Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The potential for disaster from earthquakes and tsunamis near San Onofre and Diablo Canyon...

November 28th, 2018

Dear Readers,

California is "a dangerous minefield riddled with nasty fault lines that rupture without much warning, generating massive earthquakes that can level buildings, pulverize roads, and kill lots of people in the span of seconds" (1).

The San Andreas fault could have a magnitude 8.4 earthquake*, according to experts (2). But maybe California will be lucky: Other experts think it might be an "8.2 mega-earthquake" (3).

The earliest recorded "mega-quake" to hit Southern California was in 1857, estimated at 7.8 (4). The 1906 San Francisco earthquake killed more than 3,000 people, left nearly a quarter of a million people homeless (5), and was estimated to be a 7.9 (6). The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake measured 6.9 (7), killed nearly 70 people (8), and caused an estimated $10 billion in damage (9).

The 1994 Northridge earthquake (magnitude 6.7) killed nearly 60 people, and caused an estimated $20 billion in damages and nearly $50 billion in "economic loss" (10). The Northridge earthquake occurred on a previously unidentified fault line and caused severe shaking as much as 30 miles from the epicenter (11).

Given these facts, can anyone believe it's possible to predict when, where, and how big California's next mega-earthquake will be?

Yes, some people believe it's possible. Not coincidentally, these are the very same people who want to store millions of pounds of nuclear waste on the shores of California for an indefinite period of time, possibly centuries, possibly forever.

The claim is specious at best, a complete fabrication at worst.

San Onofre Nuclear [Waste] Generating Station, which was emergency-shutdown in January, 2012 due to a steam generator leak and never reopened (but left more than three million pounds of spent nuclear fuel on site), was built to withstand only a 7.0 earthquake, and the cement spent fuel "island" (known as an ISFSI (Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation)) is only built to that standard.

San Onofre officials claim that is good enough, because the maximum "anticipated" horizontal ground acceleration at the site is expected to be less than 0.67g (g refers to the force of gravity). California's building code for non-nuclear buildings require protection of 0.38g (12). So, something that can impact millions of lives and cost trillions of dollars in an accident, and cause the permanent exclusion of all habitation from a vast area (thousands of square miles for thousands of years), only needs to be built to withstand well less than double what a single-family dwelling in the same vicinity is required to withstand!

Southern California Edison claims that 0.67g acceleration is good enough and points to the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi catastrophe as proof, because those nuclear power plants experienced a 0.561g ground acceleration in the horizontal direction (13). However, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake occurred over 100 miles east of Fukushima. Like many earthquakes, the size of the Tohoku quake was largely unexpected.

The San Andreas fault -- by no means the closest fault to San Onofre (that title goes to the Rose Canyon fault at the moment) -- is about 40 miles away at its closest point (approximately San Bernardino, California). The San Andreas fault slip rate is about 35 millimeters per years, and it tends to rupture every 140 years on average (14). The southern portion is now about 20 years overdue, and has built up approximately two feet of unrelieved slip stress. When it ruptures -- and it surely will -- it's going to be massive!

Soon after the 2011 earthquake struck, Fukushima was inundated by a series of tsunami waves measuring some 20 to 30 meters in height. Could THAT happen at San Onofre? You bet it could -- and even higher! MUCH higher.

SoCalEd claims their tsunami wall is 36 feet high. Yet activists measured its actual height -- about 14 feet! SCE uses "mean lower low tide" (15) as the basis of their measurement. Activists use where normal waves actually come up to on a regular basis.

By either measurement, the tsunami wall at San Onofre is insufficient protection, and taking the wall into account at all is absurd: It's too weak, in poor condition due to decades of neglect, and even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission won't let SCE account for the tsunami wall in their safety evaluation (somehow, that doesn't matter to the NRC: They've approved San Onofre's nuclear waste dump anyway).

But how likely is a tsunami? And how large might it be?

As mentioned above, if you ask SoCalEd, their answer will be: "Not very likely, and not very big." But they -- and any researchers they pay -- are biased.

Here's a few comments from 2002 National Earthquake Hazards Reduction (NEHRP) Professional Fellow Mark R. Legg (the fellowship is funded by FEMA):

"Large offshore earthquakes may directly generate tsunami through tectonic seafloor uplift or indirectly by triggering large submarine slope failures....their return periods appear similar to those of large earthquakes" (16).

Infrequent? Yes. But when they occur, can they be devastating? YES. Legg states in his report that there is: "the potential for great loss from these infrequent offshore events."

In 1812 a locally-generated earthquake estimated to have been between 7 and 7.5 generated a 10 to 13 foot run-up at Gaviota, California (17). Gaviota is located midway between Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. In 1927 a five-foot run-up occurred at Port San Luis after an offshore earthquake estimated at 7.3 magnitude. Port San Luis is about ten miles south of Diablo Canyon Nuclear [Waste] Generating Station. At least half a dozen smaller events have occurred in the past two centuries along SoCal's coasts (18).

Just take a look on Google Maps in satellite view: What do you see offshore? VERY STEEP canyons, some culminating in islands, some entirely under water. Monterey Canyon "rivals the depth of the Grand Canyon itself" (19). Catalina Island, just over 20 miles due west of San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump, rises 2,000 feet above the surface of the ocean, which "reaches depths of 3,000 feet between the island and the mainland" (20). The Legg report states that "the Santa Catalina Island restraining bend represents the most serious local tsunami threat to coastal southern California."

The Rose Canyon fault runs between the nuclear waste dump and Catalina Island. In 2017 scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography stated that "offshore segments of the Rose Canyon and Newport-Inglewood faults could rupture and produce a 7.3 quake" (21) -- more than ten times more powerful than previously believed and three times more powerful than San Onofre is built to withstand.

Other known faults that lay offshore from San Onofre include the Coronado Banks Fault Zone, the San Diego Trough Fault, and the San Clemente Fault (22). But those are just the ones we know about. There may be many others but they haven't been discovered (which often happens "the hard way.")

The overall shear rate of the Pacific and North America tectonic plates is about two inches per year (23) but due to various twists, turns, bends and overlaps, some areas can be much more aggressively separating, stretching, or piling up on one another.

It is certainly a wonder that nuclear power plants were EVER built in California, and all the more surprising that any have remained operating, as scientists have tracked -- and Californians have experienced (and died from) -- massive earthquakes since the plants were built, between four and six decades ago. When they were built, citizens were told only a few years' worth of nuclear waste would ever remain on site. But that turned out to be a lie. The waste never had anywhere to go and still has nowhere to go. It takes centuries for nuclear waste to lose its deadly fission products by natural decay: Cesium, Strontium and so forth, and hundreds of millennia for the plutonium and other long-lived components (such as Americium) to decay. A few millionths of a gram -- a nearly invisible speck -- of plutonium is enough to cause lung cancer in 100% of people who inhale that amount.

If we leave the waste on our coast, sooner or later a tragedy will occur. But if we remove it, it will still be SOMEONE'S problem. There is no place on earth that is immune from earthquakes, volcanoes, tornados, or asteroid impacts, to name a few natural disasters, and no coastal location immune from tsunamis. Nor is any place immune from atomic-bombs delivered by ballistic missile or enemy aircraft, or from sabotage by insiders or other terrorists. That's why shutting down Diablo Canyon is the most important step Californians can take to protect against a man-made (and possibly nature-aided) disaster. That is why the ISFSI at San Onofre is insufficient, the location lousy, and the gall of anyone who says otherwise, astounding.

Ace Hoffman
Shaking in his boots in Carlsbad, California

*All earthquake magnitudes presented in this document are based on the Richter scale, which is a logarithmic scale (an increase of one unit (for example, from 7.4 to 8.4) represents 10 times more energy released; an increase of two units (say, from 6.9 to 8.9 represents 100 times more energy released).

Nov. 30, 2018 update: A 7.0 earthquake has just struck near Anchorage, Alaska, with a 5.7 aftershock and dozens of aftershocks > 3.0.  Roads, bridges and buildings have been damaged. A tsunami warning has been issued in the area.  One earthquake can trigger a multitude of additional, sometimes larger, earthquakes nearby.  A 7.0 can trigger earthquakes as far as 100 miles away.



(2): Ibid.


(4): Ibid.







(11): Ibid.


(13): Ibid.


(15): Op. cit. (12)


(17): Ibid.

(18): Op. Cit. (16).



(21): "The paper added to long held beliefs by scientists that California�s offshore faults can be as perilous as those that are on shore."


(23): Op. Cit. (16).


Ace Hoffman, computer programmer,
author: "The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry"
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Is Russia's nuclear corporation (ROSATOM) the largest criminal organization in the universe? If not, it's close.

November 15th, 2018

Dear Readers,

Rosatom (formerly known as the Federal Agency on Atomic Energy, and now also known as the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom, or the Rosatom State Corporation (1)), is the state-controlled Russian nuclear energy company that builds nuclear reactors (including icebreakers and -- upcoming -- floating power reactors, several of which are under construction at this time (2018)) (2). Rosatom also mines, refines, enriches and reprocesses uranium, and -- big surprise here -- makes Russia's nuclear weapons. Established in 2007, its headquarters are in Moscow. Rosatom currently has over a quarter of a million employees (3).

Rosatom is the world's largest exporter of nuclear technology, with roughly 60% of the current market (4). Rosatom is building, operating or has approval for approximately three dozen reactors in Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Egypt, Finland, Hungary, India, Iran, Turkey and elsewhere (5). Expected service life for their current large power reactor series, the AES-2006, is a minimum of 60 years (6). In 60 years one reactor will produce approximately six million pounds of high level nuclear waste.

It is reasonable to assume that most, if not all of Rosatom's foreign and domestic (Russia) reactors are approved through the payment of bribes. The resulting costs are usually far higher than they would be otherwise.

For example, in Bangladesh, where a "deep-rooted and widespread corruption culture" exists, all types of power plants cost far more than elsewhere in the world. One study estimated the average price of a power plant in Bangladesh was double the global average. Russia is building two units in Bangladesh (Rooppur 1 & 2), due to go online in 2030, currently estimated to cost 45% more than the same style of plant would cost in Russia (7).

In Saudi Arabia, where "corruption is widespread" (8): "Two committees in the US House of Representatives are investigating efforts by former US National Security Advisor Mike Flynn to enlist Russia's Rosatom in a deal to deliver nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia" (9). Mr. Flynn recently pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and faces up to five years in prison (10). Rosatom doesn't yet have a deal in Saudi Arabia, but is on the "short list" to build the first two reactors there (11). (Apparently, solar and oil are not considered viable options for the sun-rich and oil-rich nation.)

Another country plagued by corruption -- and building and operating Rosatom reactors -- is China. China and Rosatom recently (June, 2018) signed "the biggest package of contracts in the history of the two countries' nuclear partnership" (12) to build four "Gen III+" VVER-1200 units as well as a CFR-600 fast reactor pilot project, and to supply Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators and Radionuclide Heater Units for China's "lunar exploration program" (13). The space nuclear units will use Plutonium-238, one of the most toxic substances known, nearly 300 times *more* toxic than weapons-grade plutonium-239 (Pu-238's decay cycle is correspondingly less than Pu-239's 24,100 year half-life).

How corrupt is China? "At least 12 senior-level NEA [National Energy Administration] officials have been investigated or charged with corruption in the past decade, including two directors and four deputy directors" (14). The NEA agency is only one decade old! In 2010 the former head of China's main nuclear energy company was jailed for life over bribes (15). At the current pace, China will be the leading producer of nuclear energy by 2030 (16). China will thus also be the leading producer of nuclear waste. After Fukushima, China decided to place most of its new nuclear reactors along its coast, not at interior sites, presumably so that if/when there are meltdowns, most of the radiation will be spread globally, with a much smaller proportion poisoning China itself.

In 2017 Rosatom signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" with the nuclear power division of Brazil's state-owned energy companies (Eletrobras and an affiliate of Eletrobras), with the plan of building at least two reactors there (17). Brazil is now governed by a far right-wing racist president, Jair Bolsonaro, considered by many (for example, his son) to be "just like Trump" (18). Bolsonaro ran on an "anti-corruption" platform; however his campaign was accused of fraud, spreading fake news, and violating campaign finance laws (19).

Recently Rosatom signed deals with Egypt to build the first nuclear power plants in North Africa. Russia will provide 85% of the projected $21+ Billion cost. Four 1200 Megawatt reactors will be located about 100 miles south of Cairo (20). The cost of Russia's loan to Egypt could swell to over $70 Billion during the 35-year life of the loan, and cost overruns are typical with all Rosatom deals (21).

In India, where Rosatom has contracted to build a dozen reactors (22), India's former chief regulator was concerned that substandard parts were being supplied by Rosatom subsidiary Zio-Podolsk, after one of Z-P's directors was arrested on charges of corruption, fraud, and supplying "cheap Ukrainian steel blanks and steam generators" for the reactors at Kudankulam (23).

In Finland, Rosatom took over partial ownership of the Hanhikivi 1 reactor after financial problems nearly sunk the project before it even began. It is "the biggest investment project in Finland" (24). Construction is expected to start in 2020. Originally claiming the project would cost around $5 Billion, current estimates put the total cost nearing double that, with completion optimistically expected in 2024 (25). Doubling (or worse) of the cost of nuclear reactors is so frequent it can't be accidental -- therefore it should be considered a form of corruption.

One deal that Rosatom tried to make apparently fell through -- a $76 Billion scam to build ten nuclear reactors in South Africa. The arrangement "reeked of corruption" and would have represented 1/4 of South Africa's GDP (26).

Rosatom makes deals that involve loaning massive sums of money to cash-poor countries, and requiring payback even if the projects are not completed on time (or ever). Most of the financial arrangements are kept secret and -- as can be seen from the above examples and many others -- most probably involve corruption, mismanagement, bribes, and other scandals. Once a deal is in place, the Russian government uses the arrangement to exercise political pressure, stopping construction until the country bends to their demands or -- as in the case in 2014 in Ukraine -- threatening to cut off nuclear fuel supplies for their Soviet-built reactors (27).

And even in countries without a Rosatom nuclear power plant deal, Rosatom corruption runs deep. According to a New York Times article from 2015, Rosatom "had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West" (28). The sale gave Rosatom control of 1/5th of all U.S. uranium capacity in a deal signed off by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's Clinton Foundation then received over $2.35 million in donations from four family members of the Russian company known as Uranium One (which became a fully-owned Rosatom subsidiary in 2013). Tens of millions more dollars were donated to the Clinton Foundation by "a constellation of people with ties to Uranium One or UrAsia" (UrAsia merged with Uranium One in 2007). These donations were not properly disclosed in a timely manner, despite Hillary Clinton's signing of a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to do so (29).

Rosatom pushes nuclear technology in all forms, including having built more than 120 "research" reactors around the world, representing nearly half of all research reactors (30). So-called "research" reactors, more often than not, merely train reactor operators for future jobs in industry, and many are fueled with uranium enriched to up to 20% U-235, instead of the 4% to 5% enrichment for most power reactors. Such enriched fuel is more easily converted to bomb material.

In an undated page at Rosatom's web site, they claim to have adopted an anti-corruption and anti-embezzlement program which "has already contributed to building a corruption-free environment within ROSATOM" (31).


But meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin, through his security forces and rabid supporters, continues to assassinate political opponents, reporters, whistleblowers, lawyers, and former security agents, even those who have left the country and sought asylum in Western democracies.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California

Update (Dec 3, 2018): According to World Nuclear News, Rosatom and Argentina announced the signing of a joint venture to build new nuclear power plants, including land-based power reactors, floating power reactors, so-called "small" reactors and so-called "research" reactors, and to "implement joint projects in third-world countries."  Meanwhile Wikipedia describes "a long history of serious corruption" in Argentina (32), and Forbes describes recent problems as a "corruption paradigm," with a "public works club" of corrupt individuals. (33)


(3): (pg. 104) Also see op. cit. (1).
The AES-2006 is also referred to as the VVER-1200. See:
Study by the School of Engineering, Cardiff University, United Kingdom:
See also:
op. cit. (23)
op. cit. (21)




© Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California