Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Date: September 29th, 2009

To: "Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires" <>

Mr. Talley,

In your recent article (shown below) on the future nuclear power in America, you said that $18.5 billion would be enough federal loan guarantee money for "4-5 [nuclear power] plants." Later in the article you claimed that a new nuclear power plant is estimated to cost $5 to $8 billion.

Those are artificially-low estimates. Even just sticking purely to the cost of financing new construction, securing land and licenses, etc., a new nuke plant is liable to cost upwards of triple your low estimate and double your high one if started today. And none of these new plants would have spades in the ground today or next week, or even probably next year. (Thank goodness.)

Have you read what the new PM of Japan wants to do to the U.S.? Basically it's this: Cut us off. Stop loaning us money (stop letting us use them as a military base, stop doing what we ask, etc. etc..). There goes a few trillion in "economic recovery" over the next few years right there!

But perhaps more importantly from your perspective at the moment: Where do you think most of the parts for a new nuclear plant are going to be built? That's right: Japan! So expect to pay double, and then double that again, in the next few years. So $15 - $16 billion is probably low, too. And calling nuclear power a "domestic industry" is a shell game.

(The idea is that we'll just piece the plants together after they get delivered here in large sections. The industry wants the new plants to be modular. Most of the final assembly work will probably be done with foreign workers here on visas! And don't forget all the Reactor Pressure Vessels that have been installed backwards over the years, and all the other construction problems that have delayed deployment, reduced safety, and increased costs -- even with so-called high-quality American labor.)

To claim that $18.5 billion in loan guarantees is enough for 4-5 plants is misleading at best, and, at worst, shows bias in favor of starting new nuclear power plant construction even if we have to lie about what the total costs will be.

Even at $15-$16 billion, or $20 billion for that matter, it's still a lie about the costs. Because nowhere in the "cost" of construction of a new nuclear power plant are the true costs to society: Not just the cancers, leukemias, heart diseases, birth defects, and other ailments that will occur to workers at the plants and/or their families, the communities around the plants, and even to people in Timbuktu, but also costs like: New enrichment plants, new uranium mines, new transport systems, and new "dry storage casks" for the spent fuel if we don't build new reprocessing plants. And if we do, the reprocessing plants will need waste storage facilities and permits to pollute the planet with radioactive carcinogens. Reprocessing wouldn't help at all.

As to a permanent repository: It's proven impossible to find one that can be guaranteed to be safe, economical, or wanted, anywhere. A 20-year-old government panel -- really just a revolving door of nuclear researchers whose entire careers were probably financed by government nuke-related grants -- recently simply gave up. Instead, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board decided to "refocus" their efforts on reprocessing and temporary on-site storage. That's called abdication of responsibility, or more simply: Criminal negligence.

Of course, I've just touched on the problems. I haven't mentioned proliferation, or terrorism dangers, or clean alternatives, or about a thousand other issues. Instead, I'll ask you (and your editors) to please read my book The Code Killers, available for free download at my web site:

I'll be happy to send you (and your editors) a bound, printed (and autographed) free copy upon request. I've distributed over a thousand bound copies, mostly to activists. Several hundred have gone to political figures, and several dozen have also been sent to members of the press. Additionally, hundreds more people have viewed the book online. Here's the comment of one Health Physicist at San Onofre, who recently BOUGHT a copy of the book, having seen a copy in the HP instructors' area of the plant: "You obviously know your stuff." He also said plant management specifically forbids HP instructors from using the book in their employee training classes. Big surprise there, but you needn't be as biased as Southern California Edison's management. In fact, you needn't be biased at all.

I suggest you especially look at: "Steps in the Nuclear Process" (page 12), "What's Worse than a Meltdown" (page 15), "What Else Can (and does) Go Wrong?" (page 16), "How Far Does Radiation Spread?" (page 17), "Nuclear Waste: Your Gift to Tomorrow (page 18), "At Least I'm Insured, Right? (wrong! page 19) and the three pages on the health effects of radiation (pages 20-22). And see Stanley Thompson's comment on page 13, which will never be refuted.

Upon consideration of all these problems, even $20 billion -- a figure I pulled from thin air a few minutes ago, but without a pro-nuclear bias -- would be an artificially-low-balled estimate of the true cost of a new nuclear power plant.

After all, on accident WILL cost over a trillion dollars and probably shut the industry down -- the whole industry -- at least for a while. Or at least it will shut down all the remaining PWRs if it's a PWR that blows its top (such as Davis-Besse's nearly did in 2002) or the BWRs if it's a BWR that melts down for some reason -- perhaps because its overcrowded Spent Fuel Pool catches fire and falls on the reactor and its vital accessories, such as cooling pipes and control pathways.

This is not impossible, just beyond the NRC's Design Basis for what can go wrong. But if a 747 pancakes down onto the SPF of a typical BWR, what do YOU think is going to happen? And if you think that would not constitute an eminent catastrophe, where in the world are you going to find an UNBIASED engineer who will agree with you? What the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says is that 747s can't crash into NPPs via terrorist acts because the TSA and the Pentagon are charged with preventing such a thing, and it is assumed (by the NRC) that they'll do their job. And the NRC also assumes that sane pilots wouldn't do a thing like that.

Of course they wouldn't! Not on purpose, that is. But engines fall off. Control surfaces have separated in midair. Both bird strikes and hail have caused broken windshields and loss of power. Control hydraulics and electronics have all failed, as well as the logic boards and software programs of the modern computers.

Plunging, uncontrolled dives can result from loss of control of an aircraft. A separation of laminates caused American Airlines Flight 587 to dive into the Bronx shortly after takeoff from JFK on November 12, 2001. Pilot error was blamed due to excessive pedal input after encountering wake turbulence, which stressed the rudder beyond its "design limit." But had the laminate not separated, the excessive attempt to keep the passengers comfortable rather than let the plane be tossed around a little wouldn't have cracked the rudder, rendering it useless and dooming the plane.

There was some speculation that luckier pilots might still have been able to bring the craft home using the remaining controls, such as using left/right engine thrust to replicate rudder movement. We can't all be lucky, but we can assume one isn't given control of an Airbus A300-600 without having proven some talent for handling an aircraft.

And everyone who steps into an airplane knows that it's better to be lucky with a bad pilot at the controls than unlucky with a good one.

We can't rely on luck when millions of lives are at stake, even if we need to rely on a bit of it to get a few hundred of us from hither to yon in a tin can at 37,000 feet and 600 miles per hour these days (since far eco-friendlier and safer terrestrial vacuum-tube transport systems haven't been implemented yet, although they were invented and tested long, long ago). To get us to accept nuclear power, we were all promised that talent, skill, a safety-conscious work environment, backup systems, and constant vigilance would remove "luck" from the equation. But any student of the nuclear industry knows that in the end, it's been dumb luck that's protected us. And dumb luck always runs out eventually.

An Airbus A300-600 has a maximum take-off weight of over 375,000 lbs, and a maximum fuel capacity of 18,000 gallons. Even if you subtract the weight of one engine, that's going to make a huge mess if it crashes uncontrollably into a nuclear power plant. And if you want to believe there will be no significant damage, you'll want to also assume the engine itself also plunged uncontrollably but safely somewhere, though in reality, the turbine shafts are the most dangerous part of the aircraft for those under it when it falls out of the sky.

A four-engined Boeing 747-8 weighs about 975,000 pounds, holding more than three times the fuel of the Airbus twin-engined jet. There's lots of things flying around up there that can hurt us.

I hope that next time you write about Secretary of Energy Steven "I love nuclear power" Chu's attempts to use his position and power to help refinance and thus restart the failing and fraudulent pro-nuclear "renaissance" and keep that murderous business firmly entrenched on its pathway to hell, you will consider the alternative viewpoints, and the many scientists and common citizens who hold them.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

From: Know No Nukes by Philip D. Lusk:

Nuclear Loan Guarantees Should Be Doubled -US Energy Secretary
Dow Jones & Company, Inc. - Sep 25

Federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plant construction
should be at least doubled to allow construction of four to five additional
plants, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said late Thursday.

If Congress were to approve this, companies such as Duke Energy Corp.
(DUK) and Progress Energy Inc. (PGN) could be among the beneficiaries of the
new loan guarantees.

Chu, in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires, said additional nuclear
power plant loan guarantees would help rejuvenate a domestic industry and
cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Although companies have submitted 18 new nuclear power plant license
applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy
only has authority for $18.5 billion, enough for four to five plants.

"If you really want to restart the American nuclear energy industry in
a serious way...we [need to] send signals to the industry that the U.S. is
serious about investing in nuclear power plants," Chu said on the sidelines
of a conference here.

Chu didn't say when he would formally propose such an expansion.

Republicans have urged construction of 100 new nuclear power plants.
While not going that far, Chu said "there's real interest out there [for]
another four to five or more, we could easily do."

"It's part of how we're going to get to the carbon reductions we need
in order to avoid the worst of climate change," Chu said.

Earlier this year, the DOE narrowed the list of proposed new nuclear
power plants it's considering for the limited loan guarantees, pointing to
the ones farthest along in the license application process.

New reactors at Southern Co.'s (SO) Vogtle plant in Georgia, SCANA
Corp.'s ( SCG) Summer plant in South Carolina, Constellation Energy Group
Inc.'s (CEG) Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland and NRG Energy Inc.'s (NRG)
South Texas plant are among the projects still in the running for federal
loan backing. Constellation is developing the Calvert Cliffs reactors as
part of UniStar Nuclear Energy, a joint venture between Constellation and
Electricite de France SA (EDF.FR).

"We definitely welcome it unconditionally," said Mitchell Singer, a
spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute. "We've said for a long time now
the loan guarantee program is remarkably unfunded."

Under the loan guarantee program, the government promises to assume
the companies' debt obligations if they default on loans for the nuclear
projects. Given rising construction costs exacerbated by a growing supply
crunch for qualified engineers and specialized nuclear power plant parts,
industry officials say new projects are unlikely to be able to move forward
without government assistance.

Pressing for new nuclear power may help the administration win over a
handful of Republican Senators needed to help pass a landmark climate bill
into law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for example, supports a cap on
emissions in principle, but said government support for nuclear power is
essential for him to consider backing a bill that would cut greenhouse

The Energy Secretary said the loan guarantees would help revitalize a
U.S.- based nuclear industry, given that most of the major companies that
build reactors are now owned by international companies.

"It's also an American leadership issue," the Secretary said. "We were
the pioneers in the nuclear industry...We are no longer the world leaders,"
he said.

Several companies, such as Exelon Corp. (EXC), have suspended their
reactor license applications, citing difficult market conditions, including
the dearth of loan guarantees and unresolved long-term waste liabilities.

New nuclear power plants are estimated to cost $5 billion to $8
billion to build. With such high upfront capital expenditures compared to
the firms' market capitalization, financing is extremely difficult.

Marshall Murphy, Exelon's director of nuclear communications, said
additional loan guarantees would be encouraging. "It would certainly one factor that would be trending positively."

Other companies that have applied include a joint venture between TXU
Corp. ( TXU) and Energy Futures Holdings Corp., Dominion Resources Inc. (D)
and PPL Corp. (PPL).

Earlier this week, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Gregory Jaczko said on the sidelines of a Platts Energy briefing that the
agency was revising its license application schedule. Several applications
would likely be delayed because more technical work from the companies was
required, he said. Jaczko declined to elaborate.

-By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; (202) 862 9285;


Quotes collected by Ace Hoffman:

"Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details." -- Paul Brians (author; quote is from: Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction)
�When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.� -- Sinclair Lewis (first American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, 2.7.1885 - 1.10.1951)
"There is no such thing as a pro-nuclear environmentalist." -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa, 1992)
"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." -- Sun Tzu (Chinese general b.500 BC)
"The most intolerable reactor of all may be one which comes successfully to the end of its planned life having produced mountains of radioactive waste for which there is no disposal safe from earthquake damage or sabotage." -- A. Stanley Thompson (a pioneer nuclear physicist who later realized the whole situation)
"Any dose is an overdose." -- Dr. John W. Gofman (another pioneer nuclear physicist who saw the light (9.21.1918 - 8.15.2007))
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery." -- Octavia Butler (science fiction writer, 7.22.1947 - 2.24.2006)
"If you want real welfare reform, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to reduce poverty, you focus on a good education, good healthcare, and a good job.

If you want a stable middle class, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to have citizens who can participate in democracy, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

And if you want to end the violence, you could build a million new prisons and you could fill them up, but you never end this cycle of violence unless you invest in the health and the skill and the intellect and the character of our children. you focus on a good education, good health care and a good job.

And other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything."

-- Paul Wellstone (US Senator, D-Minnesota, 7.21.1944 - 10.25.2002)
"There are no warlike peoples - just warlike leaders." -- Ralph Bunche (8.7.1903 - 12.9.1971)
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." -- Thomas Jefferson
"Please send this to everyone you know!" -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes, January, 2008)

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Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers: An Expose
Carlsbad, CA