not addressed to me, that I or the Community Engagement Panel has been unresponsive. If you report that in your new story you will be reporting information that is willfully inaccurate.
>The Community Engagement Panel is not a watchdog agency. It does not investigate SCE, NRC or any other body that has formal decision making and regulatory responsibilities at the plant. Nor is our job to defend or promote those organizations. We are a group of 18 volunteers who are providing a conduit of information. We help provide SCE with information about what concerns the public—informmation that has led to an array of tangible changes in how SCE is implementing its decommissioning process. And we help provide the public with information on the process of decommissioning—including information that iss often steeped in jargon and technical detail that we help translate so that it is accessible to everyone. We are particularly focused on the plant itself whereas much of your reporting seems to be focused on events back in the 1980s on the Mesa site—across the road from thee main plant. Mindful of our role as a conduit for information, we have circulated links to your earlier reports and discussed them and also circulated copies of responses from SCE to your reporting. And we will do the same as new stories appear. Beyond that, I don’t see that there is a specific role for us in your story.
>With best wishes for the New Year,
>David Victor
>From: "August, J.W (NBCUniversal)" <>
>Date: Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 1:01 PM
>To: Maureen Brown <>, "Saunders, Lee H CIV NAVFAC SW" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "Donovan, Stephanie" <>, "" <>, David Victor <>, Dan Stetson <>, "" <>, "Smith, Steve" <>, "Lightfoot, Anita" <>, "August, J.W (NBCUniversal)" <>, "Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal)" <>, Michael Aguirre <>, Bart Ziegler <>, Ace Hoffman <>, Daniel O Hirsch <>, Vinod Arora <>, Mark Sauer <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, Jamie Court <>, Jamie Hampton <>, "" <>, Diane Takvorian <>, "Adams, Andie (NBCUniversal)" <>, "Galindo, Ramon (NBCUniversal)" <>, noverflo <>, "" <>, JW August <>, "Giametta, Salvatore" <>, "Ernie Cowan (" <>, "Goldstein, Daniel" <>, PEACE RESOURCE CENTER <>, "" <>, Bree Walker <>, "" <>, "" <>
>Subject: SONGS story to air
>As of this date, December 30, 2015, neither of the principals in this story, SCE & SDGE, have commented.
>The first request for comment was e mailed on December 11th, a follow up on the 18th of December. The request for specific comments to allegations is shown below and was sent to both SDGE and SCE as the responsible parties on the lease of the SONGS
> Of the agencies copied on this request for comment, only the NRC provided any feedback.
>The Community Engagement Panel, which is tasked with being the public’s eyes and ears on the shutdown of SONGS, has also been asked for comment. Several members of that panel are included in this e mail.
>You will find in the attachments with this e mail the criticisms of our original story.
>That story can be seen at:
>The updated story on the SONGS land will air in the 6pm broadcast tomorrow night on KNSD in San Diego. In addition, on the KNSD website will be the companion story with links provided for
>documents used in producing this story.
>Here is the request for comment:
>From: "August, J.W (NBCUniversal)" <>
>Date: December 18, 2015 at 5:15:16 AM PST
>To: JW August <>
>Cc: "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, "" <>, Steve Schmidt <>, "" <>, "Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal)" <>
>Subject: Re: 2nd request for comment on KNSD report on SONGS, second story in series
>On Dec 11, 2015, at 3:48 PM, JW August <> wrote:
>To whom it may concern
>We are preparing to â€&lsqauo;broadcast and webcast a story regarding the SONGS plant â€&lsqauo;in the near future regarding SDGE/SCE lease with the US Navy and the condition of the land around the plant that was under the control of SCE/SDGE partnership.
>Our initial story resulted inâ€&lsqauo;no response from SDGE and SCE did not provide any specific comments for the story even though they had a advance copy of the story and ample time to respond. We were referred to the SCE website press releases andvideo press conferences where various unrelated comments and statements were made. Eventually SCE’s public information â€&lsqauo;office did provide a more through response â€&lsqauo;accusing KNSD of scare tactics, shoddy reporting, calling the story sensational and inaccurate. The utility requested corrections to be made to the original story. For the record, â€&lsqauo;KNSD never did a correction as requested by SCE â€&lsqauo; because we believe our sources and the information we have compiled are accurate and factual given the information we have.It was â€&lsqauo;ten days after the story aired before the utility did respond to specific issues and we note the letter was sent not just to KNSD but throughout the stakeholders community. One of our experts told us this was the typical way SCE does damage control. Would you care to comment?
>â€&lsqauo;In regards to the story now in production, a key â€&lsqauo;element in the story is a statement from SCE contained in their letter criticizing the coverage; “There is no current radiological contamination on the Mesa property we plan to return to the Navy, as you implied; all Mesa survey readings are normal background radiation levels”â€&lsqauo;That is from the letter sent to KNSD from Maureen Brown of the SCE.â€&lsqauo;However, a response from a FOIA request â€&lsqauo;made by KNSD â€&lsqauo;to the United States Navy in regards to the Mesa â€&lsqauo;radiation â€&lsqauo;
>readings says, quoting from Mr. David Bixler of the Engineering Command, “The Mesa site may be contaminated from activities conducted during SCE’s occupancy and use” This letter is dated August 20, 2015â€&lsqauo;, just days before our story would air. â€&lsqauo;
>Was the Navy lying? â€&lsqauo;We are also reporting when SCE employees gathered samplesâ€&lsqauo;to check for radioactive levels from various locations on the Mesaâ€&lsqauo;, theymixed them together . According to our expert Dan Hirsch â€&lsqauo;this is a common practice by utilities when sampling to “average them together and try to find a way to force the numbers lower than they should be” We also reference in our new story an incident from NRC inspection records where contaminated soil, asphalt and concrete located close to a containment structure was moved to the Mesa. Sometime later it was removed—390 fifty five gallon druums were shipped off site. â€&lsqauo;Can â€&lsqauo;you tell me where the drums disposed of properly? Where were they shipped?
>â€&lsqauo;SCE's Media Relations Project Manager complained about our producer/reporters lack of knowledge about basic science saying “It appears your reporters and producers are unaware that radiation exists in everyday life” However after reviewing our documents and the SCE letter Mr. Hirsch said “the arguments that were made about radiation levels we are exposed to is completely irrelevant” He also added this sharp reaction is the typical â€&lsqauo;method of operation for SCE when they are questioned about their practices, saying SCE views this as a "public relations problem not a health problem."
>Please feel free to comment to one or all of these statements.
>Thank you
>J W August
>Investigative Producer
>o 619.578.0214 | c 619.992.2210
>225 Broadway, San Diego CA 92101
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** Ace Hoffman
** Carlsbad, California