Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Half a country, and half a world away...

November 16th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Victor Dricks is up to his usual tricks.

Dricks is the Region IV Public Affairs Officer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). He's based in Arlington, Texas, nearly 1500 miles away from Southern California. Half a country, and half a world away...

On Saturday the North County Times ( ) published a commentary by Roger Johnson, asking for IMMEDIATE shutdown of San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station. He got IMMEDIATE action: On Monday the NC Times published Victor Dricks' response! Somehow he had heard about Roger Johnson's commentary and must have worked weekends to counter it. I wonder if he collected overtime pay or just comp time for his efforts?

At any rate, congratulations, Roger Johnson! You're scaring them!

Below are both items, plus Roger Johnson's excellent follow-up to Dricks' drivel. Dricks response is something only a propagandist could love: He takes exception to practically every word of Johnson's letter and ignores countless facts (as Johnson points out in his follow-up). But what is really astonishing is Dricks' description of the 1982 Sandia Labs study as "outlandish" and "unlikely" when all that's missing is the rainstorm -- we saw all the rest of it already happen in Fukushima Dai-ichi! Three times!

Our reactors can explode, just like theirs did. Our spent fuel can burn, just like theirs did.

In fact, what happened at Fukushima Dai-ichi isn't over, isn't as bad as it can get, and isn't being fully reported! A recent busload of reporters, finally let in to "see" the plant for the first time since the accident, weren't allowed off the bus, even though they were each dressed in full-body protective hazmat suits, to add to the 480,000 hazmat suits used so far at Fukushima Dai-ichi.

The NRC would have you, the public, FORGET FUKUSHIMA DAI-ICHI. More than eight months after the tragedy, Dricks isn't even close to spelling it right, and he won't dare to give the NRC's official estimate of how many people Fukushima Dai-ichi will eventually kill (cancer takes many years to develop).

Of course, the NRC doesn't make such estimates. It would be bad for business.

The NRC and the nuclear industry wants the public to think that our reactors, spent fuel pools, and dry casks are somehow less vulnerable, less dangerous, and better protected through better regulatory oversight than Japan's were.

But it's all lies.

Fukushima USA nearly happened many times already: At Brown's Ferry in 1975, at Three Mile Island in 1979, at Davis-Besse in 2002, during an earthquake a few months ago at North Anna, from a tornado near Calvert Cliffs a few years ago, and so on. It's just a matter of time before a nuclear plant in America melts down, and there is a 2 in 104 chance it will be one of San Oofre's and about a one in 25 chance it will be one in California -- NOT counting any increased probability due to our nearby seismic faults and tsunami risks, or our aging/embrittlement issues, workforce issues, etc.. It assumes all other nuclear power plants are equally-poorly run, poorly built, poorly maintained, and have their own environmental risks that weren't properly considered. 104 reactors. 104 mistakes.

The only way to significantly change the odds is to shut San Onofre down immediately and forever. The longer the fuel has cooled, the safer it becomes, and the less of it we make, the less we have to protect and guard for millions of years. Extremely toxic radioactive waste is created at San Onofre at the rate of about 500 pounds PER DAY.

Nuclear energy is a dangerous and costly mistake. It can easily be replaced with cleaner alternatives. Nuclear power is profitable for a select few, who use official mouthpieces such as Victor Dricks to lull the public into accepting the enormous and unnecessary risk nuclear power presents.

But Dricks' lies can't change the facts. His resignation should be demanded by all citizens who want their paid servants to tell the truth.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California

The author has been studying nuclear power for several decades, and predicted cascading nuclear accidents long before Fukushima Dai-ichi...


FORUM: Time to close San Onofre nuclear plant

By: Roger Johnson | Posted: Saturday, November 12, 2011 9:00 pm | No Comments Posted
Related Stories
· REGION: Group seeks independent oversight of San Onofre earthquake studies
· REGION: Anti-nuke movement in North County starts to stir
· SAN ONOFRE: San Clemente council poised to punt on no-nuke vote
· REGION: Anti-nuclear sentiment strong at San Clemente meeting
· FORUM: Forum on nuke plant misuses study

Memo to North County Residents from Fukushima and San Clemente:

When people moved to North County, they knew about the San Onofre nuclear power plant and accepted it as a necessary evil. The meltdown at Fukushima last March changed everything. Fukushima is now an uninhabitable dead zone, and some experts predict that eventually a million people all over Japan may die from Fukushima radiation.

Everyone is now reassessing their stance on nuclear power. Solana Beach is taking the lead in San Diego County with a public hearing set for Nov. 16. San Clemente already conducted three town meetings called, "The Lessons of Fukushima." Meanwhile, Southern California Edison (operators of San Onofre) is gearing up for a 20-year license renewal application.

Like Fukushima, San Onofre has aging reactors vulnerable to equipment failure, human error, earthquakes, tsunamis, sabotage, and terrorist attack. The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has warned that a meltdown could cause 50,000 fatalities and hundreds of billions in unrecoverable property loses.
How far could the radiation spread?

Until Fukushima, the evacuation zone was 10 miles, with an ingestion zone of 50 miles (all food and water as far as San Diego could be contaminated). But when the U.S. government saw the winds in Fukushima turn inland (as they do here all the time), it ordered evacuation within 50 miles.

There are 8.4 million people within 50 miles of San Onofre (everyone between San Diego and Los Angeles), and anyone who imagines that they are safe had better think again.

The problem with radiation is that it cannot be seen, heard, tasted, or smelled and can silently penetrate all objects including lead, concrete, and steel. Trillions of microscopic particles can contaminate food, water, soil, plants, clothing, pets, and everything you own. A millionth of a gram of plutonium 239 can be lethal. No, there will not be a nuclear explosion, but those exposed may get some form of deadly cancer. Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable.

Even more dangerous than the material inside the reactors are the radioactive fuel rods stored outside the reactors. These 2,500 fuel rods have the equivalent of thousands of Hiroshima bombs.

Because Yucca Mountain is closed, San Onofre will remain a huge nuclear waste storage facility until the plant is closed. Evacuation is no solution. A large earthquake would make roads impassable and thousands could be stuck in cars absorbing even more radiation.

The NRC says it is concerned with public safety, but in reality the NRC is part of the nuclear industry. The industry picks the commissioners, and the funding comes from the utilities it is supposed to regulate.
The NRC has made relicensing of San Onofre easier by grandfathering the plant to make it exempt from modern safety standards. This is especially troubling because San Onofre has one of the worst safety records in the U.S.

San Clemente unanimously passed resolutions demanding new seismic studies and the removal of nuclear waste before there is any relicensing. It is now time for towns in North County to examine this issue and recommend even stronger action: Close the plant immediately.

Roger Johnson was on the faculty of Amherst College, Tufts University and Ramapo College and is now professor emeritus residing in San Clemente.

Read more:

FORUM: Forum on nuke plant misuses study

By Victor Dricks | Posted: Monday, November 14, 2011 9:00 pm | (3) Comments

· FORUM: Time to close San Onofre nuclear plant

In his commentary calling for the immediate closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station published Nov. 12, Roger Johnson, a professor emeritus residing in San Clemente, said a Nuclear Regulatory Commission study predicts 50,000 fatalities in the event of a catastrophic accident at the plant.

While he cites no reference, we believe Mr. Johnson was referring to "Technical Guidance For Siting Criteria Development." This report, prepared for the NRC in 1982 by Sandia National Laboratory, was not an effort to determine how many people might die or how much property might be damaged in the event of a severe accident. It was an effort to determine how large a role factors like population densities, meteorology, geography, and emergency planning could play in the consequences of a nuclear accident. It used a hypothetical scenario in which all of the plant's safety systems and barriers fail, spouting a radioactive geyser into the air. The entire contents of the reactor core get injected into a rain cloud hovering above the plant, and the cloud then floats over a major population center where it drenches a population with radioactive rain. The scenario is so outlandish and considered so unlikely, the people who designed the study said at the time they doubted it could occur.

Despite numerous explanations and clarifications by the NRC over the past three decades, this study has been misused by many.

Mr. Johnson also noted that San Onofre "has aging reactors vulnerable to equipment failure, human error, earthquakes, tsunamis, sabotage and terrorist attacks." The NRC has rigorous requirements for the design and operation of nuclear power plants that ensure that they are built to rigorous standards, operate safely, are capable of withstanding all manner of natural hazards and are secure from terrorist attack. The agency holds the industry to a high standard, and our inspectors have a low threshold for concern. Our regulations require multiple safety barriers and "defense in depth" to protect the public from exposure to radiation. Our rigorous oversight ensures that adverse performance trends are identified long before they become safety-significant.

After the accident at Fukushima Diaichi, the NRC conducted inspections at all 104 reactors to ensure they could deal with the loss of major equipment or electrical power following extreme events. Some deficiencies were identified at San Onofre, but nothing that would have prevented the safe shutdown of the plant.

Mr. Johnson's commentary is peppered with other inaccuracies. Far too many, in fact, to address here. But here are a few:

* Contrary to Mr. Johnson's assertion, the industry doesn't pick NRC Commissioners; the president of the United States does, and they are confirmed by the Senate.

* Yucca Mountain is not closed; it was never built.

* The used fuel rods at San Onofre do not "have the equivalent of thousands of Hiroshima bombs;" they are being safely stored in a water-filled pool or are transferred to massive steel and concrete storage casks.

* And the industry does not pay for the NRC; fees charged to the industry for safety oversight are sent to the U.S. Treasury.

Victor Dricks is a public affairs officer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and is based in Arlington, Texas.

Copyright 2011 North County Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted in Commentary on Monday, November 14, 2011 9:00 pm Updated: 5:11 pm. |
Read more:

Prof. Johnson replies:

The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) in Texas has seen fit to respond through public affairs officer Victor Dricks to my Forum commentary of Nov. 12 in North County Times asking for the closure of the dangerous San Onofre nuclear power plant.

One of my major arguments was that the NRC is actually part of the nuclear industry despite its claim to be an independent agency of government concerned with protecting the safety of citizens. The vigor with which Mr. Dricks attacks my commentary together with his enthusiastic support of the nuclear industry speaks volumes for the true interests of the NRC.

Mr. Dricks demeans the Sandia National Laboratory study in 1982 which predicted 50,000 deaths in the event of a meltdown at San Onofre. The population of this area has grown by a third since that study and the estimated death toll would now be far higher. It seems disingenuous for the NRC to cherry pick studies of the U.S. Dept. of Energy National Laboratories and pick reports which glorify nuclear power and criticize those that warn of the dangers of nuclear power. My commentary was limited to 500 words and I could not mention many additional studies including those that predict a million eventual cancer deaths in Europe from Chernobyl and in Japan from Fukushima.

Mr. Dricks boasts about the “rigorous standards” of the NRC, yet he fails to mention that the NRC compromised these standards for the purpose of promoting the relicensing of San Onofre. The fact is that the NRC went out of its way to protect San Onofre from meeting the safety requirements of new nuclear power plants. This illustrates the embarrassing fact that a major priority of the NRC is to protect aging and dangerous plants from closing.

With regard to Yucca Mountain near the California border, it was first recommended by the Dept. of Energy in 1978 and in 1987 President Reagan approved it being one of the top three destinations for nuclear waste. In 2002 it was approved by Congress and signed by President Bush. The facility will end up costing taxpayers $11 billion. It is outlandishly deceptive of Mr. Dricks to claim that Yucca Mountain "was never built."

Mr. Dricks is technically correct that the President picks the NRC commissioners. What he doesn’t say is that all commissioners are first vetted by the nuclear industry. No commissioner is ever nominated let alone approved unless he or she is already a proven cheerleader for the nuclear industry.

Mr. Dricks employs more deception when he claims that the NRC is not funded by the nuclear industry. The fact that the money trail goes from the industry to the treasury back to the NRC means only that the NRC is doing summersaults trying to conceal its actual funding. The NRC representative at the San Clemente hearings was quick to admit that 90% of NRC funding comes from the nuclear industry.

Finally, Mr. Dricks claims that highly radioactive nuclear fuel is safe because it is in pools or in temporary concrete casks. If anything goes wrong with the pumps, pipelines, switches, valves, power supplies, or concrete pools, we have a nuclear catastrophe. The Veterans Today Military and Foreign Affairs Journal reported that the radiation released by Fukushima is the equivalent of 66,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

Finally, I take offense that Mr. Dricks wrote that my commentary was peppered with inaccuracies when in fact it is his commentary which was full of inaccurate, misleading, and deceptive statements. The truth is that the NRC is an out-of-control agency which cannot be trusted. The fact that the NRC is so deceptive and unprincipled in its rush to promote nuclear power should be of major concern to everyone.


Newsletter by:


Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:
Carlsbad, CA
Email: ace [at]


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