Sunday, December 26, 2010

Things are, once again, worse than ever at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station...

December 26th, 2010

Dear Readers,

It always breaks my heart when I hear nuclear workers say they wouldn't be doing it if they thought they were putting their children at risk. These same workers take their children to McDonald's. No risk there, huh? A disproportionate number of them smoke tobacco, and inevitably, their children become smokers more frequently, too. They likewise ignore the dangers from CT scans, x-rays, sunlight and tritium, and they, and their children, get cancer and die, just like the rest of us. Death leaves no voter behind. Even if they "wise up" as they whither and die, it does society no good. Their voting days are done. Today, they might be on the local school board, stopping opinions they don't agree with, and a long-time employee of the nuclear power plant. But tomorrow perhaps, they'll feel a sudden pain that won't stop, or they'll cough up blood, or -- like me -- they'll piss blood, and then their life changes.... but all too often, it's too late by then.

And they don't know if it was the cigarettes or the hamburgers or the x-rays or the CT scans or the sun or their job or something else, but it doesn't really matter, it's over. And if they DO survive, a lot of times, radiation is given in ample quantities before, during, and after treatment, and it's hard to complain about getting too much radiation when the doctor's telling you he thinks he sees a lump... Radiation to find the cancer. Radiation to cure it. Radiation to be sure it remains gone. Radiation to prevent its recurrence. Radiation to keep the hospital's liability down.

The main key to cancer survivability is early detection followed by timely and skilled medical care. No infections, no tools left inside the body, all the holes sewed up nicely. No matter how good it gets, it's not nearly as fun as not getting cancer in the first place.

Many, if not most, cancers are the result of a series of changes in the DNA structure. Although the final initiating event will likely be one random change to the DNA of one cell in the body, out of 10s of trillions of cells, frequently many cells are in the "pre-cancerous" stage by then, which makes "curing" cancer very difficult indeed.

On Tuesday, December 14th, 2010, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a Special Hearing on San Onofre's ongoing problems with worker honesty, integrity, and related morale issues. The dangers to children from environmental radiation were not discussed, although they should have been. Scores of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station workers showed up at the hearing, wearing "SONGS" dress shirts, polo shirts, jackets, patches, name tags, and/or beepers. The CEO of Edison International (the parent company of Southern California Edison (SCE), which operates the facility (with a lot of sub-contractors such as Bechtel and The Shaw Group)), had flown in, and he sat in the front row along with several other Edison corporate celebrities and NRC mucky-mucks, as well as a couple of recently-retired, 25-year SONGS veterans who are now whistleblowers.

Facing the audience were four SCE executives at one table -- the top one yet another new guy -- and four NRC inspectors at another table. At its peak, there were about 150 people in the room.

During the "formal" part of the meeting, we were told that all the important "metrics" show improvement, and nothing unsafe is happening at the plant. The NRC feels that they are getting the proper feedback from the utility workers so that they can maintain a "Safety-Conscious Work Environment" ("SCWE") and proper regulatory control. We were told that all the workers now carry a "blue book" which tells them how to behave, and many members of the audience held up their "blue books" to show that they carry them all the time, along with their beepers.

However, when the public comment period began and the whistleblowers started speaking out, a completely different picture emerged. Things are, once again, worse than ever at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Regarding the steel I-beam that was dropped into the spent fuel pool last month (which I had written about in a previous newsletter), we were told that it "only" weighed about 40 pounds. The NRC assumes that even if the I-beam had fallen vertically it wouldn't have been able to damage a 1,400-pound reactor fuel assembly, considering that the reactor fuel assemblies are designed to withstand a second reactor fuel assembly falling on top of them vertically at "terminal velocity" through water.

We were told that even if a fuel leakage issue was somehow caused by such an accident, or any "foreseeable" accident, the radiation would be contained inside the spent fuel pool building, which is very large and "negatively pressurized."

Of course. in order to have negative pressure, you have to suck air out, at least somewhat, because everything leaks, at least somewhat, and people have to go in and out through doorways, and fuel has to go in and out.

Fans draw the excess air out, but not to worry: Everything goes through a HEPA filter! HEPA filters were designed for the nuclear industry, and the standards are written by the Department of Energy (DOE).

So just because they can't even stop a 40-pound I-beam from falling, there's nothing to worry about, because they'll still achieve a 99.99% containment of any radioactive crud that is released, thanks to the HEPA filters, right?

Well, not quite.

To use the word "HEPA" when you market your filter, you are required to achieve a 99.97% filtration of particles larger than 0.3 microns in diameter. At 99.97% efficiency, 3 out of every 10,000 large particles gets through, which can quickly add up to trillions of large particles "legally" getting through the filter. Most of the particles that are released above 0.3 microns will be right around the 0.3 micron size.

Anything smaller than 0.3 microns isn't required to be stopped at all, and of course, any accident will release a spectrum of particle sizes, and many accidents are likely to have average particle sizes in the 0.1 micron size. So HEPA filters aren't all they're cracked up to be! And industry standards are three times weaker than what you probably would go buy yourself at the store.

As a HEPA filter is used, the average particle size it can stop will get smaller as material cakes around the filter material, while the pressure to push air through the filter increases accordingly. If the caked material reacts chemically with the filter material, it can damage the fibers and greatly reduce the effectiveness of the filter. Radiation would, of course, damage the filter material, no matter what that material is.

A good eye can discern objects down to about 10 microns in size, so what HEPA filters do let through is, conveniently enough, invisible. HEPA filters do not stop ANY noble gases, which don't clump into large particles. AND is it just a coincidence that noble gases that might be released in an accident aren't normally measured, reported, considered, or believed to be any cause for concern? Noble gases are generally considered "harmless" because the body doesn't utilize them in any way. But the body absorbs them "accidentally" all the time, so they are in the body at a fairly constant rate.

HEPA filters also won't stop tritium. A single gram of tritium will undergo about 370 trillion (370,000,000,000,000) decays per second.

Fortunately, when they dropped the steel I-beam, it didn't get jammed beside a fuel assembly, which then got damaged as they tried to remove it... I'm just saying, it COULD have happened... Nothing went wrong THIS time. And the NRC feels they learned something.

Did they learn that since 40-year-old steel hooks fail (that's the probable age of the part) that perhaps the whole rest of the plant is falling apart, embrittling unexpectedly, deteriorating from the salty air, the radiation, the heat, the humidity, father time, and poor maintenance?


Instead, the utility replaced the hook and the NRC made a generic new rule: Lanyards should be used for lifts over the spent fuel pool.


Which reminds me of the (true story!) guy who was demonstrating safety procedures for a class of young mountain-climbers. He cut his main rope in order to show how the safety rope will catch you safely.

Only it didn't, and he fell 40 feet to his death.

Lanyards break, too.

At the nuclear power plant, the "Standard Operating Procedure" is that there is no such thing as a warning sign of an upcoming catastrophic failure. There are just "lessons learned." So here we sit, at the brink of disaster, and all we have are "lessons learned"!

And actually, we don't even have THAT!

Why not?

Because one lesson learned at San Onofre over and over again is that the records kept by the employees there are NOT ACCURATE! So whatever lessons COULD be learned will soon be forgotten.

I'm sure there are still a lot of good people left at San Onofre.

Let's guess that 90% of the workforce are decent, honest people. That seems kind of high to me, but if that's the case, then about 200 to 300 people, depending on how many contractors are on the staff at any one time, are dishonest at San Onofre. That leaves a lot of room for fraud and deceit!

But even if 99% are honest (a hopelessly optimistic number, judging by the "human factors" problems they are having at the plant) that would still mean that 20 to 30 people are running around the plant faking things, covering up problems, pretending everything went well when it didn't, not finishing jobs... how many screw-ups does it take to cause a meltdown? Just one.

A year ago I heard about problems with integrity in dry fuel cask fabrication, problems of not performing work to specifications. The whistleblower, a long-time San Onofre employee, was also a former Los Alamos technician and a former Marine sniper as well. Now we're hearing that pressure tests (which I assume should normally follow cask fabrication) are being done improperly too.

How DO you spell "recipe for disaster"? SONGS.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, a bladder cancer survivor, has been studying nuclear-related issues independently for about 40 years. He is an educational software developer and author of THE CODE KILLERS (an in-depth look at nuclear power), available as a free download from: .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Corrected venue for the San Onofre hearing tomorrow... (12/14/10)


Dear Readers,

The venue for tomorrow's San Onofre Safety hearing is going to be Dana Point again, NOT San Clemente as I had indicated in yesterday's newsletter.

I apologize for the error. The correct information is included in Gary Headrick's San Clemente Greens San Onofre SOS newsletter, shown below.




From: "Gary Headrick" <> Subject: SC Green - SONGS Update - SOS Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2010 14:37:28 -0800

Once again, our San Onofre Safety (SOS) issues are being addressed by the NRC at a public meeting Tuesday night, and once again, I expect to hear how the NRC will continue to apply meaningless consequences to these significant safety concerns. If you want to attend, the meeting takes place at the Double Tree Hotel on Tuesday, December 14 from 6:00 to 9:00pm at Doubletree Guest Suites Doheny Beach, CA 34402 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, CA 92629. But if you want to do more than just attend, fill out a card when you first come in so you can make a brief statement for the record. Perhaps you'll have a few questions about the incidents mentioned below. If this is any indication of what the NRC considers safe, you can only wonder if things at SONGS are actually much worse than we've been told. Here are the details of our conversation with the NRC and a link to a news article showing how different the media covers this topic.

YOU MUST READ THIS IF YOU WANT THE WHOLE TRUTH! I am disappointed to see that only part of this story is being told. I brought this matter to the attention of Paul Sisson, writer for North (SD)County Times and it seems he has overlooked the main point of my message. My wife and I spoke personally to the NRC officials after being tipped off by an insider, and contacted him about it to alert the public to a very near miss, because we may all be running out of luck! A nuclear disaster is just waiting to happen, and when it does, Southern California will never be the same. As an individual living near to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) I have done my best to communicate troubles at the plant being exposed by whistleblowers to me because I am Co-founder of San Clemente Green, and they feel threatened by going to the usual authorities.

The most recent troubling event took place on November 24th, Thanksgiving Day, (I don't know why the article says the 25th). An employee contacted me on November 30th to ask, " Do you or anybody in your organization have any information about the accident at SONGS last week where an employee dropped a 4ft piece of steel into the spent fuel pool?" I immediately looked into it by contacting Greg Warnick at the NRC, with whom I have developed an open line of communication.

On December 6th, a conference call was arranged between myself, my wife Laurie (the other co-founder of SC Green), Greg Warnick (Sr. Resident Inspector), Victor Dricks (Sr, Public Affairs Officer with the NRC), and Ryan Lantz (NRC Branch Chief). Greg did most of the talking, and was very forthright in his assessment of the situation. In a room where anyone entering must first be inspected for having lanyards attached to any loose articles such as hat and glasses to prevent anything from falling into the spent reactor pool, a steel I-Beam fell from a crane into a pool 23 feet deep, only causing minor damage to the racks below because it fell horizontally instead of vertically. Had it fallen in the vertical position, which was the process being simulated with the beam, testing the crane as required before actually lowering a batch of spent fuel, the damage to the spent fuel containers at the bottom of the pool could likely have released an unknown quantity of radioactive gasses. This would have resulted in an immediate shutdown and evacuation of the premises, causing a chain of events that one can only imagine. I said,"this must have been an adrenaline moment for all involved", and Greg responded "it certainly was, knowing what could have happened".

It might surprise you to know that the official NRC Significance Threshold regarding this incident was MINOR and did not require reporting to the public. This qualified as a Low Level Issue according to policies and procedures of the NRC. They identified it as a "Procedure Vulnerability" which needed further evaluation, recommending things such as tethering the beam to prevent it from falling should the hook ever fail again.

You may be also be interested to learn about the accidental release of 14,000 gallons of "low level" radioactive water on November 17th. Greg said that people who work at the plant are very emotional about this and feel let down by management, (it would certainly be interesting to hear their stories). The list of problems like this goes on, and they always fail to reach the level of significance one would expect from an agency whose purpose is to protect the public. The safety track record of this plant is appalling, and yet the same corrective actions for violations is applied time and time again, which amounts to nothing more than the NRC telling Southern California Edison that they really have to do something about it or else there will be even more inspections in the future. The possibility of actually closing the plant is never seriously being considered, even if only long enough for management to get a handle on the culture of fear employees have for reporting concerns as was cited in the "Chilling Effect" letter issued by the NRC last spring.

Further raising the odds for a disaster, the power plant is currently undergoing an accident prone procedure to replace the old generators in Unit 3, essentially adding a new, more powerful engine to an old chassis and hoping it all holds together. The plant was designed in the 50's, constructed in the 60's and originally planned for decommissioning in 2013, which lobbying efforts have succeeded in extending to 2020. All of this is taking place at the plant that has ten times more safety infractions than any other nuclear power plant in the United States. There is a persistent culture of fear in contradicting management, and there is an influx of 1000 new workers assigned to the task. Only 3 inspectors are on site being responsible to oversee the activities of more than 3000 employees. A new man is at the helm, the second replacement in less than six months, but we are proceeding at full speed ahead before addressing the problems so widely known. These are the kind of red flags so often referred to in the aftermath of tragic events that might have been avoided.

I hope all of this information is sufficient enough to warrant further investigation. A quick search on the internet will reveal the depth of this problem. This truly is a matter of tremendous impact on life on the entire Pacific Coast of a magnitude far greater than the BP oil spill. It is still avoidable, but only if people in high places will listen and react appropriately. Locally these concerns fall on deaf ears because many in San Clemente are directly or indirectly tied economically to SONGS, and all of us homeowners stand to lose considerable property values when trouble at SONGS is exposed by the media. It is the media that should be the single most effective means of finding a resolution prior to this pending disaster by making it public knowledge. They have the power to give voice to the workers at SONGS who are raising the same types of concerns that BP employees had expressed before lives were lost and the worst environmental disaster of our times continues to persist well into the future. The huge difference is the complications that radioactive waste contributes to the problem. We need your help in exposing this dreadful truth now before our luck runs out!

Seriously, Gary Headrick San Clemente Green Greg Warnick , USNRC, Sr. Resident Inspector, 949-492-2641 --------------------------------------------------------------

SAN ONOFRE: Latest progress report on nuke plant set for Tuesday


By PAUL SISSON - | Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010 5:37 pm

Federal regulators are scheduled to update the public Tuesday on progress in solving what they have said are ongoing problems with worker performance and the safety culture at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a meeting at a Dana Point hotel with executives from Southern California Edison, the plant's majority owner, to discuss ongoing inspections and findings that have resulted in increased scrutiny for San Onofre over the last two years.

In the meantime, a plant spokesman confirmed that a 4-foot metal beam was dropped into a spent fuel pool at the plant during a "routine test" on Nov. 25.

Plant spokesman Gil Alexander said in an e-mail that workers were testing a lift mechanism inside a fortified building next to one of San Onofre's twin containment domes when the bar "became detached and fell a short distance into the pool."

Alexander said the incident "caused no injuries or damage to the fuel stored in the pool."

He said Edison intends to use the unexpected drop as a learning experience.

"We take this incident very seriously even though it posed no risk to workers or the public," Alexander said. "We have put into place a number of corrective measures to prevent its reoccurrence."

Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the NRC, said in an e-mail Thursday that the federal agency agrees with Edison's assessment of the incident.

Some of the plant's most sensitive and volatile material, spent uranium fuel, sits at the bottom of San Onofre's two fuel pools. An Edison spokesperson said in 2004 that the fuel takes two to four years to cool after use, and must be kept at the bottom of the 45-foot-deep pools for seven to 10 years until its radioactivity diminishes enough for it to be stored in dry casks housed in above-ground concrete bunkers.

The Nov. 25 incident was not the first recent slip inside the plant's fuel storage area. According to a previous NRC report, released in May 2009, found that, in August 2008, a worker temporarily misplaced a fuel assembly inside one of the plant's pools.

Reports have also highlighted other issues at San Onofre, from falsified fire watch logs to incorrectly connected backup batteries that went undetected for several years. The problems have led to increased inspections and public pressure on plant management.

In a series of public meetings since 2008, regulators have said that San Onofre managers should do more to help workers learn to detect and prevent minor problems before they grow into major problems.

Tuesday's meeting will be the latest progress report from the federal government on how far San Onofre's work force has moved toward meeting that goal.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Trestles Room of the Doubletree Guest Suites, 34402 Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point.

Call staff writer Paul Sisson at 760-901-4087.



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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The lawless mob at San Onofre... testimony by the spouse of a Licensed Nuclear Reactor Operator...


Dear Readers,

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has finally announced the date and location of the special hearing on San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's ongoing -- AND WORSENING -- problems -- problems with honesty in the workforce, from top to bottom. The announcement was made just a few business days before the event. If they really didn't know the date earlier, what is that late notice costing the public in short-notice airfares and hotel bookings? If they knew and didn't notify the public earlier, what excuse is there for such short notice, besides to try to keep us from showing up at all?

The date is this coming Tuesday, December 14th, 2010, and the location is the usual location in San Clemente which they use alternatively with one in Dana Point [correction: it will be in Dana Point...], both of which are way too small by at least half -- depending mainly on how many San Onofre employees are cajoled into attending -- they are there to overwhelm the activists for the media, and to impress the NRC with their enthusiasm for their jobs. The length of time that people can speak will be determined mainly by how many of those employees think they can speak coherently for a few minutes in favor of nuclear power -- not an easy thing to do, especially knowing your comments might end up on You-Tube these days...

In any event, this hearing is too little, too late. The NRC will hear tales of token improvements and excuses for why there is no real improvement (such as, the boss is new and has to get used to the environment, the people, the plant...).

These are the same tales we've heard at EVERY ONE of these hearings for three, four, five years...

The problems started long ago, before the plant was built.

For example, everyone knew it was located in an earthquake zone, with new faults literally popping up all over Southern California all the time. Yet they chose to build it anyway. And sure enough, the dangers from newly discovered earthquake faults are being ignored by the reactor operators and the regulators.

Everyone knew the population around San Onofre would grow tremendously over the years. Yet they said it was isolated from population centers.

Everyone knew there was nowhere to put the deadly used reactor cores after the 5 years or so of being irradiated within the reactor. (About one third of the "pile" is removed every 18 months.)

The "spent fuel pools" are located outside the reactor containment domes, vulnerable to fires, floods, tsunamis, airplane strikes, earthquakes and YES -- they even knew about "terrorism" back then.

Yet they built the reactors anyway.

The pools were promised to be only TEMPORARY storage for the deadly waste.

The waste would be taken offsite as soon as it cools sufficiently for "safe" transport, they said.

It wasn't.

It isn't.

It won't be.

It can't be.

Thousands of tons of deadly reactor cores at San Onofre stand as the most concentrated lethal hazard anywhere in California, except of course, a similarly-sized and situated hot pile at Diablo Canyon, and a few much smaller piles scattered in several other places around the state. No chemical plant comes close to the potential for deaths downwind and downstream of these facilities. And, no other type of facility is so poorly regulated, so under-insured, so secretive.

Despite all these known dangers (and many more), people built nuclear power plants anyway. And they've been running with a minuscule level of public and government scrutiny since then. The newspapers and other media only report on the generic idea that nuclear power is opposed by "environmentalists." Such reports ignore the fact that, for the species to survive, for the most part, we ALL have to be environmentalists, and thus, not surprisingly, the majority of the population has always opposed nuclear power -- especially the majority of well-informed, educated, literate (!) citizens. Scientists, doctors, economists, lawyers... just about everyone who is not making money directly or indirectly from nuclear power can see good reasons to oppose it, or at the very least, not support it. And the more people know about available energy alternatives, the less they side with nuclear power. Wall Street has never seriously endorsed nuclear power despite massive financial support from government.

Right now, San Onofre is at the bottom of the list when it comes to "well-run" reactors. It has what's known as an "INPO-4" rating -- the bottom of the heap, as judged by the commercial nuclear power reactor operators themselves.

San Onofre is plagued with fraud problems, intimidation problems, and would-be whistleblowers who are afraid to talk to other workers, their union chiefs, their bosses, their bosses' bosses, the NRC, the media, or the public, for fear of retribution. So the complaint count goes down and the NRC is happy. Then, if the complaint count goes up, the NRC is happy because it shows that employees are cooperating with the NRC by filing more complaints -- never mind that it might just as well show there are simply more problems than ever. The point is, either way, the NRC takes it as a sign that things are getting better!

Right now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hasn't got a clue as to what to do. We know they don't have a clue because they've been trying everything for years and years and things just keep getting worse. And they can't even schedule a public hearing and then give the public a proper chance to be heard! Or, presumably, pay reasonable air fares.

We'll get our three minutes to speak -- maybe two if it's crowded. The NRC and the utility company executives -- mostly new ones -- will carry on for an hour or more, saying they are measuring the performance levels carefully, and things are looking good.

They'll say that the I-beam that was dropped into the spent fuel pool last month wasn't significant. The what?!?

Just a few years ago the spent fuel pool was so full that the beam would almost surely have landed on some reactor cores, possibly causing the deaths of millions of local residents including everyone at the plant. But since they got the cores out in the nick of time, the I-beam dropped into the spent fuel pool wasn't significant! Those hundreds of core assemblies that have been removed from the spent fuel pool have been put into even MORE dangerous "dry casks." The dry casks are vulnerable to all the same risks as the spent fuel pools and the reactors themselves, and more.

The dry casks can even simply catch fire without a spark, because the zirconium cladding on the fuel rods is pyrophoric, and IF one catches fire, chances are they'll all burn until they are gone -- vaporized -- because they are so close to each other, and the fires are so hot, and so unquenchable and so radioactive that no one can come near them -- not in a hazmat suit, not in a helicopter (or both).

They'll just burn and burn and burn...

And the casks are just a little ways back from the sea, and just 50 feet or so above the high water line... AND GET THIS:

These dry casks were built AFTER the earthquake in Indonesia that killed hundreds of thousands of people without a meltdown anywhere (but reactors thousands of miles away, in India, WERE damaged). Waves exceeded 60 feet that day, and carried freight trains miles inland. Freight trains run right by San Onofre.

You'd think they'd know better.

Well, maybe they do. But criminals always know better. That's why we punish them for their actions. Otherwise, we put them in mental institutions. We all know right from wrong, don't we? Perhaps. But at least with nuclear power, we all have to admit: It's complicated. How does ANYONE balance the "need for electricity" with the dangers of any given technology?

Well, cover-ups, fraud, worker intimidation, whistleblowers afraid to come forward, and lies, lies and more lies should help YOU decide! Any industry that needs to be run in the dark is probably a bad choice for the public's energy source. That should be a "given." And in the era of WikiLeaks, it might even be said that any industry that needs to be run in secret is no longer viable.

That I-beam that fell into the spent fuel pool wasn't just a drop in the bucket. The utiliy wanted to keep it secret. And they especially don't want you to know that it wasn't an isolated incident. In 2001 the workers at San Onofre dropped a crane that they were lifting with a gantry in the turbine room, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment but fortunately, causing no injuries. As with last month's I-beam incident, the public would never have found out about the earlier crane incident if a worker hadn't spoken -- against regulations -- to a member of the public.

These were both very serious incidents. The disclosure of the 2001 event made it obvious that neither Cal-OSHA nor even the federal OSHA has any jurisdiction for anything at San Onofre. In other words, no crane experts were overseeing San Onofre's crane operations. Just the NRC, who think they know everything better than anyone else. Cal-OSHA employees, in conversation with this author, didn't even know which jurisdiction (San Diego or Orange County) would go in and inspect the site, IF they were allowed on-site! A spokesperson for the federal OSHA, in a letter to this author, stated that OSHA does not inspect nuclear facilities -- that's the job of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The NRC knows about as much about I-beams and cranes and lifting as it does about human performance factors and how to run an honest shop. Not a thing, apparently.

After the 2001 "crane-drop" incident, Southern California Edison reportedly had to do approximately five million dollars in replacement of worn lifting equipment such as cables and "spreader bars" (the failure to use a "spreader bar" was determined to be the "root cause" of the 2001 incident) as well as training for all employees who might be involved in a lift of any sort. They had to establish new procedures for continued training on an annual basis. It became a costly mistake, because of a whistleblower. Otherwise, it would have been a "small" insurance claim and "business-as-usual" at the plant.

Well, all those fixes didn't fix things forever. Last month, San Onofre's workers nearly killed us all AGAIN.

If they can't handle cranes safely -- dangerous but common industrial machines -- why should ANYONE think they can handle radiation safely?

If they lie about safety inspections, fire inspections, security inspections, etc., year after year (and they have), then why should anyone trust them about anything else?

It's a lawless mob at San Onofre.

Meanwhile, despite the obvious risks it now entails, more and more whistleblowers ARE coming forward. They keep coming forward because -- as a 25-year veteran of the plant told this author in a private meeting more than a year ago (and things have only gotten worse), the people with integrity at San Onofre are becoming very seriously frightened.

We should be, too.

Whistleblowers keep popping up: At hearings, in the media, and in letters to activists. They can't bear to remain "team players" while putting the public at grave risk. It's against their moral code.

Their spouses are also frightened.

Below are two letters I received last week from Bethann Chambers, who is the wife of the Licensed Nuclear Reactor Operator whose compelling September 2010 testimony I recorded and posted on my You-Tube channel last month. No matter how scared you might previously have been that San Onofre is an accident-waiting-to-happen, Mrs. Chambers' letters should put you over the edge.

Yet at the upcoming NRC hearing on Tuesday we'll be told -- as we always are -- that the "metrics" are showing continued and steady improvement in trust, honesty, openness... that there was no "cover-up" about the I-beam, it just wasn't important!

San Onofre is the greatest impediment to a safe SoCal environment there could ever be. It's time to close the plant permanently. One reactor is currently shut down and all its fuel removed for an extensive overhaul. The other reactor is run by overworked, harried, scared employees who barely understand the real dangers we all face because of their "service" to our community, and who are unaware of the clean alternatives that are available instead. We CAN shut THIS plant down forever. And we must. There's simply no one honest enough in this world to run it!

Besides, renewable energy IS ready to take over! From offshore wind farms, from atmospheric vortex engines, from solar rooftops, and even from good-old-conservation -- in California, switching to LED lights, for instance, would, ALONE, allow us to keep the nukes closed forever.

There's just no reason to let this monster keep making more deadly radioactive waste. No reason to keep having hearings. No reason to keep trying. Nuclear power was never financially viable, it exists only on false promises, and San Onofre is a disaster-waiting-to-happen. Shut it down before it kills us.


Ace Hoffman Carlsbad, CA

----------------------------------------------------------- Letter from Bethann Chambers: -----------------------------------------------------------

Date: Thu, 9 Dec 2010

Subject: The Truth about San Onofre from the wife of a Licensed Nuclear Reactor Operator

Hello Ace, I just happened to comes across your blog and a link to a You Tube video of my husband speaking at the September 16th NRC public meeting. Super video clip!

Anyway, since that meeting I have written an article about SONGS, and I've been sending it to every person I can find who has ever written anything about the problems at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

I thought you might be interested in reading it. You also have my permission to post it on your blog, if you want. I really believe that the problems at SONGS have reached a boiling point and the health and safety of workers and the public are in jeopardy.

I also believe that there needs to be much more public scrutiny of how Southern California Edison manages the plant.

Thanks for speaking out. Sincerely, Bethann Chambers

------------------------------------------------------ The Truth about San Onofre from the wife of a Licensed Nuclear Reactor Operator: ------------------------------------------------------

Why the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is a Rogue Beast, and Why the NRC needs to Shut the Plant Down until Southern California Edison can get its House in Order Written by: Bethann Chambers I'm writing this article because I believe the time has come for the public to know the truth about what really goes on inside the security gates at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. My husband, James Chambers, has worked at SONGS for 27 years, and has been a Southern California Edison employee for 25. James was in training to get his reactor operators license when we were married 21 years ago. James is a licensed nuclear reactor operator for Units 2 and 3. Licensed nuclear reactor operators are actually a very elite group of nuclear professionals; there are a finite number of individuals who have licenses to operate nuclear power plants in the United States and around the world. James worked in the operations department for 17 years before getting a position as an Operations Training Instructor. He has also worked in Nuclear Oversight, Emergency Planning, and had been working in the Nuclear Regulatory Affairs Licensing Department, before going on medical leave because of work induced health problems.

Here is a summary of SONGS issues:

* Southern California Edison selected the wrong individuals to run units 2 & 3 right from the start.

* These wrong individuals have been trying to run SONGS like a branch of the military for over 30 years.

* A militaristic managerial style is pervasive throughout all the departments. "Shut up. Do your job, and don't complain!"

* The management litmus test is if some methodology was used in the nuclear navy (back in the day) then it is good enough for San Onofre.

* If a worker raises a concern to middle or senior management they are usually regarded as being a problem. The pervasive management attitude at SONGS is: "If you don't like the way we do things, then get lost! Take a hike to another nuke plant if you don't like the way we do things here."

* Most senior managers can best be described as "Rough old dogs that are not going to learn any new tricks."

* The 12 ½ hour rotating work schedule from dayshift to graveyard shift for the operations department can best be described as: unhealthy, destabilizing, and unsafe.

* SCE has consistently forced its employees to work an excessive amount of overtime. During refueling outages in the 1990's my husband routinely worked 75 hours per week which is 6 days of 12 ½ hour shifts with one day off per week. This type of schedule is worked for months at a time. It is an established fact that worker fatigue is one of the leading causes of industrial accidents and poor performance; but SONGS management obviously does not care. The NRC actually had to create new worker fatigue laws to prevent nuclear workers from working an unsafe amount of overtime.

* Management bullies its non-union SONGS workers to put in extra hours, but these extra hours are for free and compensation is never provided. A class action lawsuit (Stannard vs. SCE) was recently settled quietly out of court. Employees were told that they could not enter any overtime on their time cards as "uncompensated" and they were never paid or given compensation time for any extra work they did. Workers who were members of the Emergency Response Organization remained on call and within 60 minutes of the plant for a week at a time without any compensation. SCE will now be paying all the participants of the lawsuit for their overtime work; something SCE should have done from the start.

* The pervasive management attitude at SONGS is if a worker is not willing to work 50 to 80 hours a week for 40 hours of pay they are not a team player nor a dedicated SONGS employee.

* Working an excessive amount of overtime, I believe, was a contributing factor in my husband developing a viral form of spinal meningitis in 1994. Poor ventilation in the unsanitary Control Room, and an unsanitary lunch room were probably the two primary factors which lead to his illness. There has always been a serious lack of concern at SONGS for the health and well-being of the men and women who work in the Operations department. Yet, the Operations department is the heart and brain of every nuclear generating station. If you don't have licensed operators that are fit for duty, you won't have a running nuclear power plant. That is the bottom line!

* Some of the doctors hired by SCE to work at the SONGS medical facility were not well received and were described by plant workers as incompetent.

* Supervisors and managers often become angry when workers call in sick and they are unable to hide their disdain for absent workers.

* SONGS is a poorly maintained facility. Cleanliness has never been SCE's priority. The plant itself is filthy, and full of dirt, trash, clutter, cigarette butts and unidentified tripping hazards. Other nuclear facilities, like the Quad Cities Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois, run by Excelon, looked like a hospital operating room in comparison to SONGS when my husband visited to help out with a performance assessment.

* SONGS workers can best be described as over-worked and under undue stress at all times because of poor management practices.

* Another pervasive attitude is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the enemy. The unwritten rule is that SONGS workers should never speak to the NRC. This goes hand in hand with the militaristic management style. The NRC is the enemy and everyone needs to make personal sacrifices so that SONGS can continue to run without interference from the government. Filing an allegation with the NRC is considered to be "career suicide" by many SONGS workers.

* Workers are often denied their vacation benefits or pressured to never use any of their vacation time. The pervasive management attitude is that working at SONGS is more important than a workers marriage, children, or social life. The attitude is that the SONGS worker doesn't need any relaxation time; they need to be focused on work 24 hours a day and willing to come to work at a moments notice.

* The news media is also the enemy. The unwritten rule is that SONGS workers should not speak to the press or they will be jeopardizing their job. Employees are routinely directed not to share any information with the public because the plant has the worst INPO rating possible and many fear for their personal safety. If a nuclear power plant is poorly rated it means the staff is not competent in operating the facility.

* In the Operations department, individuals must have a reactor operator's license before they can work in the Control Room or hold certain senior positions, but in other non-union supporting departments there are no legal requirements for holding a management position. In these supporting departments at SONGS there are many completely unqualified managers. It seems like the only thing a person needs to do to become a manager is to be the hiring director's good buddy, or a good looking woman. Qualified individuals are often passed up for promotions and pay raises while completely incompetent individuals become managers and department directors. This is a well known practice at SONGS. There are numerous dead-wood managers and directors that no one knows what they do or why they were given their jobs. SONGS has a workforce twice the size of similar nuclear generating stations but is the poorest rated in the nation.

* There are many senior managers who are very knowledgeable about nuclear power generation but they lack the social and interpersonal relationship skills to run their departments successfully. In other words, these managers are social imbeciles who cannot say: hello, good night, or thank you for doing a good job. They treat people like machines. The thing that is so ironic is that even the worker who is socially challenged themselves does not want to work for another socially challenged supervisor because they don't like being ignored and treated poorly either.

* There is a three tiered society at SONGS. On the top tier is the Good Old Boys Club which includes very few women. The GOB's are the senior management at SONGS. The Good Old Boys will usually cover each others backs in every situation. Rarely will one Good Old Boy throw another GOB under the bus. On the second tier are the Company Stooges. The Company Stooges want to be in the Good Old Boys Club, so they will do anything they are told to do including lie for a Good Old Boy. There is an obvious and serious lack of integrity among GOB's and Company Stooges. On the bottom tier are the Worker Bees. The Worker Bees are blamed for everything wrong at the plant. The Worker Bees are generally looked down upon by the Company Stooges and the Good Old Boys as being the lowest form of life at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. If a Worker Bee has a concern or a problem the GOB's and the Company Stooges just blow off or ignore everything a Worker Bee says. Any formal complaints that a Worker Bee might file are usually just swept under the rug and denied. This tendency to ignore worker concerns has lead to a ten-fold increase in allegations filed with the NRC. SCE historically has never corrected any problems until an outside government agency fines the company or requires them by law to correct their work place violations.

* The culture at SONGS is sick; this is the best word to describe the toxic work environment at the plant.

* Senior management at SONGS is in complete denial. They refuse to acknowledge that bad management practices have caused the ongoing downward performance spiral. SONGS is rated an INPO 4 plant and the worst run nuclear power plant in the country. SONGS has consistently been ranked as one of the lowest performers in the area of Industrial safety for over 5 years.

* Many good employees have already left SONGS because they will not put up with the insanity that goes on at San Onofre.

* SONGS received a "Chilling Effects" letter from the NRC in March of this year because SONGS management has made everyone afraid of raising concerns for fear of being retaliated against. If the workers at the nuclear power plant are afraid to raise concerns then the health and safety of the public is in jeopardy!

* It is my sincere recommendation that the NRC should shut down SONGS (order SCE to place both units in Mode 6) before someone is seriously injured or a disgruntled worker does something to sabotage the plant. I believe that the toxic work environment has reached a boiling point, and SCE will not be able to correct any of its Safety Conscious Work Environment problems or Human Performance Cross-Cutting issues until a shutdown occurs. I believe that there needs to be much more public scrutiny of Southern California Edison's management of the plant. For 21 years I have silently stood by my husband, and kissed him good-bye in the morning or afternoon only to see him return home looking half dead, mentally and physically beaten into the ground, after a day or night of working at SONGS. I made a decision, though, following the September 16, 2010 public meeting in Dana Point that I was no longer going to remain silent. What is going on at SONGS is a travesty, and an outrage that needs to end immediately. The only thing my husband has ever wanted was to be able to go to work, do his job to the best of his ability, and be treated fairly by his supervisors and co-workers. That's it!

The four top managers at the September public meeting: Bauder, Sheppard, McCool, and O'Meara sounded like nuclear politicians and everything they said about how they are going to correct their SCWE problem were nothing but fabrications to appease the NRC. It is so ironic that SONGS has always placed people with characteristically poor social skills in charge of departments that have been designated to correct their "social" problems. Upon the recommendation of the NRC, my husband went through hours of mediation with a Cornell University mediator, an SCE corporate lawyer and the SONGS Station Manager: Mr. Al Hochevar. The corporate representative and Mr. Hochevar refused to do anything viable to resolve the retaliation my husband received from his supervisor. And what is worse is that the SCE representatives are either completely ignorant of federal whistleblower regulations concerning protected speech or they were doing a very good job playing dumb. There is no evidence that SONGS management has any inclination to correct any of its Cross-Cutting or Safety Conscience Work Environment issues.

Let me clarify that I am not writing this just because I'm angry and want justice for my own husband. No, I'm angry and I want justice for every mistreated, maligned and wrongly terminated worker at SONGS. After my husband spoke at the September public meeting, the chatter at the plant was that he had "come down hard on the company." Let me clarify that James Chambers did not come down hard on the company. He spoke the truth; there is a difference between being unfairly critical and being transparent about how things really are.

Here's where the rubber hits the road, folks. Senior management at SONGS will never admit that any worker has been retaliated against, bullied, wrongly terminated, nor will they ever discipline any of their bad managers because if they do it will be an admission of guilt and an instant employment lawsuit. So they just keep denying everything in the hopes that the truth will get lost in the shuffle and no one will really know what actually happens at SONGS. SONGS management acts like they don't know why the plant has received an INPO 4 rating or why the NRC has a record number of inspectors at the plant to investigate all the problems. I can tell you exactly what the biggest problem is: It is the lack of honesty! I don't have any problem saying that Southern California Edison aka Edison International (EIX) is a corrupt and immoral corporation. One of the rumors being whispered among workers is that SCE truly does not care about the problems at SONGS; because from a corporate taxes and profit perspective it's better for the company that SONGS is a huge money pit. You see, SCE does not make money by running SONGS in a cost efficient manner; they make money from capital investment. So if SCE has to spend several hundred million dollars on equipment, labor, contractors, advisors and corporate re-education programs it actually ends up being to the company's benefit from a taxes and profit perspective. What is going on at SONGS is really a classic example of a corrupt corporation putting profits ahead of the health and safety of their workers and the public. This is the question that every southern California resident needs to ask themselves: Is this the kind of public utility we want running our primary power source for the region? Let your voice be heard at the next NRC public meeting. ------------------------------------------------- Followup: -------------------------------------------------

Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2010 11:11:18

Hi Ace,

You know, one of the things that I didn't say in my article is that my opinion about nuclear power has changed recently. I really feel that we need to use the natural resources (that God has provided) in a responsible manner; which means that we do not create substances that are harmful to humans, animals, and plant life. Harmful substances would include things like: spent fuel rods, radioactive waste products, Genetically Modified Organisms, vaccines containing mercury for children and adults, etc. You know what I mean. The corporate greed and corruption surrounding the whole nuclear power industry is deep and wide. My eyes have finally opened up on this one. My husband knows several men who have worked for many years in nuclear power, and have become so thoroughly disgusted by what they have seen at SONGS and other power plants that they want nothing to do with it. That's where my husband has arrived. James and I are now teaching our children that they need to be entrepreneurs and have their own business, and not be a corporate slave. The whole idea that a multi-national corporation will take care of its workers is such a lie. Large multi-national corporations only care about making money, and they usually do not care about their workers or the environment. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with earning an honest and comfortable living; but that's not what Edison International is about. Edison is truly harming the environment and the people who live and work in the area around SONGS. Getting the NRC to shut down SONGS for the Safety Conscience Work Environment and Human Performance problems, I believe, is the first step in getting SONGS completely decommissioned. So thanks for taking the time to read my article, and for posting it. I don't know how much influence you or I have, but maybe if enough people are informed of the truth things will change for the better.

Have great day! Bethann

-------------------------------------------------- Newsletter authorship information: --------------------------------------------------

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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A response to President Obama's recent comments about the nuclear industry

November 6th, 2010

Dear Readers,

During a press conference after the elections this week, President Obama made a short reference in vague support of nuclear energy. He said:

"There's been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases. Is that an area where we can move forward?"

Mr. President, the answer is no: There isn't any way to move forward with nuclear power. There isn't any reason to. Nuclear power is incredibly expensive, highly polluting, it risks unstoppable catastrophe every day, and it's a hazard to nuclear industry workers and to the public.

A "commercial" nuclear reactor would cost upwards of 15 billion dollars to build in America today and require massive government subsidies which could be invested in, for example, offshore wind power and transmission lines instead.

Some people want to develop thousands of "small" nuclear power plants for elite communities of perhaps 20,000 homes each. Supposedly they will run for several decades and "only" need their fuel replaced maybe once. But from the moment ANY reactor reaches criticality, lethal quantities of fission products are created: Every atom of radioactive uranium which is split with a neutron to release energy (heat, which is turned into steam, which, a few steps later, turns a turbine to generate electricity) becomes approximately TWO radioactive fission atoms.

Fission products are especially dangerous because many of them have half-lives that are measured in human generations, which gives them time to get into a human being somewhere if they are released to the environment. When the fission products decay, they usually transmute into something which is ALSO radioactive. Each of those isotopes then decays into something which is ALSO radioactive... this decay chain goes on for twenty or more steps. When one uranium atom is split, the result is dozens of separate radioactive events before all the products of that original fission event become something stable (for example, lead). The entire process is very unpredictable but usually takes hundreds of thousands of years, so nuclear accidents last a long time in the environment. Radioactive fallout from atmospheric weapons testing continues today, as does fallout from Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Mayak, Sellafield, and thousands of other so-called "accidents".

ALL nuclear power plants are simply accidents waiting to happen.

As fission products decay and release alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays and so on, all these radioactive emissions are hazardous to all living things AND are also destructive to everything we've ever built -- especially including the computer chips that control the nuclear reactors -- and on which most of our current lifestyles depend!

Fission products build up very quickly, and even "little" reactors would be ideal targets for terrorists. No wonder these are intended to only be used in "gated" communities! Nuclear processes invariably lead us towards a more totalitarian future, which, of course, NOBODY wants -- in part because it won't work. We will never be able to relax... especially if we have to build a police state just to feel safe. It's a fundamental contradiction, Mr. President.

Also, there's the nuclear waste problem. You stopped Yucca Mountain all but dead in its (crooked and rusting) tracks, and set up a commission to talk among themselves about the waste problem, as if it hadn't already been talked about by "experts" for more than half a century! What's new under the sun?

At technology's pace everywhere else, lots. So doesn't it seem ODD to you that the problem of how to properly store nuclear waste still remains so completely unsolved by ANY nation? It's not politics: Some of the nations that can't solve it are dictatorships! And would YOU expect their solutions to work, anyway, considering that WE can't come up with anything that works? And when their solutions fail, everyone globally suffers. A nuclear disaster anywhere is a nuclear disaster everywhere.

There is no way to safely secure nuclear waste from all probable (over time) natural and man-made disasters. You can't stuff a red-hot poker into a paper bag and expect containment. And since ionizing radiation is hotter than a red-hot poker, and cuts through all chemical bonds like butter, the analogy is appropriate. The problem will remain unsolvable and intractable. Permanent safe storage of nuclear waste is statistically, logically, and scientifically impossible. So we have to stop making more nuclear waste. That's the FIRST priority.

The use of nuclear power does NOT reduce our dependence on foreign oil, nor is it ANY net benefit to society. Nuclear power doesn't even reduce the COST of electricity, despite all its subsidies and nearly-free insurance.

The chemicals used to enrich the nuclear fuels from raw ore are the ozone layer's most significant industrial pollutant. Thus, the global increase in skin cancer rates can be attributed at least in part to the global use of nuclear power, although radionuclides which continue to land on everyone's skin from past weapons testing and from other current nuclear operations may also be a significant contribution. And at least one estimate of internal radiation pollution -- which came from nuclear supporters, by the way -- suggests that an average American adult male urinates out about a million atoms of plutonium every day, the vast majority of it from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, some from Chernobyl and other civilian nuclear power releases, some from rocket accidents, some from truck accidents, ship accidents, rail accidents, airplane accidents... and quite a bit was intentionally released, and is still being released from every nuclear reactor globally on a daily basis.

Radiation kills. As a bladder cancer survivor, I know that radiation is an acknowledged cause of that particular disease (and many others). So it seems to me that there could be a connection between the 60 thousand new cases of bladder cancer in America each year and all the unnecessary and unnatural radiation we are each forced to eat, drink, breath, and absorb, including tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a basic building-block of nearly every molecule of every cell in our bodies, including our genetic code. We don't need ANY of our hydrogen decaying inside our bodies (these decays eject an extremely damaging beta particle at nearly the speed of light).

The nuclear industry fails to achieve its promoters' dreams for numerous reasons, including the simple fact that radionuclides invariably leak or are intentionally released from ALL nuclear operations, and radiation is a killer -- and it especially kills fetuses, infants, and babies. Furthermore, it destroys God's greatest gift to mankind: Our DNA. (Or evolution's greatest stroke of luck... take your pick... either way, it's precious...)

Because radiation is implicated in so many diseases, and because the nuclear industry has a long history of accidents, cover-ups, lies and propaganda, rational people will ALWAYS oppose nuclear power. Strong-minded, intelligent, educated, caring citizens all over America (and all around the world) will ALWAYS oppose nuclear power. And the waste problem WON'T be solved -- ever -- because ionizing radiation destroys any container you put it in. Even pure gold wouldn't work -- though it might work better than the relatively inexpensive solutions (costing tens of billions of dollars....) that have been tried, and failed, so far.

The entire planet -- and everyone on it -- is unstable. Yes, I mean earthquakes. But also: Unstable PEOPLE have been found at virtually ALL levels of our military and government over the years, and even within our so-called "national security" forces and "intelligence" forces... there are leaks and always will be, turncoats and always will be, double-agents and always will be, and always have been. Maybe it's the price we pay as a "free" society.

But in any event, it is one more reason that the requirements for nuclear power cannot be met: Perfect security is impossible. Failure-free operation is impossible. A solution to the waste problem is impossible.

EVERYTHING humans build fails eventually... including jet engines made by "venerable" Rolls-Royce, who also make NUCLEAR REACTOR COMPONENTS using the same or similar alloys. Of the two recent turbine engine failures on Quantas jetliners this week, one was a relatively new RR engine on a French-built (mainly) Airbus A-380, and one was an older RR engine on an American-built (mainly) Boeing 747. Catastrophic failures are often predictable and in fact, in nearly every instance in which the cause can be determined afterwards, the catastrophe could have been prevented if the clues and signs had been considered, if proper procedures had been followed and proper inspections had been done, if accurate data had been available, etc. etc.. But in the real world, accidents happen. People fail, and the things we build fail.

There are embrittlement problems regarding our nation's so-called "super" alloys -- alloys that were supposed to save the nuclear industry (and not to mention, the gas pipeline industry and the jet aircraft industry).

In reality these so-called "super" alloys aren't so super, in part because they are very difficult to manufacture correctly, and it's very difficult to tell afterwards if they have, in fact, been made properly. So a lot of lower-quality parts slip through the cracks -- which causes cracks. And most worrisome of all is that these so-called "super" alloys don't always respond very well to a radioactive environment (plus heat and vibration). Keyword phrases include: "self-organizing criticality of alloys" and "avalanches of dislocation on glide planes, which can cause either plastic creep or ductile fracture, embrittlement, etc.." It's why older people often break a hip when they fall, while younger people do not. Younger bones are less brittle. Our nuclear reactors are ALREADY broken. The massive failures are just WAITING to happen, when already-brittle parts are finally over-stressed for some reason.

The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is a perfect example of supposedly good technicians and engineers pushing the "envelope" JUST LIKE AT CHERNOBYL. Some engineers are called "cowboys" because they rely on their "last resort" to work. Others are called safety inspectors because they try to keep the operation well away from the final safety margins at all times.

Luckily, the brash attitude of the British Petroleum workers and their subcontractors in the Gulf of Mexico this year "only" resulted in a blowout of an oil well, not a meltdown of a reactor. But brash attitudes abound at our nuclear facilities, and arrogance does, too.

Also consider this: Currently many of our nuclear reactor control rooms are being "modernized" and computerized.

As a technologist with more than 30 years in the computer industry, you might think I would welcome this. And perhaps I might, if software bugs weren't so often blamed for rockets exploding or flying themselves into various moons and planets they were supposed to circle, and if airplanes didn't occasionally fly themselves into mountains or dive themselves into the ground, and if nearly every banking mistake made in the past 50 years wasn't blamed on computers. (Ahem! Public Disclosure: I used to program computers for a bank...) No, I'm NOT happy to hear that our nuclear reactors are being "modernized." The new components are vulnerable to hack attacks (such as what's been happening in Iran recently -- and all over the world -- including in the U.S. -- with the Stuxnet worm) as well as "random" failures.

Computer-controlled nuclear reactor control rooms sound great. But they are vastly more complex than the old control rooms, and can suddenly "reboot" themselves just when the reactors need them to "think fast" and SCRAM the reactor.

There is no way to guarantee this won't happen. Even though there is such a thing as "Mil Spec" and many companies follow those requirements, nevertheless, even the "experts" can't decide on the exact definition of "MTBF" (does the "M" stand for "mean," "minimum," or "median"? Does the "B" stand for "between" or "before"? And that's just for starters!). Electronic component failure is caused in part by cosmic rays and stray alpha particles -- both impossible to prevent or predict. This is especially true in modern, ultra-high-density computer chips, which are particularly susceptible to an Electro-Magnetic Pulse because the circuits are so delicate and so small compared to the runs of wires on a motherboard or beyond.

Reactors are NOT "hardened" facilities. Previously, they were entirely "hard-wired" (not electronic) and it was thought that, being so, they would SURVIVE an EMP from a nuclear blast. So the regulations didn't demand hardening. Now they are being computerized and modernized, but the regulations still don't demand they be hardened against EMPs. Just one more loophole the nuclear reactor industry wallows in.

Most of our nuclear reactors are using technology envisioned in the 40s, designed in the 50s, sited and built in the 60s, and they have been running (erratically, I might add...) since the 70s. Most are currently held together with bailing wire twisted around things that are falling apart, and toilet paper wadded up with spit to plug up things that are leaking.

Mr. President, there are 1000 things wrong with nuclear power, and you won't fix them in your residency at the presidency, and nor will your so-called science advisors, who apparently are too narrow-minded to even smell the cordite, let alone the cancer... Perhaps it would be better if your advisors were dogs, frankly, since dogs can actually sniff out both of those things!

Mr. President: Last month (October 2010) the National Science Foundation found that the West Coast -- from Alaska to California -- was generally unprepared for a tsunami such as occurred to Bande Ache and other coastal communities around the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004. The NSF report was all over the media, but media accounts never mentioned that our biggest danger is from our coastal nukes. These reactor sites currently store enough nuclear waste to destroy the planet if it were released in an inextinguishable fire -- which a tsunami OR an earthquake (let alone both...) could certainly do.

Spent nuclear fuel storage in coastal communities and/or earthquake zones is definitely foolhardy. But spent fuel storage in tornado zones is ALSO illogical. And under commercial or military flight paths makes no sense either! There's just NO safe place to put it anywhere! So we really have to stop making more nuclear waste. That's the best step forward.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, 54, has been studying nuclear issues since his teens. His educational software products are used in over 1000 universities and colleges around the world.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shocking YouTube video of Sept 16 2010 San Onofre Nuclear Regulatory Commission Hearing...



Dear Readers,

San Onofre is currently at or near the bottom of the heap of well-run nuke plants. The first speaker in this clip is a licensed nuclear reactor operator describing the ongoing lack of a "culture of safety" at the local nuclear power plant. The second speaker is Ace Hoffman, a local citizen. Many of the plant's problems have been ongoing for many years, and even the NRC has been aware of them for some time now. However, nothing the reactor owners, operators, or regulators have been able to do so far has fixed the "culture of cover-up" (and culture of CYA) that pervades the plant and in fact, by many metrics, the problems just keep getting worse! Meanwhile, a billion-dollar upgrade to Unit III is being started, the land where Unit I was is being turning into a radioactive graveyard for nuclear reactor cores, and numerous critical parts will be replaced with "new" parts made in Japan and around the world, of unknown quality. The new steam generators, for example, are EXPECTED to start leaking within just a few years, and will have to plugged up one tube at a time, and each leak will release tritium and other radioactive poisons into the environment... just another day at a nuke plant.

This video clip was recorded at Dana Point, California by the second speaker and his crew.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Silence isn't golden...

July 31st, 2010 (slight revisions August 1st, 2010)

Dear Readers,

65 years ago, on August 6th, 1945, a B-29 airplane called the Enola Gay dropped a nuclear bomb called "Little Boy" over a mostly-civilian city called Hiroshima.

"Little Boy" was a uranium-based nuclear weapon whose design was so simple (rumored to be like a donut on a stick) that it was untested prior to use.

Nuclear warfare had begun. Civilian populations had been intentionally irradiated.

In an instant, hundreds of thousands of people were doomed to suffer and die if they weren't "lucky" enough to be killed immediately by the blast pressure, flying debris, or the gamma-ray radiation burst. Most were not so lucky. 65 years later, they are still dying at accelerated rates compared to "normal" populations.

That type of nuclear warfare ended (for the present time) three days later, when Nagasaki was bombed with "Fat Man," a different design, similar to the test explosion, called Trinity, which occurred secretly in the New Mexico desert a few weeks earlier.

Little Boy used enriched uranium -- enriched in U-235 by utilizing its tiny difference in mass from U-238. The U-235 was separated from the U-238 via gaseous diffusion, through a series of hundreds and hundreds of huge chambers with millions of tiny holes in each one.

Fat Man used plutonium-239, which could be isolated somewhat more easily from the "spent fuel" of a nuclear reactor. The Pu-239 was separated from other elements by chemical means.

There wasn't much of either isotope, and it would have been months before another atomic bomb was ready for deployment. That was the biggest secret of all, and fooled the Japanese into surrendering six days after Nagasaki.

Both "bomb-grade" isotopes (Pu-239 and U-235) are now plentiful around the world. Used nuclear reactor fuel rods ("spent fuel") have gone missing many times over the years. Now both types of bombs can, theoretically, be built by terrorists, rogue governments, or others.

This August 6th (2010) the U.S. Ambassador to Japan is scheduled to attend the annual Hiroshima commemoration ceremony. Ambassador John V. Roos's presence will mark the first time since World War II that a U.S. envoy has visited Hiroshima on August 6th.

"FINALLY!" we might be tempted to say. But what will the American Ambassador's presence at the ceremony REALLY signify?

Apparently, it will signify that America wants to take a business-as-usual attitude towards radiation deaths. They're just more deaths, as far as American foreign policy is concerned: Tragic, but, unavoidable, like all civilian, collateral and "friendly-fire" deaths in a war. The cost of doing business, if your business is war.

Roos was described in the papers at the time of his appointment in 2009 as one of Obama's "best fundraisers" during the presidential campaign. (This was considered meager credentials in Japan.) But he WAS the CEO of an international technology law firm! His vision as Ambassador has been to promote joint business cooperation (often to the financial benefit of nuclear corporations in Japan, which own well-known "American" nuclear firms such as Westinghouse). His tenure as Ambassador flies in the face of the Japanese people's growing awareness of the environmental threats from industry -- especially the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are linked in many ways. One is a target for the other. one produces the other. Both produce the same poisons, just on vastly different time scales.

The fear of a nuclear meltdown caused by an earthquake is so prevalent in Japan that they have a special phrase for it: Genpatsu-Shinsai. The Japanese have come close to Genpatsu-Shinsai more than once.

So have we.

If ever there was something that is "just a matter of time," Genpatsu-Shinsai is it. From bad welds they didn't know existed to worker mistakes that caused criticality events and deaths, to unknown fault lines discovered under operating reactors, Japan has seen all the warnings. And ignored them.

So have we.

And then there's the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. What are Ambassador Roos's qualifications for dealing with THAT? Most Japanese people (or at least their editorial writers) seem to feel it's not enough. Will his attendance at the Hiroshima ceremony change that?

According to a State Department spokesperson, Roos will be at the Hiroshima ceremony to "express respect for all of the victims of World War II." Thus, he will drown the radiation victims in a sea of victims of other atrocities that occurred during World War II. The spokesperson also said simply: "At this particular point, we thought it was the right thing to do." What "point" is that? The point of the Obama Administration trying to ram billions of dollars in taxpayer funding for new nukes down our throats, with large portions of the plants made in Japan? Was it The Pentagon Papers II? What's the point?

Roos's presence for the Hiroshima Day commemoration this coming Friday means that the U.S. Government needs you to just look away and say, "Oh, it's good that we finally did something to acknowledge those poor souls who died in a flash." But don't look any deeper.

Roos's attendance will perpetrate myths and hide truths.

It will perpetrate the myth that civilian deaths during war are inevitable.

It will hide the truth that most deaths from Hiroshima did not occur immediately, but later, from the radiation. These deaths would never have occurred with "conventional" weapons. These deaths are war crimes.

Ambassador Roos could release a statement saying that the use of radioactive weapons WAS a mistake, and they will never be used by the United States again. Of course he won't, but he could announce the reduction of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal by 99.9%. He won't do that either, but even with such a "drastic" reduction, the U.S. would STILL have more than a dozen nuclear bombs at its disposal. How many do we need?

He could state that radiological warfare of any sort is equal to, or worse than, chemical warfare or biological warfare, and is, and always will be, illegal. That's only stating the obvious to MOST people, but SOME people, usually called "Generals," think nuclear weapons are okay, while acknowledging that chemical and biological weapons are not.

Meanwhile, the horror of the aftermath of uranium weapons used in Fallujah and other places throughout the Middle East still falls on deaf ears. Infant deaths, as well as horrific malformations, cancers, and scores of other health effects, have all increased in frequency -- sometimes by more than an order of magnitude. We are approaching the sixth year since depleted uranium (as well as chemical weapons such as white phosphorus) were used in Fallujah.

It's the 11th year since depleted uranium was used in Kosovo, Serbia, and Montenegro. Before that, Bosnia, and before that, Kuwait... (and in 1985, the Israelis are believed to be the first to have used an unknown amount of depleted uranium, at sea).

Depleted uranium is depleted of U-235, but every atom that remains is still radioactive. A milligram of DU, for example, emits about a million decays (alpha particles) per day. The total amount of DU shrapnel fragments embedded in a veteran or civilian victim is often much greater than one milligram. DU is also dangerous, perhaps more so, as a heavy metal. DU dust is easily inhaled, where it can lodge in the lung or be absorbed into the body, and may or may not be excreted, secreted, or exhaled. "Flaming Pee" is a symptom of DU poisoning. And flaming ejaculate, too.

By now, America has used many millions of pounds of radiological weapons. There is an entire gun, the AN/GAU-8a 30mm Gatling Gun -- as big as a car -- which was designed and built specifically to fire depleted uranium penetrator shells as big as your forearm and 1.7 times as dense as lead. And there is an airplane built just to hold that gun, a single-seat twin-engine jet called the A-10 Warthog, built so tough it has THREE of every control system and can fly home on either turbine engine.

The Warthog normally goes out with about 1,000 rounds of depleted uranium projectiles, and can empty the entire ammo belt in under 20 seconds.

Is the use of millions of pounds of "depleted" uranium on an ongoing basis worse than the creation of a few tens of pounds of fission products in the summer of 1945?

The normal radioactive decay sequence of uranium is nearly all heavy metals, and ends in stable isotopes of lead -- after releasing more than a dozen alpha and beta particles. But most radioactive fission products have much shorter half-lives and are biologically indistinguishable from stable isotopes of useful elements.

Do you prefer a hanging or a shooting?

After the atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the hot, spherical cloud had shot up into the chilly upper atmosphere at a mile a minute, leaving a mushroom-stem-shaped opaque trail of dust and a mushroom cap-shaped top cloud, a choking black radioactive rain began to fall on the stricken cities and nearby areas, covering everything and everyone underneath in radioactive soot.

For those who had survived the blast effects and immediate radiation, the misery had just begun...

Vast numbers of Hiroshima deaths which occurred after the war were ignored by the official statistical "bean counters." The United States felt it had a strong interest in minimizing the apparent dangers from nuclear weapons -- and all the data collectors were employed by, and in the service of, the United States Government. Records were improperly maintained, kept secret, and then destroyed. For years, young children who died were simply not counted. Women were afraid to become pregnant for fear of having a deformed child.... Just like in Fallujah TODAY. And TODAY, the U. S. military is doing everything it can to avoid any scientific studies of the increases in cancer, leukemia, birth defects, etc. in Fallujah. History repeats itself.

This August 6th, will Ambassador Roos denounce the horror of testing nuclear weapons, which has left thousands of square miles of wastelands: In Nevada, Mississippi, Colorado, numerous Pacific "paradise" islands, Siberia, Pakistan, India, Australia, North Korea, and dozens of other places?

Will he promise justice for the "Hibakusha" (the Japanese term for the surviving victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)?

Will he compare nuclear weapons to nuclear power plants, and find BOTH equally horrific? Just ask the victims of Chernobyl about what a nuclear power plant can do -- but not the hundreds of thousands who have already perished (latest estimates, published by the New York Academy of Sciences, but denied by the nuclear industry).

Will Ambassador Roos lament in silence, or say a few platitudes, and then get on with business?

We'll see.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, 53, an independent researcher, cancer survivor, and educational computer software designer, has studied nuclear power and nuclear weapons issues for more than three decades. His educational graphic book on the subject, THE CODE KILLERS, is available for free download from his personal web site: . Various educational animations about nuclear power are also available at his web site.

Note: Wikipedia -- which has undoubtedly been carefully edited by both the CIA and working members of the nuclear industry on virtually all nuclear issues -- provides a commentary in their "Little Boy" entry from Glasstone's famous / infamous government publication from the early 1960s called The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, claiming that: "At Hiroshima . . . injuries due to fallout were completely absent." Additional links in the Wikipedia article present a statistical study showing NO increase in cancer mortality among offspring of survivors of the blast. But, typically, data collection for that study wasn't even started until more than 10 years after the explosions! Other studies support the views of this author.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Nuclear Power is the solution" (a statement by Ace Hoffman July 15th, 2010)

July 15th, 2010

Dear Readers.

The following statement was left at Mark Fiore's web site:


Nuclear power is the solution. Except for the accidents, not just meltdowns but spent fuel fires, transportation accidents, terrorism threats... And except for the daily deadly releases, the eternal waste storage problem, proliferation issues, costs, lengthy construction time, a history of lying and cover-ups (look at the (reluctantly admitted) tritium leaks at about 30% of our reactors), foreign-made parts (look at the capacitor problems the have plagued the computer industry, and realize how many of our nukes are running on shoddy parts), over-complexity (look at the oscillating power-runaway issues identified by outside experts but ignored by industry "experts"), plus it's not distributed small-scale power, so when a nuke goes down, hundreds of thousands of people lose power... plus grid-power backup issues (the big Northeast blackout of 2003 was largely due to all the nukes having to shut down when they lost offsite power), the water-use issues (billions of gallons a day are polluted by each nuke, millions of gallons are churned to steam each day; France had to shut down a swarm of nukes due to lack of water a few summers ago). They aren't very efficient even under the best of circumstances, requiring thousands of workers where wind turbines can run virtually autonomously, as can hydro, solar, etc... Also, all our current nukes are old and decrepit, embrittled and rusted, and the plans don't match the reactors anymore, they've been modified so many times and the original designers are long-gone. Fission products kill.

See my book, which can be downloaded free from my web site:


The above statement was originally left at

It currently appears as the top item (a few small typos have been fixed in this version).


Please distribute this document to others and ask that they do the same.... Please do not alter the title or the contents in any way, other than to add any additional comments below if desired. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Monday, April 12, 2010

A spate of earthquakes, a documentary about a plane crash, and an old power plant...

April 12th, 2010

Dear Readers,

A pair of old nuclear reactors operates -- most of the time -- about a dozen miles from where I live. I'm downwind of them a lot of the time.

Recently, two events -- an ongoing series of local earthquakes, and a documentary about a local plane crash -- reminded me what a nightmare-waiting-to-happen nuclear power plants really are.

"SONGS" (as the radiation factory calls itself) stands for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. I call it SONWGS, which stands for San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station. The waste from "SanO" has been building up since the first reactor opened in 1967. That unit operated until 1992, but nearly all its fuel remains on-site and is expected to stay there for the foreseeable future. (The proposed national repository, Yucca Mountain, has been all but canceled by the Obama administration and in any case, is inadequate -- and was more than a decade behind schedule when it was mothballed.)

The strongest of the recent earthquakes (and the only one I felt) was a 7.2, centered in northern Mexico, less than 100 miles from San Onofre. San Onofre is only built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake whose epicenter is no closer than about five miles away. That's hardly the same as a 7.2 earthquake directly underfoot. It's one thing to be shaken, it's another to be ripped apart.

It costs a lot to "over-engineer" a building, but nevertheless the assumption made at San Onofre is that it has been over-engineered to withstand at least a 7.5 trembler, which is much, much worse than a 7.0 earthquake. (On the logarithmic Richter Scale an 8.0 earthquake creates ten times the ground shaking of a 7.0.) Thus, the "experts" are routinely claiming that they are certain that San Onofre has been built to withstand five times more ground-shaking than it is actually designed to withstand! They delude themselves in many ways, and try to delude the public along with them.

Despite assurances, there is NO basis to assume San Onofre has been over-engineered at all, and every reason to think it might not survive a "design basis earthquake" (7.0). For example, many other buildings, built more recently, did NOT survive earthquakes with magnitudes LESS than their design basis. Building earthquake-resistant structures is an inexact science, if not pure art.

The other event which occurred recently, and made me think about possible outcomes of San Onofre's continued operation, was the premier run of a documentary, Return to Dwight and Nile. The documentary covers the 1978 crash -- mainly, the immediate aftermath -- of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182 in North Park, San Diego, about 50 miles from San Onofre. Shown only a few miles from the crash site, the movie brought many in the audience to tears.

PSA Flight 182 was a Boeing 727 three-engine jet, packed with 135 souls on board, originating in Sacramento, the state capital, with a brief stopover in Los Angeles, the state's largest city. On final approach to Lindbergh Field in San Diego, the jet collided with a Cessna 172 which had inexplicably changed course from the heading Air Traffic Control (ATC) had given it. The jet did not inform ATC that it had lost sight of the Cessna, despite having been told by ATC to maintain visual traffic separation. The tower was not using radar even though it was available to them. Just prior to the accident joking and laughter can be heard on the Flight 182 cockpit voice recorder...

Famously, a person on the ground managed to snap two photos of the doomed and plummeting jetliner moments before impact. The photos show the plane at about a 50 degree angle to the ground, right wing down and in flames, visibly gashed. "Ma, I love yah" are the last words on the cockpit voice recorder, coming about one second after the captain told the passengers, "Brace yourself" and a few seconds after his last transmission to ATC: "Tower, we're going down, this is PSA."

Many of the passengers happened to be PSA employees and probably knew that bracing themselves wouldn't have helped. After the crash, pieces of bodies hung from trees and were in piles knee deep in the impact zone. The mushrooming cloud of black smoke was visible for miles. 144 people died altogether, including the two occupants of the single-engine prop plane and seven people on the ground.

The normal commercial airline route from Los Angeles to San Diego overflies San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station. There is a small uncontrolled airport near San Onofre, from whence crazy people have sometimes stolen airplanes. From whence airplanes have sometimes taken off only to crash into the sea less than a mile from San Onofre.

In 2003, in Angola, Africa, someone STOLE a 727 jet! It was never recovered.

At any moment, San Onofre could be hit by an earthquake or by a commercial jetliner, falling uncontrollably or guided by terrorists. And it's simply not worth the risk.

San Onofre's nuclear waste cannot be safely contained or transported. Nor can it be easily or entirely or efficiently or (for that matter...) cost-effectively transmuted, let alone destroyed. Virtually all of the waste ever created at every nuclear power plant in America is still located on-site where it was created -- and NOT even in the famous "containment domes" (only the fuel in the operating reactor is inside the domes, not the waste). The waste currently being stored at San Onofre contains the equivalent potential radiological impact of more than 50,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs. Each operating reactor contains about 1000 Hiroshima-sized bombs worth of radiation. Each year, about 50 bombs worth of plutonium is included in that production of radioactive "byproducts." Rogue country's nuclear power plants do the same...

The vulnerabilities increase daily as more and more nuclear waste piles up with nowhere to put it. Waste so deadly that one sugar-cube-sized chunk of it, if it were dispersed locally, would be enough to contaminate a medium-sized city for thousands of generations and fatally poison tens or hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions.

Waste so deadly that in official public documents describing "worst case scenarios" only a tiny fraction is released -- on the order of 0.001% or even 0.000001% of the total inventory of one shipment or one storage cask (and most of what is released is assumed to remain nearby, in chunks...).

When the atomic bomb was used against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many people died due to the immediate effects of the blast: First there is the intense broiling heat of the gamma radiation burst (which lasted only milliseconds). Then there comes an intestine-yanking, eyeball-popping, object-tossing, window-shard-making concussion wave. That's soon followed by tornado-force winds and the debris they carry, along with horizontal sheets of fire, which suck the oxygen out of the collapsing buildings. Then a rain of radioactive fallout, "hot" chunks, some as big as your thumb, fall from the sky, a black rain, an inescapable, choking dust.

Then, in the aftermath, the lack of proper medication for so many gravely-injured people kills thousands more... But it was the long-term effects of the radiation exposure which killed the most people and which is STILL killing people. And deforming them. And debilitating them. So far, hundreds of thousands have died from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki radiation. Radiation which will keep on killing, because some of the isotopes are very long-lived... and because genetic damage can appear many generations after exposure... and because there is no safe dose of radiation. None whatsoever.

Unlike conventional weapons, which only kill noncombatants who happen to be in the vicinity of the blast, uranium and plutonium weapons kill randomly for many millennia after they are used -- including so-called "depleted" uranium weapons, which are only "depleted" of one radioactive isotope of uranium, but not other radioactive isotopes. The use of uranium weapons in any form is truly a crime against all of humanity. So too is the use of nuclear power to generate electricity, or for propulsion for military vessels.

When Chernobyl exploded and spewed radiation into the water, air and soil globally, "only" dozens of people died from the blasts, the fires, and the gamma radiation at the power plant, and other immediate effects. The entire nuclear industry's success -- such as it is -- is based on the lie that these deaths were virtually the ONLY deaths from Chernobyl. Nuclear power proponents don't even acknowledge the continuing deaths of the "liquidators" -- the brave (though often compelled into service, and kept ignorant about the risks) Russian citizen-soldiers who smothered the flames and built the cement enclosure -- known as a sarcophagus -- around the stricken plant (which leaks and must be rebuilt, and which will need to be rebuilt many times over the coming millennia). The nuclear industry denies that anybody who survived those first few days after Chernobyl's "accident" was harmed in any way. But in fact it is an ongoing catastrophe.

Nuclear power proponents ignore all the damage to the local population around Chernobyl because they say all excess radiation fades to "background" dose levels, which, they say, are harmless. Wrong! Wrong because many types of man-made radioactive isotopes are especially good at getting inside the body, where they can do the most harm. These isotopes are rare or unheard-of in nature but are created in copious quantities in nuclear power plants. And wrong because "natural, background" radiation DOES cause cancer. Adding to the background radiation dose just causes MORE cancer.

According to peer-reviewed scientific studies which have been suppressed in the United States and by all nuclear nations, the real number of dead from Chernobyl may already be over one million, making it by far the worst industrial accident in history. And the death toll from Chernobyl will continue to climb for thousands of generations.

Cancers from a single (brief) high radiation exposure to a population tend to show up in waves: Various types of cancers often have "typical" latency periods before appearing -- they are now discovering types of cancers that only start to show up more than 50 years after exposure! Cancers from long-term exposures presumably also tend to have a latency period, but it's harder to define, and even harder to analyze.

Children in the areas surrounding Chernobyl are especially at risk, not only because of their much-greater sensitivity to radiation's harmful effects, but because they are much more likely to play in the dirt, and are closer to the "ground shine" that still occurs nearly a quarter of a century after the accident, over thousands of square miles of contaminated soil around Chernobyl. (Nevertheless, the most common pathway into the body for radionuclides from Chernobyl is currently ingestion of contaminated food and water.)

Chernobyl is in our blood, in our brains (not just figuratively) and in our flesh and bones. Chernobyl kills silently. We are ALL victims of Chernobyl. Chernobyl must never be repeated, yet another Chernobyl-size accident (or worse) is threatened daily by more than a thousand nuclear reactors, including military reactors and research reactors, both of which are just as dangerous as commercial reactors.

In the blink of an eye, reactor operators can make a fateful error. Pilots do. Submarine captains do. Presidents do. So naturally, one must assume that control room operators can and do, too. But even if they and everyone else were infallible, nature still has its say.

The tsunami sea wall at San Onofre is only about 30 feet high. Dry casks, filled with used reactor core assemblies, are stored along the coast, and are said to be effective under up to 50 feet of water -- but it was never properly tested, of course, or even asserted to be true under oath. In 2004 there was widespread evidence of tsunami waves greater than 60 feet. And in the past few years there have been widespread allegations of fraud and cover-ups in the dry cask construction business, including at San Onofre.

Nuclear power is an expensive excess. We don't need it because there are safer ways to get electricity, which is, itself, only a transport method for getting energy to do work wherever we happen to need it or want it. There is no intrinsic reason our electricity must be generated by one source over any other. The cleanest possible energy source should be used, and nuclear power has no place in any proper energy portfolio. It's yesterday's solution that didn't work then, and doesn't work now.

Energy conservation (such as a widespread and rapid switch to L.E.D. lights, for instance) combined with pumped energy storage, offshore wind farms, solar panels on rooftops, and a variety of other renewable energy methods would rejuvenate our economy, eliminate excess CO2 production, reduce our risk, eliminate future costs of handling nuclear waste we don't make, and promote the public welfare, as required by law and common sense.

Like most of the world's nuclear power plants, San Onofre is old and dilapidated. It's falling apart. And even if it weren't, even if it were shiny and new, the combination of San Onofre's incredibly toxic, unbelievably unstable, unquestionably immoral, and undoubtedly uneconomic (in the long run), lethal waste amidst millions of mostly-unaware people and "routine" events like earthquakes and airplane crashes dooms Southern California for no good reason.

It's time to shut San Onofre and all of the other nuclear power plants for good.


Ace Hoffman Carlsbad, CA

The author has studied nuclear power for many decades, and has had a fascination for aviation and aircraft handling characteristics, as well as accident statistics, for even longer. He also writes award-winning educational science tutorials for The Animated Software Company.

Note: This post is dedicated to the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the 95 other victims when his plane went down recently... Also to the victims they intended to honor rather than join at Katyn. To the Polish people, who know the tragedies that can occur from mechanical and human failure, and to the liquidators of Chernobyl, who also know it all to well, and to so many others...


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