Sunday, April 26, 2015

Submission to the CEC for 2015 IEPR: Every state agency now has the green light to stop nuclear power...


"Raitt, Heather@Energy"
"Parrow, Donna@Energy"
"Miranda, Hazel@Energy"
"Smith, Charles@Energy"
"Saxton, Patrick@Energy"
"Barker, Kevin@Energy"
"Mathews, Alana@Energy"
"Kravitz, Raquel@Energy"
"Laurent, Laura@Energy"

To: California Energy Commission
Commissioner Andrew McAllister, Lead Commissioner for 2015 IEPR
Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller, Lead Commissioner for Electricity and Natural Gas

Dear Commissioners,

It is time to close Diablo Canyon, because planet earth, let alone California, does not contain land sparse enough to contain nuclear waste. It is also true that there are clean alternatives, such as are being provided by magnificently-run, fully unionized solar installation companies which consistently get high marks for quality, value, and service.

Not like your average nuclear power plant, which is constantly generating a waste problem no one in California can solve.

Large releases of the contents of a spent fuel dry cask are considered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to be well beyond any "design basis accident." Design-basis-accidents only result in relatively minute releases of radiation from a dry cask: Perhaps a millionth of the entire contents, for example, or a ten millionth, or even less.

Every additional ton of spent nuclear fuel that needs to be stored and/or transported is an additional risk and danger to Californians. This does not mean that the CEC, CPUC, or any other state agency is regulating "health and safety" by including in their considerations the possibility of "beyond design basis accidents," because ever since Fukushima, the NRC, SCE, and the whole nuclear industry has had to admit that beyond-design-basis-accidents can happen. So it is prudent and wise to consider the economic "what-ifs," should there be a catastrophic loss of containment at an ISFSI, or during transport to an ISFSI, or from an ISFSI to a permanent disposal site somewhere -- a site that has never existed despite 70+ years of looking everywhere on earth.

Every transport operation, every mile, is a significant added risk, though as time goes by the risk gets less and less (after ten thousand human generations, it will still be hazardous waste). How many times should the waste be moved before "final" disposal (in what is currently a fictitious, make-believe site)?

Under no circumstances must Diablo Canyon be allowed to remain open, as the COPs submission attempts to make clear -- but to adopt any plan for an "interim" storage facility, would be against prior California law against siting a nuclear waste dump within California.

Additionally, there is no place within California that is both geologically safe and desolate enough, and whose people that are there will willingly accept San Onofre's waste, along with the stakeholders nearby -- or Humboldt Bay's waste, or Rancho Seco's, or Diablo Canyon's -- and even if there were such a place, there are no safe transport routes (and no safe transport canisters either; that's another issue that needs to be considered).

The waste will stay where it is, possibly for a long, long time, so let's put it in the best containers the world has to offer -- and let's shut Diablo Canyon.

Pretending that there is a solution to the problem of nuclear waste is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. First there was the promise that the waste would be removed right away. Then it wasn't. Then Yucca Mountain was proposed, but it was a technological failure (not just a political failure).

In fact, Yucca Mountain was a political failure precisely because it was a technological failure: Nevada Senator Harry Reid couldn't lose on the science -- but his proposed interim solution was -- and is -- preposterous: On site storage. In an earthquake zone, in a tsunami inundation zone (due to underwater landslides, not just large Richter events), in a populated area with few egresses. On site, in 5/8ths inch thin stainless steel casks that are likely to suffer stress corrosion cracks long before they are ever moved, even if we collectively decide to violate someone's rights and stick the waste somewhere other than on the fragile, shaky coast of our precious state.

Transportation accidents could release fission products (or worse) as the waste is moved along a route that mustn't go through heavily populated areas, but planners will be hard-pressed to avoid such areas, no matter where the waste might go. The rail bridges and road bridges are in terrible shape: Thousands of road and rail bridges in California need upgrading/strengthening. That will cost tens of billions of dollars (which should be spent in any case, but will it be spent, and will it be spent in time?).

Moving the waste is not an option at this time, and won't be for the foreseeable future. This alone -- even without an accident, even one say, a hundredth the size of Fukushima -- means that Diablo Canyon's growing waste problem ensures that it -- like San Onofre -- is an economic failure for California. A beyond-design-basis-accident at Diablo Canyon is several orders of magnitude more likely than a beyond-design-basis-accident is with San Onofre's spent fuel, and that accident (Diablo Canyon's) is also more likely to be several orders of magnitude worse than all but the worst possible beyond-design-basis-accident at a spent nuclear fuel facility.

Prior to Fukushima, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission treated beyond-design-basis-accidents as having a likelihood akin to "one over infinity." That claim is simply not possible anymore, and catastrophic events with spent fuel might be unlikely on a year-to-year basis, but the fuel will be highly toxic and difficult (and costly) to manage for tens of thousands of human generations. How likely is it over time to have zero accidents? Zero terrorist attacks? Zero human inspection failures? Zero wars?

Spent nuclear fuel contains highly toxic Plutonium-239 (as well as Uranium-235 and other Uranium atoms). If there is a large release, it will be VERY expensive to deal with for tens of thousands of human generations. That's just the burden already being imposed by the last two generations because of Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. If we make more, the chance of a catastrophic release goes up, and the possible total release amount goes up too. So the most economical choice is to stop making more nuclear waste for Californians to have to deal with.

There are clean, renewable ways to get electricity. California can also require (or encourage) lower energy usage from common household and industrial heating and lighting systems. Renewables feeding clean power into the grid can be fairly compensated.

We can improve our electrical infrastructure (electrical grid) so that renewables can more easily supply all the power we need, and more. And the storage capacity we need: A few million electric vehicles in California could provide an automated, enormous, distributed battery backup system for the state.

These are all doable, and will surely be done eventually even without closing Diablo Canyon, but much faster if it is closed immediately. And the cost savings can be used for the next 10,000 generations.

Solar installation companies have been making investor-pleasing profits throughout southern California, thanks in part to San Onofre's closing. And not one light went out for even one hour, and we are long past the point where anything but poor planning can cause a blackout anywhere in California just because San Onofre closed. And Diablo Canyon's "contribution" to the power supply in California is a single-digit percentage and usually superfluous.

One accident at that old rustbucket and the cost will be tremendous. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is very specific that states are not allowed to regulate "health and safety" with regards to nuclear power. That is a travesty in itself, and preposterous, but let us not argue that here.

Instead, let's ask why any California state commission consistently assumes that the (alleged) prohibition against regulating "health and safety" at nuclear facilities means that the state of California can't assume something can go wrong?

Even the NRC admits there will be accidents. But when San Onofre put in new steam generators, the possibility of failure was not considered by any state commission -- only a balance sheet showing a small savings for ratepayers -- assuming a successful operation of the plant for another 20 years (the steam generators lasted less than one year). There were numerous reasons not to believe the reactors would/should last that long, and they didn't.

This time, the commission is being asked to assume there will be no accidents in spent fuel facilities, or transportation accidents, possibly for centuries, and certainly for several decades at the very least, until something happens that tens of thousands of scientists have not been able to make happen, and all the legislation in the world has not made happen, and all the military willpower to solve their own waste problem has not made happen... The California Energy Commission is required (according to the NRC's interpretation of the law) to ignore the possibility of failure in a dry cask any time over the next million years (if the waste doesn't get moved to some other poorer state with fewer people) or at least for decades or centuries, even if it does eventually get moved.

The more casks, the bigger the problem -- and it's not just linear (i.e., more area for "chloride-induced stress corrosion cracking" to occur). Casks can interact with each other, and ISFSIs and pads can fill up. More radionuclides to be released, the more casks involved in, say, a jet airplane crash. So the fewer casks there are, the better. Stop making the waste.

Each ton of spent fuel contains about 400,000 Curies of radiation after being out of the reactor for 10 years. The rate declines very slowly. The fission products will take hundreds of years to decay to stable elements. The plutonium? Tens of thousands, the uranium even longer.

Approximately every four days, Diablo Canyon produces another ton of high level nuclear waste (250 pounds per day per reactor, mostly spent fuel, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute's estimate (provided by SCE) for an average plant). The removed fuel's fission load when it comes out of the reactor is hundreds of times greater than the most dangerous fuel at San Onofre. As soon as Diablo Canyon closes forever, the lethality of its used fuel assemblies starts to decline. Until then, there is always some that is especially lethal, and there is always a growing problem instead of just -- a problem.

The importance of closing Diablo Canyon should be obvious to every person who has spent the last few years trying to figure out what to do with San Onofre's spent fuel waste. Indeed, the vast majority of the people on Southern California Edison's hand-picked Citizen's Engagement Panel have only one goal as far as this observer can tell, and that's to pack the fuel up in flimsy containers and forget about it (waiting for the government to take it away), and then spend endless meticulous hours deciding relatively minor (though not unimportant) issues, the most major of them being how to grind the radioactive debris to dust and keep hosing everything into the sea without annoying the surfers, and how to "island" the spent fuel pools until all the fuel is put in those flimsy 5/8th inch thin dry casks so everyone will forget about it until one of them leaks, or a magic lollipop mountain opens up to take the waste.

San Onofre's problems include having high burn-up fuel for the last decade+ of operation, which is much more hazardous now, as spent fuel waste. Diablo Canyon also uses high burn-up fuel. It might make more money for the utility while it's in the reactor, but high burn-up fuel also is more dangerous as spent fuel, because it has more fission products per pound, out-gases more, is thermally hotter, and is more radioactive (more gamma rays, x-rays, alpha particles, beta particles and neutrons emitted), so it destroys its containment structure even faster.

San Onfore's dry casks are liable, if not likely, to suffer from stress corrosion cracking, and Diablo Canyon's casks already have the conditions for such cracking.

San Onofre is providing all the proof needed that Diablo Canyon is going to get more and more costly for California the longer it stays open. That should not be one day more. No relicensing. No new cooling towers. No more refueling cycles. No more nuclear waste in California.

Decades ago, the Sierra Club defined the problem of nuclear waste to be "intractable." There is no better word. Radiation destroys any container you put it in, and long-term solutions are simply fantasy. The world needs to stop making more nuclear waste, and California cannot afford to be the next Fukushima. Ever since Fukushima, the NRC can no longer guarantee that "beyond design basis accidents"can't happen, which means that every state agency now has the green light to stop nuclear power cold, before a financially-catastrophic accident destroys a large portion of our state.

If the CEC or any other commission in California wants to get serious about solving the nuclear waste problem, the first thing they need to do is close Diablo Canyon.

Thank you in advance for your attention in this matter.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


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


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Friday, April 17, 2015

In what way are you saying Dr. Singh's remark was misquoted or taken out of context?

Dr. Victor,

Last night you said that a statement Dr. Kris Singh, CEO of Holtec, makes on a video I've posted here from a prior SCE/CEP meeting "misquotes" and/or "takes out of context" Dr. Singh's remarks:

That is a very serious charge. I would like you to explain why you made it.

(And by the way, there were audio problems with the livestream throughout the meeting, where the video would pause (okay, that's normal) and then sometimes skip (that's NOT normal!), but I don't think I am misquoting you in this instance. Please let me know if I am. Also, even though you started more than 10 minutes late, at 9:03 you cut off the l ast member of the public to speak, Bruce Campbell, who was speaking eloquently and clearly and concisely, and then within a minute, at 9:04, you stated that the purpose of the CEP was to let the public be heard. Well?)

The videotape (URL above) is perfectly clear (if you listen carefully...). Of course Dr. Singh didn't mean it would all leak out at once, but let's say one puts the leaking canister into a "Russian Doll" configuration (inside another, larger canister):

In that case, wouldn't "millions of Curies" transfer out of the inner container into the second container? First, the inner and outer casks will equalize pressure, then "brownian motion" will continue to equalize the percentages of various elements in the gas on either side of the leak over time. If leakage from the inner container to the outer container "doesn't count" in Dr. Singh's estimate, how long did he think it would take to plug the leak, and what happens when the new, rushed, outer containment later starts to leak, or what happens if the inner container fails more completely, and, for example, and end plate falls off due to crack growth)?

Precisely how radioactive the "inert" gas is (mainly helium, but with "trace" (watch out for that word! It can mean a lot of things, literally!)) quantities of water vapor, tritium, cesium, strontium, etc..) undoubtedly depends in large part on the condition of the cladding: Damaged fuel cladding could leak gaseous fission products (and water vapor) into the atmosphere of the 1/2-inch thin stainless steel cask over time, and then out the leak hole.

The specific activity of pure H3 (Tritium) is about 10,000 Curies per gram.

So one question is: What is the condition of the fuel Dr. Singh assumes is inside the leaking cask?

What does Dr. Singh envision would happen next to the cask, after the gasses leak out and the pressure is equal to the outside world from then on, until the leak is plugged, or the "Russian Doll" is built and the cask placed in it? The outer container will make the cask extra-large and extra-heavy: Can it still be transported? By road? By rail? Over what infrastructure (over or under how many old and decrepit bridges?) How many natural gas pipelines will the waste be transported over?

The Areva representative at the same CEP meeting stated that heating damaged fuel for transport might be necessary -- and would be possible -- to make it more ductile (and thus better able to withstand the jolts of transport). How does Dr. Singh envision that fuel inside an additional heavy overpack would be heated for transport, and yet even with the massive heating mechanism necessary for such a thing, it would still not be too heavy to carry over our nation's old highway and/or railroad infrastructure, to some "desolate" location (that doesn't actually exist; for example, I (and at least 100,000 other people) drove fairly close to the Chocolate Mountains four times in the past two weeks))?

Assuming Dr. Singh successfully uses the "Russian Doll" solution to mitigate a canister leaking from a microscopic crack, when the pressures equalize, if the cask is not already encased in an outer cask, then outside air starts to go INSIDE the "dry" cask as ambient pressures fluctuate with the wind: There will be moments when the cask sucks in air through the same hole that had been expelling pressurized radioactive gasses. Whenever that happens, water vapor, corrosive elements, etc. can come rushing in.

So not only must the leaking canister be placed in the "Russian Doll" canister immediately, the outer container has to be 100% inert gas (helium), but also, the outside surface of the old dry cask has to be completely cleaned of corrosive materials. But cleaning it may introduce yet more microscopic cracks -- well, actually, "will" introduce such cracks, not "may." And all this has to be accomplished while the cask is expelling radioactive gasses, unless the leak is plugged first, which can, in the long run, do even more damage? (For example, drill bits can drop material into the dry cask as they break through, burrs can cause new cracks, overheating can weaken the alloy around the plug, etc..)

Also, gamma radiation will probably be streaming out the crack, however small it is. These invisible rays will have to be carefully avoided by the workers.

What if the leak is in a hard-to-reach spot? What if the cask has been deformed and won't fit a standard overpack "Russian Doll" outer canister (Do they even exist? I don't think so!)?

If the small-but-continuous-leak occurred when the site was damaged by an earthquake/tsunami, it might be very hard to get at the breached dry cask. What condition is Dr. Singh assuming the dry cask will be in when the breach occurs? Will it be just sitting there rusting away (stress corrosion cracking; the weights involved in dry cask storage are enormous, and the pressure-points that take the weight are particularly susceptible...)?

Or was he envisioning that the tiny crack occurred while the dry cask was crushed under a burning 747 loaded with jet fuel (and possibly thousands of pounds of explosives, too)? A dry cask is absolutely no protection against a 747 and nor is the reinforced cement overpack/covering/beehive configuration. A wide variety of modern weapons can go through more than a dozen feet of reinforced concrete -- yet SCE/Holtec offers us only about three feet. Even a 50-caliber machine gun can pound through that fairly quickly (though probably not on the first shot). (I think that's one reason the "sunken" option we are being offered by Holtec is somewhat better than the above-ground stacking we now have for the first 51 dry casks.)

And here's the thing about isolation at an interim storage facility, which so many people last last night's SCE/CEP meeting wished to magically have happen to our nuclear waste: It proves that people expect the outer containments (the thin stainless steel casks) to fail eventually. They want that failure to happen away from large populations.

The government agrees with this assessment (as do you, based on your remarks last night). The Blue Ribbon Commission pushed for one or more "interim" storage sites, which are places to keep the fuel for several decades or, more likely, for several centuries or, even more likely, forever, and thus (in the government's vision) enable reactors to keep operating without having to stack up this deadly material so close to large populations.

Whether "old fuel" or "young fuel" should go there first is debatable -- you assumed, last night, that closed reactors would get priority. I see no reason to assume that.

Since everyone is clamoring to get the waste away from southern California, clearly, the idea that half-inch thin dry casks are adequate is ridiculous: No one believes it.

Holtec is selling the deadliest pig-in-a-poke in history. And you're buying it.

But back to the "misquote."

How tiny of a theoretical crack are we talking about? I've been assuming a microscopic crack, or at least that it starts out that way. Sometimes cracks plug themselves with crud... but more often, they grow over time (just like with steam generator leaks). What did Dr. Singh envision the utility/NRC would do to stop the breach once it had started? What are the conditions he's putting on his statement besides just using an overpack rather than attempting to repair the damaged canister? And how soon could he have an overpack ready, have the outer side of the leaking cask cleaned, excavate the cask from underneath a burning 747, and have everything be properly inspected from manufacture right up to insertion of the damaged canister and sealing up the "Russian Doll"? What is Dr. Singh's promise that he can do?

A dry cask can hold many millions of Curies of radiation. After ten years, spent fuel has about 4 X 10^5 (400,000) Curies of radiation per ton of fuel (1). A million Curies leaking out would be quite a significant leak, but hardly the whole load.

So, I ask: Why are you saying Dr. Singh is saying he was misquoted? His statement is on the video exactly as we claim it is (2). Where's the misquote?

I hope you (and/or Dr. Singh) will answer these additional questions.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


(1) Source: Nuclear Energy ebook Collection: Ultimate CD, page 298

By Gianni Petrangeli, Raymond Murray, Colin Bayliss, Galen J. Suppes, Elmer E. Lewis, Hideo Kozima

(2) Here is a longer recording of Dr. Singh's remarks from his appearance at the SCE/CEP that night, plus a few others who also spoke:


Thursday, April 9, 2015

SCE's "Citizen's Engagement Panel" versus Dr. Caldicott's symposium: Which is more worthy of your time?

Next Thursday (April 16, 2015), Southern California Edison's "Citizen's Engagement Panel" will meet again, as they do quarterly while SCE gets prepared to destroy evidence at San Onofre. Evidence of what? Of crime and grime. How rusted out is that plant, really? And why did the steam generators fail so quickly?

San Onofre's primary coolant loop should be artificially heated (non-nuclear; not a cheap experiment but doable) and run to the point of steam generator tube failure: Both to see what the steam generators will do -- what the real cause of "Fluid Elastic Instability" was -- but also to see what the operators might have done if things had gotten even worse at San Onofre. Which could easily have happened.

When the "small" radioactive leak occurred on January 31, 2012, the reactor control room operators waited to shut down the reactor until regulatory thresholds for a rising leak rate required them to do so. That took about 20 minutes from when the alarms first went off.

It is no exaggeration to say we may have been only seconds away from catastrophe -- for the benefit of a greedy corporation's profit margin.

Nuclear power is absurdly dangerous. The regulators are not doing their job. We've seen FOUR meltdowns in power reactors globally (three of them in American-designed plants) in just the first part of the first century of nuclear power. The world was promised ZERO meltdowns in 20,000 years.

Zero promised versus four actual.

Locally, Diablo Canyon and Palo Verde must close!

As the American West dries up, massive use of solar power is the ONLY thing that can save our way of life here. We need power for water desalinization and for deeper and deeper groundwater pumping -- if for nothing else. (Currently, Carlsbad's new "desal" plant claims to be "green" but merely buys "credits" for green energy produced elsewhere. It is actually powered -- needlessly -- by fossil fuels.)

Covering California's aqueducts and superhighways with solar panels -- just those -- could eliminate a lot of unnecessary evaporation (from the aqueducts) and provide MORE POWER than Diablo Canyon can provide on average. Certainly, solar power has its ups and downs, but on a good day we would be able to get more than double what we get from DCNPP. And that's just from our highways and aqueducts.

Of course, with a corrupt Public Utilities Commission (who in California hasn't been following THAT fiasco?) we haven't embarked on anything like that.

Cow feedlots are still shaded -- if at all -- with tin roofs instead of solar panels. And the poor cows are thirsty, hot, and chock full of antibiotics. And so are the sheeple. (Note: some day -- hopefully soon -- virtually all "beef" will be grown in laboratories, not in cows. It won't need ANY antibiotics, won't have to be slaughtered, will pass (or surpass) all the blind taste tests anyone can come up with, will have whatever fat/meat ratio desired, and then -- even vegetarians can eat it if they want to! It probably will still need ketchup.)

Southern California's famous burger joints can only serve these new meats if SCE hasn't destroyed southern California first. Not a safe bet.

SCE needs to use stronger dry casks for its nuclear waste -- casks which are not made of so-called "stainless" steel, which is susceptible to "stress corrosion cracking." SCE claims to want to remove the waste from here. So let them store it either at Diablo Canyon or at Palo Verde nuclear power plants! Those plants each are at least a thousand times more likely to have a catastrophic accident than San Onofre's nuclear waste is, simply because they are still operating. So what's a little additional risk, when both have much smaller populations around them than San Onofre has? Both DCNPP and PVNPP each must already store millions of pounds of nuclear waste on their properties anyway. What's a few million more?

And SCE is a part-owner in Palo Verde. So give those reactors the waste and get it away from southern California!

(Note: This nuclear waste "solution" is clearly a plot to force open reactors to close, lest they get stuck with somebody else's nuclear waste.)

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

To find Caldicott's awesome symposium, go to the link below, then click on the link following where it says: "THE EVENT WILL BE LIVE STREAMED at:"

Letter to a local reporter inquiring about whether I would be attending the April 16th, SCE/CEP meeting:


I probably won't be attending. My main concern with the CEP right now is that they do not represent the public; instead they are an impediment to public representation. We were better off without them, especially David Victor. His endorsement of Per Peterson's first visit by offering him a second chance to speak was the last straw for me. No one on the Blue Ribbon Commission deserves a voice in this discussion! All they (the BRC) wanted to do was destroy a community's ability to prevent a nuclear waste storage dump being sited near them, if someone with land to sell nearby wanted it! The BRC felt the solution to the waste problem was to kill democracy, rather than to kill nuclear power. Per Peterson was particularly awful to listen to when he spoke here, we said so, and David Victor proceeded to give him an even bigger floor to spew his absurd ideas for America's waste problem.

The only thing SCE's CEP can possibly do that would be of any use would be to write an unequivocal statement for Diablo Canyon and, perhaps most of all, for Palo Verde (since SCE is still a 20% owner of that plant, even though SCE has proven themselves incompetent at operating nuclear power plants) stating that the waste problem is intractable, unsolvable, enormous, expensive, dirty, dangerous, ill-fated, foolhardy... but no: The CEP is designed to let SCE claim there is public endorsement of the idea of storing nuclear waste amongst a population of nearly 10 million people (and that's just in the first 50 miles -- a nuclear waste accident can go much further and in fact, spread all over the globe).

We'll end up with dry casks that are ~ 5/8ths of an inch thick and susceptible to airplane strikes (intentional or accidental), tsunamis from nearby underwater landslides caused by even small earthquakes, and eventually... a ruined southern California.

In one of two NRC hearings I attended (via phone link) today, the NRC people made it pretty clear they think an interim storage location will become available within about 10 years. Before that, they always assumed Yucca Mountain would be coming along, and before that (this would be going back 30-40 years) they thought we'd probably rocket the waste to the sun, or bury it in a subduction zone, or simply vitrify it all, or put it under the polar ice caps... every one of these ideas was seriously presented by "experts." There are no experts on the CEP, including the guy from the American Nuclear Society. He has enough knowledge to make him dangerous, that's all. He's no physician, no statistician, no metallurgist, no economist (he can't compare solar power to 10,000 years of spent nuclear fuel storage problems, let alone 250,000 years, a more realistic number).

I understand there are some good people on the CEP now -- Glenn Pascal, last time I talked to him, seemed on the right track (although that was a while ago), and I'm sure Pam Patterson will do all she can, as well. But not only are they outnumbered, they are powerless to accomplish a thing. David Victor likes to remind everyone of that, each time they meet.

Another thing I heard at one of the NRC meetings today was the NRC people talking very disparagingly about the level of knowledge of the activists here in southern California. Maybe they're right, but SCE's CEP is no better, and one reason the activists are often "clueless" is because the NRC doesn't require SCE to release pertinent information: For example, regarding the steam generator failures, and why did one reactor have "fluid elastic instability" when the other didn't, the answer lies somewhere in the flow rates and temperatures of the primary coolant loop, the "circulation ratio" of the secondary loop, and a large number of other factors. But the NRC let SCE/MHI claim much of that information -- key information -- was "proprietary." And then they disparage us (the public) for not understanding what happened at San Onofre!?! Well, truth be told, the NRC doesn't understand what happened either -- they never established a definitive opinion of why one reactor failed from "FEI" and the other didn't. Without running some experiments they never bothered to run, they'll never know for sure. But the NRC doesn't care, even though they know the steam generator failure didn't have to be so "graceful" (it was only a small leak, but if the operators had waited just a little longer to shut the reactor down, or if they had, for example, closed the wrong valves at the wrong times, it could have been much, much worse).

The NRC is in its infancy in dealing with long-term nuclear waste storage issues, but all they want the public to do in the case of San Onofre is go back to sleep. SCE doesn't want to purchase the thicker dry casks that will last longer and be much more resistant to outside forces -- they want the cheap stainless steel casks. Yet at one of the NRC hearings today I heard an NRC person clearly state fears about storing anything made of stainless steel near the coast! In other words, they know they are playing with fire. But they figure if things go wrong, they can always evacuate the area, and that way, maybe 95% of the population will only get a below-regulatory-concern dose of radioactive poison (seriously: that's the standard they work towards).

And that's good enough for the NRC, good enough for David Victor, and good enough for Tom Palmisano.

In the afternoon meeting today, the NRC people were reviewing their previous meetings about SanO, and stated that some people who attended those meetings said they wanted to "get things on the record" and didn't understand that those meetings were NOT on the record. They also said that we were unruly sometimes.

I don't think we should submit to being poisoned quietly. But at the SCE CEP meetings, people can shout as loud as they want and it won't change a thing.

Best regards,

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

"The chances are one in a million..." It's time for the NRC take the possibility of intentional air strikes at nuclear facilities seriously:

Dear Readers,

The GermanWings pilot was crazy (2015, France). The MH370 pilot was crazy (2014, Indian Ocean). The Egypt Air pilot (1999, St. Lawrence Seaway) was possibly crazy, although they're not sure. The A10 Warthog pilot (1997, Utah) was definitely crazy.

But that's only a small list of the crazies who have flown planes into the ground. Those guys were all certified okay to fly by authoritative experts. They were studied and approved. They had been doing complicated things properly for years and years. Then one day they went very crazy. And there is no connection to other people, no organization driving them, and no logical (or demonic) thread that connects the incidents to each other, except that they were humans in charge of massive amounts of technology and people.

This is a trend that will continue. People abuse power at EVERY level, from the guard in the jailhouse beating his prisoners to the presidential warmonger leading his country into a war that will cost millions of lives.

People are crazy and do crazy things. The doctors who check out the professional pilots are supposed to guard us against these crazies. Yet I would bet that not a single pilot will be permanently grounded due to stepped-up inspections of the world's pilots and co-pilots as a result of the GermanWings tragedy. Not one. Maybe a few with obvious problems will be temporarily grounded, and airlines will remind all their pilots to seek medical help if they are feeling suicidal or having other emotional problems, probably telling them that it won't count against their record to go talk to the doctor etc. etc. etc..

But does anybody really think the ones who need the help most will voluntarily go? And how extreme must their behavior be before the doctor will exercise his or her authority and say: "You seem like the type, one out of a million, who might be crazy enough to crash an airplane full of passengers."

And he will be saying this about a person who has shown no symptoms -- in part, because the patient himself would never have believed they were capable of such a thing, until... their mind warped.

Their record will be spotless, their accomplishments many, their goodhearted nature obvious.

The sort of madness the GermanWings pilot exhibited is not, and never will be, something that is easy to detect.

The problem wouldn't exist if we all rode in low-pressure vacuum tunnels in tubes underground (go for it, Elon!). Texting train engineers were long ago eliminated in such "automated" systems, and the most harm that could ever happen would be one train crash, and even that is extremely unlikely.

Instead, we have airplanes and the men and women who fly them. We have suicidal pilots every once in a million, including military pilots, young pilots, old pilots, pilots from various nationalities -- and we have a whole lot of unexplained crashes in history, too.

Power corrupts, and opportunity knocks. Bringing down a whole jumbo jet loaded with people will make you famous. This article intentionally does not name the GermanWings pilot, because the crazy dude is quoted specifically as having said his name would be remembered. But that wish, in essence, was his whole excuse for committing mass murder. It evidently doesn't take much.

To claim -- as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does, by the nature of their regulation -- that no one will ever crash an airplane into a nuclear power plant is folly. Someone will try. This is not only why nuclear power must (and sooner or later will) be shut down, it is why the last remaining excuse -- that they make medical isotopes -- applies ONLY to one or at most, two well-defended sites -- those would probably have to be aircraft carriers, perhaps one on either side of the planet.

Two reactors for the whole world. That's it. That should be all we're allowed on the planet -- at most -- until replacements for those civilian medical needs are found (and a few other very specialized uses, such as oil exploration...if that's really necessary). And those two should be heavily guarded with out-facing-only guns. In fact, that idea was called for long ago for all our reactors by experts, but has yet to be implemented anywhere except on nuclear aircraft carriers, but there, not specifically to guard the reactor, but to guard the whole ship.

It would, of course, be woefully expensive to guard each reactor -- and each nuclear waste site. (Once the reactor has shut down, its waste is still poisonous for hundreds of thousands of years (but especially during the first few years, decades, centuries).)

But those crazy pilots aren't the only crazies we have to worry about. There can be crazies in the control room of the reactor, too. There is absolutely nothing on earth to prevent a meltdown if a control operator initiates one intentionally. And he or she can do that by, essentially, flipping one switch: Flood the reactor with cold water -- the pressure vessel cracks -- instant catastrophe.

They are trained not to do that.

Crazies in the cockpits are out there, and drunks and narcotics users are in the control rooms of our reactors (even heart medications have been known to cause emotional side effects including suicidal tendencies). There are also terrorists and even some states (such as North Korea) who are sworn enemies. Ukraine's reactors are in peril right now, and the middle East wants to build their own. The U.S. military has admitted -- duh -- that Israel has nuclear weapons. Shouldn't we admit a few other facts, as well? Like, that there never will be a "safe" (economical, feasible, secure...) solution to the problem of storing nuclear waste?

There does not appear to be a single "civilized" nation on earth (I use the term "civilized" loosely, to encompass more than a few nations, if any) which is not under attack either by outside forces (other nations or foreign terrorists), inside insurgents, or people who are just plain nuts -- with an airplane at their disposal, full of passengers and jet fuel.

Famous for it in World War II, Germans are the epitome of organizational lock-step functionality. Yet a German pilot has stepped out of line and committed mass murder for next to no reason at all. He was depressed.

At the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, not even lip-service is paid to the possibility of airplane strikes. Not even an acknowledgement that it not only CAN happen, but WILL happen! Nothing!

I've attended dozens of hearings where I and others (such as Ray Lutz) have brought up the subject. The response from the NRC has simply been to say that such "flying bombs" are stopped at the "TSA" level, or Homeland Security, or "National Security" (whoever that means) and so on. In other words, no jets will ever fly into a nuclear power plant. The NRC also believes there will never be a crazy person in the control room of a reactor. But a knowledgeable, evil-minded or crazy person could get in through force, or could be let in because he or she is legitimately there as part of their job duties.

The NRC has a mandate to shut down unsafe reactors. Because of the "human factor," from without and within, there are no other types of reactors (and many other reasons, besides).

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Contact information for the author of this newsletter:


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


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