Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An accident waiting to happen...

October 25th, 2011

Dear Readers,

To give you some idea of how bad the worst industrial accident in human history actually is, a team of international experts recently concluded that the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear catastrophe has already released 2.5 times as much radioactive Xenon-133 (a noble gas) as was released by the Chernobyl catastrophe -- the previous worst industrial accident.

Both accidents are ongoing: Chernobyl's poisons will be emitted for thousands of years, and so will Fukushima's. Fukushima is still spewing radioactive poisons by the terabecquerel (a technical term for: A lot). Chernobyl's effluents are somewhat better contained, although Chernobyl's precarious sarcophagus is in need of immediate repair.

But bad as things still are at Fukushima after the March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami (and numerous mechanical and human failures, too), things can get MUCH worse at Fukushima.

Unit #4's Spent Fuel Pool contains the equivalent of about three fully-fueled nuclear reactors: 1,331 fuel assembly bundles. And because of structural damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, plus an explosion in the reactor building housing the SFP on March 15, and numerous earthquake aftershocks, Unit #4's SFP is even more precarious right now than Chernobyl's sarcophagus.

Some of the fuel assemblies are extremely radioactively "hot" since the reactor itself was emptied entirely in December 2010 for extended maintenance. They take a minimum of about five years to cool enough to be removed from the pool. It's way too soon right now.

But if an accident (caused by an aftershock or a new earthquake, for instance) causes the Unit #4 Spent Fuel Pool to drain -- which nearly or partially happened, but things are sort of stable right now -- ALL of the fuel in the pool might catch fire and burn. This could approximately double the size of the Fukushima releases so far!

Below, Gordon Edwards, from the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, describes the dangers to Unit #4's SFP in more detail, and proposes an international team be immediately convened to secure the site better. The efforts necessary are agonizing processes, which will take an agonizing amount of time to accomplish. And they won't be cheap, which may be the main reason they are not being done.

But they MUST be done!


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


To: Akio Matsumura

From: Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., President,
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

Date: October 24, 2001

In your recent blog, entitled �The Fourth Reactor and the Destiny of
Japan�, you correctly identify the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 as the
most serious potential threat for further massive radioactive
releases from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. (http://

If not cooled by mechanical means for at least several years, the
irradiated fuel in the spent fuel pool will overheat due to
radioactivity alone. The heat generated by radioactivity must be
removed as fast as it is being produced to keep the temperature of
the nuclear fuel from soaring out of control.

If the temperature climbs toward 900 degrees C, the metal coating
("cladding") on the outside of the fuel pellets rapidly deteriorates,
releasing large quantities of radioactive gases and vapors.

At these elevated temperatures, the cladding also reacts with steam
(H2O) to produce hydrogen gas (H2) which explodes with great force,
as it did in Unit 4 on March 15 blowing the roof off the building
and providing a pathway for radioactivity to escape into the atmosphere.

At about 1000 degrees, the fuel cladding can catch fire, emitting
tiny radioactive cinders miniscule particles of irradiated fuel
called "nuclear fleas" particularly dangerous when inhaled or

Currently , the situation in Unit 4 is under control but things
could change quickly if the spent fuel pool collapses or the support
structure is severely damaged by a strong aftershock. It may then be
impossible to cool the irradiated fuel effectively. Temperatures will
climb, and the irradiated fuel will overheat and may even catch fire.

In such an event, with no roof on Unit 4, and no containment
structure surrounding the spent fuel pool, there is no barrier to
prevent or even limit further radioactive releases. Thus there is no
way to protect the Japanese population or the environment from these
renewed emissions.
Ten years ago, a technical study from the US Nuclear Regulatory
Agency pointed out that �the long-term consequences of an SFP [spent
fuel pool] fire may be significant. Analysis indicates that when
air flow has been restricted, such as might occur after a cask drop
or major earthquake, the possibility of a fire [in a spent fuel pool]
lasts many years.� (US NRC NUREG-1738, http://tinyurl.com/65aa4ue)

Because of the serious nature of this threat, it would be wise for
the Japanese Government to call in experts from other countries to
assess the structural integrity of the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 and
to recommend measures that can be taken to strengthen it. It is
imperative that the spent fuel pool and its supporting structures are
capable of withstanding the most severe imaginable aftershock.
Experience has shown that TEPCO and the Japanese regulatory body have
not always been correct in their assessments of the situation at
Fukushima Daiichi. On numerous occasions misinformation has been
communicated to the government and to the public. In such
circumstances, it is important to seek the advice of experts who are
genuinely independent having no conflict of interest and no need
to save face. National pride makes it understandably difficult to
seek help from outside, but sometimes it is the best thing to do.

As an example, here in Canada, the Board of Directors of Ontario
Hydro decided in 1997 to ask a team of American nuclear experts to
carry out an Independent Integrated Performance Assessment (IPPA) of
Ontario's 20 operational nuclear power reactors. This unprecedented
decision was taken in order to provide the Board with a truly
independent review of safety-related questions associated with
Ontario Hydro's large fleet of nuclear reactors. (http://ccnr.org/

The reason for calling in outside experts was to overcome a
significant degree of confusion and uncertainty created by obscure
and seemingly contradictory reports from the nuclear division of
Ontario Hydro and from Canada�s regulatory agency at that time, the
Atomic Energy Control Board.

As a result of the independent review, 7 of Ontario Hydro's reactors
were shut down for more than 7 years. This allowed management and
staff to focus on a large backlog of important safety-related
maintenance tasks and to improve the safety culture within the
nuclear division of Ontario Hydro (now Ontario Power Generation).

We in Canada have observed that, under extraordinary circumstances,
it can be very beneficial to have the advice of outside experts who
bring fresh eyes to bear on the problems and who have no need to
defend past pronouncements or justify decisions that may have been
previously made.

I believe that such an independent assessment is needed for the spent
fuel bay in Unit 4, aimed at producing specific recommendations for
ensuring the integrity of the pool and its support structure against
any foreseeable earthquake or other stresses they may be subjected to.

It is important to remove the irradiated fuel from the damaged spent
fuel pool of Unit 4 as soon as possible. But for this, it is
necessary to have (1) a destination pool prepared to receive the
irradiated fuel from Unit 4, (2) a containment structure to prevent
radioactive emissions during transfer, (3) two cranes (with needed
infrastructure) for managing the fuel removal, and (4) transport
flasks with cooling capabilities. The fact that the fuel is already
damaged further complicates the procedure.

Clearly it will not be possible to remove the irradiated fuel from
the spent fuel pool until 2014 at the earliest. In the meantime, it
is urgent that action be taken to obtain objective advice from
structural experts to ensure that the existing spent fuel bay is as
strong and secure as possible.

The stakes are too high to accept unsupported reassurances from TEPCO
without first subjecting their analysis to the disinterested scrutiny
of others. The dangers associated with the Unit 4 spent fuel pool
that were described in a recently-released simulation by Japan's
Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (completed in June, but only
released in October) are still present. (http://tinyurl.com/3b7dmwn)


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Come one, come all! Tonight we have a chance to change the world...


Dear Readers!

I'm excited!

Tonight some of the greatest minds on the planet will gather electronically, physically, and/or spiritually, to try to explain nuclear power to the public, to city leaders, to state officials if they show up, and to the media.

Presenting tonight [October 11, 2011] will be Helen Caldicott, Dan Hirsch, Arnie Gundersen and Bill Perkins. If all goes according to plan, the public will have many chances to speak, too.

The time? 6:30 pm Pacific Time (9:30 pm Eastern)

The place? Community Center, 100 Calle Seville, San Clemente, California

The event? A city-sponsored information presentation. This is a follow-up to the September 27, 2011 hearing held by the city of San Clemente (nearest city adjacent to San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station (SONWGS)). The previous hearing included Southern California Edison and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was a white-wash. This won't be.

(SCE are the operators of the nuclear waste generating system; the NRC are the lap-dog regulators of those operators, paid for (90%) by the industry. The NRC theoretically takes over where industry self-regulation ends, but "mind the gap".)

SONWGS, also called SONGS by those who ignore the hazardous waste it produces, is in the process of being shut down by the citizens. I'm sure we will win. But afterwards, San Onofre will leave a costly legacy for the human race to have to handle for hundreds of thousands of years.

The legacy is the "spent" fuel.

Don't let names used in the nuclear industry fool you -- "spent" fuel isn't "spent" at all, it's lethality has been greatly ENHANCED -- by a factor of perhaps 10 million times!

Thus, one pellet is now as dangerous to human life -- to all life -- as ten million pellets were BEFORE they were placed in the reactor and bombarded with slow neutrons.

Every time an atom is split for energy, two atoms (on average) of lethal hazardous waste are created. (I know of no other industrial process so capable of creating more of a mess than it starts with than the nuclear process.)

So a pair of 1,000-megawatt reactors is creating an unbelievably large quantity of hazardous poisons every single day! 250 pounds per day per reactor, according to the industry itself (and that's only the "high level" radioactive waste. It produces many times more than that of so-called "low-level" rad waste every day, too. And the only difference between "high-level" and "low-level" is the dilution level -- NOT the lethality level! One atom can kill you, but it's not very likely to. That's a statistical fact. However, there are about a thousand times MORE decays per second in one gram of tritium than there are stars in the Milky Way! And tritium is so hazardous that a nuclear reactor is "ONLY" allowed to release about one thirtieth of a teaspoon of tritium per year! And that must be diluted in billions of gallons of air and/or water as it is released. (In actuality, the average known tritium releases are usually several times higher than the permissible levels, but the additional releases are considered "exceptions" even though they generally happen at every power plant on a regular basis.)

And even that is too much -- the standard should be made more stringent.

Tritium also leaks from every reactor, uncounted and unreported, and it is only one of THOUSANDS of types of radioactive isotopes released from EVERY nuclear reactor all the time.

Radioactive noble gases, radioactive strontium, iodine, cesium, plutonium... These radioactive versions of normal elements, and new (manmade) elements, are not healthy for your body -- or your baby's body. They masquerade as safe, stable, normal elements until the moment of radioactive decay. Then they send out a huge (on an atomic scale) burst of energy, change into a different (often also radioactive) element, and destroy whatever they were a part of at the time -- a water molecule perhaps, or perhaps they were one atom in a DNA strand of billions of precisely-placed atoms. Or maybe the energy burst destroyed some DNA it was near, but not a part of...

So-called "spent" fuel is the most hazardous stuff on earth. We make it, but we have no place to put it.

What was once raw ore in the earth, was first processed into a ceramic pellet and still not very hazardous but no picnic, has become a problem with no solution -- a hazard so lethal you can't stand next to it without many feet of steel and concrete, or lead. You can't use it for anything. It would cost a fortune to try to get rid of by trucking it somewhere (no one wants it), rocketing it to the sun (way, way, WAY too risky and equally too expensive), burying it at sea (uh oh, that's been tried, it failed miserably...) or anywhere else... nobody wants it, no place on earth is stable enough, far enough away from people and wildlife, isn't a source of drinking water or anything else we need (such as minerals), and yet is somehow close enough that we can safely transport the waste from hither to yon a hundred thousand times across the country, and many thousands of times from San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station alone.

There's no such place.

Instead, they are building dry cask storage. Hidden from I-5 highway view but only a few hundred feet away, nestled carefully behind the bluffs and the (14') sea wall, are dozens and dozens of "dry casks" which contain this deadly waste (along with spent fuel pools and the reactors themselves). More are being added as the reactors continue to operate. The waste has to go somewhere, but it has nowhere to go. So it ends up in dry casks. Deadly, silent, waiting to make their own version of Fukushima...

The dry casks are carefully sealed up. That is, they are ready to burst into flame at the slightest trouble -- such as an airplane strike by accident (they are DIRECTLY under several jet airliner routes) or on purpose. Or such as an earthquake stronger than they predict, and a tsunami (which could provide the moderator needed to slow the neutrons down, and allow a criticality event in the spent fuel after an earthquake jostles them together, in this writer's opinion).

So come to this hearing. Learn why babies are perhaps a hundred times more susceptible to radiation's dangers than adults (yet the standard reference for calculating radiation's dangers to a population are adult males -- the LEAST susceptible of all populations!).

Learn why fetuses are perhaps a thousand times more susceptible to radiation's dangers -- because their cells are differentiating and determining their future, adult's cells are already specialized in their function.

Learn about nuclear power. And learn why so many experts want to shut it down forever.

We hope to see you there.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA



From: Gary [mailto:gary@sanclementegreen.org]
Sent: Saturday, October 08, 2011 5:42 PM
Subject: SC Green - Our Biggest Contribution Ever

It is difficult to imagine anything we could ever bring to the region that will be more important than the meeting on Tuesday, 10/11, 6:30 pm at the San Clemente Community Center, 100 Calle Seville.

Some of the world's best known Nuclear Experts that are not on the payroll of the nuclear industry will be presenting an entirely different perspective regarding "Implications for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station from the Disaster at Fukushima". At the same meeting, you'll learn about the safe, renewable technologies that await exploitation. Cost effective and economically stimulating options abound.

We see this as an emergency, and we believe you will too, once you better understand our vulnerabilities and opportunities to change course ASAP. A large earthquake is overdue by 150 years and is expected to exceed the design basis for San Onofre. This is only one of many potential causes for a meltdown at this particular plant rated the second most dangerous of all 104 in the USA. It will take at least five years from the date we shut it down until nuclear waste can be stored in much safer dry casks as recommended by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. While shut down, we will only need to make up for 6.5 percent of our electricity. We can immediately begin the quest in earnest for a truly sustainable future.

You can't begin to imagine the effort some of your fellow citizens have gone to in bringing such an important meeting together. Now it is up to you to actually benefit from all of this effort by showing up and bringing friends to get the latest information about our nuclear power plant. Help us spread the word. Learn about important considerations the industry often glosses over so you can make informed decisions and encourage our city council to do the same at their next regular meeting at City Hall on 10/18.

See what the experts expect from the big earthquake, without even considering damage to San Onofre. (the Newport/Inglewood fault just 3 miles off shore is capable of a mag.7.5 to 8.0)



Expected Panel of Nuclear Experts:

Google Maps:

SCG/ Decom SONWGS Public Service Announcement for the hearing tonight:

San Clemente Patch article about tonight's hearing:


Tsunami threats discussed in June, 2001:


"There are about 1 * 10^4 Curies in a gram of tritium. 1 curie is 3.7 * 10^10 decays per second, so that's 3.7 * 10^14 dps per gram. There are about 3.7 * 10^11 stars in the Milky Way -- a thousand times LESS than the number of decays per second emanating from a single gram of San Onofre's so-called "safe" tritium. "

The above quote is from my 2004 essay on tritium:



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to dwarf Fukushima...

October 4th, 2011

Dear Readers,

If you don't want Fukushima USA to happen, there's only one choice:

Shut 'em down! Shut 'em all down NOW!

But don't for a minute think that Fukushima was as bad as it can get!

It was bad. It was under-reported how bad it was -- and is.

But Fukushima could have been worse -- and still might be. In fact, it still probably WILL get worse -- when the corium (reactor cores, melted into blobs) start hitting the water table.

At that point, Fukushima will get worse.

But there are other ways things can be worse than Fukushima is already.

For example, the entire core of the reactor can be blown to vapor, hot particles, fuel fleas and bits of corium in an instant (it's called a "core rubblization").

This can happen to any nuclear reactor anywhere in the world. Is it likely? No. Is it possible? Yes. Would it take an extraordinary sequence of events to happen? Yes.

But so did Fukushima.

Calling for increased regulatory oversight in light of Fukushima, calling for increased safety, calling for increased "margins of error" -- all these won't do much more than loosen up the tight packing in the spent fuel pools -- and increase the dry cask storage capacity from beyond intolerable to whatever comes after that.

They might add additional battery-backed up electronic monitors for the water levels and temperatures in the spent fuel pools (gee, you'd have thought they already did that, wouldn't you?).

They might have to purchase a fire pumper truck to keep on hand at every reactor site -- not to put out fires (though it can be used for that, too) but to pour water on the reactors or spent fuel pools if needed.

They might require eight full hours of battery backup power for each reactor, instead of just four. They might require that radiation monitors be "hardened" to survive hydrogen explosions, and have battery backup in case of "Station Black Out" (SBO), a danger they practically never considered before Fukushima.

They might store an extra diesel generator on the West Coast somewhere, to be used by seven different reactors in case of emergency (I wonder how they decide who will get it if two places need it?) Similarly, a few diesel generators will be "strategically located" to provide mutual backup for all the other 97 reactors around the country.

That's all the "increased safety" calls will ever accomplish. Little steps. All good, but none decisive. Fukushima, USA will still come if these are the kinds of steps America will be taking in light of Fukushima, Japan.

You can be sure that even with all these improvements, nuclear power will still not be able to get insurance. The despicable Price-Anderson Act will not be rescinded.

To make things truly safer, we MUST shut the plants down.

And even that doesn't guarantee safety. Only moving the waste to an isolated location (which doesn't exist) AND shutting the plants down gives us any sort of reasonable guarantee, but then you still need: A safe way to store the waste (doesn't exist), and a safe way to transport it there (also doesn't exist).

The tragedy at Fukushima happened because the plants were operational and because fresh, hot fuel was in the spent fuel pools.

Not that dry casks can't have problems just as fierce: In my opinion, a jetliner crashing into the line of dry casks here at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station a few miles from where I live, for example, could conceivably cause a CRITICALITY EVENT which would DWARF FUKUSHIMA. The casks can be rearranged to prevent that (it's a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic) but there are still other dangers to dry casks which need to be addressed.

But at least the full spectrum of accidents possible with an operating reactor can't happen IF we shut the plants down.

A pro-nuker in a debate I watched recently hit the nail on the head about what the REAL problem is: Once a nuke is built, it becomes a cash cow for the utility that operates it.

Once it's built. New nuclear power plants aren't financially viable in America (without massive government subsidies), and new nuclear construction isn't even allowed in California until the impossible happens -- the nuclear waste problem is solved. So instead, we have old nukes across the country, with hoped-for 40 year lives being extended to 60 years, and if they haven't melted down by then, 80 years, then 100 and 1000.

Sooner or later, leaving these old deathtraps running is what will kill us by the hundreds of thousands, ruin our lifestyle, and poison our land, air, and water forever.

Shut-down isn't a guarantee of eternal safety, but it's a huge step in the right direction and stops us from increasing the size of the problem every day.

Across America the problem of "spent fuel" piling up with nowhere to put it increases by about 10 tons PER DAY.

It is impossible to make a totally safe nuke. It is impossible to find a totally safe storage place for the waste.

That's why the concept of "probabilistic risk assessment" is used to justify nuclear power. But all such calculations are based on faulty assumptions and wishful thinking by those desiring to promote the industry -- and being paid to do so.

The "passive" emergency cooling systems promised for the next generation of nuke plants MIGHT work... but they might not... especially if an airplane crashed into the facility.

It is impossible to make a totally safe nuke.

Even if the nuclear power plant operates perfectly for its entire life -- which has never happened and never will -- it creates an enormous hazardous waste pile which cannot be safely or economically contained.

Every nuclear power plant is capable of an accident which can dwarf what happened at Fukushima. When that happens, it will be very difficult to analyze what went wrong! They still haven't figured out what happened at Fukushima almost seven months later, or what's happening there at this moment.

Yet still, the pronukers insist that increased safety measures are all we need. They point out weak spots in the Japanese latticework of regulations and claim that America's system is better. But in March of 2002 Davis-Besse nearly did what Fukushima did in March of 2011, without any act of mother nature except rust (and rust never sleeps), and there have been numerous close calls before and since -- perhaps less dramatic than a football-sized hole in the reactor pressure vessel head, as happened at Davis-Besse, but no less dangerous.

Fukushima can -- and will -- happen in America. And when it does, we will no longer be a first-world country. We will be a pitiable, poverty-stricken, has-been nation of mutants, debtors, the diseased and the dying.

Just like Japan is now. Oh, you don't think so? Look more closely -- look past the official reports, past the main stream media, and read about the abortions, the suicides, the deformities that are showing up everywhere.

Weep for Japan today. Weep for us tomorrow.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA