Thursday, December 27, 2007


BOYCOTT TOSHIBA: Stop thousands of 1/5th megawatt ("tiny") nuclear reactors in YOUR city! (resend)

December 27th, 2007

Dear Readers,

Here is a technical correction to my previous newsletter: The "cute" little radioactive gizmos from Toshiba are cooled with liquid sodium, not lithium, as previously described. To shut the reaction down, reservoirs of lithium-6 are emptied into the coolant loop. In the copy of my previous essay shown below, the paragraph that starts "The Toshiba baby-nukes will rely..." has been modified to reflect this correction. My apologies.

Of course, this correction assumes Toshiba's newest nuke is a scaled-down version of their 4S prototype "mini-nuke." The 4S, in turn, is basically a scaled down version of an older 50 megawatt breeder reactor which was deemed not viable for large-scale situations decades ago.

Small-scale nuclear power appears viable because its proponents pretend the nuclear waste problem has been solved, and the spent reactor cores can be safely trucked away to a place that doesn't exist, except in politician's (and pro-nukers) dreams.

Small-scale nuclear power appears viable because the government has learned how to write earthquake and tsunami and other specifications which do not reflect the real world. Manufacturers then claim to meet these "standards," and say their reactors are "earthquake-proof" and "tsunami-proof" when they are nothing of the kind.

Small-scale nuclear power appears viable because Toshiba (and others) pretend that all the metallurgical issues are well understood. Just look at how many large parts of older nuclear reactors are falling apart, such as their steam generators, which were supposed to last the entire extended life of the plant. Or look at Davis-Besse, which in 2002 had a nearly catastrophic "hole in its head."

Small-scale nuclear power also appears viable because people pretend that terrorism doesn't happen.

Toshiba's mini-nukes are being advertised by the manufacturer as "zero maintenance" but that applies ONLY to the reactor core itself: Not to all the pumps, pipes, valves, and vessels of the steam generator / turbine energy conversion system.

The commentary below describes some of the difficult work that is entailed in operating a steam generator, and below that is the corrected version of my previous newsletter.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Steam Generator maintenance is no piece of cake:

(From a reader): "Atomic Insights newsletter, points out something very practical -- the designers and marketers spend all their time describing the nuclear reactor side of things, and no time on the power plant steam generation side of things. The author makes good points."


"The 4S is a very nice reactor system, but my reading of all available materials indicate that only passing attention has been paid to the secondary (steam) side of the plant. As is common among plant design documents produced by nuclear engineers, there are dozens to hundreds of pages of details about the reactor system and a few paragraphs about the "balance of plant" (BoP). Though steam is an old and well understood technology, it is not particularly simple or cheap. There is a reason why there are few steam plants being produced today, the plants tend to be labor intensive, heavy, and relatively expensive compared to alternatives like diesel engines or gas turbines.

I spent a lot of time early in my career supervising the operation and maintenance of a steam plant that was almost exactly the same capacity as the one proposed for Galena. I will admit that it was a rather venerable and well worn system by the time I arrived, but I am pretty sure that many of the maintenance issues that made for some long days have not disappeared. Steel steam piping still rusts, packing around valves still wears out, condensers still need periodic cleaning and inspection, steam leaks are still potentially deadly for operators, steam generators still require careful chemistry control and monitoring, water purification systems are still a must, and turbine bearing lubrication oil systems still require careful attention."

Boycott Toshiba (resend with corrected paragraph):

December 27th, 2007 (Corrected version of December 25th, 2007 newsletter, to the paragraph that begins "The Toshiba baby-nukes will rely..." reflecting the use of sodium as the coolant and )

Dear Readers,

Toshiba, famous for electronics products around the world, plans to build "small" (room-sized) fully-automated nuclear reactors.

These new reactors are just 1/5000th the size of today's old, massive, deteriorating (and did I mention unsafe?) boiling water reactors (BWRs) and pressurized water reactors (PWRs). But, each new reactor will still contain enough lethal poison to wipe out a city.

Today's reactors are operated by about eight hundred to a thousand people each, and produce an average of about one megawatt of electricity per employee.

Toshiba's proposed new reactors are completely automatic -- NOBODY operates them. Nobody guards them. Nobody even watches them.

An apartment complex for the rich can guarantee itself steady power "for up to 40 years" according to the (optimistic) manufacturer. The cost is rumored to be about $3.5 million. After the 40 years are up, not only will the fuel need to be stored for millions of years, but the entire reactor will have to be isolated from humanity on a finite planet with limited resources. WHO will pay for THAT? Whose land will Toshiba take to store the waste?

Even after 60 years, tens of billions of dollars, and thousands of the world's best scientists working on it, NOBODY knows what to do with radioactive waste BECAUSE IT DESTROYS ANY CONTAINER YOU PUT IT IN.

Toshiba hasn't solved THAT problem because they can't perform miracles. The nuclear waste problem is unsolvable at the atomic level -- but the nuclear industry continues to create more waste, on the fallacy (and false promise) that a solution is just around the corner. It isn't. (Yucca Mountain isn't a safe and proper solution, and nothing else is even being considered.)

Toshiba plans to bring the first of the new reactors online in 2008 in Japan, and in Europe and America in 2009. They are that close to production of these awful things.

So boycott Toshiba. Let them know that pocket nukes are a bad idea.

The energy source used in the new Toshiba reactors is the same uranium-based fuel used by just about every other nuclear power plant, which, of course, should also all be closed down in favor of alternative energy sources. Renewable energy solutions are available, affordable, and effective today, but they don't make millions of dollars for large utilities. They make it for the average citizen who invests in solar panels, wind turbines, and such.

So I say: Break up the utilities! It should be illegal to make electricity AND be in control of the distribution grid. It should be illegal for utilities to refuse to purchase renewable energy at fair prices.

A properly-thought-out renewable energy system would have thousands of small sources, and could therefore be very reliable even if some of those sources shut off for parts of every day.

The Toshiba baby-nukes will rely on a closed-loop sodium primary coolant system, instead of water. Reservoirs of Lithium-6 are designed to serve as a moderator to stop the reactor if necessary, the manufacturer claims.

Firefighters will have to treat a Toshiba pocket-reactor fire completely differently from what they are equipped for, trained for, or capable of handling.

Worse, the Toshiba reactors can be blown up by a bomb, which means: Osama will love them. He would love Toshiba to sell thousands of these "dirty bombs" throughout America.

But even worse is the terrorist lurking in the structural quality of the materials used in these petite power generators, which contain enough radioactive uranium and various fission products and transuranics to cause cancer to tens of thousands of people, even millions, if the radioactive material were to be released for any reason: Earthquake, tornado, tsunami, terrorist, poor workmanship, poor materials, poor design, etc.

In addition to these "baby nukes," Toshiba also wants to introduce a line of midsize nukes, called the 4S series ("Super, Safe, Small, Simple" they say), with fuel enriched to 19.9 percent U-235. (Highly Enriched Uranium, by convention, is enriched to 20.0% or more U-235.) The new 200-kilowatt nukes are said to be small versions of the 4S design -- just what Osama is looking for!

Techno-nerd's reactions to the new reactors on the Internet would make you think these were puppy-dog-friendly, never-could-harm-a-flea energy sources. But the articles are being written by geeks who know nothing about nuclear waste issues, or terrorism, or economics. They just love the idea of "unlimited" cheap power. Well, they should all look under the hood a little harder before they endorse these things.

Toshiba is also involved (with General Electric) in large BWRs. And in October 2006 Toshiba purchased what used to be called Westinghouse from British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (BNFL) for about 5.4 billion dollars, adding PWR manufacturing and support to their portfolio. Toshiba's purchase of Westinghouse, of which only the nuclear division existed anymore, possibly prevented a perfectly appropriate bankruptcy of BNFL, who had bought the ailing Westinghouse in 1999 for about 1.1 billion dollars.

Mainly through its new Westinghouse subsidiary, Toshiba now has half a dozen different reactor designs they are certifying with nuclear agencies around the world -- with almost ZERO public scrutiny!

The purchase of Westinghouse seems to have invigorated Toshiba to be completely arrogant about nuclear energy at all levels. Nuclear reactors and equipment for those reactors (and for other reactors) accounts for about 25% of Toshiba's business.

Completing the cycle of greed, Toshiba's nuclear ambitions will ultimately mean more business for Toshiba's Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance (MR) machines, which they sell to hospitals and which are used to diagnose (NOT cure!) the very diseases Toshiba's new nuclear reactors will cause.

So boycott Toshiba. Boycott Toshiba laptops. Boycott Toshiba camcorders. Boycott Toshiba hard drives. Boycott Toshiba telephone systems. Boycott Toshiba DVD players.

Boycott Toshiba. Return Toshiba gifts you received for Christmas. Remove Toshiba stock from your portfolio. Bankrupt them, if necessary -- anything to stop their ability to support nuclear power.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, an award-winning educational software developer, has investigated nuclear power for more than three decades, and has interviewed hundreds of nuclear physicists, scientists, medical experts and whistleblowers. Hoffman writes frequently about the numerous hidden hazards of nuclear energy, and the potential benefits to humanity of a switch to renewable technologies in combination with a global energy grid. He can be reached at:
His web site:

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Curse of Atomic Weapons and Power

December 10th, 2007

Dear Readers,

On average, every working American spends about TWO DAYS A WEEK building, using, or paying for America's weaponry, and the means to convey that weaponry to where it will be used. At least a quarter of all fuel -- including nuclear fuel -- used by this country goes to war-related activities.

It is impossible to be a productive nation when so many raw materials and so much talent and time is spent on destruction.

But the most insidious thing about modern warfare is that it kills civilians -- lots of civilians. People like you and me.

The United States military operates, day or night, war or peace, under dozens of special exemptions to environmental regulations. Regulations which everyone else on the planet MUST adhere to. The result is radioactive and chemical pollution on a global scale -- not just where the wars occur, but also at training areas and manufacturing facilities.

The tools of modern war include Uranium-238 munitions (aka "DU"), now infamous for causing "flaming pee" (a terrible burning sensation when you urinate) and other ailments in our own veterans, and for causing grossly deformed children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

The tools also include U-235 / Pu-239 munitions (aka "nuclear weapons" or "atomic bombs"). Although these "tools" have only been used twice in war so far, in Hiroshima (primarily a U-235 weapon) and Nagasaki (primarily a Pu-239 weapon of slightly greater sophistication), those uses were demonstration projects for the world to see what was to come.

Total destruction. Not just your soldiers killed, but your records destroyed, your buildings burned, your history obliterated, your museums, schools, factories, sewage systems, water systems -- everything, blasted, burned, and worst of all -- irradiated.

Thousands, even millions of people in desperate need of medical care which is utterly unavailable. Suffering beyond words. A holocaust. A war crime.

Nuclear war has been threatened a thousand times since its invention and early use. Our current president has threatened it frequently, which constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself -- the threat is distressing to those threatened.

Which is all of us. Every nuclear threat has a counterthreat somewhere. Every escalation of a war has a counterinsurgency to match. Every time George Bush gets us into another war, America becomes more vulnerable to retaliation.

The military has long pushed the idea that our mighty armies are the only thing that keeps us free, safe, secure, and comfortable at home.

But I'll wager we were safe because we were the shining city on the hill for so long. The place everyone wanted to be. The place that people wanted to honor with tributes such as the Statue of Liberty -- THAT place was safe! People came here NOT to terrorize us, but to BE us! But we've become greedy, cloistered, cold-hearted, and ignorant.

In addition to bombing two cities in Japan during World War II, the U.S. alone has conducted more than a thousand nuclear "tests." We've irradiated dozens of islands in the Pacific, and parts of Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, and Mississippi, with atomic bomb debris. And that's not counting the "downwind" effect on Utah, Wyoming, and every other state (and every nation).

Additionally, we've piled up nuclear reactor cores -- spent fuel -- at nuclear power plants in dozens of states -- all with an unkept promise that the waste would be quickly removed. For 60 years the nuclear weapons and power industries have looked for a solution, but they keep coming back to: "Drive it 50 miles into Indian territory and dump it" which is all Yucca Mountain really amounts to.

While in transit, the waste is vulnerable to bridge collapses, train derailments and tunnel fires, sabotage, and a thousand other things. The government claims their transport containers are "safe" but they define "safe" very narrowly -- for example, as being able to probably survive a 30 foot drop onto a 6 inch post. Such testing does not reflect the real-world hazards. In their carefully-contrived theoretical "worst case" scenarios, almost no fuel is ever actually released, which means they don't have to calculate what happens if just one hour's worth of one reactor's spent fuel -- about 10 pounds's worth -- ever got out into the environment. The size of the catastrophe from that 10 pounds would depend on the precise location and weather conditions at the time. But one hour's worth of spent fuel could kill MILLIONS if released to the environment. And yet, we keep making more.

We're waiting for a solution to the physically unsolvable -- that is to say, impossible -- problem of storing something that destroys its container by irradiating it (and thus breaking down the molecular and atomic structure of the steel, concrete, glass, or what-have-you). In the meantime, the deformity-causing, cancer-causing, disease-causing, boiling-hot (thermally) concentrations of "hot" (radioactive) isotopes are each glowing, growing targets for retaliatory strikes against America, along with the operating reactors.

As little-known expert Bennett Ramberg put it in a UPI Op-Ed from May 2005: "Nuclear power plants are naked against a Sept. 11, 2001-like air attack." Twenty years earlier Ramberg wrote a whole book on the subject of nuclear terrorism, which was ignored by government and the nuclear industry, and was called: "Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy: An Unrecognized Military Peril." We still ignore him, at our own risk.

In the drive to create a nuclear-powered, nuclear-weaponized society, profits were made all along the way. Lying to ourselves about how corporations make profits on other people's misery does not stop evil from happening. Rather, it enables it.

Uranium-238 munitions, the shells and bombs used by the thousands every day in Iraq, leave a poisonous legacy. America, right now, is poisoning the area known as the cradle of civilization. We grew up calling it Mesopotamia. The name Iraq doesn't convey its 10,000+ year history of human settlement.

An interesting side-effect of our use of Depleted Uranium weapons is that, because of their extraordinarily-long half-life of four and a half billion years, the evidence of our assault on civilians who have not even been born yet, will be detectable (with sophisticated equipment) for about 50 to 100 billion years. The earth is only about 5 billion years old, according to the geological record!

Two, or ten, or a hundred generations from now, or a thousand, anyone will be able to find clear evidence of our use of uranium weaponry. Uranium fragments. Deformities among the local population. All these things will be discernable. Future generations of Americans will probably have to pay reparations for today's use of radioactive tools of war.

Tools which are already illegal by numerous international conventions.

Tools which also sicken and endanger the lives of our own soldiers and their families.

Profitable? VERY! Depleted Uranium is free -- the nuclear fuel reprocessing centers are just DYING to give it away. And it cuts through buildings and enemy tanks (and bodies) like a hot knife through butter. AND THEN IT TURNS INTO POISON GAS! You can find radioactive fragments, and you can detect the uranium with a Geiger Counter, but the bombs and bullets will have mostly vaporized -- become poison gas -- and some of that will spread out globally before getting into crops, drinking water, babies, you and I.

Modern warfare is, more than anything else, an assault -- largely hidden -- on civilians, and on humanity at large. Just as with each breath, we each breath some part of Caesar's last breath, so too the deadly DU dust from EACH war will poison ALL seven billion+ people on the planet, including more than a billion children.

The deadly dust will poison the rich and the poor alike, but the poor will have no access to health care.

We, the American Couch Potato, allow this in our name. Our government is currently the world's greatest terrorist, JUST on the basis of its use of U-238, and threatened use of U-235 and Pu-239 weapons. The shining hill now glows with radioactivity, and its citizens suffer with cancer.

Our inability to admit that radioactive weapons MUST be banned, and that large radioactive targets (aka "nuclear power plants") must ALSO be closed forever, makes us guilty of mass murder by complacency.

None of us are innocent anymore -- except the children of course, who are 10 to 100 times or more, MORE VULNERABLE than adults to nuclear radiation dangers, and who trust us to protect them from ALL the horrors of the real world, even the invisible and insidious ones.

Stop the radiation assault, and you go a long way towards stopping cancer, leukemia, birth defects and other ailments. Those who promote nuclear power promote death, destruction, undemocratic principles, and global suffering. But those who say nothing and simply let it happen are their single biggest and most powerful group of supporters.

When the tsunami occurred in 2004, many people died because they ran out to where fish were flapping, where the water used to be. A tidal wave of ignorance and apathy is occurring on this planet. New technologies COULD replace ALL the nuclear power in use on earth in a matter of MONTHS -- maybe even weeks -- if society put its global industrial strength to work building alternative energy systems with currently-available designs.

But instead, we continue to upgrade old nukes, and even build new nukes. Each one creates about 250 pounds per day of radioactive "spent" fuel. Enormous amounts of fossil fuels and chemicals are used to process the nuclear materials, and to keep the nuclear power plants in "working" order -- producing more waste. Nuclear power is not the solution to global warming or anything else.

There is NOTHING good about nuclear power. Those who run the plants, build the weapons, and process the fuel staunchly defend their "right" to pollute your body with odorless, colorless, tasteless, and extremely carcinogenic radioactive isotopes, and few of us even know it is happening.

Those who DO know can and MUST stop this madness. Cancer rates are soaring; every family suffers.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, an educational software developer, has studied nuclear issues for more than 35 years, and writes frequently about nuclear weapons and nuclear power. He offers a large collection of free, informative nuclear animations at his web site. To receive his newsletters directly, please contact him at:

To visit the author's web site:

December 8, 2007: Child cancer risk higher near nuclear plants: study

A German study has found that young children living near nuclear power plants have a significantly higher risk of developing leukemia and other forms of cancer, a German newspaper reported on Saturday.

"Our study confirmed that in Germany a connection has been observed between the distance of a domicile to the nearest nuclear power plant .... and the risk of developing cancer, such as leukemia, before the fifth birthday," Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper quoted the report as saying.

The newspaper said the study was done by the University of Mainz for Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BFS). A copy of the report was not immediately available.

The researchers found that 37 children within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius of nuclear power plants had developed leukemia between 1980 and 2003, while the statistical average during this time period was 17, the paper said.

The newspaper cited an unnamed radiation protection expert familiar with the study who said its conclusions understated the problem. He said the data showed there was an increased cancer risk for children living within 50 kilometers of a reactor.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement that he would examine the study. He said the BFS should also evaluate its findings.

Germany plans to prematurely shut down all of its nuclear power plants by the early 2020s.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau)

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited

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, d. 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 (Pioneer Nuclear Physicist who saw the light)
"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)
"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, 7.21.44 - 10.25.02)
"Please send this to everyone you know! Together we can force a change." -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes, November, 2007)

This email was sent by:

Ace Hoffman
"Ace Hoffman"
Carlsbad, CA

Thursday, December 6, 2007

AREVA: Once again this French company appears to be the culprit!

December 6th, 2007

Dear Readers,

The Bush Administration pushes nuclear power without concern for human life, especially the lives of infants and children. In Bush's simplistic view, cancer is something to be cured by irradiating you, not something to be prevented in the first place, by cleaning the environment of radiation.

But behind the scenes, a French company named Areva does most of the dirtiest pro-nuclear work around the globe. Areva loves Bush, and Bush loves Areva. Despite any comments you might recall Bush saying about the French when they weren't fooled into going into Iraq, the Bush Administration has had a very cozy relationship with Areva all along.

Recently Areva signed the largest nuclear power plant deal in history, worth about U.S. $12 billion, for two reactors in Guangdong, China. They also promote nuclear energy interests in Canada, South Africa, India, Libya, and many other countries.

Areva is an international criminal organization run by a ruthless megalomaniac named Anne Lauvergeon. However, 94% of Areva is owned by the French government, who can be no less ruthless. It makes for a very effective covert system, since whatever Areva needs that laws or public scrutiny forbid a corporation from doing, the French government can -- and will -- do instead.

Massive funding for pseudo-scientists promoting pro-nuclear "solutions" to global warming results in a misled media, a misled public, misdirected national policies, and a doomed planet.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #936, Dec. 6, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Joseph J. Mangano

Nuclear power plants employ a controlled atomic fission reaction,
splitting uranium atoms to create heat to boil water to make steam to
turn a turbine to generate electricity. Because nuclear power is so
complex, it is accident-prone and unforgiving -- small errors can have
large consequences. Because of these important disadvantages, for the
past three decades it has looked as if nuclear power were a dying

But now the nuclear industry has seized on global warming to promote
atomic power plants once again as necessary and safe. From politicians
to corporate executives and conservative pundits, we hear that
reactors are "clean" or "emission free" -- with no evidence offered to
support the claims. Unfortunately, this baseless promotion emanates
from a long-standing culture of deception that has plagued the
industry since its beginnings. Earlier this year the British
magazine, the Economist, characterized the U.S. nuclear industry as
"a byword for mendacity, secrecy and profligacy with taxpayers'

Half a century ago, as America produced and exploded hundreds of
atomic bombs (1054 nuclear tests in all, 331 in the atmosphere),
public officials assured everyone that low-dose radiation exposures
were harmless. But after the Cold War ended, barriers to the truth
gave way. Government-funded research found that nuclear weapons
workers and those exposed to fallout from atomic bomb tests in
Nevada suffered from cancer in large numbers. The BEIR VII study.
published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2005, ended the
debate on this question: it is now firmly established that any
amount of radioactive exposure carries some risk of harm. The
only safe dose is zero.

In the U.S., atomic bombs are no longer being tested. However, 104
nuclear power reactors still operate here, producing the same
radioactive elements found in bomb test fallout, and people living
downwind are routinely exposed to low levels of radioactivity.
Government regulators have established "permissible limits" for
radioactive reactor emissions, declaring the resulting exposures
"safe" -- contrary to the findings of the National Academy's BEIR VII

The U.S. nuclear power industry stopped growing in the mid-1970s.
Until this year, no new reactors have been ordered in the U.S. since
1978, and several dozen reactors have been closed permanently.[1] But
fears of global warming and an ardently pro-nuclear Administration in
Washington have laid the groundwork for an industry revival.

The industry's revival plan has four parts:

1) Enlarging the capacity of existing reactors;

2) Keeping old reactors running beyond their design lifetime;

3) Operating old reactors more hours per year; and

4) Building new reactors.

To help promote the so-called nuclear renaissance, health risks from
low-level radiation are once again being ignored or denied -- even
though evidence of harm exists.

1. Expanding Existing Reactors -- Vermont Yankee

Since March 1993, utilities have submitted 99 requests to the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for licenses to expand reactor
capacity, and the NRC has approved all 99. The added capacity of 4400
megawatts is the equivalent of four large reactors. The NRC is
considering 12 more applications, totaling another 1100 megawatts.

Most expansions have been small, but 10 of the 99 have raised capacity
by 15 to 20%. Almost all sailed through with little public opposition.
One exception was the Vermont Yankee reactor on the Connecticut River
where Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire converge. It is the
11th oldest of the U.S.'s 104 reactors, and at 510 megawatts
electrical, the 5th smallest.

Entergy Nuclear of Jackson, Miss. acquired Vermont Yankee in 2002 as
part of its campaign to buy aging reactors to maximize their output
and profit potential. Entergy wanted more than a 510 megawatt reactor,
so it requested a 20% upgrade for Vermont Yankee -- the oldest U.S.
reactor considered for an upgrade. The estimated cost was $60

Since 1972, when Vermont Yankee first generated power, Vermont has
become an increasingly liberal state, especially on environmental
issues. Hundreds of local residents opposed the expansion by packing
auditoriums at several public meetings, making their fury known. Ira
Helfand, a local emergency room physician, spoke up at one of them:

"My emergency room cannot deal with the casualties that would be
produced by an accident at this plant... Now Entergy wants to make
this plant even more dangerous by upgrading its production beyond what
it was supposed to tolerate?.. . This plant should not be uprated. It
shouldn't be allowed to operate. It should be shut down."[3]

Residents of Windham County, Vt., where the reactor is located, are
well educated. The county poverty rate is low, and the mostly rural
county of 44,000 has few polluting industries. Along with world class
medical care in nearby Boston, these factors suggest that no unusually
high rates of disease should exist. However, from 1979-2004 the county
death rate was 7.2% below the U.S. -- except for cancer, which was
1.6% higher. These figures are age-adjusted, so the excess cancers are
not attributable to an aging population. And the anomaly in Windham
appears to be growing; most recently (1999-2004), the cancer death
rate in Windham county has risen to 5.7% above the national

The NRC refused to consider that radioactive emissions from Vermont
Yankee might be contributing to the rise in cancer deaths in Windham
county. In March 2006, the NRC approved the expansion, and an appeal
by the New England Coalition Against Nuclear Power was turned down by
the state Supreme Court in September 2007. Entergy is now operating an
expanded Vermont Yankee reactor.

2. Keeping Old Reactors Running -- Oyster Creek, New Jersey

With Wall Street refusing to finance new reactors after the accident
at Three Mile Island, utilities decided to increase profits by
operating old reactors longer than originally planned. The NRC eased
regulations and in this decade has approved 47 of 47 applications to
allow reactors to operate past the initial 40-year design period up to
a total of 60 years.[1] Dozens more applications are expected.

One exception to the federal rubber-stamping of license extensions is
the Oyster Creek reactor in Lacey, New Jersey, about 60 miles from
both Philadelphia and New York City. Oyster Creek is the oldest of the
104 U.S. reactors and one of the smallest (636 megawatts electrical).
In the 1990s, the New Jersey-based GPU Corporation planned to close
the reactor. This changed when AmerGen (a subsidiary of Exelon, the
largest U.S. reactor operator) bought Oyster Creek and requested a
license extension in 2005.[1]

The fight is going on now. Public hearings have been well attended by
supporters and opponents of license extension. Local media has taken
an interest; the Asbury Park Press, the most widely read newspaper in
central New Jersey, has published numerous editorials opposing re-
licensing. Governors James McGreevey and Jon Corzine have both
publicly opposed re-licensing, as have many state and local elected
officials. Governments in 19 local towns have passed resolutions of
opposition. Legal interventions allowed by the NRC were filed by a
coalition of citizen groups and by the state Department of
Environmental Protection.

Information on radioactive contamination and local health became part
of the Oyster Creek dialogue. A well publicized study (partly funded
by the state legislature) of more than 300 baby teeth of New Jersey
children, many living near Oyster Creek, found that average levels of
radioactive Strontium-90 (Sr-90) had doubled from the late 1980s to
the late 1990s.[5] More importantly, increases in Sr-90 near Oyster
Creek were followed by similar increases in childhood cancer rates
several years later.[6]

Ocean County, where the reactor is situated, has a population of
nearly 600,000, up from 108,000 in 1960. Its residents are relatively
well off, and have access to good medical care locally and in nearby
major cities. But the low death rate for all causes other than cancer
from 1979-2004 (8.4% below the U.S.) has been offset by an
unexpectedly high cancer death rate (8.8% above the U.S. average).[4]
With 39,000 county residents dying in the past quarter century, the
number of "excess cancer deaths" exceeds 6,000.

The fate of Oyster Creek remains uncertain. In July, Exelon funded a
group led by heavy-duty New Jersey lobbyists to ensure the application
is pushed through. Local activist Janet Tauro reacted to the new
group's formation by declaring,

"Exelon is putting its money into creating a bogus environmental group
designed to lure the public's attention away from safety issues and
scare us into believing that Oyster Creek's closure would hurt the
region economically."[7]

3. Operating Old Reactors More Often -- Indian Point, New York

As recently as the late 1980s, U.S. reactors only ran at 63% of
capacity; they were shut down 37% of the time for maintenance and
repair. But larger corporations buying old reactors in the 1990s made
it their mission to boost productivity, and now U.S. reactors run 90%
of the time.[8] This is good news for the balance sheet, but running
old reactors more hours per year raises safety and health concerns.

The two reactors at Indian Point, 35 miles north of New York City,
represent a good example of this change. Until the mid-1990s, they
only operated 57% of the time. But after Entergy Nuclear bought Indian
Point, it raised the current productivity rate to 95%.[1]

Indian Point is in Westchester County, a wealthy area with a
population of nearly one million. In the period 1979-2004, the cancer
death rate in the county was just slightly below the national average
(-1.8%), but well below the U.S. average for all other causes
(-12.9%). If the cancer death rate in Westchester had been as far
below the national average as deaths from all other causes (-12.9%),
there would have been about 6,000 fewer cancer deaths in Westchester
during the period.

Unlike reactor upgrades, license extensions, and new reactor orders,
there are no mandated public hearings when a nuclear utility simply
raises productivity. Thus, this issue has largely been ignored, at
Indian Point and elsewhere.

4. Ordering New Reactors -- Calvert Cliffs, Maryland.

In 2005 the Bush Administration convinced Congress to enact billions
in loan guarantees for new reactor construction because of continued
disinterest from Wall Street; billions more in federal subsidies are
currently under discussion now on Capitol Hill. With the loan
guarantees put in place in 2005, utilities got serious about ordering
new reactors. Over 30 have been discussed, and the dry spell of no
orders since 1978 ended on July 31, 2007 when Unistar Nuclear
submitted an application to the NRC for a new reactor at Calvert
Cliffs, Md.

Unistar was formed when Constellation Energy of Baltimore failed to
secure funds from Wall Street financiers for its new Calvert Cliffs
reactor. The 2005 federal guarantees would only back 90% of costs, and
private bankers have flatly refused to put up the other 10%.
Constellation teamed up with the French company Areva to form Unistar.
Areva put up $350 million in cash, promising to up the ante to $625
million. With financing secured, the new reactor was ordered.[9]

Unistar proposes to build a $4 billion, 1600 megawatt reactor at
Calvert Cliffs. There is no precedent for a reactor this size; the
average for the current U.S. reactors is about 1000 megawatts, with
the largest being 1250. At the very earliest, assuming a fast, smooth
regulatory review, rapid construction, and no legal holdups, the
reactor would begin operating in 2014.

The Calvert Cliffs plant is on the west bank of the Chesapeake Bay, 45
miles southeast of Washington. Since the mid-1970s, two reactors have
operated at the site. Until recently, the area was sparsely populated;
but the Calvert County population has swelled from 16,000 to 90,000
since 1960. The county enjoys a high living standard, with a low
poverty rate and good access to medical care in Washington.

Calvert County is a healthy place -- with the exception of cancer.
From 1979-2004, the death rate was 9.2% above the U.S. for cancer, but
3.0% below the nation for other causes. Most recently (1999-2004), the
cancer rate rose to 13.8% above the national average.

All local leaders support the new nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs.
Wilson Parran, the chair of the Calvert Board of Commissioners,
sounded the clarion call that the promise of economic gain trumps any
possible health hazards:

"From a national perspective, nuclear energy is our largest source of
clean energy and a critical piece of our nation's energy strategy. It
is imperative to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and
Calvert County stands ready to share in our nation's responsibility to
provide resources that produce energy."[9]

Putting Health First is Essential in Energy Policy

Unusually high cancer rates in counties like Windham, Ocean, Calvert,
and Westchester should be taken seriously; they are not what you would
expect among relatively well-off populations.[10] Even if a large
scale reactor accident never occurs in this country, nuclear plants
will still continuously emit about 100 different radioactive
chemicals. The number of casualties is difficult to estimate, but it
may well be in the thousands. And any expansion of nuclear power would
only increase radioactive emissions.

Furthermore, threats to human health are not the only problem
associated with the nuclear power industry. As we know from the recent
history of India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa, North Korea, and
Syria, a nation that aims to build an atomic bomb begins by building a
nuclear power plant. This is where they develop the expertise, the
techniques, and the experience needed to build a bomb. The only sure
way to minimize the proliferation of nuclear weapons would be to shut
down the nuclear power industry world-wide. So long as the civilian
nuclear power industry exists, there will be a well-worn path from
nuclear power to nuclear weapons, accompanied by a growing threat of
terrorist attack beyond anything we have yet imagined.

Fortunately, we do not need nuclear power at all. There are many
alternatives readily available. Many of these were discussed recently
in Arjun Makhijani's thorough study, "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free:
A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy." Nuclear power is simply too dirty,
too dangerous, and too unnecessary to warrant further support.


Joseph J. Mangano MPH MBA is Executive Director of the Radiation and
Public Health Project, a research and educational organization based
in New York.


[1] U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,

[2] Matthew L. Wald. Safety of Adding to Nuclear Plants' Capacity is
Questioned. New York Times, January 26, 2004.

[3] Eesha Williams, Hundreds Attend Hearing on Vermont Yankee.
Transcript of New Hampshire Public Radio broadcast, April 1, 2004.

[4] National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality -- underlying
cause of death. Includes ICD-9 cancer codes 140.0-239.9 (1979-1998)
and ICD-10 cancer codes C00-D48.9 (1999-2004).

[5] Mangano J.J. and others. An unexpected rise in Strontium-90 in US
deciduous teeth in the 1990s. The Science of the Total Environment
Vol. 317 (2003), pgs. 37-51.

[6] Mangano J.J. A short latency between radiation exposure from
nuclear plants and cancer in young children. International Journal of
Health Services Vol. 36, No. 1 (2006), pgs. 113-135.

[7] Janet Tauro, But Safety Issues at Oyster Creek Can't Be Ignored.
Asbury Park Press, September 9, 2007.

[8] Division of Planning, Budget, and Analysis. Information Digest.
NUREG-1350. Washington DC: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, annual

[9] Dan Morse. Agency Describes Process to License Calvert Cliffs
Plant. Washington Post, August 15, 2007.

[10] U.S. Bureau of the census, 2000 census, state and county quick
facts. The national average of U.S. residents living below the poverty
levels was 12.7%, which is higher than the average for Windham County,
Vt. (9.0%), Ocean County, N.J. (7.6%), Westchester County, N.Y.
(8.9%), and Calvert County, Md. (5.4%). The national average percent
of residents over age 25 who graduated from high school was 80.4%, but
was higher for Windham County, Vt. (87.3%), Ocean County, N.J.
(83.0%), Westchester County, N.Y. (83.6%), and Calvert County, Md.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007




A new interactive animated documentary has been released in celebration of the two-year anniversary of Randall "Duke" Cunningham's resignation from office!

Available for online viewing here:
or try:

A downloadable version is also available, along with additional documentation, including follow-up letters to law enforcement, elected officials, and others:

The new animation is written in Flash from Adobe. The author has nearly 25 years experience as a computer animator, and has created hundreds of animations for professional educational purposes, including courtroom accident reconstructions. This animation is equally accurate and explanatory, and both fun and easy to use. It tells what really happened.

The new animation, called simply Celebrity Justice, explains in detail how Cunningham tried to commit suicide by smashing the car he was driving head-on at high speed into the author's car on November 25th, 2005, about 8:35 pm, in San Marcos, California. The police immediately applied "Celebrity Justice" rules to the case and protected the assailant from prosecution. This is the story of what really happened that night, from the point of view of the author and his wife who was a passenger during the incident.

Randall Cunningham was presumably despondent over his decision to resign from Congress the following Monday, November 28th, 2005.

This author was able to realize the seriousness of the attack, and avoid the deadly confrontation. The seriousness was shown by the following steps:

1) He tries to flip his car in a solo accident.
2) He aims right at us and accelerates..
3) When I turn to my right, he follows that turn and accelerates.
4) When I turn to my left, he follows that turn too, and continues to accelerate.
5) He continues to accelerate straight at us.
6) He is going so fast he cannot turn away -- unless I do something, a deadly crash in inevitable.

To learn what I did at that point, and what the police did after that point, please view the shocking animation!


Russell "Ace" Hoffman
Driver of the other car
Carlsbad, CA
November 28th, 2007


Friday, November 23, 2007

The Green Revolution: Why it can't wait

November 23rd, 2007

Dear Readers,

Our future is being stolen. Our health is being destroyed daily by nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and a trillion dollar accident -- something that costs more than both Gulf Wars and will kill more people -- could happen in an instant.

In fact, such a catastrophe is INEVITABLE if we don't close the nukes and switch to a green economy. And, no country with nuclear power can afford to threaten with nuclear weapons. We have nullified any long-term strategic advantage such weapons ever offered, by building so many "targets."

Each nuclear power plant produces about a ton per week of an incredibly highly-concentrated deadly dust -- a solidified poison gas that can be vaporized in a fire. Burning does not alter the decay rate of uranium or any other radioactive substance. It just releases the poison gas into the environment -- into our lungs.

So-called "accidental" releases are INEVITABLE as millions of pounds of spent nuclear fuel are handled throughout the world. Some releases are much worse than others: Chernobyl probably vaporized more than a hundred million Curies of uranium and fission products. Three Mile Island probably vaporized more than ten million Curies. In both cases, monitoring was poorly done. For example, when numbers went off-scale for a few hours, improper reconstructions of the events never recognized that the hours off-scale were probably the most brutal time of all, and the scales were off by orders-of-magnitude.

Davis-Besse almost melted down in 2002. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission let the plant, located in a depressed part of Ohio, re-open anyway after nearly two years of rebuilding. The power fluctuations when it was going back online are probably what really caused the August 14th, 2003 blackout -- not some tree touching a power line, as the official story goes! After the fact, the NRC could not say if we were 5 seconds or 5 weeks away from catastrophe, but a football-sized piece of the reactor pressure vessel head had been eaten away by unnoticed corrosion, and the stainless steel liner -- never designed to take pressure without 8 inches of steel on the other side of it -- was all that held back the worst accident in American history -- and the liner -- only 3/16ths of an inch thick -- was already bulging out. Obligingly, the media never told the public how close we came to disaster, but it was very, very close.

All nuclear power plants are continuously poisoning the people around them with tritium. Even the lap-dog NRC considers tritium releases excessive if they are greater than approximately one teaspoon per year per plant. (Tritium is hydrogen, but with two neutrons and one proton instead of the usual single proton with no neutrons.) A number of communities have realized that their local nuke plant poisoned their wells with tritium, which has a half-life of 12.3 years, and are suing in court because of illnesses they have suffered. Other communities also suffer, but haven't been able to organize enough to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits are very difficult. They are expensive and time-consuming -- especially while you are caring for a child with leukemia!

In addition to tritium and many other radioactive elements that are routinely released, each reactor creates about a ton per week of spent nuclear reactor fuel -- high level nuclear waste. Spent nuclear fuel contains the most vile stuff on earth: Radioactive fission products. There are numerous radioactive decay steps after the original decay of uranium, before it becomes lead or some other stable element, and each radioactive decay step is also dangerous.

Some of the fission products of uranium have a special affinity for various organs of the human body, such as the thyroid, bones, liver, stomach, ovaries, or gonads. These fission products appear to be useful atoms to your body, which sees them as STABLE building-blocks of life. In fact they are either radioactive isotopes of useful elements, or they are chemically similar -- and radioactive.

The developing fetus is especially vulnerable -- as much as a thousand times as vulnerable as an adult -- so for that reason alone, you can (and should) say that the poison gases released ROUTINELY from nuclear power plants actually TARGET your fetus! The rates of miscarriages, childhood leukemias, and many other diseases all go UP around operating nuclear reactors and DOWN when the reactors are shut down. Reactor operators are baby killers, mass murderers, and terrorists.

While it's true that health-care system improvements can, and do, save millions of people's lives, the fact remains that preventing health problems in the first place is the real key. The primary goal is to preserve the quality of life for as many people as possible, for as long as possible.

Spent nuclear fuel -- solidified poison gas -- and especially the fission products -- must be carefully kept away from humans. In addition to tritium, radioactive cesium-137, strontium-90, and iodine-131 are routinely emitted by nuclear power plants, to mention just a few of over 200 different isotopes which are created during the "splitting of the atom" in a nuclear weapon (in a fraction of a millisecond) or a nuclear power plant (more slowly).

Spent nuclear fuel -- a witches' brew of radioactive elements -- can self-ignite if exposed to air, or if it is simply packed too tightly together, since it generates enormous amounts of wasted HEAT for hundreds of thousands of years.

Besides gaseous releases from fire, a "criticality event" is also possible in some cases, if spent reactor fuel is improperly handled.

Nearly a ton per week from each of more than 440 nuclear power reactors around the world (plus military propulsion units) is over 50 tons per day of NEW high level radioactive poison gas (temporarily solidified). That's the legacy we are leaving our children. An absolutely unmanageable mess, growing at an utterly alarming rate.

THAT is what we base OUR CHILDREN'S future hopes on -- NOT on their ability to produce clean energy for themselves -- those solutions exist and just have to be implemented -- but on our children's ability to DISCOVER an as-yet-unknown way to keep OUR poison gas -- the nuclear waste WE generated for OUR pleasure -- from poisoning themselves and THEIR CHILDREN! And in order to work, this "solution" MUST violate the laws of physics! For 60 years scientists have looked for the "holy grail" of nuclear waste storage -- a container that won't break down -- but it's hard to find good scientists willing to devote their life to the search, because good scientists know it's futile. When a radioactive element breaks down -- emits radiation -- it has enough power to destroy hundreds or even thousands of chemical bonds in things around it. Thus, all containers you try to put radioactive substances into are inevitably destroyed by the radiation.

The ability of clean renewable energy to completely replace all our current energy sources is only disputed by spokespeople for the energy sources that poison our environment and cause leukemia, cancer, heart disease, genetic damage, and other insults. Dirty energy sources that make money by robbing your children of their health, and doing so in your name -- because you allow it. The poison gas that is created is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, and can take decades to express itself in your body (cause cancer, for example). AND corporations can make a lot of money if they ignore the risks or downplay the dangers to the public.

Humanity must get realistic about this, or it will continue to suffer and die at ever-increasing rates -- more frequent cancers, and cancers occurring in younger people.

The whole idea of green energy accepts that energy is vital to society, and it should therefore be produced in the most benign ways possible. Conservation can only get you so far -- after that, your source of energy MUST be clean. So stopping nukes is the most important goal of all energy users on this planet as well as of all realistic environmentalists -- or should be.

If you think Al Gore will help clean up the environment, think again. Al Gore thinks nukes can be part of the solution to global warming -- but he says he believes they can play "only a small role." Because he's subtle about his support for nuclear power, many would-be environmental activists are sucked in by his ruse, believing that we can let nuclear power continue to be a part of the mix -- as long as its portion doesn't go up.

The truth is: That's not nearly good enough. And a meltdown is the ultimate inconvenient truth.

Such appeasement of the current nuclear juggernaut of environmentally-damaging power reactors kills the whole green revolution before it takes its first step, because unless we shut the plants down (and maybe even afterwards, but it's far less likely), there WILL be an accident -- a meltdown. It's as inevitable as 100-year floods, 500-year earthquakes, thousand-year storms, and thousand-century volcanoes (and a meltdown could be caused by any of these). The results could be a thousand to a million times WORSE than the triggering event.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Letter to the editor by Cathy Czar:

Nuclear Danger

Nuclear power is not green, it is anything but. The building of, and eventual decommissioning of, the reactor itself uses massive amounts of fossil fuels, as does supportive mining, milling, enrichment, reprocessing and waste storage. But CO2 isn�t �my� main concern. What could be more important, is releasing into the environment Uranium, as well as hundreds of �products of fission� that are produced in a reactor (or a bomb). Eg - Cesium 137, Iodine 131, Strontium 90, Tritium and Plutonium 239. Other toxins dangerous to our health are the products of radio-active decay (or RADs) from mine tailings and various production facilities, like thorium, radon and polonium.

The nuclear industry is lying about the dangers of exposure especially when these isotopes lodge inside your body. Some so-called experts have wrongly asserted that external dose is the same as an internal dose. These experts calculate the radiation dosage over the �entire body� of an adult male, not considering differences for infants, children or women.

First, you need to know that these toxic particles each have specific dangers. Cesium 137 mimics potassium and concentrates in muscle tissue, like the heart, Iodine 131 concentrates in the thyroid, Strontium 90 mimics calcium and bio-concentrates in milk and is found in teeth and bones. Plutonium 239, named after the Greek God of Hell, travels around the body in the blood mimicking iron and incorporates in hemoglobin destroying red blood cells. The fetus, infants and children are most severely affected due to their fast growth (rapid cell division) and size compared to contamination levels.

The diseases associated with radio-active contaminates are common and widespread. This is principally because fallout from nuclear bomb testing and Chernobyl travelled around the planet; only falling to the Earth in rain or snow. Nuclear reactors, spent fuel reprocessing facilities and depleted uranium (DU) weapons have further added to the burden.

Have you ever asked yourself why have we become such a sick population? One reason carries a large portion of the responsibility and that is the contamination of the environment with man-made, or man-released, radio-active material - starting with the Manhattan Project.

These �hot particles� nucleate and oxidize proteins and fats, they destroy or mutate DNA, they internally ZAP cells with millions of electron volts of energy killing those closest and altering others (called the by-stander effect). Once released into the environment, they contaminate the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.

The nuclear industry�s big secret is a 5-60 year latency period before the on-set of disease. Don�t believe their spin doctors who manipulate data to hide the truth. In contrast, after nine years of post-Chernobyl study, Professor Yuri Bandazhevsky of the Gomel Medical Institute, Belarus discovered an associated increase in all the following conditions which he calls �Long Term Incorporated Radionuclide Syndrome�: heart disease (Cesium-cardiomyopathy), kidney disease, spontaneous abortions, infant mortality, genetic defects, congenital malformations, cancer, psychiatric diseases, impaired mental development, alterations in the immune system and hormonal balance, slow growth in children, abnormal exhaustion, delayed convalescence and premature aging. After publishing his findings, he was falsely accused of bribery and thrown in jail (2001 2005). If not for the efforts of Amnesty International, he�d probably still be in jail.

Please educate yourselves. Start by reading Dr. Helen Caldicott�s book �Nuclear Power is Not the Answer�. You can watch her March 6, 2007 lecture at the University of Regina on google video. To learn about the health consequences in Belarus and Ukraine following the Chernobyl melt-down watch �Chernobyl Heart� on google video (listed as a 4 part series).


Kathy Czar
Hanna, AB

P.S. - I can supply several DVD documentaries on these subjects to anybody who is interested.


Monday, November 5, 2007

The question is not whether waterboarding is torture.

November 5th, 2007

Dear Readers,

This could happen to you:

One day while walking down the street, you could be surrounded and taken away by undercover police. Not one of them will remove his sunglasses or show you a badge. You will be put in a dark, dank cell with people who have committed murders, assaults, terrorist acts, and other violent crimes. Some of them will be nice to you and win your trust (only to betray it later, for a better offer). Others will abuse you and destroy your hope.

Waterboarding was first standardized during the Inquisition. It was good enough for the Christian zealots of the Inquisition, but it should NOT be good enough for us. It was also used by the Khmer Rouge, the Gestapo, and the French in Algiers, according to a guest on Keith Olbermann (MS-NBC), an admiral, a former JAG. He adds that it is "a tool of the lazy, the stupid, and the pseudo-tough."

Waterboarding is torture because, if it's done effectively, the victims are terrified of death and, indeed, sometimes die. Their minds are damaged because, from that instant on, they know that someone else controls their life. They are victims of fear, hatred, and paranoia. If they seek justice later through the courts, 99 times out of 100 that too will fail. Waterboarding is easily denied.

Both the tortured and the torturer are more likely to later become vigilante torturers, themselves. Spouse abusers, suicidal, demented, deranged, deluded -- anything but defused.

Waterboarding is torture because you know you wouldn't want it done to you, if they got the wrong person.

What the Bush Administration REALLY wants is for some form of torture to be made LEGAL soon. If waterboarding is judged by the public to be too extreme, SOME torture will be deemed NOT too extreme, if they have their way -- for foreign "illegal combatants" only, of course. At first.

These are NOT the principles America was founded on -- not at all. At every step America has denounced the very idea of torturing prisoners. Bush says: "America does not torture." I wish this statement was true, but it cannot be made true by trying to change (or fine-tune) the definition of torture. NOT allowing torture gives us moral justification to take as many prisoners as necessary. Not allowing torture makes it much easier for combatants to lay down their arms against us and BECOME prisoners voluntarily -- knowing they really, truly WON'T be tortured. This saves American lives.

So the question is not whether waterboarding is torture, the question is whether we can recognize torture when we see it, as opposed to "mere" (we're supposed to believe) "rough interrogation techniques." Bush is betting we can't, or don't care -- as long as it's not used on us.

Some forms of torture already are legal in America: For example, getting pepper-sprayed at an enviro rally, or tasered at a political rally.

This is NOT the America I grew up pledging allegiance to. This America is rotting from the top down.

The scars run deep across the planet because of the Bush Administration's criminal behavior. That they want to leave the next administration with the same level of control, protection from observation, and immunity from prosecution is their most terrifying agenda of all.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pillars of fire

October 27th, 2007

Dear Readers,

Yesterday (Friday, October 26th, 2007) we ventured outside and opened the windows for a while, for the first time since the wildfires began here last Sunday evening.

The sky was blue with streaks of low white clouds. A few large grayish clouds drifted high overhead. The air seemed nicer outside than inside. But it's the microscopic particles that can injure you or even kill you. This morning it smells smokey outside again, because the winds have shifted.

Every car in the parking lot was clean as a whistle -- except mine. It looked like it had been sitting untouched for several months, but it was less than a week.

I drove slowly to the car wash, and used the light spray to mist down the car before blasting it with the high-powered wash. That way I could minimize the release of dry particles into the air. Then we drove by the post office. The box was overflowing with junk mail. Then we drove home. Every car we passed was clean. The soot and ash ruins your paint.

I make friends who stop by climb through the window, so I didn't have to dismantle the wet towels at the bottom of the door and the paper towels jammed in the cracks. One friend was complaining of feeling like he had allergies. "I never get allergies" he said. I reminded him that I'm pretty sure he had the same problem four years ago after the Cedar Fire.

A neighbor -- a fireman -- was pulled off the line after 43 hours straight. He is getting a few days off now. His hands and wrists are black from the soot.

They had him lie down and swallow some fluid that makes him cough up stuff, but it only helps a little. The smoke they breath when they are fighting forest fires is different from cigarettes or from when they are fighting house fires, in terms of the most likely toxins to be found in it. Further away from the fires it all gets mixed together.

Hucking a fire hose is hard work -- but using it is the most dangerous part. They get so close the fire sometimes licks them. It comes at them from surprising angles, it breathes, it spreads out its attack, it focuses. As you push one way and the wind pushes another, the fire dances. It frolics. It plays with your life. It seems alive -- and intent on killing you.

"I saw the wind-driven flames go right between my legs!" my friend tells me. "That's when I decided it was time to back off."

He was fighting the Witch Creek fiasco. Winds were so strong they could see flames rolling up, over, and then DOWN nearby hills.

When the flames go UP, sometimes they form a swirling tornado of fire. Television crews interviewed people who saw 200-foot tornados of flame. My friend saw numerous 50 and 60-foot "pillars of fire." The highest power lines would still be charred in conditions like that.

I asked him about the sparks going even higher. "Oh, yeah. Way, way higher."

Fire spreads a lot like cancer. They can hose down a fire line, especially with air support (which was mockingly late, and probably less than a quarter the number of aircraft it should have been), but they can't stop a fire that bursts out everywhere in a matter of minutes.

Is there any insurance company which can afford several billion dollars in losses a couple of times per decade? No. But rich people can buy commercial firefighting services, who will hose down your perimeter with "eco-friendly" fire retardant. They won't do your neighbors' house, unless they also paid for the service in advance.

Isn't there a better way? Night firefighting requires a lot of sophisticated equipment because cheap infrared goggles won't do. Weak, ground-based spotlights won't do.

You could light the scene with mirrors from space, but you have to have global companies making a good clean American dollar for that to happen. Objects placed in Low-Earth-Orbit have ZERO chance of becoming long-term space debris because the pieces, if destroyed, would quickly fall to earth and then incinerate in the upper atmosphere. If they are made of the right materials, it's no more pollution than a single house fire, of which there are millions every year.

Space-based mirrors could be used for city evening and morning light. They could light a stadium or allow a forest fire to be fought at night when the winds are often calmer and the moisture content of the air is usually higher. This technology is cheap in comparison to what it costs NOT to have it available to the planet! And a lot of people would line up for the chance to work in space.

Other clean-energy systems exist, and many of them need to be used together. One, which I mentioned it in my previous newsletter, and which takes advantage of the principles embodied in the whirling funnels of fire seen so frequently during the recent wildfires, is the Atmospheric Vortex Engine.

These could be built around San Diego to produce CLEAN electricity. Unlike similar Solar Chimneys, the vortexes can be temporarily shut down when emergency aircraft need to fly low over an area.

The slightly-warmed air which the Atmospheric Vortex Engines send into the upper atmosphere can be generated with passive solar heating methods. One would simply be transferring existing heat from one place to another. It would help keep temperatures DOWN locally, and yet have NO net effect globally!

Instead, greedy utilities will do anything to keep the 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors operating, because they hardly have to pay ANY insurance. You'll be lucky to get a tenth of a penny on the dollar after a nuclear accident (if you survive), thanks to the Price Anderson Act -- an unworkable public insurance policy fraud, first passed in 1957 because no insurance company would take on the risk of insuring nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power plants have other hidden costs, but appear to operate in the black because they get practically free fuel, and practically free fuel removal services -- promised, anyway. Not delivered, because Yucca Mountain is a financial and scientific boondoggle doomed to failure. After more than 60 years, there is still no viable, safe, cost-effective solution to the nuclear waste problem. Yet still, the industry creates more nuclear waste every day, on the PROMISE that waste disposal is a solvable problem!

The nuclear power industry loves to watch the price of oil go up, because it also makes alternatives more expensive. Even renewables become more expensive as oil prices rise, because they must be built and transported and constructed before they can be used, and each step burns oil. Already-operating nuclear power plants are less effected in the short term by oil price increases, making them look better on paper as oil prices go up.

The 104 nuclear power plants in the United States generate 10,000 pounds of high level nuclear waste -- the stuff no one knows what to do with -- EVERY DAY, at the rate of about 250 pounds PER DAY PER PLANT. To give you an example of how deadly that 250 pounds is, one thirtieth of teaspoon of the element tritium is all a plant is allowed to release PER YEAR without exceeding the normal allowable limit. Except that additional "accidental" releases are invariably overlooked by regulators, and major releases are gratuitously dismissed as impossible by these same regulators. It defies the laws of physics, and the law of averages.

Uranium, before it goes into the reactor, is relatively free of so called "fission products," and handling such fuel is about as dangerous as handling Depleted Uranium weapons -- which isn't safe, but it's about 10 million times SAFER than trying to handle spent nuclear fuel.

There's no protective suit that can give a person more than a few SECONDS of life near spent fuel. In the midst of a meltdown, where the fuel is burning (VAPORIZING) and releasing the pent-up fission products which the fuel has been generating since it was placed in the reactor, no one can get close to put out the fire.

All "modern" nuclear reactors use essentially the same FISSION process as a nuclear bomb. But they spread the process out over time, from millionths of a second (in an atomic explosion) to years (in a nuclear reactor). The fuel is removed from the reactor after about five years. During that time, it is "poisoned" with fission products. In the event of a nuclear accident, these will get out in large quantities, along with lots of other radioactive materials.

Nuclear power plant operations allow for DAILY RELEASES into the environment. Fission, fusion, and activation products, and particles of the original uranium, plutonium, or thorium are all released.

Nuclear power plant operators boast that their plants "cannot explode like a nuclear bomb." But in truth, they are just a slow-motion nuclear bomb.

AND don't forget: A steam explosion is also possible. The fuel in a reactor cannot be packed tight enough to create a nuclear explosion, but a steam explosion can release a thousand times MORE radioactivity than a nuclear bomb would release.

After a major release, you'll probably be told to plug up the cracks around the doors with wet cloth, and to duct-tape the edges of the windows. You'll be expected to stay indoors for weeks, while some of the most dangerous radioactive substances, such as Iodine-131, decay.

Iodine-131 has a half-life of about eight days, so it takes about 80 days for the levels to drop to below a millionth of the original level, and another 80 days to drop to below a millionth of that. When you have a gazillion trillion billion particles being released, you need the full millionth of a millionth! So always pack a lot of water and be ready to sit tight.

There are a spectrum of other elements that will be released, with a rainbow of half-lives. Strontium-90, for example, has a half-life of 28.8 years.

In addition to the damage caused by radioactive decay, many of the radioactive elements in spent nuclear fuel are potent chemical agents.

In strong winds, most of the problem quickly becomes someone else's problem. But regulations and emergency plans for nuclear power plants only expect releases to be dangerous within 10 miles of their fences, which is preposterous.

Considering all the dangers, it's a wonder that nuclear power ever took hold anywhere in the first place. But when one considers all the clean alternatives that are available now, it's obvious that greed, lies, and corruption are the only things keeping nuclear power going. One accident will explain it all in terms everybody can understand, but waiting for such awful PROOF should not be necessary.

Meltdowns are nasty things. Hospitals fill up so fast that if they can't save you, they won't even let you in. No comfort for the dying. And even if you feel fine, a swipe with a Geiger counter might determine you're actually one of the doomed ones.

As oil closes in on one hundred dollars a barrel, as the polar snow melts and the summer rains stop coming, as war-for-oil becomes openly accepted as state policy, as tropical diseases spread because climates change, as precious resources are carelessly thrown away -- we have to ask ourselves why our share of the work hasn't made a difference -- why it wasn't enough. What did WE do wrong?

The only possibility for preventing nuclear disaster in America is to shut the plants down. So why don't we?


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA
"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
�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, d. 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 (Nuclear Physicist)
"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

This email was sent by:

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dricks' tricks won't fix SONGS' wrongs

October 25th, 2007

Dear Readers,

It's been four days since the fires started. Almost 750 square miles have burned this week in Southern California.

Almost all major roads are open today -- perhaps I should leave. But even in Phoenix, Arizona, nearly 400 miles away, the air quality is only "Moderate" right now.

The television news reporters can't remember what day it is any better than I can. And I learned something I didn't know about San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station: It's already completely shut down for extended repairs.

My house is still closed up and the air cleaners are still running. The air is toxic throughout SoCal -- it's officially "unhealthy." There have been warnings on many different news stations to try to stay indoors.

The air in Los Angeles, 100 miles to the North, is even worse. Despite warnings, for the first time in four days I'm hearing, as I write this, children playing outside in the late afternoon sun. It must be so hard for them to have to stay in!

But the air is particularly toxic for children, because of the biological half-life of some of the chemicals everyone is breathing. HEPA filters remove approximately 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger -- but there are TRILLIONS of particles in each cubic liter of air space. Even though HEPA technology was specifically designed (in the 1950s) for removing radioactive particles from nuclear research labs, HEPA filters are only partially effective. Particles smaller than about 0.3 microns go right through. That's one reason why things like radioactive Argon, Krypton, and Xenon are so dangerous -- because these are in the environment as individual atoms -- not as a large particle of dust, or even as molecules. You can't filter them out. If an accident occurs at a nuclear power plant, face masks and HEPA house filters will be virtually useless.

We opened a window for a few minutes today. I was planning to bring in a new house-full of air by putting the air cleaner right up to the window and drawing all the air directly through the filter, but it smelled just terrible out there. I'll bet a lot of the people who are outside in this can't tell when the smoke is gone, because when it goes down by half, they already think it's practically gone. And I'm sure I'm the only one in my apartment complex, out of 40 apartments, who has blocked off the doors with wet towels.

My inside air is polluted, of course, with plastics, artificial fabrics, electronic equipment and dust. I make sure to turn off the computer when I'm not using it. I leave at least one television on. I put new filters in two of the air cleaners on Tuesday, and plan to replace all the filters again next week. Most of the filters have color codes to compare a dirty one to a clean one, but I can't trust the codes because they assume dust will be one color and size and mixture, and it tends to be much lighter in color (and, I suspect, smaller) here. That means the filters get clogged before they match the color chart. I wonder if the same thing is happening at San Onofre? They might be venting radioactive waste during these wildfires! Yes, even while closed for repairs. Some of their fuel is extremely "hot" and if a fuel-movement operation is done poorly, we could have a radiological catastrophe piled on top of our wildfire-smoke catastrophe. Plus, some of their filters might be clogged with soot and ash right now, and are being bypassed or are simply ineffective. They wouldn't necessarily know, they wouldn't necessarily care, and they certainly wouldn't tell us.

We haven't lost power, but power lines, and a helicopter that was inspecting power lines, have both gone down. Nobody was hurt when the chopper went down, so it presumably was able to autorotate after an engine failure. The downing of power lines is still considered the cause of the first fire (the Witch Fire). Power lines can be placed underground, but then they are more likely to break in earthquakes and harder to repair if they do. Shorter runs between towers are less likely to snap, so the more frequent the towers, the better their resistance to earthquakes OR high winds. The taller the towers, the better their fire resistance, if the base is protected by a proper firebreak.

Almost half of the nearly 80 people reported injured so far are firefighters. A couple was found burned in their home, and four people were found burned to death in a camp that houses immigrant workers. That brings the official death toll in SoCal directly caused by the wildfires to seven.

This WILL happen again. Arsonists have promised it. High-wire transmission cables running through dry scrub brush and chaparral that isn't going to get any water any time soon have promised it. Global Warming (known as "Global Climate Change" to those who think it's just a reversible trend) IS happening. The brush and chaparral will grow like crazy during the "good" years. After growing wildly during a wet year, then, during the dry years, it drys out. Then, after a few dry years, during a Santa Ana, the arsonists will come out, and the power lines will come down.

According to Fox News, the ongoing wildfires have already released 90,000,000 tons of greenhouse gases into the earth's atmosphere, equivalent, they say, to three months of emissions from California's vehicles. Satellite images show the smoke going more than 800 miles out to sea. Then the smoke will be blown back towards us over and over for days.

Because the smoke particles are so small, many of them will spread globally. The 1600 homes and 1000 other buildings destroyed were filled with plastics and heavy metals (computers, for example, use a lot of these) so the global assault is much more toxic than "just" firewood, although there is a lot of that, too, being deposited in the air.

The reason both reactors at San Onofre are down right now is that they are undergoing costly and long-term remodeling so they can operate for two more decades. The big repair operation has started, but most of the money has yet to be spent.


It could save trillions of dollars later. That's Trillions, with a T.

Shutting San Onofre will hardly cost California a thing. Since the project was a crime to begin with, the builders and operators should pay. The federal, state, and local officials who approved these things should be brought to trial for crimes against humanity -- like a Nuremberg Trial. How much did they know and how much did they just let slip by, without thinking?

The nuclear workers should be re-employed as renewable energy designers and builders, and they should NOT be allowed to make any more nuclear waste ever again.

Billions would be saved by an IMMEDIATE stoppage of all "repair" work at San Onofre. They call it "enhancements," "improvements," even "uprating" and "extending," but 99% of the work is the repair and replacement of worn-out parts. Tons -- literally TONS -- of pages of their manuals have to be replaced, each one by hand. (I wonder what the error rate is, and how long before the average missing or misplaced page is needed.) They are replacing steam generators, motors, pipes, pumps, valves, controls for valves, cables for the controls for the valves, holding tanks, surge protectors, and even a few light-switches.

I received an email from Australia regarding yesterday's newsletter. One of my subscribers there found the essay on a local (Australia) news media web site. I also heard from India, asking if we had a word like "Genpatsu-Shinsai" (the Japanese word which describes a meltdown during an earthquake) for a meltdown during ANY ongoing disaster: Wildfires like today, tsunamis, earthquakes, asteroids from space, terrorism, human stupidity, human error, poor design, poor construction -- whatever.

Yes, we have such a word. It's: "INEVITABLE." A meltdown is INEVITABLE if we keep running along the edge of disaster. It will happen, one way or another, sooner or later.

If we keep San Onofre open, a meltdown becomes inevitable over time. If we close San Onofre, a catastrophic accident is STILL possible, but MUCH less likely.

The cut in the number of employees would guarantee that fewer NUT-CASES will find their way into the plant. The employees would have vastly less ACCESS to "things which can cause the plant to fail" such as Control Rooms or red-hot reactors with half a million gallons of water racing through their primary and secondary coolant loops each minute, and 20 billion gallons per day going through the open-loop tertiary system. A failure at ANY of these phases can quickly lead to a nuclear disaster -- without time to evacuate. By shutting the plant down, the three main coolant loops, and thousands of other "choke-points," will be rendered irrelevant, and even when there is an accident, it is more likely to develop slowly so, people have time to escape.

San Onofre's owners have committed fraud for year after year. Yesterday they got the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to claim that San Onofre was safe during the Horno fire -- which continues to burn, but fortunately, winds have tended to be light and AWAY from the plant. As of a few hours ago, the Horno fire was about 40% "contained" and had burned 17,000 acres, and according to the Reuters article shown below was always "miles" from the nuclear reactor facility. They include administrative buildings on the East side of I-5 in the report shown below, to make it sound like the reactor has a lot of developed land between it and the flaming embers. But those embers can get picked up tornado-fashion and then be deposited in a "rain of fire" (the phrase was used by a witness to a sudden flair-up recently) on San Onofre. Thousands of clumps of red-hot embers could engulf the reactor grounds IN SECONDS, and the reactor ONLY has the STANDARD fire crew on-hand -- everyone else is "on call" but the plant would need WALL TO WALL FIRE TRUCKS to protect against a fire-storm's assault. And don't forget that fire trucks catch fire sometimes, too, and if one is burning, the one next to it can catch fire too, especially when the fuel tanks explode.

So really, despite any claim to the contrary by Mr. Dricks (who is a paid proponent of nuclear power, not a fire expert), San Onofre was -- and still is -- in grave danger.


We don't need it. We're not even using it in our hour of need -- because just when it's supposedly needed -- during some other disaster -- they had yet another "planned" shutdown! This fire season was as predictable as dirt.

Dictator Bush came to San Diego for a photo-op today. The press announces that absolutely no fire aircraft will by rerouted or inconvenienced by the visit. But it turns out not to be true. One intrepid reporter points out that fire crews had to drag "a thousand feet of hose" straight up the side of a rugged mountain (which means: No escape if the winds suddenly change) specifically because water drop helicopters could not encroach on the President's personal air space (aka "exclusion zone").

When the dictator's 747 took off, it raised a huge cloud of toxic particulate matter. The stuff we're all supposed to mist down and scrape up.

Next week, a hundred thousand yard workers will raise an even bigger cloud with leaf-blowers, brooms, etc., despite repeated admonitions not to disrupt the dust that way.

One wonders how many Curies of radioactive particles San Onofre has deposited on the hills of San Diego during the 35 years it's been operating -- millions and millions.

What was not deposited in people's lungs the first time it drifted away from the plant has been given a second chance to get into our bodies.

Like the debris from a nuclear power plant, debris from nuclear bombs can ALSO get through ANY filter -- such as the bombs King George is threatening Iran with (and Iran is frantically trying to build, so they can threaten us back). Dust from Depleted Uranium weapons gets past HEPA filters too, and even though the particles are "heavy metals" they are light enough to get lofted miles into the air, and then be transported all over the planet.

Because uranium, plutonium, thorium, and most other radioactive elements are extremely reactive (corrosive), radioactive particles contribute to global warming in numerous ways, in addition to the fossil fuels used in the "nuclear fuel cycle" to fabricate parts, extract the uranium, transport materials, and so on.

It's time for a change. Our lives are at stake.


Ace Hoffman
Breathing particulate matter in:
Carlsbad, CA

Dricks' tricks won't fix SONGS' wrongs:

SUBJECT: California nuclear reactors not in fire danger:

Wed Oct 24, 2007 7:19pm EDT

By Bernie Woodall

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Southern California wildfires moved closer on Wednesday to two nuclear reactors at the giant San Onofre electrical plant in San Diego County, but were not seen threatening operations, officials said.

"The fire does not pose a threat to the plant itself," said Gil Alexander, spokesman for Southern California Edison. Separately, officials from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirmed Alexander's assessment.

The fires raging in northern San Diego County on a U.S. Marine base were about a mile from the inland edge of the San Onofre complex but were still several miles from the reactors.

But even if flames approach the reactors, there is little danger a blaze will reach them because they are surrounded by acres of concrete, officials said.

"There might be a little brush but there is not much fuel for a fire," said NRC spokesman Victor Dricks. "There aren't many trees in the area."

SCE's San Onofre fire department, as well as the fire department from the Camp Pendleton Marine base, "conducted a controlled burn Wednesday to reduce fuel on the inland side of Interstate 5, should the fire reach that point. It is still a mile or more on the other side of a hill," said Alexander.

The San Onofre nuclear reactors are situated between Interstate 5 and the Pacific Ocean.

Wildfires have burned more than 1,000 homes in San Diego County, prompting the largest evacuations in state history and causing damages that are expected to surpass $1 billion.

Neither San Onofre reactor is currently operating due to maintenance work that began before the fires sparked on Sunday. Maintenance continued Wednesday and would not change the plant's schedule for returning to production, Alexander said.


The fire is less a threat to the plant than it is to massive power transmission lines that run to and from it, said the NRC's Dricks.

Nuclear power plants need electricity from outside to run essential safety systems and operate huge pumps that move hundreds of thousands of gallons of water used to cool the reactor even when its not operating, said Dricks.

If power lines to San Onofre cease operation -- an event that was not expected on Wednesday -- backup generators are on site that can run the cooling water pumps.

Transmission lines to San Diego Gas & Electric's service area, which lies mainly to the south of the plant, were out of service Wednesday. Lines to the north and into SCE service area are working and not in danger from fires, Alexander said.

The two reactors at San Onofre can generate about 2,250 megawatts of power, enough to serve about 1.4 million homes.

San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns 20 percent of San Onofre and therefore owns 20 percent of the power generated there, had not returned phone calls Wednesday to determine whether the lines from San Onofre to its service area to the south of the plant were working.

SDG&E is owned by San Diego-based Sempra Energy. Southern California Edison is owned by Edison International, based in Rosemead in suburban Los Angeles.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.
Reuters journalists are subject to the Reuters Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Onofre STILL threatened by the Horno Fire (corrected text, with new intro)

San Onofre STILL threatened by the Horno Fire (corrected text, with new intro)

October 24th, 2007, 5:45 pm

Dear Readers,

This is a resend of my previous newsletter. In this morning's newsletter (corrected and resent below), I described the wind direction at the start of the day incorrectly. My apologies. If you've sent this to anyone, THANK YOU -- but I hope you will send this email too, to replace it. (The main correction is in the last two sentences of the fourth paragraph. A few other words were changed for readability.)

I presume San Onofre -- the nuclear power plant on the edge of disaster (always terrifying, but right now threatened by the nearby SoCal fires) -- is still operating, even as the fire continues to burn near the power lines "incredibly close" as one reporter described it. The local, state and national bureaucracies do not have the willpower or good sense to shut the plants down forever and build atmospheric vortex engines (for example) instead (Google it).

A medical director from a local hospital said that the particulates from the fires are very dangerous, but don't worry, they'll eventually get washed down the drain. (When we have rain, but who knows when THAT will be?) Other "experts" are telling people NOT to wash the ashes down the drain -- and don't sweep or blow them -- mist them down until thoroughly wet, and then scrape them up. The medical doctor -- the one who says the particles are very dangerous, adds: "don't let your children play in the ashes" and also says that hospital masks are "practically useless" against the dust, because the particles are so small. But a spokesperson from another hospital said they are giving such masks to employees as protection.

Everyone is saying how nice and well-behaved everyone is. True enough -- why do you think I like it here if not for that polite, laid-back, calm attitude of the typical Southern Californian? I loved it the minute I got here.

But what if hundreds had been surrounded by fire, and engulfed? It happened to several people in the Cedar / Paradise fires of 2003, and these winds were worse, and the number and size of the fires that suddenly broke out were worse, too.

The mandatory evacuations worked -- this time, because "only" two people have died and "only" 1000 homes have been lost (so far). Everyone is already patting themselves on the back. But we are only a couple of wind shifts away from a "real" disaster.

Right now, Congressman Darrell Issa is saying that "every asset in the country" was available for us, because fire season hasn't started anywhere else yet, and "it was the first big fire of the season."

We saw one of the planes arrive on Saturday evening -- a huge four-engine seaplane that looked like the Spruce Goose (but with only two engines on each side, instead of four). But where were the rest? They didn't arrive for three more days.

Everyone -- EVERYONE knew this was coming. Everyone knew when, too. The whole region had 24 to 48 hours to prepare. To pretend that we were prepared is preposterous. And to say that we're good at beating these things now is equally absurd.

Congressman Issa is saying: "We're not New Orleans." It sounds good, but we were lucky, too.

With San Onofre, the time to prepare was yesterday. Congressman Issa could know this if he tried, but of course, he'll undoubtedly never study it enough to dare to lose political friends and corporate support -- and future elections -- since "anti-nukers" are ALWAYS mocked as "alarmists" and then they are falsely accused of being "unscientific." If Issa, Bilbray, Hunter, and other local Congresspeople in the House, or Boxer and Feinstein in the Senate won't take control of San Onofre AND SHUT IT DOWN FOREVER, who will?

Currently, the Horno Fire covers approximately 10,000 acres, having burned six more square miles since morning, and is still only 40-50 percent "contained." A DC-10 is being used to do some of the air drops in the county. Air drops end each evening -- just when the winds generally die down and they would do the most good, but without sophisticated night goggles and related systems, it's considered too dangerous. And such equipment is considered too expensive to install in a 30-year-old converted DC-10 passenger jet, for instance. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) space-based mirrors could provide the needed light for firefighting to continue without the wind, but NASA is busy launching plutonium-based space probes to look for life on Pluto (and as a cover for military plutonium spy satellite launches).

What if the DC-10 crashed into San Onofre by accident, or because of a nut in the cockpit, like the nuclear submarine crew which falsified documents recently, or the nuclear bomb crew who flew six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles across America without authorization a few months ago?

"Most firefighters were pyros when they were kids" a firefighter told me recently. The guy who said it was one of the guys who is risking his life on the line today. I know him well enough to HOPE he's one of the ones protecting San Onofre.

But there are REAL nuts out there, too. Some of these fires were arson (someone believed to be starting a fire was reportedly shot and killed by police in nearby San Bernadino County).


"Ace" Hoffman
"smothered in SoCal"
Carlsbad, CA

San Onofre now threatened by the Horno Fire on Camp Pendleton:

October 24th, 2007 (am)

Dear Readers,

Like yesterday, I'm still sequestered, only worse, because I-5 North -- the main artery out of San Diego -- is closed, because it runs right by the Horno fire.

Every major highway out of San Diego has been closed at some point in the past 50 hours.

I-5 South, just a few feet west of I-5 North, is open somehow. Obviously, they're playing it very close, they are NOT taking an "abundance of caution" to close this main artery, "just in case."

Since I-5 is the main artery, I can't say I blame them for that. They can always close it if the winds change, right? Right now, winds are below the speed that cars drive (less than about 75 to 80 miles an hour in that stretch of highway most days, and boy am I going to get Californians in trouble for that comment!). The ridge runs East of, and parallel to, the highway. Winds usually (and currently) go West to East -- across the highway and up the ridge..

If the winds change suddenly, it could flood the entire area between the ocean and the ridge with flaming sparks in a matter of SECONDS. Other fires, even miles away, that create their own artificial winds, can cause the sudden wind shifts, so it is NOT predictable.

That's one reason they are now reporting (10:00 am Wednesday, October 24th, 2007) that they've lit backfires East of the I-5, perhaps half a mile inland, on the other side of the ridge above a run of power lines. The highway usually runs only about 300 yards from the ocean all along that area.

RIGHT NOW San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station is being threatened by the Horno Fire on Camp Pendleton. It sits along the thin strip of land which lies between the I-5 Interstate highway, which is just a stone's throw from the nuclear power plant, and the Ocean into which it pours its tritium, krypton, argon, xenon, and more than 100 other radioactive elements, even on a good day (let alone after an accident).

The Horno fire has burned more than 6,000 acres in less than half a day, and the fire is within a few miles of the nuclear power plant, and MOVING TOWARDS IT AS THE WINDS ARE PICKING UP. This is an extremely dangerous situation. Power lines are also threatened.

I expect the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to do NOTHING. I expect the NRC to say, as they did with 9-11, that "it's not our job."

The NRC doesn't put out brush fires -- they aren't the CDF (California Department of Forestry -- aka "Cal Fire"). They don't worry about hijacked airplanes, either -- they aren't the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Go ahead -- next time you talk to the NRC, ask them about the ongoing danger from hijacked jets, and they'll tell you that is not a regulatory concern, not a reason to shut the plants, or to stop building new ones, because it is the position of the NRC that other agencies have solved that problem since 9-11.

The NRC will ignore the possibility of a single engine private plane being loaded with explosives and flown into a nuke plant. They will ignore the possibility of a hijacked private mid-size business jet ("all you need is a wad of cash and a credit card" to rent one and load it with any cargo you want). They will ignore, ignore, ignore these and a million other dangers.

The NRC is a pack of lying, criminally-negligent, industry lapdogs. Yesterday, when I warned about what could happen if San Onofre melts down, the NRC took the opportunity to "unsubscribe" from this newsletter! They are criminally ignorant and blissfully oblivious to the obvious. And they want YOU to remain that way, too.

Please write to the Office of Public Affairs ( and ask them to READ my newsletters, post them online (like I do!), and RESPOND to each one properly!

And please say a prayer for Southern California, which is threatened constantly by San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station -- threatened with millions of deaths, trillions of dollars in damages, and massive quantities of grief and pain, which would make what SoCal residents have suffered so far from these wildfires trivial by comparison. In San Diego alone, there has already been a billion dollars in housing losses (more than 1000 houses lost), about half that many businesses and "other structures" have been destroyed, nearly 500 square miles have burned, about half a million people have been forced to evacuate, and, worst so far: Two deaths and about 10 firefighters and two dozen other people injured -- NOT INCLUDING the hundreds of people, mostly old people, who are already going into the emergency rooms for respiratory illnesses. Citizens will die for years because of these fires.

I wonder if my bladder cancer surgery last August (2007) would have been considered "elective" surgery earlier this week, causing a delay in the operation that saved my life (so far).

It apparently took the efforts of three Congressmen to overcome the bureaucracy keeping military helicopters from helping in the firefighting efforts.

One or two military aircraft were flown yesterday, apparently for PR purposes -- for news cameras to film. But the main fleets remained grounded for bureaucratic reasons.

Once the bureaucratic roadblocks were removed, the equipment -- now more than a day late -- was still nearly 20 buckets short. And it's not certain if those helicopters which don't have buckets will be of any use, since -- at least as of last night -- it's not clear how long it will take the buckets to arrive.

Fortunately, due to the "anti-bureaucratic" behavior of a National Guard general, multiple C-130s were ready to participate in the firefighting efforts. But as of yesterday evening, they were still waiting for fire retardant to be delivered by a contractor. This is the result of "outsourcing" your safety to private companies.

One last thing. They are now reporting (10:30 am, Wednesday, October 24th, 2007) that the transmission lines from San Onofre have gone down "for the third time in the past 10 hours." This one seems longer and more difficult to deal with and they don't appear to expect them to come up any time soon. It sounds like something went wrong with the backfire burn, but they aren't reporting any such thing. Again we are being told, by utility company spokespersons, to turn off everything we don't need or there will be "brownouts and / or rolling blackouts." I've done that. And both sides of I-5 are now open. People have been waiting "for hours" according to the reporter on the scene.

If we lose power, I'll have to turn on the wind-up radio to get the news. But I think the wind-up radio is in the detached garage. If we lose power, I'll hand-write the next newsletter, then turn the laptop on long enough to type the letter, then just turn my computer on (with the battery back-up system) long enough to send it. I wish I had more wind-up lights!

One would HOPE that San Onofre is being shut down, immediately and for the last time. Permanently.

One can HOPE the lesson is learned: CLOSE THESE AWFUL PLANTS and don't open any new ones.

My step-mother just called. She wanted to know "how we are." "We're only being slightly poisoned, but the worst may be yet to come."

Below is my newsletter from yesterday (with two minor typographical errors corrected). The NRC officially ignored it yesterday. Perhaps today they'll listen (but don't hold your breath).


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Subject: Deadly fires in SoCal once again show stupidity of nuclear power:

October 23rd, 2007

Dear Readers,

Right now, I'm sequestered. I can't breath the air out there in the real world. I can't leave my computers on because they heat up the house. I can't go anywhere because most of the roads are blocked and to get anywhere, I'd have to wait in traffic and smoke for hours and hours. I'm stuck.

The cause is wildfires, a natural occurrence. But what's NOT natural is that they are combined with drought conditions due at least in part to global warming. Humidity around here is in the 5% range. Winds upwards of 60 miles an hour send noxious smoke hundreds of miles out to sea each day, only to have it drift back onshore at night. Yesterday was relatively good here in Carlsbad, because the firestorm made its own wind, and that self-made wind actually brought cleaner sea air onshore in a few places in San Diego County, California, and one of those places getting the clean air was mine. Not so today. Today you can't see the sun through the smoke. Today they are telling us -- again -- to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. Today they are telling us that downed transmission lines throughout the county are causing spot shortages of electricity, and to conserve power as much as possible.

My air cleaners are going full-blast. My computers, my televisions, my security system, my phones, my printers, my Tivo -- what to turn off, what to leave on? They say to text message a certain number to get the latest updates but the cell phone lines are all clogged up. They say to go to various web sites for the latest updates but access is slowed down by the tens of thousands of other residents who heard the message. They say they are doing all they can do. Yes, TODAY they are doing all they can do, but in all their YESTERDAYS, when they could have prepared for this disaster, they did VIRTUALLY NOTHING. More than 1000 homes have been destroyed, nearly 300,000 acres have burned, one person has died, and several dozen have been injured, including five firefighters. Billions of dollars in losses in the span of a few hours. The county of San Diego was NOT prepared for the Witch Creek and Harris fires, despite the warning provided in 2003 by the Cedar and Paradise fire!

My stand-alone hard drive is by the door, ready to go. A week's worth of food and water is also ready to go. My most precious historic books are in a canvas tote bag, ready to go. Clothes are in a knapsack. We have batteries, the car has gas, and my four-wheel drive vehicle doesn't have to stay on the pavement -- I can drive right over hill and dale to escape.

But really, there is NO escape. With more than a quarter of a million residents already under mandatory evacuations, not a hotel room within 100 miles is available, and the air is polluted everywhere in Southern California. So here I sit, windows shut, doors shut and paper towels stuck in the cracks, and wet towels along the bottom, and the air cleaners going full-blast.

But what if, instead of smoke from forest fires, it was poison gas from San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station?

San Onofre is a disaster-waiting-to-happen. Just look at it! The old rust-bucket, which breaks down regularly, feeds power lines which run for miles across rugged terrain. if they snapped in high winds, fires, or an earthquake, it could cause a meltdown, because ALL nuclear power plants require OFF-SITE POWER continuously. Otherwise, they have to rely on emergency generators to keep them from melting down, and those generators are, themselves, old rust-buckets.

Two of San Onofre's VICE-PRESIDENTS recently were forced to retire because otherwise they were going to face disciplinary action -- including, probably, BEING FIRED FOR INCOMPETENCE. The nuclear industries' own last resort for quality-control recently put San Onofre on the list of "worst-of-the-worst" -- right alongside Palo Verde, the worst-run nuclear power station in America. A lackadaisical attitude towards training was one reason for the low grades -- people would arrive late and care little. INPO (Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, a voluntary self-regulating organization founded in 1979, in the wake of the Three Mile Island disaster) realized this and didn't like it. And they'll put up with almost ANYTHING.

People are working double-shifts at the plant because manpower is WAY SHORT and there is much work to be done, because the whole place is falling apart with age, even as they are trying to upgrade everything to take advantage of the FREE GIFT that California and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently gave them -- a 20-year life extension to go on polluting, creating mountains of hazardous radioactive waste, and risk DISASTER on an UNPRECEDENTED SCALE for another two decades.

Of course, it doesn't have to be like this. There are clean, renewable-energy alternatives which don't have any of the risks of nuclear power. But NO ELECTED OFFICIAL has enough understanding of the dangers to want to stick their own neck out to save SoCal.

Many of them DON'T EVEN REALIZE that the "spent fuel" is unsafely stored outside the containment domes. They believe the utility when its spokesperson claims that dry cask storage is safe. They believe the utility and the nuclear industry when it claims that Yucca Mountain will soon take all the nasty waste away. They believe the "Health Physicists" when they say that a little radiation is like a vitamin for the immune system, and might prolong life. They believe more research needs to be done. They believe anything they can which will relieve them of their sworn duty to protect California from nuclear disaster.

But like the fires, which come from time to time, there is a time and a place for everything, and if we don't stop taking the easy route today, we'll end up taking the hardest route of all tomorrow.

Air cleaners and wet towels won't stop the deadly radioactive gasses emitted during a meltdown. Millions of San Diegans will be killed. All the cooperation of all the emergency responders won't make a bit of difference. Every hospital will be filled with vomiting, bleeding, dying citizens, and every house will have the smell of death, and every street will be strewn with writhing victims and lifeless bodies. People will continue to die IN DROVES for decades (and in lesser quantities for thousands of years), and there won't be a thing the mayor or the governor can do about it.

No other fate can possibly await us if we don't SHUT SAN ONOFRE IMMEDIATELY.

Today would be a good day to wake up and do what's right. There is supposed to be a hearing today in Oceanside -- probably cancelled due to the fire -- but the person putting it on -- Senator Christine Kehoe -- has had DECADES to learn the truth about radiation and its effects, and about the clean alternatives which are FULLY CAPABLE of replacing San Onofre. But instead she holds more hearings so the Nuclear Energy Institute can tell her that nuclear power is the cure for global warming and for our reliance on foreign oil. (In fact, according to a scientist recently seen on CNN's Planet in Peril program, if the planet were to build 1000 new nuclear power plants immediately, it would not make 1/10th of 1% difference in carbon emissions worldwide. And from his other comments, it was clear he wasn't even against nuclear power! He just knew it wouldn't solve the problem.)

Every year or so, California builds the equivalent electrical generating capacity of ALL FOUR NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS IN THE STATE.

So why can't we close these deadly behemoths? GREEDY OWNERS and LAZY POLITICIANS. There is no other reason.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

"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
�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, d. 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 (Nuclear Physicist)
"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

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Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA