Monday, December 1, 2014

If Yucca Mountain and all other nuclear waste storage locations fail to open?

To: Orange County Register ( )

December 1st, 2014

To The Editor,

Perhaps you think it's just a "thought experiment" not based in reality, but what if Yucca Mountain and all other nuclear waste storage locations fail to open?

Had I asked that 70 years ago -- even then a few years into the "nuclear" age -- I'd have been told a solution is on the way... but no one could have told me what it would be. Ditto half a century ago. Nothing. Then, for about 20 years, we were all told "Yucca Mountain" but that's gone now, too -- and well it should be.

Have you investigated what's wrong with Yucca Mountain? Four-inch-thick titanium drip shields wouldn't last nearly long enough. Volcanoes more likely (less extinct) than first thought. Underground rivers. Earthquakes too, and water intrusion from above (hence the decision to try to design 10,000-year drip shields), especially due to possible changing climatic conditions caused by the vagaries of global warming (i.e., expect MORE rain in SOME desert areas, but mostly much LESS rain everywhere. And every drop of water, wasted by a billion gallons a day in a nuclear plant, is more precious than ever. Solar and wind power use no water, and enclosing the ever-evaporating California Aqueduct in shade-giving solar panels might go a long way (literally and figuratively) to solving several of our current environmental problems all by itself. Solar panels can now be built into roadways, bike paths and sidewalks.

And speaking of your calculations for how much area in solar panels would be needed replace SanO: Assuming your estimates are correct, those are actually doable numbers. But I hope your readers noted (because you didn't) that those estimates replaced two million homes' dirty power source with clean ones: With ONLY "64,000 acres" of solar panels (which could all be located on people's rooftops, by the way, so they wouldn't take up ANY land space) or ONLY "59,000 acres" of wind turbines. As for your estimate of the "acreage" needed for wind turbines, perhaps you haven't been studying the concept of "multi-use" land projects and I guess you're including all the space needed to keep their blades separate from each other, regardless of what's on the ground underneath. Modern wind turbines produce about 6 megawatts of power, so I really have no idea how you came up with that "59,000 acres" figure.

You should also know that house cats kill orders-of-magnitude more birds than wind turbines, and better blade designs are coming with large-scale 3D printing of blade components.

Have you seen the latest ideas for wind turbines that take essentially NO space on the ground? They convert high-speed (and nearly constant) winds aloft to energy, and run that free power down long wires from miles above the earth. VERY efficient! Furthermore, they can be used to ENFORCE "no-fly zones" around existing nuclear waste dumps, just like barrage balloons did for London during WWII. Imagine that!

But you still want more nukes.

Well, take your nuclear waste and stuff it... somewhere. Seriously: Let's see you A) Propose a plan and B) Make it work -- globally. Make it work for ALL the waste that's ever been produced, that's stored here at San Onofre, and at Diablo Canyon and everywhere else, and make it work for all the current waste that's being made every day, before you conspire to produce more. (About 10 tons of spent nuclear fuel is produced in America every day, and 50 tons globally -- but NONE at San Onofre thanks to poor design of their new steam generators, caused by arrogance, ignorance, negligence and greed on the part of the power plant's operators, engineers and most of all, their executives.)

The more recently the "spent" nuclear fuel assemblies came out of the reactor, the more dangerous it is if anything goes wrong or even just for the workers who transfer it from the reactor to the spent fuel pools to the dry casks to transfer casks to move it to...well, where? Or to replacement dry casks (somehow?) sooner or later if there is no place -- and that's by far the most likely scenario. Nobody in their right minds thinks they can safely store nuclear waste for as long as necessary to protect humans from its most hazardous toxins, such as plutonium. It will have to be transferred to new containers many, many times for there to even be a chance that it will be safely stored for the duration.

So let's NOT plan on turning on any more nuclear reactors in southern California, where 30 million people have nowhere to go in an emergency, no way to get there, and no desire to leave in the first place. We like it here. We don't want anything going on which can have one bad day and destroy the entire southern half of the state -- maybe even half the country (study (Google): Worst Case Scenarios for Chernobyl, Fukushima, or any other reactor or spent fuel site).

And while we're prohibiting NEW nuclear reactors in southern California, let's reassess the earthquake safety rating of Diablo Canyon, and shut that monstrosity down, too, before something terrible happens. Nuclear power plants are NOT made to withstand all possible earthquakes that might hit them. Instead, calculations are made of the likelihood of earthquakes large enough, close enough, and aiming in the right direction with the right style of peaks and valleys of energy dissipation, within a given time frame of the reactor operating. These calculations are called Probabilistic Risks Assessments (PRAs).

Are PRAs complicated calculations? Oh, sure. But it's worse than that: There's no reliable data to go INTO the calculations -- least of all, reliable, accurate data on the quality of the workmanship that went into the nuclear reactor when it was built!

And if new data about the size, frequency, closeness, etc. of an earthquake is discovered after the "Environmental Impact Statement" has been produced, that new data is ignored. Once an EIS, always an EIS, and worse than that: One power plant's EIS becomes a generic EIS for all the others, even though the circumstances are completely different. And once a reactor survives one licensing period, the same 20-year-old EIS is used as the basis for extending it to 40, 60, or even 80 years of operation and beyond -- it's rubber-stamped (no reactor license extension request has ever been turned down by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)).

People don't want nuclear waste anywhere near them, but thanks to promoters like you, San Clemente's got a huge pile of it, and has to keep it for what might be thousands of generations.

And now you want more?

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Editorial: Even after San Onofre, don't rule out a role for nuclear power


Published: Nov. 26, 2014 Updated: 4:23 p.m.

Edison ratepayers will be getting a $1.45 billion refund for electricity not generated from the premature shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in the settlement recently approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

However, considering the $3.3 billion cost to shut down the plant, and to pay for those failed steam generators at the center of the closure, will be paid by ratepayers until 2022, it probably doesn't seem like much of a refund.

In all, it seems likely the deal is the best Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric customers are probably going to get over the shuttered nuclear plant ­ and likelyy only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to rate increases attributable to the shutdown.

Sure, the generators were meant to pay for themselves over the lengthened lifespan of the plant, but the real costs come from the abrupt loss of nearly 20 percent of SCE's energy production, 2,200 megawatts, which powered about 1.4 million homes.

Solar and wind have been touted as worthy replacements, but it would take 64,000 acres of solar panels or 59,000 acres of wind turbines to replace San Onofre. Instead, SCE has resorted to buying electricity out of state, much of it from coal and natural gas. Before San Onofre went offline, SCE was buying nearly two-thirds of the electricity it provided to consumers; now, it is closer to seven-eights.

Rates, Edison said, likely will go up again shortly after the decrease to cover the higher cost of buying electricity, a Register report noted.

Ratepayers simply should not be on the hook for the costs associated with inattention at the plant, since, according to a Register report, "a federal investigation after the 2012 leak concluded that a botched computer analysis resulted in generator design flaws that were largely to blame for the unprecedented wear in the tubing that carried radioactive water."

That is an unfortunate byproduct of our government-protected monopoly of utility companies, where ratepayers are a captive market. Equally unfortunate is the ease with which environmentalists and their political allies capitalized on the opportunity to shut down for good one of the few clean energy sources in the state.

Despite a handful of headline-catching incidents, nuclear energy has been an extremely safe, reliable and clean source of energy. California's strained power grid simply is not keeping up with growing demandand will require a diverse energy solution. Despite recent setbacks, nuclear power should remain a key part of that energy portfolio.

WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR Letters to the Editor: E-mail to letters at Please provide your name, city and telephone number (telephone numbers will not be published). Letters of about 200 words or videos of 30-seconds each will be given preference. Letters will be edited for length, grammar and clarity.


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


Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Department of Energy is a criminal organization. No doubt about it.


I can't remember the last time I sent out the wrong version of something, but yesterday's newsletter was supposed to look like what you see below. It's a bit "enhanced" and cleaned up, but otherwise pretty similar. Long-time readers might enjoy seeing how an article evolves?

In any case, my apologies for any confusion!

November 4th, 2014


The Department of Energy (DOE) is committing treason. Has been for years.

They are playing with Americans' minds by forcing us to accept nuclear waste in our midst. From Atoms for Peace and Too Cheap To Meter, it's been a litany of lies handed down from the AEC and carried on to this day. Nuclear power is not green. It can't solve global warming or anything else. Mere trillionths of the total production of nuclear fission reactions is of any use as medical or industrial tracers or cancer-zappers. DOE has usurped our rights as citizens. They are creating weapons of mass destruction that remain in our midst forever.

The DOE is targeting U.S. citizens with these weapons.

The DOE is a criminal organization.

They are playing a high-stakes game with Russia which, if it results in just 1% of the nuclear arsenal of each country being used, would effectively permanently destroy both countries. Several other countries are involved in this high-stakes game (China, Britain, France, etc..) but America and Russia are the bully players.

The cost of the "game"? Obama plans to put another trillion dollars into it. And he's the "peace" president! In two years, who knows what a Republican might spend? Two trillion? Three?

And to think that it's spent under the name of "stewardship"! Keeping the weapons cache safe. Keeping it current.

But nuclear weapons are useless. In nearly 3/4s of a century we've never found a use for them, not since the first two senseless attacks on Japan. Senseless because Japan was already practically beaten and we set a terrible precedent, and caused much needless pain and suffering. Senseless because the bombs did not attack soldiers, they attacked civilians (including some American POWs). Senseless because they did not consider the real consequences of the radiation, believing that any too-high doses would blow away in the wind, or that anyone close enough to be harmed by the gamma radiation would be killed by falling bricks and other debris and pressure waves anyway (but not first, I might note). Senseless because Japan could have been shown the power of the bombs without bombing dense concentrations of civilians (but I guess that was the point of the strategists's ruse: to pretend that EVERY city in Japan would soon suffer the same fate, and it worked. In reality, of course, the biggest secret about The Bomb was that we had used up the entire arsenal with the three explosions (Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki) and if the war had continued, it would have surely been over before we could use atomic weapons again).*

Senseless because we then had to send our own troops into harm's way -- into Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help with the clean-up. One survivor of that operation told me he had had close to 200 skin operations on his face, starting soon afterwards. 200 sets of stitches, how's that sound? Because the American soldiers sent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't given ANY protective equipment -- not even gloves or face-masks, the bare minimum for cleaning up after a radioactive contamination.

The Department of Energy demands that we keep the nuclear waste at closed reactor sites like San Onofre for what will surely be decades and may be centuries in the best of cases, and an eternity in the worst of cases, because if there is an accident, it will be virtually impossible to clean up, so the area will be damaged virtually forever. Areas around Chernobyl and Fukushima are not going to be open to human habitation for longer than the pyramids have stood -- and even then, it will be because the poisons, active down to the last atom, have spread out amongst the rest of the biosphere to kill, maim, disfigure and deform there as well.

Plutonium has a half-life of about 24,000 years.

DOE is committing treason by demanding that each nuclear reactor site keep the waste created there onsite for at least 60 to 300 years (maybe longer), which is also by far the most dangerous time: The waste is extremely hot, both thermally and radioactively.

For thousands of years, spent nuclear fuel is fully capable of having just as horrific an accident as Chernobyl or Fukushima -- and even far worse (all four of those meltdowns could have been far worse). And yet the next few centuries are the most hazardous by many orders of magnitude, because of the fission products which are more rapidly decaying, and some of which, the body takes up as if it were a nutrient or a normal water atom.

During this most-hazardous time, they want to keep it stored amongst millions of people.

These are some of the many dirty secrets of the nuclear industry. That there never will be a good spent fuel plan is one of their most obvious dirty secrets: Containment structures are made of atoms and molecules, in crystal lattices or in various sheets of substances in alloys. Radiation smashes through all that stuff, and rearranges molecules, energizes atoms to move around in an alloy, and so forth. Ionizing radiation can break any normal chemical bond -- any at all -- and thus, can destroy any container you put it in.

So long-term safe containment truly is impossible, hence the choice several countries have made and America is threatening to try: Bury it and try to forget about it.

America so far has been smart enough to reject that option: But now what?

Southern California Edison wants Californians to settle for what is typically used around the country as "temporary" on-site dry cask storage: 5/8th inch thick stainless steel canisters as big as a truck, holding up to 32 fuel assemblies as tight as sardines. Weld them shut, set them out in a comparatively thin (3 to 5 feet thick) cement sarcophagus, and hope nothing goes wrong.

There are more than 2,000 such canisters in America, just waiting for a little moisture to get in through an unnoticed crack and cause an explosion, or for an airplane to crash into a row of them, or for an earthquake to swallow one and crush it, or just shake it apart, or for a 41-foot tsunami to overwhelm them when they are only rated to survive submersion up to 40 feet -- and that's if a boat doesn't happen to sit on top of them as the tsunami washes back out.

Accidents will happen. They happen all the time, and it's just a matter of time until some area of America is destroyed just like Chernobyl and Fukushima were, and our "waste confidence" (as the NRC calls the current lack of a plan for the spent nuclear fuel) drops down to where it belongs: NONE.

The DOE is forcing innocent Americans to risk nuclear catastrophes, mostly without their knowledge, and certainly without their consent., but that's exactly what the DOE is doing. Other countries are just as stupid, but that's no excuse. China's nuclear power construction projects are slathered in graft and kickbacks. South Korea's are too. All of Japan's reactors have been shut down since Fukushima because the regulators (and the people) realized they weren't built strong enough to begin with. America has 23 similar reactors which cannot be made safe, and should be permanently shut down (as should all the others).

Areva, the French-government's nuclear parts manufacturer to the world, and the maker of many of the dry casks in America as well as in Europe, is awash with scandal, as usual.

England has its ongoing scandal and clean-up mess at Sellafield. And on and on and on.

DOE makes it so that even if a community gets off this death-train, the entire area around it will still be threatened with destruction as the hot nuclear waste just sits there, doing nothing, decaying the containment it's in...

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

* Note: At most, there was one more plutonium "core" or "pit" available in August, 1945.  See:

Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:

Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.


As published originally:

The Department of Energy (DOE) is committing treason.

They are playing with American's minds by forcing us to accept nuclear waste in our midst. They are usurping our rights as citizens, they are appropriating weapons of mass destruction, and they are targeting US with those weapons.

The DOE is a criminal organization. No doubt about it.

They are playing a high-stakes game with Russia which, if it results in just 1% of the nuclear arsenal of each country being used, would effectively permanently destroy both countries. Several other countries are involved in this high-stakes game (China, Britain, France, etc..) but America and Russia are the bully players.

The cost of the "game"? Obama plans to put another trillion dollars into it. And he's the "peace" president! In two years, who knows what a Republican might spend? Two trillion? Three?

And to think that it's spent under the name of "stewardship"! Keeping the weapons cache safe. Keeping it current.

But nuclear weapons are useless. In nearly 3/4s of a century we've never found a use for them, not since the first two senseless attacks on Japan (senseless because Japan was already practically beaten, senseless because they did not attack soldiers, they attacked civilians (including some American POWs), senseless because they did not consider the real consequences of the radiation, believing that any too-high doses would blow away in the wind, or that anyone close enough to be harmed by the gamma radiation would be killed by falling bricks and other debris and pressure waves anyway (but not first, I might note), senseless because Japan could have been shown the power of the bombs without bombing dense concentrations of civilians (but I guess that was the point of the strategists's ruse: to pretend that EVERY city in Japan would soon suffer the same fate, and it worked. In reality, of course, the biggest secret about The Bomb was that we had used up the entire arsenal with the three explosions (Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki) and if the war had continued, it would have surely been over before we could use atomic weapons again).

Senseless because we then had to send our own troops into harm's way -- into Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help with the clean-up. One survivor of that operation told me had had close to 200 skin operations on his face, starting soon afterwards. 200 sets of stitches, how's that sound? Because they weren't given ANY protective equipment. Not gloves or face-masks, the bare minimum for cleaning up after a radioactive contamination.

The DOE demands that we keep the nuclear waste here for what may be eternity, because if there is an accident, it will be virtually impossible to clean up. Areas around Chernobyl and Fukushima are not going to be open to human habitation for tens of thousands of years -- and only then because the poisons, active down to the last atom, have spread out amongst the rest of the biosphere to kill, maim, disfigure and deform there as well.

By demanding that each nuclear reactor site keep the waste created there for at least 60 to 300 years (maybe longer), which is also by far the most dangerous time: The waste is extremely hot, both thermally and radioactively.

For thousands of years, spent nuclear fuel is fully capable of having just as horrific an accident as Chernobyl or Fukushima -- and even far worse (all four of those meltdowns could have been far worse).

These are the dirty secrets of the nuclear industry. That there never will be a good spent fuel plan, that the local reactors are to keep the waste after the plant has closed, and that ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN.

They happen all the time, and it's just a matter of time until some area of America is destroyed, just like Chernobyl and Fukushima was, and our "waste confidence" (as the NRC calls the current lack of a plan for the spent nuclear fuel) drops down to where it belongs: NONE.

Forcing nuclear accidents on innocent Americans is treason, but that's exactly what the DOE is doing.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Speak out Monday (10/27/2014) in Carlsbad, California to protect southern California from becoming a nuclear wasteland...

Some time in the future, possibly today, a full-scale nuclear meltdown in America is virtually inevitable. There are simply too many cracks in the regulatory system for any other result.

It happened at Chernobyl in Russia, it happened at Fukushima in Japan, and it has already nearly happened many times at various nuclear power plants in America. We've been lucky, and luck runs out.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's rules for making rules are the problem, because of the layer upon layer of roadblocks to logical conclusions. The inevitable result will be a meltdown in America, because the rules are getting softer, not tougher, just as the industry is in need of more and more loopholes and shortcuts to make money and stay mildly competitive. In some states, including California, they are helped by the states' Public Utilities Commissions, which insures the utility a profit, in many cases by blocking cheaper (for the ratepayer) renewable energy options.

The NRC has many rules, and many of them change all the time. Some get weaker, if things don't go wrong, while others get stronger, if things do. (The American nuclear industry is still bucking even the relatively minor changes (which would cost about two dozen plants in America a few tens of millions of dollars) following the Fukushima accident three years ago.)

Among these rules, however, are a few very special rules designed to prevent duplication of effort, wasted expense, wasted time, and uneven regulatory enforcement.

These rules make it very difficult to revisit an issue which has been previously decided in the nuclear industry's favor. If a new plan for a replacement part is submitted to the regulators and rejected for some reason, the industry can always make a change and resubmit the application. But once the plan has been accepted, there is little that can be done to withdraw or alter that acceptance. Furthermore, the NRC assumes that fabrication of parts is always done correctly, and that every operation they fail to inspect was properly done. None of these assumptions are based on reality.

Over time, a bias is introduced in favor of anything that passed acceptance, rightly or wrongly. Over time, the effect of that bias grows, with one inevitable result: A meltdown.

For example, computer-controlled equipment abounds at nuclear power plants. It's more efficient. Efficiency means a lot when you're trying to make money by boiling water, to turn into steam, to turn into a spinning object, to turn into a magnetic field, to turn into electrons flowing back and forth in wires, to convert through many different amperages and phases along miles of wires every inch of which introduces additional losses, in order to deliver electricity to homes and businesses which are flooded with it from wind and sun daily.

The overall inefficiency is staggering, so of course they've computerized everything.

Then along came computer viruses. So the industry bought anti-virus software.

Then along came Stuxnet, which attacked the motor controller boards at a nuclear facility in Iran. Many features of it were very easy to copy, and many varieties quickly followed.

Along with these software threats came counterfeit parts inside the "mil-spec" hardware components that are used to make the motherboards that control the machines.

The military has a huge problem with counterfeit parts. Every industry does. The nuclear industry is both a major user of enormous quantities of computer equipment, and a major target of industrial, political and terrorist espionage attempts.

A perfect storm.

Late to the party, the NRC is (finally) holding special hearings (mostly or entirely closed-door, as far as I know) with other agencies about hackers, viruses, encryption and other software security issues. (I'm not sure the hardware dangers are going to be considered at this time.)

Nuclear power plants are notoriously complicated machines. Try as they might, no one has been able to simplify them. In fact, it's only gotten worse with added computerization in the control room and in the machinery throughout the plant.

The nuclear reaction itself is a complex balance of the density of neutron moderators against the available quantity of various isotopes for fissioning and for neutron absorption. To use the energy that is released by the reaction, water, which also acts as a neutron moderator, is heated under extremely high pressure (about 1200 PSI for Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), and about 2200 PSI for Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). Change the density of the water just a little bit (by changing its temperature), and the water's ability to moderate neutrons (slow them down) can change dramatically. Stop circulating the water, and the metal overheats, the zirconium catches fire, the fission products are released, and finally, the ceramic pellets of uranium and plutonium oxides melt down through the steel reactor pressure vessel in a radioactive blob known as corium.

There are three blobs of corium in Japan and one in Russia. No American reactor accident has resulted in an unapproachable (even with proper protection) blob of corium, although SL1, Santa Susana, Fermi 1** and Three Mile Island all suffered partial or complete meltdowns. (Two were relatively small "research" reactors.)

Even without a meltdown, no one can go near the reactor while it is operating for months at a time. Fixing problems usually requires shutting the reactor down, which is not risk-free. Utilities are very limited in how often they are allowed to shut a reactor down. Half a dozen times in a year would be very alarming, for instance, to the regulators. That is, until relicensing time, when all that will be forgotten as it is expected that licenses will soon routinely be extended to 80 years.

Accidents can be so severe that at least one of the reactor's backup systems "MUST" function. At least, that's the claim -- that at least one backup system will work and prevent a catastrophic release of radiation to the public.

To prevent that, reactors are designed to withstand the worst earthquake postulated for the region, the worst tornado, the worst tsunami, the worst flood, the worst fire, the worst power outage, the worst attack by a small group of lightly armed non-suicidal terrorists ... but of course, once it's been decided that something is the worst threat in a particular realm (worst earthquake expected, worst tsunami, etc.) the NRC is very reluctant to revisit that issue, even as new science comes along. In fact, especially as new science comes along that could result in getting a reactor shut down permanently. And even if a new, more strict ruling is made, it can take decades to get that rule implemented: Reactor companies ask for extensions and exemptions all the time -- and they are almost invariably granted.

All the while, each operating nuclear reactor is creating radioactive waste at the rate of about 10 pounds per hour per reactor (10 tons per day for the U.S. as a whole) which must be guarded essentially forever.

Legally, for at least a million years.

The NRC affirmed the million-year figure recently, by concluding that the proposed (and cancelled and reborn) Yucca Mountain repository would protect humanity for that long. The timing of the release of the NRC's conclusions appears to be a political move prior to the November midterm elections. The NRC did not provide backup documentation for their decision -- that's still to be published. The NRC has a habit of withdrawing documents, then rereleasing watered-down or altered versions prior to releasing any backup documentation, if it ever comes out at all. And the backup documentation may not even back up their conclusions -- this author has seen that happen many times, as well.

The State of Nevada is fighting the legal battles one might expect them to be concerned about: They don't want Yucca Mountain to happen at all and have numerous good reasons why it's inadequate: Water intrusion, earthquake issues, volcanic issues, transportation issues (they don't want that waste anywhere near Las Vegas, but that's exactly how some of the routes go), human fallibility issues (will it be constructed according to specifications and who's gonna check? And who's gonna check the checkers?).

However, the State of Nevada doesn't want to appear anti-nuclear or -- egads -- unAmerican, so in their official submissions opposing Yucca Mountain, to the NRC or to a judge, they always state that on-site storage of spent fuel at the reactor sites is safe and will remain so until an alternative site is selected.

However, onsite storage is NOT safe, and every other potential permanent repository location has already been eliminated for one reason or another, time and again. Nobody in their right mind wants the waste anywhere near them. Especially not a wised-up American.

Having no other place on earth for the highly radioactive used reactor cores puts residents of southern California at grave risk of a catastrophic spent fuel accident, with no solution in sight. Even though San Onofre is closed, the spent fuel is still a problem, and so is Diablo Canyon: Los Angeles is far closer to Diablo Canyon than Tokyo is to Fukushima. And Tokyo might have had to be abandoned if Fukushima's "corium" blobs had exploded violently (or might still have to be, if the corium explodes some time in the future...). So Los Angeles is certainly not yet safe from San Onofre, let alone, from Diablo Canyon.

Much of the risk these reactors have imposed on Californians has been the inevitable result of the NRC being a "captured" regulatory agency. And for what? For energy we don't need: Losing SanO did not cause blackouts, and there is already more than enough electricity available in California to make up for Diablo Canyon's output to the grid, and more renewable energy is coming online every day. And with a new Public Utilities Commissioner, perhaps we will see even more renewable energy (hard to believe we could do worse than Michael Peevey has been).

San Onofre's steam generator replacement project failure has become legendary within engineering circles, and somebody has to take the blame. SCE deserves a lot of the blame, but the NRC chose to absolve them of it all and instead, take the blame for the guilty-as-sin utility's engineers and executives, who the NRC protected from criminal indictments at every step. Probably to protect their own skin.

For example, after citizens demanded a "thorough" investigation into what failed in San Onofre Unit 3 on January 31, 2012, and what -- if anything -- was different about Unit 2's virtually identical replacement steam generators, NRC formed an Augmented Inspection Team (AIT) and experts were consulted. But the experts couldn't agree on the cause, and the committee concluded it might be one thing or another, but then again it might be something else, and that was the end of the investigation. The net result? It could happen again, at another reactor site. The "root cause" was never found.

The question came up (like a freight train rumbling through a small village) of whether or not Southern California Edison (SCE) should have applied for a license amendment before replacing the steam generators, -- a license amendment which SCE specifically tried to avoid. After the AIT investigation into what happened that went nowhere, NRC concluded that SCE had satisfied all the requirements for submitting data about the replacement steam generators to the NRC. However, the NRC could not produce the documentation they supposedly used to support their conclusion.

After the leak that shut down the plant, the 18-month delay (from January 31, 2012 to June 7, 2013) before deciding to permanently close San Onofre cost ratepayers in California hundreds of millions of dollars. That money could have gone directly into solar and other renewable projects.

Prior to SCE's abandoning the reactor the NRC, to their credit, delivered several dozen technical questions to San Onofre's owners for their engineers to answer. But realistically, the NRC could have and should have told Southern California Edison there was no way they were EVER going to approve any restart of EITHER reactor -- even if the steam generators are replaced again -- because SCE was no better at keeping records of what went wrong than the NRC was, and the documentation for who screwed up the calculations appears to be missing -- so who would know what else might be bogus in that hunk of junk by the sea?

NRC should never have allowed the steam generator replacement project to move forward anywhere, but especially at San Onofre. In making their decision, the NRC apparently never considered what else might have been going wrong at the plant (such as: not going on fire watches, worker intimidation, not test-starting or inspecting backup generators for years at a time, not properly setting the welding speeds on automatic welding equipment, etc. etc. etc. ).

NRC should have shut San Onofre down -- and all the others -- because of the waste problem. It's not just unsolved. It's unsolvable.

This Monday (October 27th, 2014) the NRC will hold a hearing (in Carlsbad, where I live) regarding how to proceed with decommissioning San Onofre, after SCE finally decided it couldn't squeeze the public to pay for a thousand useless high-paying jobs anymore, and so they cut the workforce to a "skeleton" size of about 350 people, and submitted a decommissioning plan (called a PSDAR) which calls for completing the project as quickly as possible -- except for the waste, which will just sit there.

The NRC meeting is to hear from the public regarding SCE's PSDAR, which is filled with utterly fantastic predictions: That the nuclear waste problem will be solved by 2024 when a national repository will open; that San Onofre's waste will be removed from the site by 2049; that giving workers a few hundred REM of radiation is okay; and that the public has been properly engaged and knows what's going on at the plant.

When the decommissioning process starts, hundreds more people will be hired. SCE is keen to see that happen. SCE already has (our) money to pay them, and the money has to just sit there, hopefully earning enough interest so that whenever decommissioning does start, there will still be enough money to pay for it. But if not, they'll just get it from the ratepayers.

Local unions want decommissioning to start -- they see jobs, and if it's dangerous -- well, that pays even better. They can't see radiation. They're not afraid of it because construction work -- and deconstruction work -- always carries a risk. That's what people do to build skyscrapers and so forth -- they take a risk that the cables and crossbeams will hold: That the design is correct. That the materials are good.

NRC has calculated the overall radiation doses the workers will receive. If deconstruction is delayed for a few generations of workers instead of started immediately as SCE is proposing, the cumulative doses those workers who finally do the deconstruction will get will be about 1/20th of the radiation dose that workers will get if the deconstruction work is started as soon as possible (10s of REM cumulatively, versus several hundred REM cumulatively).

Figures were not available for doses to the public, but those would be reduced as well -- although those are already promised to be extremely low.

The Office of Inspector General's (OIG's) report on the NRC's handling of the San Onofre steam generator replacement project was very critical of the NRC -- but still didn't go far enough. As if in response, almost immediately after the OIG's report was released, this ne'er-do-well, corrupted, captured, hook-line-and-sinker pro-nuclear regulatory agency published a ruling that is supposed to stand for a million years or more!

And the NRC's chairperson resigned -- poof, off to a cushy university.

When she was appointed, Allison Macfarlane had been lauded by Obama for her work on the Blue Ribbon Commission -- which accomplished nothing except to say that we've got to stop allowing citizens to stop a nuclear waste dump, just because they live near a small group of tribal Indians or other "sovereign" land owners who are willing to take money for taking nuclear waste.

This BRC "solution" is called such Orwellian terms as "community choice" for "interim storage solutions." (In the case of Yucca Mountain, that site is within the Nevada Test Site, which is on land already taken from the Shoshone people, and they don't want it further desecrated.)

And speaking of Orwellian terms, 70+ years and as many billions of dollars later, the unsolved nuclear waste problem is now called the "waste confidence" problem, as if half-inch thick stainless steel canisters with thousands of pounds of nuclear waste in each one is somehow safe, and as if such flimsy canisters are a defense-in-depth (as was promised by the nuclear industry and the NRC) method to store nuclear waste for hundreds of years, come what may: Fires, floods, wars... larger-than-design-basis earthquakes... the crumbling sands of time... tsunamis...

The dry casks are only tested, built for, assumed to be able to withstand 40 feet of submersion, while the waves that washed over Fukushima were nearly double that, and underwater landslides among the submerged canyons off the coast of California can cause mountainous tsunamis far taller than that. A new study was promised for decades but of course, never materialized. And even Allison Macfarlane has admitted, you can't predict when these things will happen.

The NRC says the canisters will last at least 100 years right here on our coast, but anyone who lives here knows metals don't last very long along the coast. They become embrittled, they rust, they flake, they crack... and the NRC's own studies* confirm that we'll be lucky to get 30 years from the dry casks (the ones in Diablo Canyon are showing signs of stress corrosion cracking after only about two years). If we can't figure out a good way to thoroughly inspect these canisters periodically, we won't know if they've even started to crack until it's a through-wall crack and the canisters have already started to leak.

And yet, the NRC is America's last line of defense, which is why, despite it all, I encourage all citizens to come to their meetings and complain.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

* Actually, the NRC didn't do any cask degradation studies themselves, they commissioned Sandia National Labs to do some, because the NRC doesn't have the expertise or resources to do the studies, and the industry doesn't have the interest in doing them.

** Fermi 1 was added after the following letter was received from Kay C.:

Hi Ace,

Just a reminder that one of Michigan's reactors, Fermi 1, also had a partial meltdown in 1966. John Fuller wrote a book about it: "We Almost Lost Detroit." From my understanding, it was a lot like Santa Susanna. 


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


Note: This communication may have been intercepted in secret, without permission, and in violation of our right to privacy by the National Security Agency or some other agency or private contractor.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Judge Sullivan resorts to incomplete logic in order to bar world-renowned expert from testifying in "flowers" case...

Four grandmothers attempted to plant flowers to bring attention to the dangers at Pilgrim nuclear power plant. But Judge James Sullivan refused to allow world-renowned pediatrician and nuclear expert Helen Caldicott to testify in their defense, because he (the judge) sees a huge difference -- when pushed to see it by the District Attorney -- between "potential theoretical harm" and actual imminent harm.

The defendants -- four women 60 to 80 years old -- are using the "necessity" defense. Is there an immediate danger? Is the illegal act (trespassing) effective in addressing and abating the danger? The judge refused to learn how quickly a nuclear power plant can explode. He refused to hear that the plans for evacuation require immediate action for millions of people around the plant. She refused to consider that the warning that it's time to evacuate must be sent out by people who, if they fail to do their duty, will be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, and end up in Judge Sullivan's court (if he survives the holocaust) to be sentenced for negligent homicide.

How imminent can you get?

And sticks and stones may break my bones but planting flowers never hurt anybody.

The judge would like to turn the issue of nuclear safety away. Not his concern. Not in his courtroom. That's for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide. They say it's safe. And for the judge, that's the end of the "imminent threat" defense.

But as nuclear industry veteran Arnie Gundersen puts it, a nuclear power plant "can have 40 good years and one bad day." That's forty years for activists to address the serious dangers of nuclear power, and get the plant shut down permanently. 40 years to look at the waste problem the plant is creating -- waste which, like at San Onofre, which will never generate nuclear power again -- will have to be watched closely for thousands of generations or it can become a burning cauldron of poisonous gasses, just like Fukushima but with fewer of the short-lived fission products. Zirconium is touchy, dangerous, wicked stuff. And that's just the cladding! Inside are fission products, plutonium and unfissioned uranium -- the "hot" stuff.

I don't like to break the law and don't encourage others to do so, either.

But this industry has to be stopped.

For years, activists went to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to complain about goings-on at San Onofre. From skipping fire watches to improper welding procedures for the dry casks they were building, to worker intimidations and firings -- all this leaked out, year after year, from whistleblowers and former employees of the plant.

The activists would tell the NRC, the NRC would promise to investigate, and that would be the end of that. Why did a crane fall 80 feet in the turbine room? The crane was being removed after it was rented to replace the turbine shaft, which had run out of oil during a small fire while the fire departments were arguing. Yes, these things really happened, and the turbine shaft suddenly screeched to a halt, bent, and had to be shipped to Japan for repairs which took six months. Local city firefighters who had responded weren't allowed to do their jobs because the on-site fire brigade thought they had it under control. They didn't. When they finally relented, it was too late, the shaft has seized and was damaged. The reactor was SCRAMmed, a violent and dangerous procedure.

It all happens in an instant, but the proper way to prevent it is to shut the plants down. It's shutdown or meltdown for every reactor in the country.

Over the years, local activists talked about all sorts of (non-violent) illegal actions they wanted to take, to try to raise awareness of San Onofre's dangers, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has deaf ears, the state agencies close their eyes to anything having to do with "safety" of nuclear power plants, saying the NRC has sole jurisdiction in that area, and the courts? Judge Sullivan finds a two-bit excuse to exclude the whole crux of the problem: You can't hold nuclear power accountable.

Activists fighting San Onofre were dogged in their efforts and clear about their targets: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the utility itself. Once the new replacement steam generators had failed and the reactor was inoperable, the cry was adamant: PROVE restart of Unit 2 is safe. Show us what's different. Show us how you're going to know what's going on inside the steam generator. And show us how you can be sure a cascade of tube failures can't occur, since adjacent tubes of dime-thin metal were clanging into each other and had worn 99% of the way through. Most of all, show us a plan to handle such an accident if it does occur.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) even took the NRC to court. It could have been Judge Sullivan's court, but fortunately it happened in another part of the country (I believe FOE court cases on behalf of San Onofre's citizens were filed in D.C.)

I don't like to break the law, but if planting flowers on someone's property can get a decent hearing on a critical issue of safety for the community, I'd let it happen. Shame on Judge Sullivan.

It would appear that the system worked for San Onofre and an imminent threat was averted. The people were spared all the potential disasters except (and this is a big exception) those associated with the spent ("used") fuel.

The battle to protect the public from that is a long and daunting one, but the first step is shutting down the plants -- and planting flowers instead.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Note #1: In the above essay, references to Judge [James] Sullivan have been gender-corrected from the original.

Note #2: A few days later, Dr. Caldicott was allowed to testify.  See:


Judge snubs expert at Pilgrim trial

October 18, 2014

PLYMOUTH ­ A Plymouth District Court judge barred an internationally known expert on the medical and environmental dangers of nuclear power from testifying Friday on behalf of four Cape Cod activists charged with trespassing onto the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station's property on Mother's Day.

Dr. Helen Caldicott had traveled from Australia to serve as the principal expert witness at the trial of the alleged trespassers, who argue that their actions of civil disobedience were performed for a greater good.

Related Links

Read more about Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

Defendants Diane Turco of Harwich, Sarah Thacher of East Dennis, Mary Conathan of Chatham and Susan Carpenter of South Dennis are using the "necessity" defense, which requires their attorney to prove there was an immediate danger and the action of trespassing was effective in addressing and abating the danger.

The four women, who range in age from 60 to 80 and call themselves "The Grandmothers," say they went onto the Pilgrim property to plant flowers. Their action came at the end of a Mother's Day rally intended to raise awareness of the dangers they say the plant poses to the public.

Instead of allowing Caldicott to testify Friday, Judge James Sullivan ordered her to undergo preliminary questioning so he could determine what direction her testimony would take.

The doctor told the court that while she has spoken and written on the dangers of nuclear power in general, she spent 20 years in the Boston area and has specific familiarity with the Plymouth nuclear plant.

"I've been concerned about Pilgrim for many years and have given lectures on this plant many times," she said. "This is an acute emergency. People on the Cape are at a severe risk."

Plymouth County Assistant District Attorney Amanda Fowle argued that Caldicott and future witnesses for the defense would show "potential hypothetical harm" rather than actual imminent harm.

Sullivan agreed. "She's telling the court what could happen and what the potential risks are," the judge said. "The necessity defense can't be based on speculative information. I have no choice but to preclude her testimony."

The judge told defense attorney Bruce Taub he may allow Caldicott to testify Wednesday "if you bring in other witnesses that make her testimony relative." He suggested nuclear engineers as possible expert witnesses, but then told Taub he could not add any witnesses to the existing list.

Taub intends to have state Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, kick off Monday's testimony, followed by Dr. Richard Clapp, founding director of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry, and political scientist Joseph Gerson, who will testify on acts of civil disobedience to prompt social change.

Caldicott said later she was "very annoyed" at the judge's ruling. ­He knew I'm an expert on childhood diseases and I could talk about that," said the doctor, who has been an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a staff member at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston.

"I don't think the law should be deciding the medical dangers of the nuclear plant," she said. "We who know medicine should be deciding.

"International studies show children living within 2 miles of a plant have double the incidence of leukemia, and that's almost certainly happening here," she said.

One of the alleged trespassers, Thacher, did testify Friday. The 80-year-old great-grandmother called the plant "an insult to our humanity and to our children."

Fowle asked Thacher why she went onto the Entergy-owned Pilgrim property. "I hoped to bring attention to it and get people as mad as hell about this unfeeling continuation of the poisoning of our atmosphere," Thacher answered. "My effort is for all the children in the world. They're all getting hammered."

During opening statements, Fowle said the prosecution had not been given adequate notice of the witnesses the defense would present.

She said Taub had not provided the list and the background material on the witnesses until Wednesday.

Taub apologized and said it was not intentional.

"This is a significant case," Sullivan warned. "The defendants are facing incarceration. It's important we do this the right way."

Turco, who founded the anti-Pilgrim group Cape Downwinders and who is the only defendant representing herself, agreed with the judge.

"It is serious, but it's serious because it's about public health and safety," Turco said. "Jail time is secondary."

Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @chrislegereCCT.

Re: [NukeNet] Judge denies Caldicott testimony

Cape Cod Times video: Helen Caldicott at Pilgrim Nuclear Plant Trespassing trial

[ go to Re: CCT web page for video)

At 06:47 AM 10/18/2014 -0400, "Diane Turco" <> wrote:
>Cape Cod Times article on the Grandmothers Trial!.Diane
>NukeNet Anti-Nuclear Network (
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Suggested preamble to San Clemente city resolution...

Here's a suggested preamble to San Clemente's resolution about the nuclear waste, and some comments.


Our forefathers made a mistake accepting the production of this waste within our community.

Nuclear power was and will forever remain a forbidden fruit, because the so-called by-products in the "production" of electricity are, in fact, the real products of the process, with electricity being just a fleeting byproduct (easily achieved many other ways). We want offshore wind farms. We want clean energy.

The fact that nuclear waste is the product of nuclear fission -- not "just" a by-product -- is a very important point. We're stuck with the waste. And we want to warn others who are making such waste that they should stop now -- don't wait -- the sooner you stop making waste, the less waste you'll have to deal with in the future. And to anyone contemplating this technology: Don't do it.

Nuclear waste has nowhere to go. Don't believe us? After 30 years and 15 billion dollars, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Yucca Mountain as safe for the next million years. That's a big claim. They claim the waste will be safe at San Onofre for hundreds of years. That's a big claim too.

The last big thing the NRC approved for San Clemente was San Onofre's replacement steam generators which were supposed to last 60 years or longer, but which only lasted 11 months and then nearly wiped out southern California when they failed! An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General found numerous procedural flaws in the NRC's methodology -- flaws which can be applied throughout the commission, to every decision they make. The NRC is the ultimate lap-dog agency. Every time anyone within the NRC even thinks about throwing in the towel on nuclear power, they are drummed out of the industry forever.

Were the NRC to ever decide to shut down civilian nuclear power -- AS THEY SHOULD -- the U. S. Nuclear Navy would remind the NRC that the USN uses nuclear power for ships and submarines, and where will their reactor control room operators work after their stint in the navy is through if there are no more "civilian" power reactors?

And the U.S. Air Force has its atomic bombs -- where would they get material for those bombs if not for commercial reactors producing copious quantities of plutonium "just in case" World War III breaks out and it last more than 90 minutes before we're all smoke and ruins?

"With that in mind, we resolve that:..."

After that, San Clemente can continue to beg someone to take the nuclear waste for them. Until then, at least San Clemente can be happy that SCE/CPUC plan to spread out the costs for future generations to pay for the upkeep, replacement shielding, catastrophic loss of life and property (values) -- and all other additional expenses that might be incurred -- among communities far away from San Clemente. But if even a tiny fraction of the waste got out, it would destroy San Clemente first. And the Price-Andersen insurance will limit pay-outs long before even San Clemente's destruction can be covered. A fraction of a single fuel pellet the size of an adult human pinky bone can render San Clemente uninhabitable if its contents ignite and burn. There are millions and millions of fuel pellets, each the size of one adult human pinky bone, being stored at San Onofre. And, if one burns, probably at least all those in that dry canister will also burn, possibly igniting other cani

Each pellet will be deadly for far more than a million years, although for the next few decades, and for the first few centuries, the used fuel is especially dangerous because it includes a lot of relatively short-lived fission products (with half-lives in the 30 year range).

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Notes on what might make a better dry cask:

Thick layers of copper (used in other countries for additional shielding for long-term waste storage, but long-term applicability to its use here has not been confirmed).
Thick layers of gold (probably the 2nd best protection for all the other layers, after iridium (but not enough iridium exists on the planet (nor does enough gold)).
Fewer fuel assemblies per dry cask (this reduces the risk and potential size of a criticality event).
Gold plating on the outside (protects from insects and many other things).
Alternately-magnetized layers of steel -- thousands of them (stops many substances from creeping through the material).
Canister integrity monitoring (to ensure cracks are not developing).
If a monolith is used, fewer casks per monolith (so that the monolith can move more easily as one object in an earthquake).
High stone pyramids (to protect the area from missiles and jet airplane impacts).
After closure of all power reactors, military reactors, and research reactors (they can put one on Mars if they want) -- and ONLY after that time: Reprocessing that removes the zirconium and fission products from the plutonium and uranium, and then stores everything in a safer way.

And lastly:

A global agreement on what that best way to solve the nuclear waste dilemma. Right now there are a dozen or so different "best" storage solutions for nuclear waste used around the world. None are adequate. There is no safe place to store the waste, no safe way to transport it, no safe way to reprocess it, and absolutely no reason to make more of it.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Comments on the NRC Inspector General Report on San Onofre's Steam Generator failure

The Office of Inspector General's (OIG's) report on San Onofre is out (URL below, provided by Ray Lutz).

It's pretty damning of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

NRC missed opportunities to see that the new steam generator designs were extensively different from the original. They could have seen that the designs were unworkable, or at least prone to vibration. Their procedures rely on random inspections, a method which invariably can miss big problems. They accept unsubstantiated claims by the licensee. They don't have the right experts doing the inspections. And they don't keep good enough documentation to reconstruct the basis for their decisions.

These are the guys in charge of the most dangerous technology in the history of the human race.

And the Augmented Inspection Team (AIT) that NRC set up after the failure? They never answered the question they were tasked with researching! (Namely: Should there have been a "50.59" license amendment procedure? (The answer was: "Yes."))

Perhaps worst of all, the NRC inspectors themselves -- despite many of them individually identifying serious problems -- still believe in the system. But truly, the system is broken because the goal is unreachable.

And what went wrong with San Onofre's steam generators is going wrong with the nuclear industry's dry cask long-term storage solution for spent nuclear fuel (called a "short-term," "temporary," "interim" or "indefinite" storage solution by the nuclear industry). The entire nuclear industry is ignoring "Beyond Design Basis Events (DBEs)" such as airplane strikes, terrorism, larger earthquakes than originally anticipated, larger tsunamis, and numerous other natural and manmade phenomena and combinations of phenomena.

Instead, regarding dry cask storage, the nuclear industry and the NRC are looking almost exclusively at the problem of hydride-induced stress corrosion cracking (SCC), such as occurs in a marine environment like at San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. Even for that, they plan on sampling less than 1% of dry casks in the country, and that's just for visible signs of damage. They might even get away with inspecting less than 1% of 1%, if the industry gets to do inspections of only ONE dry cask at ONE reactor site, as they have asked permission to do.

While SCC is certainly a serious issue, the NRC doesn't even look at the ramifications of that in the real world. For example, through-wall cracks as deep as 75% of the way through the dry cask container wall (which is only 5/8ths of an inch thick to begin with) will be allowed -- even though no seismic studies on how well a degraded cask can withstand even a design basis earthquake have been done!

Regarding the steam generator failure that doomed San Onofre, NRC had plenty of red flags on this project, and plenty of opportunities to step up their regulatory efforts, but made sure they looked the other way. San Onofre, like nearly every other reactor in America, is old and was prone to equipment failures. These "unexpected" occurrences were completely ignored in Southern California Edison's (SCE's) analysis of the cost/benefit of the steam generator replacement project. It was assumed there would never be a significant leakage problem, or vibration problem, just as it was assumed (and still is, at Diablo Canyon and other still-operating reactors) that a Fukushima-size accident simply can't happen. (There are currently 23 reactors in America with the exact same design flaws that doomed Fukushima, and all 87 other operating commercial reactors also have potential pathways to becoming the first American Fukushima -- or worse.)

The projected one billion dollar savings for ratepayers (over a 20 year period) from the replacement steam generator project assumed nothing would go wrong -- including a drop in the price of natural gas (which happened). And let alone, a drop in the price of renewable energy solutions (which also happened). And let alone, a bone-headed engineering SNAFU that could have been avoided if only SCE hadn't tried so hard to avoid regulatory (and public) oversight entirely.

NRC has some very strange ways of doing things. For example, they will accept two changes in opposite directions as being the exact equivalent of no change at all. This can make it very easy for a utility to squeeze by without any deep regulatory review.

In other words, let's say for example that a replacement pipe is made of thinner or weaker metal than the part it is replacing. That would, of course, increase the risk of that pipe bursting. But the utility can call it a wash if a different pipe that's also being replaced at the same time can be made stronger or thicker, which would reduce the risk of that pipe bursting! Such types of calculations MIGHT be okay from a total "risk analysis" point of view. But from the point of view of whether or not something is a change, it's completely ridiculous voodoo math. And perfectly legal at the NRC.

While this OIG report is pretty damning of the NRC, it by no means exonerates SCE.

The nuclear industry in America is dying a far-too-slow death. Lack of proper regulatory oversight has kept it alive far too long.

When the NRC was first formed in 1975, this author, naively, thought that, now that the regulatory and promotional parts of the Atomic Energy Commission have at last been separated (the Department of Energy being the other half, of course), the dangers of nuclear power will be recognized by the regulators, who will surely shut down this dangerous and useless technology.

So if I were to tell you that perhaps this report will start to change things at the NRC, you should take it with a grain of salt. And don't hold your breath.

However, after reading NRC regional chief at the time Elmo Collins' comments (see SD-U-T article, below, top), I'm not about to say that. NRC continues to stubbornly cling to the idea that its real duty is to serve the nuclear industry, not the public.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

From: San Diego Union-Tribune:


'09 inspection cited as "missed opportunity" to identify weaknesses in generator project

By Morgan Lee 5:05 A.M.OCT. 8, 2014

U.S. nuclear safety regulators missed red flags in 2009 when they agreed to pre-approve steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear plant without a thorough review, leading to the installation of faulty equipment, according to a federal inquiry released Tuesday.

San Onofre was permanently shut down last year by plant operator Southern California Edison because of the rapid degradation of newly replaced steam generators.

In a 55-page report, the Office of the Inspector General at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said a 2009 inspection by the agency failed to recognize "shortcomings" in the way the replacement of the huge steam generators was evaluated. It also raised questions about why Edison was allowed to install new generators without seeking a change in its federal operating license.

The inspection team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed a decision by Edison to replace San Onofre's steam generators without prior approval from the agency, the report said. No objections were raised by the nuclear commission at the time, and installation of the new generators began in September 2009.

Edison installed the generators under a frequently used rule that allows plant operators to replace equipment without prior approval, provided they can show the switch does not cause significant changes to plant operation or safety.

A subsequent review, after the plant broke down, turned up questions about shortcomings in Edison's evaluation of changes to the original generator design and whether there was sufficient evidence to sidestep a license amendment, which can take months or years to complete.

The inspector general's report characterized the 2009 inspection as a "missed opportunity" to identify weaknesses in Edison's screening of the project, and said there was "no assurance the NRC reached the correct conclusion" when it agreed that a license amendment wasn't needed to replace the generators.

Edison is reviewing the report and had no immediate comment.

Elmo Collins, the former regional administrator overseeing San Onofre until March 2013, told investigators that if a lengthier license amendment review had been conducted, it is unlikely the steam generators would have been approved.

"The steam generators as designed were basically unlicensable," he said. "We wouldn't approve them."

He said a more thorough review may have prompted probing questions about predictions on steam velocities. Rapid wear among generator tubes at San Onofre was linked to dry, fast-moving steam.

"Some reviewer would have said this is an outlier and we need to understand that," the inquiry report said, paraphrasing Collins.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., faulted both Edison and the nuclear commission and said a hearing is planned before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Boxer heads the committee, which oversees safety regulations for U.S. nuclear plants.

"When Southern California Edison decided to completely replace their steam generators in order to increase their profit margin, they failed to apply for an amended license as they are required to do, and the NRC stood by and did nothing," Boxer said in a statement.

The inquiry report shows that some inspectors on the 2009 team were in the midst of training on how to evaluate whether a major reactor component replacement, such as a steam generator, can go forward without a re-evaluation of the plant's safety systems. Many experts within the agency said better training and guidance is needed.

Steam generators are routinely replaced at nuclear reactors because of corrosion and wear and tear. Since 1989, 53 of the 65 plants that utilize steam generators have replaced their generators without prior approval by the commission.

Six replacements have been made following the license amendment process.

NRC spokeswoman Lara Uselding said the agency was reviewing the report.

Federal authorities traced the generator problems at San Onofre to botched computer codes used to design the generators.

Previously, the commission cited Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for flawed computer codes used in the design of the steam generators. Edison was cited for failing to properly check the design.


At 12:26 PM 10/8/2014 -0700, Ray Lutz wrote:

>UT news item:
>Actual report (55 pages):


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Just that little IS-FISS-SEE... (aka ISFSI, or "dry cask storage farm" (or most accurately: "nuclear waste dump"))

Hi all,

I came across an official decommissioning web site for Connecticut Yankee, which I toured while it was still operating, many, many years ago.

It's the blueprint for what they want to do at San Onofre and other closed nuclear reactors. They want the public to ignore the hazardous waste site they have created.

Below (top item) are three paragraphs from the CY web site about how successful their decommissioning was. At the very end, one little sentence about reducing their footprint down to five acres (from approximately 530 acres) for their Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (known in the industry as an ISFSI as if that's anything more special or complicated than a thick slab of concrete out in the open, on which nuclear waste is piled).

I do not believe the radiological portion of San Onofre should be touched for at least 60 years and really, forever. Leave the domes there. Let artists use them for a canvas to document man's stupidity. Put some of the fuel inside them as long as they're sturdy and there's fuel on site, since, supposedly that would provide protection from even large airplane strikes. (It would not all fit there, the domes just aren't that big, and I do not believe they are strong enough to survive a jumbo jet strike, but certainly they can protect against smaller aircraft.)

Connecticut Yankee claims it was environmentally better to release all that "low-level" radiation out to the environment and poison the workers with 20 times the collective dose they would have gotten if they had waited half a century to decommission the radiological portion. (I'm all for destroying enough of the reactor controls so it cannot possibly be restarted without spending billions of dollars (we've been assured it already would need a complete new license from the NRC...).)

The Connecticut Yankee web page shown below also states the real reasons they wanted to decommission the plant right away: Jobs, jobs, jobs -- they talk about jobs for the current staff, but I wonder how much of that actually happened: demolition work and building things are pretty different job categories. And most of SanO's staff has already been let go. I'd say that's a poor excuse for immediate decommissioning.

As to doing the decommissioning now because there are low-level waste dumps available now that might not be available in 50 years -- that would be hard to argue with: Those dumps do close up and become unavailable (that's why some states have already made special agreements with other states (Connecticut and Texas, if I'm not mistaking). Except that, as I've stated, since the radiation levels would be substantially lower, perhaps MORE places would actually be available that might actually accept the waste, not the other way around. I think SCE already has contracts for that with the dump in Clive, Utah. They should just make sure it stays available and wait.

Connecticut Yankee was still in operation when we toured it, back when citizens could actually tour operating nuclear power plants, many, many years ago. And, just like Jane Fonda and Michael Douglass did in The China Syndrome, we got to look down at the control room from a viewing area. We also went into the turbine room, and were given a little black box about 2 inches on a side, which they said was a single family's lifetime little pile of nuclear waste (they did not mention that it was enough waste to cause the complete and permanent evacuation of ALL of southern California -- just my little black box, let alone yours and everyone else's!). (I even wrote a song about it, called, not surprisingly, "My Little Black Box." (Sorry, I can't remember all the lyrics anymore, but I hopefully have it on reel-to-reel tape...somewhere...))

ISFSIs scare the quap out of me, while the industry wants to pretend they don't even exist and the public can forget about them.

But of course, an ISFSI is a lot less risky than what we used to have: A pair of operating nuclear reactors, two spent fuel pools, AND a growing ISFSI! (And that's why America needs to get rid of Diablo Canyon, Palo Verde, and all the rest.)

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


From 1968 until permanent shutdown in 1996, Connecticut Yankee operated a 619 megawatt pressurized water reactor at the Haddam Neck site. The nuclear power plant underwent a successful decommissioning from 1998-2007 with all plant structures removed and the site restored to stringent state and federal clean-up standards.

The Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Company Board of Directors voted to permanently close the CY plant in December 1996. The decision was based on an economic study that concluded that due to changing market conditions, electric customers would save money if the plant were closed.

CY chose immediate dismantlement (the DECON method) because it was the most practical and environmentally responsible option for the plant. Other considerations included the use of current plant employees who were trained and knowledgeable about the facility, prevention of long-term maintenance costs, and the availability of low-level waste disposal facilities. Significant decommissioning activities began at CY in May 1998, and were successfully completed in November 2007 with NRC approval to reduce the land under the NRC license to the approximately 5 acre Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation.


At 07:54 AM 9/20/2014 -0700, Donna Gilmore wrote:
>This is something we'll need people to show up for with handouts. Looks like Edison is ramping up their PR Campaign
>4-7 pm San Juan Capistrano Community Center, 25925 Camino del Avion, San Juan Capistrano
>-------- Original message --------
>From: Gene Stone
>Date:09/19/2014 5:43 PM (GMT-08:00)
>To: Decommission San Onofre
>Subject: San Onofre learning tours
>Public opportunities:
>As part of our broader public engagement and education effort for San Onofre, we have a couple of new opportunities coming up that you can help promote as you see fit. These are (1) public walking tours of the plant and (2) a Decommissioning Education Fair.
>Public Walking Tours
>We are starting walking tours of the plant that will be available to members of the public. Folks will have an opportunity to participate in a guided tour of what is called the Owner Controlled Area of the plant. After we have conducted the first two tours we will assess our approach in the spirit of continuous improvement. Learning will be applied to future such tours. We also will build a regular, recurring schedule of public tours. Requirements and other detailed are spelled out on the SONGScommunity website. Here is the URL to request a tour:
>Decommissioning Education Fair
>On Sept. 29, we will host the first in a series of Education Fairs focused on San Onofre decommissioning. We will have a range of staff on hand to address everything from emergency planning to marine mitigation efforts. Dates for additional Education Fairs are to be announced. Here is the flyer for the first one:
>Please feel free to forward this information to people in your personal networks.
>Manuel C. Camargo Jr.
>Principal Manager, Decommissioning
>San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
>O 626.302.7902 (PAX 27902) - M213.361.3661
>Gene Stone

At 10:23 AM 9/20/2014 -0700, Donna Gilmore wrote:
>I don't want my radiation count to go up, so I'll pass on the tour!
>-------- Original message --------
>From: Ace Hoffman
>Date:09/20/2014 9:59 AM (GMT-08:00)
>To: Donna Gilmore
>Cc: Gene Stone , Decommission San Onofre
>Subject: Re: March 29 San Juan Capistrano Edison Decom Fair
>Hi all,
>I agree we need good handouts for that.
>Sharon and I already toured a PWR years ago (and have toured many other industrial sites), but others might find the tour interesting, if only to be amazed at how massive everything is.
>If any do, they should sign up right away. If we all want to go as a group, I'll be happy to go with other people.
>It would be interesting if we all asked to go, and some of us where rejected for some reason. We all have U.S. birth certificates [social security numbers, driver's licenses, passports...?] and can survive a background check, right???

Re: Fre(ak) tours of SanO!

Hi Donna, all...

I didn't say anyone SHOULD go, but I'm sure if you bring your dosimeter (and they let you carry it around) it will barely register a blip anywhere (daily variance will way exceed anything you'll see on the tour, in all likelihood). But perhaps we should all, as I suggest, just sign up and see if any of us are banned or not (I'd wager money you're not, Donna, and I don't know who among us (if any) would be). But actually go on the tour? I'd only go if about half a dozen of us decided they wanted to go and thought a tour guide from our side would be good to have along! Otherwise...been there, done that.



Quotes collected by Ace Hoffman:

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Paul Wellstone (US Senator, D-Minnesota, 7.21.1944 - 10.25.2002)
"There are no warlike peoples - just warlike leaders." -- Ralph Bunche (8.7.1903 - 12.9.1971)
In the execution room, Troy [Davis] used his last words to proclaim his innocence one final time. He then made a call for his movement -- all of our movement -- to bring about [an] end of the death penalty for good. And then, in his final breath, he asked God's mercy upon those about to kill him.
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." -- Thomas Jefferson
"Officials from the San Onofre nuclear reactor said the warning siren that went off yesterday was just a malfunction and no one should worry. Hey, I worry, if they can't even get the siren to work right, what the hell are they doing with the reactor??" Jay Leno 1/20/10
"Please send this to everyone you know!" -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes)

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Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

CPUC Releases Secret Report on San Onofre's steam generator failure...

Robert J. Budnitz is a fraud -- or at least, for what we (the ratepayer) paid (almost $5,000 of a $150,000 contract), we (and the CPUC) got exactly nothing. According to Budnitz's report, Budnitz successfully figured out that the new RSG design was different from the old one, and also different from Diablo Canyon's steam generator design. He therefore concluded the SanO design must have been flawed. Brilliant? I think not!

In fact, I wonder if Dr. Budnitz has learned anything about the futility of safely storing nuclear waste since he was on the science advisory board of the EPA on High Level Radioactive Waste Disposal in 1983-1984, i.e., 30+ years... Then he was on Yucca Mountain's team... then WIPP... and along the way, investigated Three Mile Island and many other nuclear fiascoes... as far as I can tell, Budnitz has accomplished nothing all his life, and everything he touches turns to... whatever the opposite of the Midas touch is. Spent fuel.

Robert J. Budnitz has been apologizing for the nuclear industry for decades. It's unlikely he would have changed his tune over the steam generator failures. Here's a few things SCE did wrong along the way. I don't know how many of them Budnitz would have identified even if he had been given a million dollars to investigate the steam generator failure at San Onofre:

1) Prior to the replacement, SCE appears to have intentionally chosen to run the reactors in such a way that they would produce extra steam (aka: an uprate) while at the same time, accelerate the wear so that the need to replace the steam generators would not fall at the same time as the relicensing hearings that were coming up around 2022-2024. Perhaps if they had cut back power, instead of increasing power, the old SGs would even have lasted another decade or two.

2) Prior to replacement, SCE intentionally included numerous additional repairs that needed to be done to continue to operate the plant. These repairs were removed from the "$670 million dollar" figure that has been cited as the total cost of the repairs. In fact, the total expenses that accompanied the repair but were not properly assigned to the task totaled well over a billion dollars. My guess is that's been paid for by the ratepayers in other ways, but at any rate, it was spent needlessly. (CPUC had hired one of those fraud companies much like Budnitz (called the Aspen Group or something like that, I think) to produce a report showing that indeed the steam generator replacement project would be worthwhile for the citizens of California because it would save us money. The possibilities of ANY failure were literally completely ignored from any sort of financial perspective. It was ASSUMED the money would cause the reactors to operate for another 20, 30 or more years. Such an assumption was invalid for numerous reasons, of course, what happened being only one of them.)

3) Prior to replacement, SCE (and the nuclear industry) made a big deal about the new alloy (Alloy "690") being more corrosion-resistant than the old alloy (Alloy "600"). But I'd be hard-pressed to find ONE instance where SCE admitted that it was 10% less heat-conductive and would therefore absolutely, without question, require numerous changes in design to get not just the same steam output, but in fact, they were hoping for (and sort of got, until it failed) more steam, for their replacement turbine blades.

4) Prior to replacement, design changes were considered "like for like" even under the following conditions: Problem: An increase in the diameter of a pipe causes an increase in risk because more steam can escape into the containment building within the NRC-regulated time period. Solution: Increase the quality of the valves used to isolate that portion of the system so that the chance of that accident happening would be lower, thus the overall risk calculation would remain the same. I'm not saying such calculations are not valid engineering behavior. I'm just saying you need a permit, and it needs to be approved, because it's NOT "like-for-like" and more importantly, the CPUC knew this stuff was going on and let it happen. The CPUC, during the original SG replacement hearings, had every opportunity to figure out this replacement project had all sorts of fraud involved in it. No reasonable citizen paying attention wanted it to happen.

5) Prior to the accident, a more careful inspection of Unit 2's steam generators would have revealed extensive damage, if not Fluid Elastic Instability (i.e., coordinated tube-to-tube wear from whole rows of tubes swaying to and fro in the in-plane direction). Unit 3 could have been shut down in December, 2011 because the problems with Unit 2 were so severe, and the tube-to-tube wear could have been discovered. For a $670 million dollar replacement project with 4 main parts, one would think the first chance to take a close look at those parts would have been taken. But it wasn't. That was negligent (as are many of these other things I've mentioned, if not all of them).

6) During the SG replacement project, SCE refused to do a "hot test" which might have shown the wear problem without even irradiating the new 1/3 of the reactor cores, that were replaced and used only 11 months and 22 months, respectively, in Units 3 and 2. Now, those reactor cores are the most dangerous and difficult to deal with, because they have so much U-235 in them and so few "poisons."

7) On that fateful day, 1/31/2012, had the leak leaked just a little differently, the utility would have kept running Unit 3 until a cascade of tube failures occurred (other adjacent tubes were 99% worn). They've been lauded for their "quick" response but in fact, they waited about 18 minutes to do anything after the radiation alarms went off, waiting to figure out how fast the leak was leaking. If it had been a little slower, it might have allowed them to simply keep operating with the leak -- until there were multiple-tube failures, which would be a beyond-design-basis accident.

8) After the accident, SCE had every opportunity to realize that Unit 2 was damaged beyond reasonable repair, that replacement SGs were not a reasonable option, and that the plant was never going to operate again. They kept a lot of very expensive workers around for a long time for no reason. Economically, they should have realized the plant was a white elephant when the original steam generators started to fail -- if not sooner.

9) Throughout this time, SCE insisted that the spent fuel waste problem was solved by -- and I quote: "Yucca Mountain." Yucca Mountain was never a good solution and every reasonable person who reviewed it, knew it. But more importantly, the Yucca Mountain team of scientists themselves were free to suggest any other better solution, if they could find one, except the same thing (geologic repository) in another location, because siting ANY permanent (or temporary) repository anywhere appears to be just as impossible as doing it safely is. They could consider rocketing the waste into space (too risky, everyone knows that, and also too expensive). They could consider deep sea disposal (illegal by treaty, and even without that problem, the plans were so iffy no one could take them seriously (dropping huge weights from large ships in order to pierce holes deep into the bottom seabed muck, for instance)). There were no better solutions then and there aren't now, either (I'm not recommending Yucca Mountain, just pointing out it already was a last resort).

10) The CPUC's main duty now is for they themselves to learn from what has happened, and to use that knowledge to close Diablo Canyon. It's far more important than figuring out who was to blame for San Onofre's failures, though they certainly should see that through to the end, too. But the whole place was a hazard and a threat. If it hadn't been this, it could have been something else: Giant pipes carrying primary coolant were rusting out, one of them might have failed (that's even a design basis accident, if nothing else serious goes wrong). But something might have: Diesel backup generators were cross-wired improperly, and wouldn't start, and hadn't been tested, and on and on and on. Records were falsified and workers who complained about the hazards were intimidated and/or let go.

San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station was an accident waiting to happen and so is Diablo Canyon, Indian Point, Palo Verde (which SCE owns 20% of) and all the others. Just another day in the nuclear industry.

Ace Hoffman


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


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