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