Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Southern California Edison lied? Well, I'll be darned!

March 27, 2012

Dear Readers,

In my opinion, the most amazing pump in the universe -- the most amazing machine in the universe -- is the main pump inside your chest, the human heart.

When your main pump fails, you're in BIG trouble -- unless it's recognized in time, of course. Then you stand a chance. In 1967 Dr. Christiaan Bernard performed the first human heart transplant, in South Africa. (Dr. Bernard and his team had performed heart transplant operations dozens of times on animals prior to that.) In the 45 years since then, tens of thousands of heart and heart/lung transplants have been performed on people all around the world.

Last week former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was the recipient of a "new" heart.

Long live the automobile industry, where most of the "organ donors" in America come from!

Ugh, what's wrong with THAT sentence? I mean besides the obvious: That someone more deserving than Dick Cheney might have deserved that heart? If you can figure it out, perhaps you can understand what's wrong with nuclear power. Yes, it's really that simple! Nuclear power kills. There might be some benefits, but along the way, it kills. There are vastly safer ways to either conserve or generate electricity without increasing global warming. We don't need nukes. Would it be argued that we need car accidents just to be sure we have organ donors?

Vice President Cheney's old heart was no good (what a surprise!): He had quadruple bypass surgery 24 years ago, then two angioplasties, and a heart monitoring device put in (later removed). There wasn't much left to do but replace the thing! He reportedly was on the "waiting list" for a suitable donor organ for the past 20 months.

San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station in Southern California is falling apart, and so they keep putting new parts in. Last time, it was new turbine blades (for "greater efficiency" they said) and a new reactor pressure vessel head (because the old one was rotting, decaying, corroding, embrittling, rusting -- you get the idea).

The time before that, a little over a year ago, it was four new steam generators, two per reactor. The time before that it was something else, and something else the time before that. Billions of dollars worth of parts -- but billions more dollars worth of parts are NOT being replaced UNLESS they fail! And the new parts aren't working, anyway.

The ratepayers are paying for everything, of course. It's always the ratepayer who pays, so the utility's investors can make money. The California Public Utilities Commission ensures that electricity rates will be sufficient so that the utility will make money. How much? Enough to keep the utility happy.

But Southern California Edison is not so happy right now, because their #1 cash cow isn't giving any milk. SanO has been completely shut down for nearly two months and isn't likely to reopen any time soon. So the utility is losing about a million dollars a day per reactor. They could get most of the money some other way, because people NEED electricity and they can supply it, or at least help us exchange it with each other. But nuclear reactors, once operating, are relatively cheap to maintain -- as long as the ratepayer covers most extra costs. And as long as someone (John Q. Public) takes the waste away eventually, or at least promises to (the federal government promised to, but hasn't done so). And as long as nothing goes wrong. Then they can be very, very expensive, as they learned in Japan and the Ukraine, and as we hope NOT to learn firsthand here.

Your main pump -- your heart -- can fail in many ways. The muscle of the pump can fail to get the proper bioelectrical signal that tells it to beat. If this potential problem is noticed in time, a pacemaker can be implanted so that an artificially-produced electrical signal can be applied to the heart.

At the Brown's Ferry reactor in Tennessee in 1975, a careless worker using candles to test for air leaks in an operating reactor started a fire that nearly caused a meltdown. The electrical signals to the pumps (and everything else) were lost. The practice of using candles to check for leaks in operating reactors has since been banned (gee... one would have thought...) but additional fire codes, created after the incident, have not been implemented at many reactors around the country -- including San Onofre!

Dick Cheney lied about the agenda and the participants of his secret his pro-nuclear energy policy (and many other things). Likewise, San Onofre's owner/operators lie about just about everything, too. Today (March 27th, 2012) a new report indicates that Southern California Edison misled the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- and everyone else -- about the new steam generators. SCE said they were designed as exact replacements for the old steam generators. But it appears that in reality, their fluid flows were redesigned to increase output! But apparently instead, the new design increased their own wear and tear!

Your heart beats about once per second for your entire life -- more if you're stressed or exercising. First it contracts the upper two chambers, called the left and right atria. Then while they're still contracted, the lower two chambers, called the ventricles, contract. Then it rests for a while, and refills will blood.

In your heart, there are two valves between the atria and the ventricles, and two more at the egresses from the ventricles. These four valves do a nearly perfect job of preventing backflow. In a sense the heart is two pumps. One side pumps blood to your lungs, the other side pumps blood that comes back from the lungs to everywhere else. The two sides pump in unison. The pressurized flow of blood puts a strain on the valves, the heart, and the blood vessels of the system. As they get older, the blood vessels tend to harden and weaken, and their inner diameters get smaller due to build-up of "plaque" over time, which causes the heart to have to pump harder to get enough blood to wherever it's needed (stomach when you're digesting, brain when you're thinking, muscles when you're exercising, etc.). Higher blood pressure is a strong indicator of an increased risk of a heart attack, and does extra damage to the blood vessels. You want to keep your pipes pliable! Keep your cholesterol low, because it is a good indicator of how quickly plaque is building up in your system.

The new steam generators at San Onofre are -- like the rest of the plant -- falling apart. They are the direct cause of the reactors being completely shut down for the longest period in the plant's history, with no end in sight.

Steam generators transfer the heat of the nuclear reactor from the primary coolant loop to the secondary loop. The secondary loop turns to steam, but the primary loop is kept under enormous pressure so that it does NOT turn to steam -- 2200 PSI (atmospheric pressure is under about 15 PSI).

San Onofre's steam generator tubes have become prematurely weakened and have started to fail. One tube ruptured during operation, causing that reactor to be shut down, and seven more tubes failed during subsequent pressure testing. Premature wear was found on hundreds of additional tubes in the other reactor.

If only one tube ruptures, as happened last January, it can send fragments of metal through the system, which could block valves or fluid flow around the reactor core, causing a cascade of further problems. One rupture could even cause neighboring tubes to rupture in a cascade of tube failures. This could lead to a catastrophic meltdown of the reactor!

If any of the four valves in your heart starts to fail, they can usually be replaced with "mechanical" heart valves (usually ball valves) or "biological" (tri-flapper valves) almost exactly like the originals, taken from pig hearts. In any case, they are known as "artificial" heart valves.

Artificial heart valves sometimes fail due to a phenomena known as "cavitation" (see below). The valve that takes the most flow and the highest pressure -- the mitral valve (between the left atrium and the left ventricle) -- is also the one that is most prone to failure due to cavitation problems.

Cavitation could certainly be the cause of San Onofre's problems right now -- or it could be "plaque" (scale) buildup on the steam generator tube's walls. Perhaps the problems were caused by radiation from the "scale" buildup or from other radioactive materials in the primary coolant loop. Or it could be manufacturing defects, or even damage during shipping which was overlooked during inspection when the steam generators arrived at the plant (we were told they were thoroughly inspected). Perhaps they were damaged during installation, or any number of other things. Bad filtration of the primary or secondary coolant could leave all sorts of crud swirling around in the system that shouldn't be there. Perhaps SCE was trying to increase the operating pressure and/or temperature, so they could spin the turbine faster and make more money? That's what some people are suggesting, but since the investigation is closed to the public, we can only guess.

The utility is already "warning" us that summer blackouts are possible a few months from now. But instead of doing something realistic about it, they want us to pay for them to replace the steam generators AGAIN (and thousands of other worn-out parts) with any replacements they can find -- even if they work at a reduced capacity -- and then replace them AGAIN after they've redesigned them and -- this time -- gotten the proper federal approvals -- perhaps by simply going back to the original design (if they can find the blueprints)!

Hey, fellow ratepayers: Got deep pockets? We're going to need them! All this work will almost surely be done entirely at the ratepayer's expense. And Southern California Edison will say they need to do it in order to keep our lights on. But it's really to make money for themselves at the risk of Fukushima USA here.

The fact is, Southern California Edison has plenty of time to get ready for summer's increased energy load, AND for no longer having San Onofre ever again.

One small thing they should do immediately is begin an emergency program to install hundreds of thousands of devices to prevent people from using washing machines, dish washers, dryers and air conditioners during a power shortage. SCE has already installed thousands of these devices over the years, but they could redouble or triple that effort. It would make a significant difference during peak demand periods!

Another thing SCE could do is get the extra transmission lines installed that they claim they'll need. But hey! That sounds fishy because there's supposed to be more than enough power lines coming IN to Southern California so that San Onofre won't melt down from an extended "station blackout" even during peak summer energy use periods! (It was a prolonged station blackout that made the meltdowns in Fukushima inevitable.)

Southern California Edison could be building offshore wind turbines instead of hiring more gasbags to tell the public that we need San Onofre. We don't! Nuclear power is an utterly failed technology. It was originally pushed on an unsuspecting public which was told that the "fission products" from splitting the atom could and would be properly contained forever -- a pipe dream at the time it was claimed, which has been proven utterly false.

It was pushed on an unsuspecting public with claims that nuclear power would be "Too Cheap To Meter," and that these were "Atoms for Peace." And we were told about a theory called "Hormesis" -- the idea (still believed by those in the nuclear industry but denied throughout the rest of the scientific community) that a little bit more radiation, randomly administered any old way, is good for you, no matter how old you are, no matter how much radiation you've already absorbed in your life, and no matter how much you will absorb in the future.

In reality there is no safe dose, as admitted by numerous government agencies! And yet the nuclear "health physics professionals" and everyone else in the nuclear industry will STILL tell you a little radiation is GOOD for you, so why worry about a big accident as long as it's diluted??? It's poppycock.

Thanks to Fukushima and Chernobyl, and so many times before, tons of plutonium, uranium, and other dangerous radioactive elements have been scattered by the winds, the sea, and the blowing dust, to people all around the globe (people who never benefited from ANY reactor's electricity). In a closed system like earth, people everywhere will inevitably suffer and die for generations to come.

We don't want SanO to be the cause of another nuclear tragedy, and we don't need it to happen: Keep San Onofre shut down. Don't restart it. Don't restart ANY reactor -- shut them ALL down!

Fukushima was a wake-up call to those living within 50 miles -- or a thousand miles -- of any of the ~450 operating nuclear power plants around the world. The nuclear industry wants to keep making money, to keep going as if Fukushima never happened. Their apologists, the health physicists, continue to insist that indeed, nothing DID happen in Fukushima -- or Chernobyl, for that matter. Thousands have already died from Chernobyl, and thousands will die from Fukushima, but their deaths are scattered in time and all over the planet, and so the "health physicists" ignore those deaths, denying any connection to any nuclear accident. But realistic data by highly qualified scientists, in study after study, points to an enormous problem: Nuclear power kills. SanO is shut. Let's keep it that way.

But unfortunately, San Onofre's operators, Southern California Edison, would LOVE to get a completely new reactor instead! And our governor might even help them do it!

Completely new reactors are forbidden by state law here in California until there is a solution to the problem of nuclear waste (which probably means never). Governor Jerry Brown, once on the protest lines against Diablo Canyon, now is so scared of global warming (and so beholden to the energy companies who financially supported his re-election) that he says he would LIKE to see new nukes in California -- as long as someone else will pay for them, of course. Meanwhile, the ones we have are (naturally...) falling apart.

Billions of dollars have been wasted trying to keep them running against all rhyme or reason. Now the ratepayers are being asked to spend billions more. No way!

Nukes? No thanks!


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, an award-winning educational software developer, is the co-author of an educational computer program about the human heart called The Heart: The Engine of Life, as well as an educational program about mechanical pumps called All About Pumps. He has also animated hundreds of industrial processes, including nuclear reactors and many of their parts. His book on nuclear issues, The Code Killers, is available for free download from his personal home page: www.acehoffman.org .

John Massey, San Clemente, CA, on cavitation:

"The bubble comes from high liquid velocities that cause the pressure to be reduced to the point where it is below the vapor pressure of the liquid and the liquid changes state to a vapor, hence the bubble. The bubble is a low pressure cavity that will collapse downstream when it is exposed again to the high pressure liquid. When it collapses it causes erosion of the inside of the pipe, noise (water hammer), vibration and sometimes explosive damage to the closed conduit."

Friends of the Earth report by Fairewinds Associates:


Late breaking news:

>>Federal agency bars Edison from restarting San Onofre plant
>>Los Angeles Times | March 27, 2012 | 2:52 p.m.
>>The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, citing serious concerns about equipment failures at the San Onofre nuclear plant, on Tuesday barred plant operator Southern California Edison from restarting the plant until the problems are thoroughly understood and fixed.



EIGHT SIMPLE RULES for protecting your heart:

1) Exercise hard and often.
2) Watch your diet and weight.
3) Avoid tobacco smoke and other pollutants.
4) Control your blood pressure.
5) Minimize stress and enjoy life.
6) Know the warning signs of a heart attack.
7) Get regular medical checkups.
8) Know where the nearest cardiac care facility or hospital is located.


Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman
Carlsbad, CA
Email: ace [at] acehoffman.org


Sunday, March 18, 2012

It's definitely time to decommission San Onofre!

Dear Readers,

It's time to decommission San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. It's the only sensible thing to do. It makes economic sense for just about everybody, and spares us the possibility of "Fukushima USA" here in SoCal.

Right now, neither of San Onofre's two reactors are operating. Southern California Edison is already predicting there could be rolling blackouts during the summer if they can't get the reactors running by then. The threat of blackouts is at odds with the historic record of energy usage, which clearly shows that there is more than enough electrical generating capacity and transmission line capacity in SoCal to replace San Onofre.

Nevertheless, SoCal residents can EXPECT rolling blackouts -- because SCE wants them to happen: It may cost as much as a billion dollars (or more) to repair San Onofre. Instead SCE could be securing contracts NOW for summer energy use. They could be building a billion dollars' worth of solar rooftops, offshore wind turbines, turbine peaker plants, cogeneration plants, energy storage reservoirs, geothermal energy systems, etc..

But they don't want to, because when San Onofre is operating, it's "easy money": A million dollars per day per reactor! So instead they'll want to "prove" that SoCal "needs" San Onofre, so they won't prepare, the blackouts will happen, and then they'll expect us, the ratepayers, to pay for it all!
Meanwhile, there is still NO solution to the problem of long-term storage of nuclear waste, which has been piling up for decades in dangerous "temporary" locations at every nuclear power plant in the country (and nor will there ever be a good solution). And NOR is there a solution to the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation, which SanO exacerbates by producing plutonium and tritium. Additionally, the dangers from terrorism, or from mother nature's fury, remain unsolved too. San Onofre is built on or near several fault lines, and along the coast, nearly at sea level. It's tsunami-prone and earthquake-prone. And surrounded by about eight million people within 50 miles (noting that the U.S. Government recommended U.S. citizens evacuate from within 50 miles of Fukushima, Japan -- and ALSO noting that even that might not be far enough!).

Furthermore, San Onofre continues to have problems with worker harassment (intimidation of workers to prevent them from reporting dangers) AND, paradoxically, worker safety complaints (that safe procedures aren't being followed). San Onofre is officially (Nuclear Regulatory Commission's own data) the worst-run commercial nuclear facility in the nation on BOTH counts.

A meltdown at San Onofre would be the ruination of SoCal. And we don't need a tsunami or "the big one" to cause it: It's not inconceivable that a thing as simple as a flashlight dropped in the reactor water could start a cascade of failures, leading to a meltdown "just like" Chernobyl or Fukushima. That's why they have regulations to prevent things like dropped flashlights (I mention this specifically because it happened there last month, and the contract worker, a temporary employee at the plant, who violated workplace rules by dropping the flashlight, then further violated the rules by trying to retrieve it -- and falling in!)

SCE doesn't want to be responsible for ANY of the costs to fix the reactors. They just want to fix them any way they can, so they can restart them as soon as possible, so they can go back to making money -- and creating a ton a week of highly dangerous "spent fuel" which will be the real legacy of San Onofre's decades of operation: Millions of pounds of deadly poison sitting on our shoreline just waiting to be released by accident/sabotage, etc.. Southern California Edison will be long out of business, all of us will be long dead, California will be a nation unto itself (perhaps), but the waste will still be here.

The cause of San Onofre's current shutdown is defective replacement Steam Generators (SGs) made in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. MHI has been building SGs for nuclear power plants since the 1970s and have manufactured, shipped and installed well over 100 SG units around the world. MHI's current annual report indicates they plan to double their nuclear steam generator business several times in the next three years to almost $10 billion annually. So this is a big setback for them as well as for SanO's owners. The problem is almost surely the result of incorrect manufacturing procedures: This didn't have to happen. What other SGs around the world are in trouble?

Steam Generators are massive things used in Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). PWRs have three coolant loops: Water under very high pressure in the primary loop goes through the reactor core, gets heated (and irradiated), and then goes through thousands of very thin tubes inside the steam generators.

San Onofre's two SGs each have nearly 9,500 long, thin U-shaped tubes (the tube's walls are about the thickness of a credit card). Because the water inside the thin tubes is highly pressurized, it does not boil. The water on the other side of the tubes (the secondary coolant loop) comes in contact with the hot tubes and turns to steam. The steam is piped out of the containment domes and into the turbine room, where it is used to turn the turbines which generate electricity. A third coolant loop (ocean water) condenses the steam in the second loop, and that condensate is then pumped back into the steam generators again.

When any company receives $800 million worth of equipment, it invariably inspects that new equipment very carefully to make sure it's exactly what they ordered. San Onofre's replacement steam generators were inspected when they arrived at the plant in 2009, and found to be defective. MHI had to send out a special team to SoCal to reweld them. Like the defects that are appearing now, those defects SHOULD NEVER HAVE MADE IT OFF THE FACTORY FLOOR.

You can be sure numerous additional inspections were done after the problems were discovered in 2009. The additional inspections and repairs took about six months. Then they put the steam generators in the reactors (two SGs in each of two reactors) and just over a year later... problems, problems, problems!

The first problems to show up were in Unit II, the older of the two operating reactors and the one to get its steam generators replaced first. Excessive wear was discovered on the thin U-shaped tubes inside the SGs, when were inspected during Unit II's first refueling outage after the SG replacement. The outage was already far from "routine" despite repeated assurances by the utility that it was "just" a routine refueling outage: The Reactor Pressure Vessel Head was being replaced, which is another massive (and expensive!) part which had worn out prematurely. Neither the RPVH nor the SGs were ever supposed to wear out in the entire life of the plant.

Unit II's SG wear is significant: Two tubes had at least 30% wear, and nearly 70 tubes had at least 20% wear, and about 700 tubes had at least 10% wear. The new SGs are expected to last 40 years or longer -- but all of this excessive wear was detected after only about 14 months of operation! PWRs rely on the SGs to remove excess heat from the reactor. They are a vital safety component of the reactor, which is one reason there is a minimum of two SGs per reactor (sometimes more than two) in every PWR in the world -- in case one fails.

San Onofre's engineers were quick to explain to the media and the public that the wear they found on Unit II was probably just wear from "settling in": The parts merely had to "get comfortable" with each other. I actually heard SanO employees using these "engineering" terms!

Then Unit III's steam generators failed, too -- and it was "discovered" the hard way: A rupture. One of the nearly 20,000 tubes inside Unit III's SGs suddenly burst, and the subsequent release of primary coolant -- which is highly radioactive -- into the secondary coolant loop -- which normally isn't very radioactive -- caused the control room operators to have to shut down that reactor as well. Some radiation was released to the atmosphere (and to the public) when the radioactive steam condensed back to water at atmospheric pressure.

Calling what happened Last January merely a "leak" is being too nice: It was an extremely violent flashing to steam of super-heated, super-pressurized radioactive water and chemicals. (If you passed your arm accidentally over the breach, it would take your arm off (by steaming it off!) in an instant. (But at least the stump would be sanitized.))

Such steam generator tube ruptures are rare, and it's a good thing: The real danger would be that one burst tube would damage the tube next to it, which would burst too, and so on in a cascade of failures that would throw metal parts throughout the primary and secondary coolant loops, damaging valves and reactor fuel assemblies, blocking water flow, and damaging the other SG. And then what? Fukushima USA: An inability to cool the reactor -- a meltdown.

San Onofre avoided that, but their troubles had only just begun.

After letting the reactor cool for several days, technicians went in and started trying to discover what had gone wrong with Unit III's new steam generators. Was it "just" wear, like Unit II was experiencing? It doesn't appear to be the same problem: SanO employees identified 129 tubes that appeared to be excessively worn, and started pressure-testing them. This involves increasing the pressure in one tube at a time to about three times the normal operating pressure. Seven tubes have failed these tests already, and they've only just begun that phase of the testing!

Will it ever be safe, or reasonable, to restart these reactors with Mitsubishi Heavy Industry's steam generators? When BOTH units are having problems? (Exactly ONE tube in Unit II was pressure tested in light of the problems with Unit III. That one tube passed the test. All pressure tested tubes are plugged up permanently, and can no longer be used.)

There can be little doubt now that MHI has been delivering products with criminally-negligent workmanship, and San Onofre has been accepting those parts and using them.

One meltdown at SanO -- or two -- would destroy everything we love about SoCal. Why spend billions of dollars just to restart THAT risk? Right now we just have the spent fuel to deal with -- the radioactive waste pile. It's deadly, difficult to manage, and will cost a fortune. But at least it's NOT GROWING at the moment, and that's good. In fact, slowly but surely, it's cooling and becoming less hazardous.

Restarting San Onofre is just plain stupid!

Ace Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

The author is an educational software developer. His programs on mechanical pumps, the human heart, statistics and the periodic table are used in over 1000 universities around the world. His book on nuclear issues, The Code Killers, is available for free download or online viewing from his web site: www.acehoffman.org . His essays have been republished many times.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fantasyland... LaTourrette's syndrome

March 8, 2012

Dear Readers,

I attended a one-man show tonight, a work of fiction put on by the RAND Corporation ( www.rand.org ) in Santa Monica, California.

It was titled "Nuclear Energy After Fukushima" and "starred" Dr. Tom LaTourrette, Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation. Why this geologist was assigned the task of telling a couple of hundred people nuclear power is still safe is beyond me. But important people were there to listen, including representatives from Senator Feinstein's office, someone from Homeland Security, two diplomatic visitors from other countries, and former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (and former Rand employee) Dr. Victor Gilinsky, whom I've debated on other nuclear issues and would be glad to debate again.

They were all there listening to this guy because he's from the Rand Corporation.

I found it strange that the geologist apparently hadn't heard about the water leakage problems or geological instability of Yucca Mountain, or the drip shield problems, or the vermin infestation problems, or the scientific fraud that crept into the project from time to time, or even the transportation dangers and worries -- he had only heard that Harry Reid probably stopped Yucca Mountain -- "mothballed" was the word he used. He thought it was a purely political decision.

He picked all his "facts" carefully, always trying to appear to be leaving out his pro-nuclear bias. He was lousy at it, of course. Listening to him talk to people individually afterwards, I actually heard him say "I'm pro-nuclear. I hope my bias didn't show." It showed! Dude, it glowed like the sun! (Dear reader: You can't imagine how hard it is not to write, "what an idiot that guy was!" but I'll refrain as best I can...)

I was going to talk to him, ask him where he got his "facts", ask the question I didn't get called on to ask during the Q&A. But after he actually said that about being biased right in front of me, I decided not to bother. Instead I considered going over to the new President of the Rand Corporation, who was also in the room and standing nearby, and telling him that if they really want to serve the needs of the public, as they claim, then they could start by firing that guy and never listening to him again. Somehow I held myself back.

Unfortunately, Dr. LaTourrette's audience wasn't any less ignorant than he was. One guy asked if the uranium used in artillery shells was one way that we could use up the spent fuel that's piled at some 70 different sites around the country. No, that's not where "depleted" uranium comes from, LaTourrette explained. Then he called D.U. harmless or "not radioactive" or something like that -- a gross exaggeration, of course (and he was completely ignoring its heavy-metal toxicity issues). If we reprocess spent fuel, then D.U. might come from that waste stream. Is Dr. LaTourrette aware of that?

Someone asked if the dry casks were safe. He said they're so well shielded, you could put them in the Congressional Building. This is not true. He said you could fly an airplane into them. This is not true. In the months after 9-11, the nuclear industry attempted to claim their containment domes could withstand the force of a large air strike. This is not true, and they were forced to back down from that claim. Containment domes have approximately four to eight feet of concrete, and rebar a thick as a man's forearm. Dry casks typically have about two inches of steel and a foot or two of concrete. They CANNOT withstand a rocket-propelled grenade, let alone an airplane strike!

Plus, Dr. LaTourrette ignored what will happen when one of these dry casks ruptures and catches fire and releases all its fission products: Even Dr. Frank von Hipple, who I think minimizes the dangers significantly, calculated that a dry cask fire could spread its lethality 500 miles downwind.

Someone asked if the water in the spent fuel pool is "radioactive". Dr. LaTourrette didn't know, but thought that it probably was. (It is.) He apparently also didn't know that a guy fell in the reactor water at San Onofre a few weeks ago. The temporary contract worker will just have to wonder if he swallowed any "fuel fleas" that were in the water.

Dr. LaTourrette concluded that there are four possible options for "solving" the nuclear spent fuel problem. None of them are to stop making more waste! He doesn't see that as an option.

The first option he sees is to restart Yucca Mountain or some other geological repository. Not only did he seem to be unaware of the many various real problems with Yucca Mountain, he didn't seem to realize that Yucca Mountain was the last place on Earth we could find that "might" work! No other state, not other nation, sovereign Indian, or independent, wanted it. They still don't. (In fact, recently several nations tried to get Mongolia to build a nuclear waste repository, and -- poor and "backward" though they might be -- they had the good sense to say no.)

Dr. LaTourrette mentioned two countries which he feels have solved the geological waste disposal problem, by getting the local populations involved. What actually happened is those countries made special laws that would allow very small communities to decide to take the waste and not allow the larger communities around that area to stop them! That's Dr. LaTourrette's idea of a successful siting of a nuclear waste dump, and that's what he want's to have happen here in America, too.

But if that won't work, he had three other "solutions" to the growing, glowing problem of spent nuclear fuel. His favorite is to dump the waste on Indian territory. The difference between this and the geologic repository is that this is temporary and above ground. (By the way, "temporary" might mean hundreds of years.) This way, in his mind, we would have only "three or four" sites to guard, instead of the seventy or so that we have now. He ignored the fact that as long as the plants remain operational (and for several years afterwards) we would still have all the current sites, PLUS the new "temporary" dumps. And since he thinks airplanes, RPGs, etc. can't harm the casks, he thinks of this as a perfect solution. Out in the desert somewhere. If something goes wrong, and they catch fire, you can't put it out with water, but there's no water for miles around anyway. That's his idea of a perfect solution!

Oh, he'll tell you it's not perfect, that nothing is. Windmills are expensive, he says. Solar is too. Only coal is cheap. I find it baffling (get it, that's a pun) that wind power and solar power are considered expensive, considering they're big advantage is that once installed, you don't have to bring any fuel to them, ever -- the fuel comes to them! That's a huge saving in green-house-gas-emitting fuel right there. Even nuclear can't boast that advantage because removing /storing the fuel is very energy-intensive when one considers how long it has to be stored for, or if there's an accident, or just considering the difficulties in transporting the spent fuel -- building the transportation casks, the storage casks, the next set of storage casks after the first, and the hundredth, as they each wear out and the fuel is still hazardous. It all adds up, but not for Dr. LaTourrette.

His third option is to reprocess the spent fuel. He sees it as recovering an asset -- the Uranium 235 and Plutonium 239. He did admit that the fission products are very dangerous and would have to be stored for a long time, but there again, his estimate of "10,000 years" for how long spent fuel is dangerous was way off -- try a million years, Dr. LaTourrette! He didn't mention how energy intensive reprocessing is -- he called it "recycling" the fuel, since that sounds green, of course. He didn't mention that we would have to change the laws in America to do it. And he didn't mention that it would cost many tens of billions of dollars.

His fourth option is to just keep putting it in spent fuel pools and dry storage casks on site, but he says that's not being fair to our children and grandchildren. Gosh! How he sees any of the other options as being any better for them, I don't know. What he had to say was along the lines of, "but since we're already doing it, that's not an issue."

Stopping the nuclear waste pile from growing any larger doesn't occur to him. He can't understand why the Japanese, the Swiss, the Germans, the Italians and many others want to kill nuclear power or not start using it in the first place. He's not sure what happened at Fukushima. He doesn't know how many people died because of Chernobyl but figures it's not more than 10,000. He probably never heard that there's a book out, published by the New York Academy of Sciences, that looked at thousands of studies done in the aftermath of Chernobyl and concluded, by looking at the metadata, that as many as a MILLION people have died from Chernobyl already, and the deaths have only just begun! And far, far more were harmed but not killed outright.

Dr. LaTourrette is living in a fantasyland. It was very sad to see him have the floor for an hour, knowing my government's representatives were there listening to his spiel. I felt like I was in a seance or something, where science had been tossed out the window. But there he was, being believed, and getting a nice round of applause at the end for his performance.

Disneyland is just a few miles away. At least there, the fun is real. There was simply nothing real at Rand this evening.


Ace Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA


Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman
Carlsbad, CA
Email: ace [at] acehoffman.org


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Don't restart San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station -- EVER!!!

March 6th, 2012

To Whom It May Concern,

I hope you will join me in calling for an IMMEDIATE PUBLIC INQUIRY into what is happening at San Onofre Nuclear WASTE Generating Station, and a prevention of the restart of either reactor -- ever.

Both units are currently shut down (see Southern California Edison's recent press release, below). Let's keep them that way, to prevent a Fukushima USA from happening here. We love our community and don't want to lose it.

While it may be comforting to some that Southern California Edison says they are unwilling to restart either reactor until THEY are satisfied that it is safe to do so, the history of San Onofre itself, and of the nuclear industry in general, strongly suggests THEY will consider the "million dollars a day" they are losing in revenue per reactor each day while the reactors are offline, more than they will consider the risks and problems that restarting these old jalopies might cause to the population at large.

The local community is unprepared for the sort of catastrophic event a nuclear reactor meltdown would be for Southern California.

We know this from seeing what happened -- and is happening -- in Fukushima, Japan, nearly one year ago. We know this from seeing what happened -- and is happening -- in Chernobyl, Ukraine, 25 years ago. We know this from the blackout last fall right here in Southern California, when both reactors went offline just when they were needed most, and were, as usual, the last things to come back online after the trouble was sorted out.

But the fact that they are never "there" when you need them is hardly their biggest problem. We know what a meltdown will mean now, not only from Fukushima, and Chernobyl, but merely from observing rush hour here twice every day and on weekends too! We know we can't escape! We know this from Northridge, and Loma Prieta, and a thousand other rattles. No one that's lived here long hasn't felt a "shaker" and we know humans are truly powerless against such forces. We know we're powerless against tsunamis too, and that puny little sea wall at San Onofre is too small and would probably cave in anyway (especially when a massive boat is pushed through it)! Some earthquake faults run right underneath, or very close to, San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station (merely called SONGS because the waste it produces is ignored).

They can't rebuild their houses after the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima because of the meltdowns.

They could not evacuate properly: Instead, citizens were told to "shelter in place" and to wear masks, but such measures are of nearly trivial effectiveness. Their citizens will be suffering the consequences -- well known to science -- for decades to come.

Here in Southern California we do not have enough hospital beds for an earthquake, let alone a meltdown.

Here in SoCal, we do not have enough exit routes away from the area around San Onofre. Not enough for a ten mile evacuation, let alone, a more reasonable 50 mile or 100 mile evacuation.

We don't even have enough duct tape, with which we are somehow supposed to seal up the (broken) windows from the earthquake, the one that's coming, "The Big One", the one which will knock down the bridges and crack the reactor, and made us GUESS that we should "shelter in place" for the next two weeks, or thirty years, because there will be no radio stations to tell us what's going on because they won't know -- and we won't have any power to hear them, and there will be no internet, and no phone service, and none of the local governments had even been monitoring radiation levels so they could tell their citizens what's happening. The only one's who might know are the scattered few who had purchased battery-powered radiation detectors -- and they would be blocking their windows and not going out!

Let's not have to face THAT sort of disaster here in Southern California. It's clear the owners and operators of the San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station have no idea why the tube burst in Unit III's new steam generator nearly a month ago, resulting in a five-inch (13 cm.) gash, causing a primary-to-secondary coolant leak, forcing the operators to SCRAM the reactor and release radiation to the environment.

Unit II's steam generator tubes are also falling apart, and perhaps were -- or are -- only a short time away from rupturing too. Or perhaps Unit II will suffer something even worse: A cascade of tube ruptures, which could send fragments of metal throughout the primary and secondary coolant systems, blocking pumps, pipes, valves, flow channels, and ripping apart the zirconium rods that hold the uranium fuel pellets -- and the fission products.

The wear in Unit II has resulted in plugging about 1% of the tubes, and although that might be within SCE's expectations for "wearing in" these new parts, Edison is downplaying the more serious aspect: How worn some of those tubes that were plugged turned out to be. Tube wear was reported to be at least 30% of the thickness of the (incredibly thin) tubes on two tubes, and at least 20% on nearly 70 tubes. And, considering that nearly 10% of the tubes in Unit II had 10% wear or greater, how come many of them are NOT being plugged up? The answer is obvious: If you plug up too many tubes, you can't make as much money!

Put another way, SCE isn't plugging the "lightly" worn tubes because they are HOPING that the wear was entirely due to "settling in" (whatever that means) and NOT due to excessive wear from contaminants rushing through the system, including (but not limited to) chemical imbalances in their mixture, or microscopic particles of very dense material (such as uranium or plutonium) that have broken off the ceramic nuclear reactor fuel itself, and are now traveling at tremendous speed throughout the primary coolant loop, as well into the other loops and then into the environment.

Long ago, Dr. John Gofman, the first person to isolate working quantities of plutonium for the Manhattan Project, described the building of nuclear reactor power plants as "premeditated murder." After Fukushima and Chernobyl, there can be no doubt.

The burst and worn steam generator tubes at San Onofre were "new" a little over a year ago. But thousands of pipes, pumps, valves, control cables, and other parts of San Onofre are very old. Replacing them all would be costly and time-consuming for the utility, with the possibility of incorrect installation always present. Waiting for parts to fail is the standard policy instead. But the replacement parts have been just as faulty as the parts they are replacing! But either way, the public is put at risk.

Why do they keep rebuilding these old reactors? Because new ones are A) Prohibitively expensive and B) Prohibited by law in California. So instead, San Onofre has been permitted to replace major parts that were never meant to be replaced, and to let uninspected parts continue to operate until they fail.

They had an ammonia gas leak at San Onofre last fall, and had to evacuate hundreds of workers from a portion of the reactor site. It could have been a lot worse but the root cause is obvious: Old parts fail, new parts fail, and the radiation, heat, vibration, salty sea breeze, and years of neglect and a policy of "fix on fail" have all taken their toll. And even if every part were perfect, the operators aren't. And if they ARE perfect, then why do they keep getting caught lying?

At a million dollars a day in revenue per reactor, giving up has never seemed like a good option to the utility. But if you lose your home because one of their reactors melts down, they know they won't have to pay you! They are protected by something called the Price Anderson Act, first passed in 1957 and renewed periodically ever since.

When the new steam generators arrived a few years ago, there was already trouble. Southern California Edison, in cooperation with the lapdog Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and with the help of the manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, did extensive work to re-inspect and repair them before they were installed. Supposedly they were in extra-good shape after that fiasco. So much for promises, assurances, and expectations.

During Unit II's current refueling outage, now extended indefinitely, SCE also replaced the reactor pressure vessel head -- a huge operation: RPVH's for Pressurized Water Reactors like SanO weigh tens of thousands of pounds and have dozens and dozens of bolt-down points and dozens and dozens of holes in the top for the control rods. Replacing them is a big job, and was never supposed to have to happen in the whole life of the reactor.

A lot of heavy and yet very precise lifting is involved in replacing the RPVH. But it wasn't all that long ago that they dropped a crane at San Onofre, that they were moving with a gantry. The 80,000-lb crane was dropped because they didn't use a "spreader bar" to even the load.

A few weeks ago, someone dropped a flashlight into the reactor coolant, and -- violating every rule in the book to try to retrieve it -- fell in!

Who knows if the new RPVH was annealed properly when it was forged? Was it properly x-rayed and inspected afterwards? Did SCE inspect it properly when it got here? Why didn't the old one last the life of the reactor? Were the holes for the control rods drilled properly, each and every one, or did they drill too fast or pour cooling oil on the drill bit too slow, so that something overheated and changed the structure of the metals? Was everything aligned properly so the control rods won't jam when they are forced down into the reactor? Were the bolts tightened down in the proper sequence and to the proper torque?

Do we really want to find out the hard way that any of this went wrong?

There are two steam generators in each reactor. When one fails, the other is the backup, and there has to be a backup because that's how the heat is removed from the reactor -- through the steam generators. Some pressurized water reactor designs have three or even four steam generators, but San Onofre's reactors have only two.

Each reactor has only ONE reactor pressure vessel head, and if a hole develops in THAT, there will be little or nothing that can be done to prevent a Fukushima USA from occurring. Do we trust the new RPVH after what's happened with the steam generators? And if so, why? Are we nuts?

We must demand an immediate PUBLIC inquiry into why these new tubes burst, and why the old problems of mismanagement, worker intimidation, lying, and fraud are not considered CONTRIBUTING FACTORS to what's wrong now. We must demand that the reactors remain shut not just until these problems are sorted out, but FOREVER.

What we get if we start them up again is the worst of everything: Electricity for a moment, and radioactive waste for millions of years.

Nuclear power is a failure. Fukushima proved it -- and those were American-designed reactors. Chernobyl proved it -- that was human failure coupled with bad design. Davis-Besse, Three Mile Island, Brown's Ferry -- all these nearly-catastrophic failures in America also proved it.

It's time to get very realistic about San Onofre.

It's time to dismantle it.


Ace Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Recent press release from Southern California Edison:

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Provides Status Update

Media Contact: Media Relations, (626) 302-2255

ROSEMEAD, Calif., March 2, 2012 ­ Southern California Edison (SCE) continues to perform extensive testing and inspections of the steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Unit 2 was taken out of service on Jan. 9 for a planned refueling outage, inspections and maintenance. During these inspections, SCE engineers found some isolated areas of tube wear. This resulted in the plugging of approximately 1 percent of the tubes preventively in Unit 2. That amount is well within the extra tube allowance for each steam generator to account for wear and other routine operational developments.

On Jan. 31, a water leak was detected in one of the Unit 3 steam generator tubes. The unit was safely taken off line. Initial analysis from the inspections does not indicate any correlation between the leak in Unit 3 and the tube wear seen in Unit 2. However, SCE has decided not to restart Unit 2 until it is satisfied that the issue with Unit 3 will not occur in Unit 2. This is a thoughtful process that requires deliberate and meticulous analysis. Based on that analysis, the utility will identify any other tests or decisions that may be necessary as a result.

"Nuclear safety is our top priority," said Pete Dietrich, SCE senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. "Everything we do ­ from normal plant operations and routine refueling outages to specialized repairs and equipment replacement ­ is done with the utmost care to protect the health and well-being of the community and our employees. There is no timeline on safety."

During the Unit 2 planned outage, SCE engineers performed inspection, maintenance and repair work, including replacing the reactor head and modifying the steam turbine with new high-pressure turbine components that run more efficiently. Approximately half of the reactor fuel also was replaced with new fuel.

Inspection, testing and analysis continue in Unit 3.

SCE is committed to the safe operation of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and will not return the plant's generating units to service until the company is satisfied it is safe to do so.

About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation's largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.


Contact information for the author of this newsletter:


Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman
Carlsbad, CA
Email: ace [at] acehoffman.org