Thursday, October 13, 2022

Guest Presentation: The San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump by Roger Johnson

Important Issues for the 15 million people who live within 100 km of San Onofre

1. Back in 2012, San Onofre’s new steam generators failed and began leaking radiation. Evidence emerged that Southern California Edison knew they were flawed but installed them anyhow. They were shut down because they were too dangerous and it was too expensive to fix them. The ageing reactors were shut down for the last time. This accident appears to be part of a long history of accidents and safety violations at the plant. SONGS has by far the most complaints about safety by plant workers and contractors when compared to all the other nuclear power plants in the country. SONGS is now closed only in the sense that it no longer produces electricity. It is not shut down because the most dangerous part, the nuclear waste storage, remains open indefinitely. SONGS continues to store an enormous amount of deadly nuclear waste which has been accumulating since 1968. This highly radioactive “spent fuel” will continue to be a major threat to the health and safety of all communities in southern Orange County and northern San Diego counties for the indefinite future.

2. The entire plant except for the Waste Dump is now being decommissioned and demolished at a cost of 4.7 billion, paid for by taxpayers. About 1.1 billion pounds of rubble will be removed by 2028. Much of the rubble will be buried or shipped away but the dangerous highly radioactive uranium fuel rods will stay here indefinitely.

3. The domes will disappear but the nuclear waste will remain. The nuclear waste, the most dangerous part, will be placed in temporary storage in the ISFSI (Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation). Some refer to this as the SONGS Nuclear Waste Dump, others call it the San Clemente Nuclear Waste Dump. It is likely to remain here for decades, perhaps the rest of the century, or perhaps until there is an accident.

4. Geographically, SONGS is located at the border of Orange and San Diego counties. But few realize that the government officially locates it in San Clemente. According to the NRC, San Clemente is the official location of the San Onofre nuclear power plant:

5. The nuclear waste problem is part of a large serious and unsolved national dilemma: how and where can the nation safely store the nearly 100,000 tons of deadly civilian nuclear waste? The country has only one deep underground permanent storage facility. That is WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) in Carlsbad, NM but it is licensed only for military nuclear waste. WIPP had a major accident in 2014 with fires and explosions (caused by kitty litter) and it cost taxpayers $2 billion to repair it. The only permanent deep geological storage facility in the world is now under construction in an island off the coast of Finland.

6. The Achilles Heel of all things nuclear is the inability to safely store nuclear waste. After three-quarters of a century, there is still no solution in sight. That is a good reason not to produce any more. California wisely recognized this serious flaw way back in 1976. The state passed its now famous Moratorium on nuclear power which declared: No more nuclear power in California until there is a solution to the problem of safely storing nuclear waste. California never allowed any more nuclear power plants to be built (San Onofre and Diablo Canyon were already built) because there has been no solution to the problem of safely storing nuclear waste. There still is no solution. The Moratorium put a halt to President Nixon’s proposal to line the coast of California with nuclear power plants.

7. What is “nuclear waste” or “spent fuel?” How can something that is “spent waste” be dangerous? Did the nuclear industry choose these euphemistic terms to make it sound harmless? No one should think that nuclear “waste” or “spent” fuel is safe. Spent fuel means the profitability is spent, not the radioactivity. Nuclear power reactors have to be completely shut down for weeks every 18-24 months because the used or “spent” fuel rods (still highly radioactive) are no longer profitable and have to be replaced. There is no electricity produced for weeks while they reload which is one of the reasons that nuclear power is unreliable. But what to do with the old fuel which remains extremely hot, extremely radioactive, and extremely dangerous? It is so hot and dangerous that it has to go in huge cooling pools for about seven years, even longer if there are no canisters available for subsequent dry cask storage. But once in dry cask storage the dangerous radioactive waste has nowhere to go because currently there are no interim or permanent storage facilities in the United States. This is a major problem with no solution in sight. This problem is a good reason not to produce any more nuclear waste.

8. With San Onofre partially closed, California was set to end nuclear power in the state with the closing of Diablo Canyon a few years from now. But Gov. Newsom strangely reversed himself on this issue and now argues that the plant should remain open. The legislature caved in and went along with him. Unfortunately, much of the public representation of this issue was completely distorted by the governor, the legislature, the nuclear industry, and the media. They irresponsibly started calling nuclear power clean, emission free, reliable, environmentally friendly, and cheap. In reality, it is just the opposite. No one seems to know why the governor did a reversal but he certainly deserves a big black eye for bringing back expensive, dangerous, unreliable, and environmentally damaging nuclear power. Instead of being a model for responsible limits on nuclear power, California is now derided as being a leader in the very unfortunate national drift toward what the industry likes to call a “Nuclear Renaissance.”

9. Contributing to this decision to revive nuclear power was a report by Stanford and MIT engineering professors and PhD candidates who advocated more nuclear power as a solution for energy needs ( The report completely ignored the downsides of nuclear power including public health concerns, safety, cost, reliability, environmental damage, and the production of more nuclear waste. The nuclear industry heavily promoted this report to the national and local media. Top DOE officials went on nationwide PR tours to promote the “Nuclear Renaissance.” Former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz went on the Bill Maher show to do the same. He is also a professor at MIT, an institution which profits handsomely from government grants to “study” nuclear issues. It is no secret that both MIT and Stanford receive huge government grants from the Dept. of Defense and the Dept. of Energy. In FY 2020, MIT received about $200 million in grants from these two government agencies. Stanford has also received enormous federal funding for its programs on nuclear issues. This report reflects poorly on both institutions.

10. It appears to many that there are powerful political and financial interests that want the nation to continue devoting large resources to all things nuclear. They want to make sure that nuclear funding is a priority and that nothing should be done to cast doubt on its safety. Nationally, they apply intense pressure to make sure that the public sees nuclear as a solution, not a problem. The government agencies that actively promote everything nuclear include the DOD, the DOE, and NRC, and now possibly HHS (see below). Many argue that it is the Pentagon which is propping up nuclear power because it needs the industry to help support its enormous nuclear weapons programs.

11. One government agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is devoted to promoting nuclear power. The NRC has become the poster boy for what critics call a Captured Regulatory Agency. It receives over 90% of its funding from the very industry that it is supposed to regulate. No surprise that it spends much of its time promoting the nuclear industry rather than regulating it. The NRC is also closely aligned with the private Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the Washington public relations arm of the nuclear industry. The NEI heavily influences the selection of commissioners which run the NRC.

12. The nuclear industry long ago recognized both the risks of storing nuclear waste and the dangers of nuclear power in general. It was reluctant to build nuclear power plants until it persuaded the government to pass the Price Anderson Nuclear Industry Indemnification Act of 1957. This act protects and indemnifies the industry in the event of an accident. Taxpayers will cover the huge cost of an accident, not the industry. Many say that not being financially responsible has led to an industry which is sometimes reckless, deceitful, and concerned more about profit than public safety. To counteract this perception, Southern California Edison expends enormous PR efforts with mottos like “safety,” “stewardship,” and “engagement.”

13.. In spite of all its investments in nuclear programs, the U.S. government has failed miserably in its promise to provide a permanent repository for nuclear waste by 1998. The government still has no plan. Nuclear power plants now successfully sue the government for every year the government fails to take the waste as they promised in the last century. This cost is passed on to the U.S. taxpayer. Estimates for the cost to tax payers are sometimes estimated as $50 billion. The DOE is in charge of the issue but it continues to fail decade after decade and still has no plan. Their only progress this year was a letter recently sent out offering financial rewards to any community that wants to become a nuclear waste dump. Some (especially Republicans who want to stick it to former Senator Harry Reid) still yearn for Yucca Mountain (near the California border) to be completed, especially since the government already spent $15 billion there. The project was ended because of serious fatal flaws. First, it was dangerously close (about 90 miles) to a major city, Las Vegas. Second, as they dug deeper, they discovered deep underground aquifers which might get contaminated. Third, there was enormous public opposition to the project. This is significant because the DOE has finally agreed that Local Consent is a must when choosing a location for nuclear waste storage. Finally, it is important to know that Nevada has no nuclear power plants and has produced no nuclear waste. In addition, Nevada has already suffered enormously from radioactive contamination from military nuclear testing. Since 1951, 1,021 atmospheric and underground nuclear explosions were conducted in the state.

14. When evaluating nuclear energy, the industry generally ignores the human or monetary costs. The front end of the nuclear cycle is the mining and milling of uranium. This dirty operation spreads radioactive contamination which has resulted in entire towns being bulldozed into oblivion. Miners have contracted a host of serious medical problems and many have died of cancer. Read The Uranium Widows which tells the story. Any evaluation of nuclear power should include the cost of accidents but usually these are ignored in financial analyses. A recent report in the NYTimes says that the cost of the Fukushima debacle is now approaching one trillion dollars. An accident at San Onofre would likely be much more (and would be charged to the taxpayers rather than those who caused it).

15. Locally, some say that we should ignore the nuclear waste problem because it is not in our jurisdiction. Wrong. Part of the reason the waste stays here is because the public is unaware of the magnitude of the problem and because local officials are unwilling to demonstrate leadership to oppose the current state of affairs. All candidates for office within 50 km of SONGS should be expected to weigh in on this important issue. Unfortunately, few say anything. Is it the complexity of the issue, a fear or retribution, or just plain ignorance about what is perhaps the most serious issue for the future of southern California? Should we sidestep the issue and do nothing because it is not in our jurisdiction? True, only the DOE has jurisdiction. But all local, county, and state officials have an obligation to demonstrate leadership, knowledge, and dedicated commitment to educating the public and taking positions on important matters.

16. Other hidden costs of nuclear power can be found in your electric bill. Everyone around San Onofre gets a surcharge every month which goes to paying for the huge costs of decommissioning the plant. Most people are not aware that they have been paying this every month for decades. Most people also do not realize all the hidden costs. In the early years of nuclear power, the industry boasted that it would be “too cheap to meter.” Now it is by far the most expensive form of energy production, especially if you count all the costs passed on to taxpayers. It is very expensive to build a nuclear power plant, very expensive to maintain it, and very expensive to tear it down. The cost of the nation’s troubled new Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia has now risen to about $30 billion. As for nuclear waste management nationally, it is estimated that the costs will run close to $100 billion:

17. The cost and difficulty of finding a host for a permanent nuclear repository are formidable. It will take many years to agree on a host (expect fierce political battles) and it may take decades to build if a suitable location is ever found. Some fear that a permanent solution may never happen. Many have therefore suggested one or more interim storage facilities across the country which could be built in a few years at ground level in safer locations at a lower cost. Opponents oppose this because they don’t like the idea of moving the waste twice. But this assumes that a permanent deep underground repository is a certainty which it certainly is not. Some even argue that it is not safe to move nuclear waste anywhere and it should remain where it is even if it is in a dangerous location on a beach in the middle of two of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Over 15 million people live within 100 km of San Onofre.

18. What is in the SONG/San Clemente Nuclear Waste Dump? It now has 1,773 tons (USA tons, not metric tons) of nuclear waste, one of the largest accumulations in the country. The highly-radioactive uranium “waste” is in the form of small pellets about half the length of your little finger. SONGS now has over 300 million such uranium pellets compacted into long fuel rods. Assemblies of fuel rods are lowered into thin stainless steel canisters that were designed only for temporary use. No one knows how soon they will fail and what will happen when they do fail.

19. There are now 123 such canisters at SONGS. The older 50 are stored horizontally and newest 73 are stored vertically with the bottom just inches above sea level and located only 108 feet from the Pacific Ocean. Concrete is filled around them with a narrow air space between the concrete and the canister wall to provide air cooling. “Cool” means keeping the canisters about 500-700 degrees. Imagine leaving your oven at its hottest setting for months, years, or decades. Without cooling, the nuclear waste would get much hotter which could cause the canisters to fail with disastrous consequences.

20. There cannot be a nuclear explosion at SONGS because the highly-radioactive uranium waste is not enriched to bomb grade. But there could be dangerous releases of radiation ranging from small leaks to massive widespread contamination. It could be even worse than the radiation released by a nuclear bomb. Each of the 123 canisters could release as much radiation as the entire Chernobyl disaster. How much of the radiation is released depends on the force of a rupture. Southern California Edison likes to argue that small leaks are manageable and major ruptures with strong motive forces are not possible. There arguments are based on the assumption that explosions, terrorist attacks, and major forces of nature can never happen. When the industry cannot deal with serious disaster scenarios, they categorize them as Beyond Design Basis. This means that they can completely ignore serious threats just by labelling them as “Beyond Design Basis.”

21. There are many possible disaster scenarios that the industry deliberately ignores. The possibility of cyberattacks is seldom addressed. Sometimes important dangers are ignored by claiming that they are a concern of another agency such as the Department of Defense. Natural disasters are uncommon, but they do happen. Heavy storms or flash flooding could wash mud and debris from the hills above the plant into the air cooling vents of the canisters. A tsunami could also wash deposits of salt, sand, and debris into the vents and block air cooling. Water alone might actually improve cooling, but when sea water evaporates it would leave behind a foot or more of salt and other solids. These solids would quickly become caked from the heat. Only a few inches of solids would block the small but crucial air intake passage at the bottom. Air cooling would cease. The canisters are already at 500-700 degrees F and loss of cooling would quickly lead to dangerous heat levels that the temporary canisters are not designed to withstand. According to the NRC, canister cladding will degrade if is not kept below 752 F. The NRC goes on to warn that the fuel must never be allowed to reach 1058F even for a short time. It is not possible to pump out the huge amounts of muddy water and solid caked debris from 73 canisters in a matter of hours. With intense heat and possible radioactivity, it is likely that no one could get anywhere near the cannisters in an emergency.

22. Another serious disaster scenario has to do with earthquakes. The Fukushima catastrophe was triggered by a large and unexpected earthquake which led to the uncontrollable failures of many systems mistakenly thought to be secure. A decade later, large areas continue to be uninhabitable. The cost of cleanup attempts has already reached one trillion dollars. California is earthquake territory and several earthquake faults run near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant just as others do near San Onofre. Earthquake dangers in both places are now thought to be much more serious and much more likely that previously known.

23. A startling new report recently came out in the scientific journal Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America: (For easier reading, here is the LATimes report about it: This research studied in great detail the Palos Verdes Fault Zone which runs south from Los Angeles and terminates only about 13 miles from San Onofre. New calculations reveal that a major quake is overdue and that it will be 4 times more powerful than previously believed (7.8 vs. 7.4). The study warns of possible massive destruction up and down the coast. Keep in mind that San Onofre was designed to withstand a mere 6.5 quake, then retrofitted for a possible 7.0 quake. It is definitely not safe to store nuclear “waste” on a beach near this quake zone yet that is exactly what is being done. We also have to keep in mind that there are built in psychological biases and profit motives which make it attractive to ignore rare events. For example, one Probabilistic Risk Assessment of the Salem, NJ nuclear power plant some years ago concluded that the simultaneous failure of both emergency shutdown systems in a reactor would happen only once every 17,000 years. It was of considerable embarrassment when a double emergency backup system failure actually occurred twice within four days in 1983.

24. Decades ago, we learned that the 9/11 terrorist considered attacking a nuclear power plant. From recent events in Ukraine we now learn that nuclear power plants have been weaponized and are now considered choice targets. Nuclear power plants were not designed to defend against terrorist attacks but now this has become a serious issue. Most people don’t realize that San Onofre is extremely vulnerable. With 19 airports in the area, a big worry is deliberate crashes from large airplanes loaded with 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of high octane aviation fuel. SCE recklessly says no problem, the fuel would burn away harmlessly. It completely ignores what would happen if an A380 Air Bus smashed into their thin canisters. The nuclear waste at San Onofre is lightly defended with a skeleton security force and there is easy public access to see and get near the nuclear waste dump. An interstate highway goes past the plant and a public road is even closer. Over 20 public parking lots are nearby and the public beach is only 100 feet from the canisters. Terrorists might use truck bombs. Rockets and mortars could be fired from the parking lots. Organized squads of armed terrorists could easily overpower the small security detail. More serious challenges are bunker busting munitions and shaped charges which could easily penetrate the bunkers and canisters. The NRC has instructed plant guards that if they see a plane with suspicious tail markings they should immediately call the FAA. Steven Dolley, research director of the Nuclear Control Institute, commented “If you can see the number on the tail fin, you have half a second left.”

25. On the international arms market there are now ship-to-shore missiles designed to be concealed in standard cargo containers. With 1200 pound warheads and a range of 200 miles, they could be launched from any of the 10 million cargo containers (2% inspected) which pass by every year on their way to and from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Large multiple explosions could release massive amounts of radiation which would travel inland with prevailing winds. Continuous release of radiation over weeks and months and years is much different and much worse than a one-shot nuclear explosion.

26. Few realize that no home, car, or business insurance covers radioactive contamination. It is difficult to impossible to decontaminate homes and cars. Everything you own could be a total loss. Quick and massive evacuations of millions of people would never work. Large areas of southern California could become unlivable. Just imagine rushing home to get inside of your own house. You have to strip naked outside and use a garden hose to wash down. Then you must discard all your clothing, wallets, jewelry, watches, and purses and anything else that got exposed before you can enter without contaminating the inside of your home (remember that you could never use your car again). No pets should be allowed outdoors for fear of spreading contamination when they return. No one should open windows or doors or run heat or air conditioning in their car or home. No wonder insurance companies will not cover anything. If people can’t leave their house or apartment, where will they get food, and will it be contaminated? How will they go anywhere? How will they later find their kids who will be bussed from school to temporary shelters many miles away?

27. Some of the dangers from SONGS include a long history of accidents and safety violations. Some are humorous, some are worrisome, and some are really scary. In 2010, the roof covering the Unit 2 diesel emergency generator was experiencing dangerous water leaks. The cause? Dead pelicans and bird dung which clogged the gutters. The solution? Put a tent over the emergency generators. Many still remember back in 1977 when SONGS mounted a 420 ton reactor vessel 180 degrees backward. When the new steam generators began to leak radiation in 2012, SCE tried to conceal what happened and ended up being scolded by the NRC. SCE then tried to blame Mitsubishi which was trying to fulfill the SCE desire to cram in more fuel rods for more profit. Although SONGS has had many more safety issues than most other nuclear power plants, dangerous events plague the entire industry. As of 2014, there have been over 100 serious accidents at nuclear power plants (

28. Nuclear power is not reliable power. At Diablo Canyon, for example, one (or both) reactors were down and out of service 40% of the time in the last few years. About half of the nuclear power plants in France are now off-line or not on full power. Nuclear power plants shut down for many reasons, and once shut down they take a long time to restart. Some of the outages are planned, such as when the plants shut down for weeks during refueling operations. Other times there are maintenance issues, severe weather issues, power outages elsewhere, radioactive leaks, overheating, operational mistakes, terrorist threats, sabotage, the list is long.

29. How long will the uranium in nuclear waste remain lethal? There are dozens of radionuclides in nuclear waste but the main component is U-238 with small amounts of U-235 and Plutonium. The half-life of U-238 is 4.5 billion years. That means that about half of the lethal radioactivity will decay in 4.5 billion years. But it will take 10 half-lives (some say 20) before it completely decays. These are unimaginable time periods before the nuclear waste becomes safe so it would be extremely conservative to say that the nuclear waste will remain dangerous for millions or hundreds of millions of years.

30. How dangerous is radioactivity? Electromagnetic energy is measured in wave lengths of radiation which range from very long radio waves to very short gamma rays. The human eye can detect only a small portion of this spectrum (called visible light). The most dangerous and damaging radiation is ionizing radiation which includes alpha, beta, and gamma rays. They damage cell DNA and can cause death and a wide variety of serious medical issues such as cancer, the number one killer in California and most of the country. The effects may not be immediate and sometimes do not appear for years or even decades. Several thousand Japanese continue to die every year, not from old age but from the effects of the radiation they received as kids in August of 1945 when they were on the outskirts of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

31. Who is most vulnerable to radioactive exposure? Women and children are far more vulnerable to radiation than men. The human fetus (because of rapid cell division) is about 50 times more vulnerable. Most radiation warnings developed by the government and the NRC are based only on the standard statistical adult male, the least vulnerable to ionizing radiation.

32. A normal part of the operation of all nuclear power plants is the regular discharge of low-level radiation into the atmosphere and into waterways. SONGS has been discharging radiation for over a half-century. The atmospheric discharges emit radiation which then blows with prevailing winds (usually inland) over populated areas. It also regularly pumps billions of gallons of low-level radioactive waste into the ocean every year through giant pipes 18 feet in diameter. The rise in sea temperatures and the death of marine life is why SCE was forced to build restoration reefs just offshore of the San Clemente public beaches. When the first reef failed to restore the marine environment, SCE was ordered to build a second reef all the way to the San Clemente pier to mitigate the harmful effects.

33. Does living near a nuclear power plant cause cancer? The only major study in the US of possible cancer clusters for those who live near nuclear power plants was done way back in 1991 by the National Cancer Institute. The study failed to reach any conclusion, and by today’s standards it was poorly conducted. More recent research in Europe has reported cancer effects. The National Academy of Sciences became involved in 2010 and has issued two major reports. They recommended new research around the country at seven locations near nuclear facilities. One location would be the 50 km radius around San Onofre (everyone from Huntington Beach to Solana Beach). The research was never carried out because the NRC blocked funding. Congressman Mike Levin was instrumental in getting new funding passed in 2022, this time via Health and Human Services. But now HHS secretary Becerra has halted the study saying it was “premature” despite the many lengthy reports scientists have published. Rep. Levin, Porter, and Carbajal have tried to convince him but instead of research Becerra wants more bureaucratic study groups. More public support (and outrage) is needed to get the actual research started. Could it be that the government and the industry is only interested in studying the problem, not actually researching it? Are they afraid of what would happen to the nuclear industry if cancer effects are discovered? Here we have a President who boasts about his “moonshot on cancer” but his departments block cancer research. Read these two reports from the National Academy of Sciences: Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities Phase 1 (National Academies Press 2012, 412 pages) available on line: and Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities Phase 2: Pilot Planning (National Academies Press 2014)

34. A new issue is the coastal train connecting Los Angeles to San Diego which has been shut down indefinitely at the Orange and San Diego county border because of beach erosion and coastal instability. The breakdown occurred in south San Clemente, only about two miles from the nuclear waste dump. If simple structures like railroad tracks next to the beach are in danger, how could anyone assume that thousands of tons of uranium on the beach two miles away are safe? At high tides, waves already crash near the top of the seawall with the nuclear waste just inside.

35. It is high time for public officials and candidates to weigh in on these issues and to exercise leadership. It is high time for the media to provide serious coverage of these important issues. And finally, it is high time for the public to learn more about the dangers of nuclear waste, probably the most important issue facing all communities in southern California. Everyone needs to pressure local, state, and federal officials and convince them that moving the nuclear waste from San Onofre to a safer location should be a high priority issue requiring widespread attention and immediate action.

Roger Johnson is a resident of San Clemente, California

The NUHOMS nuclear waste dump, holding Unit 1 reactor assemblies (53 canisters total):

NUHOMS and HOLTEC nuclear reactor assemblies with Unit 2 and Unit 3 domes in the background, Pacific Ocean on the right:

Close-up of the NUHOMS canisters:

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Preventing spent nuclear fuel fires in dry casks (newly updated pdf from 2012)

Dear Readers,

I have just updated a short presentation I created while attending Arjun Makhijani's workshop at IEER in Washington, D.C. in 2012.

The topic is spent nuclear fuel fires, which can be "worse than Chernobyl."

The new update is crammed with over 75 images and several new related items. At only 23 pages, it's a breeze to read and I hope you'll take a look and pass it on to others! Here's the URL:

It's also currently the lead item at my home page:

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California USA

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

An American Chernobyl, because the California Coastal Commission won't do its job.

Re: Th12a (amendment to Coastal Development Permit E-00-014)
Date: October 4, 2022

To: The California Coastal Commission (

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) staff report makes the following claim:

"When the Commission considered the waste storage facility in 2001, the information available at the time indicated that the U.S. Department of Energy would establish a federal repository for spent nuclear fuel and would begin accepting spent fuel from commercial facilities, including SONGS, by 2010."

What "information" was the California Coastal Commission going on in 2001 to make that claim? Yucca Mountain was far from a decided thing then (it has since been cancelled completely). There were hundreds of known problems with it (California alone has dozens of significant objections). Only whimsey and fantasy would have allowed anyone to think it was "the information available."

The nuclear industry has survived on waste management promises for decades (see link below to the author's review of waste management attempts in America over the past half century, as well as the attached page from a 1970s book called the Anti-Nuclear Handbook).

Page 23 of the CCC staff report claims to have analyzed (or had analyzed for them) a 7.5 earthquake (elsewhere up to 7.44 (an oddly specific number for such an inexact science) was indicated). But a 7.8 magnitude earthquake is three times stronger than a 7.5 earthquake, and perhaps one even stronger than that will strike the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) at San Onofre.

The CCC staff report repeatedly refers to a "design basis earthquake" and a "design basis tsunami". This conveniently ignores "beyond design basis earthquakes" and "beyond design basis tsunamis" which are certainly possible -- nor does the staff report give any indication of the odds for anything: Instead, they just describe things as "unlikely" or "extremely unlikely."

Even if these events are "unlikely" or "extremely unlikely" their impacts could be so devastating that the events must be considered.

Beyond Design Basis events are not only possible, but additionally: Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) occasionally considers them and regulates the nuclear industry regarding them. So why can't the California Coastal Commission do so?

But what really galls me about the CCC staff report is that they completely ignore consequences of accidents. Not just that they are unlikely, but no consideration of how damaging to SoCal an accident -- however unlikely -- would be. They do this with the excuse that that would be strictly the purview of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- which is absurd. The NRC might "regulate" nuclear reactor safety and spent fuel safety, but the consequences will be OUR problem -- not theirs.

Another point: The CCC staff report says the containers should be "transportable" so that at some future time they can be moved to either a safer location on the SoCal Edison (SCE) site (which is actually leased from Camp Pendleton (Marine Corps)) or to a permanent repository somewhere. Yet the enormous number of fuel assemblies allowed in each cask -- to save money by using fewer casks -- makes them extremely heavy and to move them away from San Onofre will require them going over (and under) numerous bridges where a far greater fall than the canisters are designed to withstand might occur (the NRC only requires the casks to withstand a drop of 30 feet, and even then, a "back breaker" accident is not considered (where the middle of the cask takes all the force of the impact with a solid object)).

So really, the CCC isn't making sure the canisters can be transported even as far as across the bridge that goes over the (eroding) train tracks and the busy I-5 highway to store them further away from the coast on (borrowed) SCE land slightly further inland. If a bridge fails (perhaps because a truck or train crashes into a bridge abutment just when one of the 123 canisters is being moved) then the fall could exceed the drop height the casks are designed to (possibly) withstand.

The CCC staff report earthquake estimates are based on a maximum 7.5 magnitude earthquake. But experts now believe the Palos Verdes Fault (PVF) is capable of producing a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. PVF is nearly 70 miles long and the tip is within about 10 miles of San Onofre.

The staff report's sea rise estimates and tsunami estimates could also be way off -- and in instance after instance in the Th12a staff report, the NUHOMS horizontal cask system is just barely safe from their estimated worst case scenario.

The CCC staff report's beach erosion estimates might be way off too. Especially note that this week, Surfliner has suddenly been cancelled indefinitely between Mission Viejo and San Diego due to coastal erosion in San Clemente. These tracks were the 2nd busiest route in the country -- until suddenly they weren't available and thousands of people are suddenly severely inconvenienced for who-knows-for-how-long, including both commuter and freight traffic.

It is expected that sooner or later the tracks will be repaired. Compare this to what would happen from even a "small" accident involving just one of the 123 dry casks stored at San Onofre: The entire area, including the Cities of San Clemente and Oceanside, Camp Pendleton, I-5 AND the vital rail line would all be permanently unavailable, just over 1,000 square miles are permanently unavailable around Chernobyl for the foreseeable future from an accident that occurred nearly 40 years ago. It should be noted that EACH dry cask at San Onofre contains as much radiation as was released in the Chernobyl accident. This figure has been admitted in a published letter to the editor by the SCE spokesperson, who claimed there needs to be a "motive force" to release it to the environment.

Let me suggest a few "motive forces" that might cause a large dispersal of the nuclear waste at San Onofre: An airplane strike, either intentional or accidental. A large ship settling on the cask structure after being washed inland during a tsunami. A high-powered weapon (even a shoulder-fired weapon could go through both the concrete overpack and the dry cask itself, and that's just ONE trigger pull. There is almost no defensive guard requirements for the ISFSI. It is unlikely that ONE guard with ONE pistol would be able to stop even a small group of well-prepared terrorists). An earthquake that bursts open one or more casks during a rainstorm, or followed by a tsunami, would be particularly disastrous.

There are many other ways the spent fuel canister can be breached. A breach can cause the fuel to self-ignite by exposing the canisters to air and water. The zirconium cladding, being pyrophoric (self-igniting) could/would entirely burn off, releasing all the fission products currently held in the "gap" between the uranium/plutonium pellets and the zirconium cladding.

This would be a local, state, and global disaster, but it might not, in and of itself, cause the uranium/plutonium/fission/product-laden fuel pellets to also self-ignite since zirconium burns at a much lower temperature than uranium. But it would cause the fuel assemblies to disassemble. The fuel pellets would fall to the bottom of what's left of the canister, and then a self-sustaining criticality event could/would quickly reach a temperature which ignites the entire cask of spent fuel.

An American Chernobyl, because the California Coastal Commission didn't do its job.

Lastly, why is the Th12a staff report coming so late, just a month before the current San Onofre ISFSI license for the NUHOMS casks expires? Why does it cite a 2001 DOE waste management report that proves how poorly the DOE estimates nuclear waste management timelines as a reason that the DOE will (probably, hopefully, possibly) have a national repository by 2035 -- or any time?

I recommend the CCC staff report be thrown out, the relicensing stopped, and SCE be required to repack the fuel in much smaller quantities, and that all spent fuel canisters be moved away from the coast (and away from ANY earthquake zone in California (good luck with that)), and that all spent fuel canisters be separated from each other by a minimum of several hundred yards. Local fire departments need to be constantly trained and retrained about how to handle a fire at the spent fuel installation, and all other possibilities for what might happen at San Onofre should be covered. For example, the ability to dump many tons of sand on a spent fuel fire should be practiced by local/state government helicopter pilots on at least an annual basis if not more frequently.

All costs for more properly storing the spent fuel should be borne solely by the owners, Southern California Edison (80%) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) (20%), and their shareholders.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California

The author, an independent researcher and two-time cancer survivor, has studied nuclear issues for approximately 50 years and has interviewed and/or worked with dozens of technical experts in all related subjects. All views are his own.

Loading a spent fuel canister into the NUHOMS horizontal storage system.
Additional information:

Palos Verdes Fault: A serious issue for San Onofre; Recent history of fault research in California:

Extending Diablo Canyon's operating license: A fiasco waiting to happen (contains additional discussion about dry cask accident issues):

Nuclear Waste Management: The view through the years:

Different types of nuclear radiation and why they are all dangerous (a backgrounder on radiation dangers):

Th12a is available online here:

Addendum: Comment on the above from another independent researcher:

Regarding "NRC only requires the casks to withstand a drop of 30 feet",

This applies to the transport cask and doesn't consider the contents remaining intact.

In fact, if a [Holtec] canister drops more than 11 inches inside a transfer cask, contents must be inspected (NRC ML003711865, page 3-10 Accidental Drop).

Regarding ignition/explosion of zirconium, zirconium hydrides (created from burning the fuel) are in small particle or gas form they will ignite in air at any temperature.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Palos Verdes Fault: A serious issue for San Onofre; Recent history of fault research in California

The Palos Verdes Fault is a serious issue for San Onofre's nuclear waste dump. Southern California Edison (SCE) refuses to admit it, but facts indicate otherwise.

What the Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA) will be from any earthquake, based on the magnitude of the earthquake as measured by its energy release, is very difficult to calculate and there is much room for error:

From Wikipedia:
"Due to the complex conditions affecting PGA, earthquakes of similar magnitude can offer disparate results, with many moderate magnitude earthquakes generating significantly larger PGA values than larger magnitude quakes."

Also, PGA is calculated for three dimensions (up/down, and two horizontal directions, usually given as N/S and E/W, but not always). To know what PGA actually occurs during an earthquake, accelerometers for all three directions must be used, and then blended (this is known as a "vector sum") Sometimes, whichever is the largest magnitude is given as the PGA for that earthquake. For example, the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake had a maximum PGA in one direction of 2.70, but the vector sum was 2.99.

The depth of the earthquake can have a large effect on the PGA for an earthquake: For example, a 1978 Miyagi earthquake of magnitude 7.7 was 44 kilometers deep and had a PGA of 0.438g and caused 28 fatalities, while the 1999 Jiji earthquake of the same magnitude but only 8 kilometers deep had a PGA of 2.92g and caused 2,415 fatalities. The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake was a 7.8, 15 kilometers deep, and had a 3.23g PGA -- but only caused 2 fatalities. So PGA alone, or magnitude alone, or even both together with depth included, cannot actually predict the potential outcome of an earthquake.

The new values for the discovery that the Palos Verdes Fault (PVF) is a connected series of faults are quadruple the previous value, therefore, San Onofre would need to survive four times (4X) the previous estimate. Notice that SoCal Edison's web page does not provide nearly enough data to make any sort of judgement as to whether their ISFSI can survive 4X more forces that originally planned for!

Also, they do not mention that they have two completely different ISFII types at the site: Is one better than the other for surviving a 7.8 earthquake nearby? If they are equally good, why did they change to the vertical style? (Note: The answer appears to be simply that Holtec offered to build the new facility quickly, which allows SCE to save millions of dollars on spent fuel pool maintenance and instead get paid millions of dollars by the U.S. Government once the waste is in dry casks.)

Also, consider the last phrase is this chart (from Wikipedia again):

0.001 g (0.01 m/s2) – perceptible by people
0.02 g (0.2 m/s2) – people lose their balance
0.50 g (5 m/s2) – very high; well-designed buildings can survive if the duration is short.

"if the duration is short" is something PGA alone does not consider! SCE does not say "if the duration is short" anywhere, do they? Of course not! But the same PGA might completely destroy the ISFSI if the duration is NOT short! So PGA alone doesn't really prove anything.

Regarding the Palos Verdes Fault specifically, I don't think any earthquake experts are saying for certain that they are sure if it will be a thrust or a strike-slip event (or a combination of both -- see LA Times quote, below) when it occurs -- and it WILL occur: The ground movement is from around one to as much as six millimeters per year, a rather large amount (and much larger than previous estimates). And as far as I can determine from researching the PVF, it is probably going to be a very shallow event.

SCE's claim about the "low ground shaking potential" in the area is not definitive and should be completely discounted, in my opinion. Instead, the PGA for each of the two types of ISFSIs at the site should be independently analyzed and reported. I doubt that it is the same for each one.

Regarding the potential for fire, a large earthquake could certainly cause one of the scores of fully-loaded fuel trucks that probably pass nearby on I-5 to overturn and spill their entire contents, only to have it flow towards the ISFSI and ignite. Combined with even a small tsunami, there could be the combination of fire and water that SCE assures us can never happen.

One more important point: Considering that there are more than 50 known active faults in the area, how many others are liable to be four (or more) times stronger than currently estimated? Almost everything about earthquake prediction is very "hit or miss." San Onofre cannot afford to miss (other than the fact that SCE is protected almost 100% from paying for damages caused by San Onofre thanks to the Price-Anderson Act, an archaic piece of legislation that limits any reactor operator to a maximum of about $13 Billion dollars in damages, no matter the actual cost in lives and property).

SCE is hiding data, playing with numbers, and ignoring facts (as usual).

Particularly egregious in this case is SCE's blatantly false claim that the millions of people who live within 50 miles of San Onofre have nothing to worry about. Each spent fuel canister has about as much radioactivity as was released from Chernobyl, which affected much of Europe as well as, to a lesser extent, the entire northern hemisphere (and the world). A spent fuel fire can be hot enough to melt concrete, meaning a fire in one canister can spread to every other canister at the ISFSI. And putting water on such a fire -- assuming you could get close enough to it without receiving a lethal dose of radiation -- would be a big mistake!

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Sources used for this report:

"The PVF appears to die out to the south of Lasuen Knoll..." [so, approximately directly offshore from San Onofre, or at best just a little northwest of the SanO nuclear waste dump]

"The Northridge quake, which killed 57 people, had a devastating combined side-to-side and up-and-down motion that proved especially destructive to structures. That same combined lateral and vertical movement of faults is possible along the Palos Verdes network."

Recent history of fault research in California:

Facts about earthquakes in California:

"There are hundreds of identified faults in California; about 200 are considered potentially hazardous based on their slip rates in recent geological time (the last 10,000 years)." (1)

"To be exact, there are a total of 15,700 known faults in our state." and: "And actually one of the strongest quakes ever felt in the state occurred in the shear zone north of the recent epicenters, when a magnitude 7.8 or 7.9 temblor flattened the town of Lone Pine in 1872." (2)

The 1906 SF earthquake: "would have registered as a 7.8 on the magnitude scale." (3)

The 1994 Northridge earthquake: "The major shock lasted 10–20 seconds and registered a magnitude of 6.7" (4)

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was about 6.9 magnitude and lasted about 20 seconds. "The Pacific plate moved 6.2 feet to the northwest and 4.3 feet upward over the North American plate during Loma Prieta." It was felt as far away as San Diego. (5)

Recently discovered/newly active faults in California:

September 2022: "The San Andreas Fault takes an 11 degree bend south of Stanford. That has created [the Foothill Thrust Belt fault system], which could cause a 6.9 quake every 250-300 years, new research suggests. And we don't know when it last ruptured." (6)

March, 2022: "A series of these “sleeping giant” faults was recently discovered in the Long Beach/Seal Beach region" (7)

2019: "[A] few miles southeast of Santa Cruz, California, a never-before-seen cluster of faults has been found lurking on the ocean floor." (8)

2019: "[T]he Garlock fault, which runs east to west for 185 miles from the San Andreas Fault to Death Valley, has shifted 0.8 inches since July. It marks the first documented movement of the fault in the modern historical record." (9)

2017: The Newport-Inglewood and Rose Canyon fault lines were found to be interconnected: "[A] newly identified fault line that could unleash a magnitude-7.4 earthquake" (10)

2016: Salton Trough Fault...runs parallel and close to the San Andreas Fault. (11)

2011: Near Truckee: "The newly discovered, active, 22-mile-long strike-slip fault is named Polaris"..."'We weren't expecting it at all,' said Lewis Hunter, a senior geologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District." (12)

2008: "[T]he Shoreline Fault...passes less than a mile from the [Diablo Canyon] plant. The [newly discovered] fault has the potential of triggering a 6.5-magnitude earthquake." (13)

2006/7: "We discovered a series of prominent faults near Bombay Beach [on the eastern edge of the Salton Sea] during pilot studies..." (14)

1998: “Los Angeles is caught in a vise,”..."[An earthquake research team] discovered a large, active crack in the earth, capable of causing destructive earthquakes, under Los Angeles" (15)

Changes to faults they already knew about:

2022: "A Slow-Motion Section of the San Andreas Fault May Not Be So Harmless After All" (16)

2020: "Ominous San Andreas Fault Study: Risk of a Big Quake 5X Higher Than Previously Thought" (17)

2019: "A new study by the USGS and Harvard indicates that the [Wilmington blind‐thrust fault] has been active far more recently than we knew." (18)

2017: "An Obscure Fault in Southern California Is More Dangerous Than We Thought...the Ventura-Pitas Point Fault, [is] now thought to be capable of producing magnitude 8.0 earthquakes, and even tsunamis." (19)

2017: “A powerful quake in the mid- to upper 6s could cause liquefaction around San Diego and Mission bays and locally in Mission Valley..." (20)

2016: "San Andreas fault might be stronger than we thought, new study suggests" (21)

2016: "Latest research suggests that the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults might have ruptured together in the past" (22)

2014: "Recent studies of the magnitude 6.0 Napa quake in August suggest that the fault is longer and thus more powerful than previously thought." (23)

2010: "Earthquakes have rocked the powerful San Andreas fault that splits California far more often than previously thought, according to UC Irvine..." (24)


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Report prepared September 29, 2022 by Ace Hoffman

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Extending Diablo Canyon's operating license: A fiasco waiting to happen...

August 30, 2022

Dear Readers,

Extending Diablo Canyon's operating license is a violation of carefully debated and long-established agreements to close the reactors after their design life of 40 years.

Rusted and age-worn parts are a pervasive problem at the aging plant. Numerous large structures would have to be replaced to last another 20 or 40 -- or 60??? years. And since shutdown in the next few years was an accepted and anticipated event, many parts are only being replaced if they fail (known as a "fix on fail" policy). These parts are assumed to not be "mission-critical" but not all multiple- or cascading parts failures have been evaluated. There are literally thousands of accident scenarios that are far more likely because so many parts are being neglected.

Worker shortages plague the facility, and knowledgeable employees are being paid enormous bonuses to convince them to stay until the planned closure in the next few years. After nearly 40 years of operation, there is probably not a single employee left at the plant who actually helped build the plant, and none of the design engineers are available to confer with if there is a problem. In short, no one really knows how the plant works. Seriously!

But that's only a few thousand good reasons to close Diablo Canyon today, rather than over the next couple of years, let alone, 20+ years from now (or will it be 40+ years, or 60+...or more?).

California has a state law that new reactors cannot be built until and unless there is an out-of-state permanent repository for the nuclear waste.

There's nothing of the sort anywhere, despite more than half a century of looking for such a place. After decades of searching, the federal government "finally" settled on Yucca Mountain in Nevada in 1987. Why Yucca Mountain? It's very dry there, far from population centers, and it was on Nevada Test Site land, which was already heavily polluted with radioactive debris from weapons testing.

But that didn't work out. And a nearby city -- Las Vegas -- grew from a population of around 600,000 in 1987 to nearly three million permanent residents today. Yucca Mountain is no longer "far from any large population centers" if it ever really was.

In July, 1999 the Department of Energy published an enormous document in four thick books called The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County Nevada.

I have a copy: It takes about half a foot of space on a bookshelf (see Figure 1).

The EIS lists the isotopic content of a typical Pressurized Water Reactor spent fuel assembly, such as exists at Diablo Canyon. (see Figure 2 (Table H-4), which also lists the isotopic content for Boiling Water Reactor spent fuel -- but note that the values shown are for "low burnup" fuel. Diablo Canyon has been using "high burnup" fuel for several decades).

The values in Table H-4 are enormous quantities of nuclear waste -- and that's just for one fuel assembly. A typical PWR will have two to three dozen fuel assemblies in each dry cask, and Diablo Canyon already has over 3 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel, much of it in nearly 100 dry casks -- over 2,000 fuel assemblies. Enormous amounts of additional fuel is also in the spent fuel pools and the operating reactors (approximately 2,000 additional fuel assemblies).

Of the 3+ million pounds of spent fuel at DCNPP, at least 50,000 pounds of it is plutonium -- an incredibly toxic, man-made element that is virtually non-existent in nature. Enough for approximately 10,000 nuclear weapons. Just one pound of plutonium, if divided evenly and somehow distributed into the lung of every person on earth, is enough to cause everyone on earth to be virtually certain to get lung cancer. A few millionths of a gram is a lethal dose of plutonium.

Plutonium is incredibly toxic, but it's hardly the only hazard that PG&E has created at DCNPP. Plutonium is considered an "activation product" because it was created when other elements absorbed neutrons, then decayed, creating new protons. Fission products (which result from splitting uranium and plutonium atoms) are also incredibly toxic and highly radioactive -- sometimes thousands of times more radioactive than plutonium, which in turn is thousands of times more radioactive than uranium. Many fission products, such as strontium and cesium, are "bone-seekers," others, such as radioactive iodine, are taken up by the thyroid. Tritium can end up anywhere in the human body, because it is a radioactive form of hydrogen. (Tritium is called Hydrogen-3 in Table H-4).

Fission products created within the uranium fuel pellets escape from the fuel pellets and lodge -- under very high pressure -- in the gap between the fuel pellet and the fuel cladding (a buildup of fission products is one reason the fuel has to be removed from the reactor after a few years and replaced with "fresh" reactor fuel).

The fuel cladding (usually an alloy of zirconium) is liable to catch fire if, for example, and aircraft were to crash into a dry cask (see photo (figure 3) for a comparison of the relative sizes of a large jet to a dry cask).

If the fuel cladding burns, the fission products will be released to the atmosphere. This is a very serious accident, but by no means the worst that can happen. That might come next:

If the fuel cladding burns away, the fuel pellets themselves will fall to the bottom of the spent fuel cask (see figure 4). As they pile up in a fire, they might just sit there. But whoa to the firefighters who might try to put the fire out with a stream of water! Water slows neutrons down very effectively -- it's used in PWRs and BWRs for that purpose, because "slow" neutrons (also known as "thermal" neutrons) are far more likely to be "captured" but other uranium and/or plutonium atoms, thus causing a self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

This is known as a "criticality event". Even very old fuel -- hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years old -- can "go critical" under the right conditions -- and a spent fuel cladding fire followed by water intrusion creates the right conditions for a criticality event, although there are other scenarios as well (and what if it's raining when the plane crashes, for instance)? This is all described in the 1999 EIS (see section K.2.5).

At Yucca Mountain, they had a plan to prevent such a scenario. It was two-fold: Firstly, they gambled that an airplane was unlikely to strike the spent fuel canisters (this was Nevada, after all, the gambling capital of America). Secondly, they intended to store the spent fuel canisters in buildings with very thick cement walls, so that even if a plane did strike the site, they concluded it was unlikely to cause a "significant" fuel release to the environment. And very unlikely to cause a criticality.

Their guesswork (they admit that many numbers were "rough estimates") undoubtedly minimized many potential dangers, but the most egregious was probably ignoring sabotage or terrorism in the form of an intentional airplane strike. Could that be excused since it was before 9-11? And before a GermanWings pilot intentionally flew a planeload of people into a mountain? And before MH-370 was flown off course until it ran out of fuel and dropped into the sea with all souls lost? And before a China Airways plane plummeted nearly straight down for no apparent reason a few months ago? And before Russia threatened to destroy the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor site in Ukraine, which they are continuing to threaten to do?

No, there's no excuse for ignoring intentional air crashes: In the 1970s, at least one hijacker had already threatened to crash the jet he had taken control of into nuclear facilities (fortunately, he did not follow through with that threat.)

Spent fuel at Diablo Canyon is NOT properly contained. It is NOT safe. It will NOT be going to a permanent repository any time soon -- if ever.

Can we really afford to double the amount of waste there, if we won't even properly contain what is already there, on earthquake faults, exposed to airplane strikes or other terrorism, from drone swarms to laser-guided rockets?

The longer spent fuel has been removed from a reactor, the safer it is. It's never safe, but it is several orders-of-magnitude more dangerous in the first few decades immediately after it is removed from the spent fuel pools (where it is so dangerous, if the pools drain for any reason, or circulation is stopped for too long, the worst ecological disaster in American history would occur).

We should not be making more nuclear waste, since there are clean alternatives that do not add to the risk with every kilowatt of electricity they produce.

Electricity is not, and never was, the main product of Diablo Canyon.

Nuclear waste is, was, and always will be what Diablo Canyon will be most famous for creating (see figure 5).

Do not relicense the reactors at Diablo Canyon. Enough is Enough!

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Figure 3:

Figure 4:

Figure 5:

Figure 5 is from:

Enough is Enough! (90-second video about Diablo Canyon):

Stop Diablo Canyon relicensing reversal! Vote due in CA state legislature tomorrow (8/31/2022)!

Dear Reader,

Please check out my short (<90 second) video on why Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant should NOT be relicensed: (top item)
or directly:

And, I appologize for the late notice, but below is an announcement of an important press conference which is coming up at noon today (PST).

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Here is a recording of the Press Conference On Newsom’s Diablo Canyon SB 846 Passcode: kVn^4k89 ============================================================







Tuesday August 30, 2022 Emergency Statewide Press Conference
To Oppose Governor Gavin Newsom's$1.4 Billion Giveaway to PG&E to Keep the Unreliable Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Open

Tuesday August 30, 2022  12:00 Noon PST

 Media Contacts:
Donna Gilmore: 949.204.7794
Steve Zeltzer: 415.867.0628
Myla Reson: 310.663.7660

There is an emergency press conference on Tuesday, August 30th at 12:00pm PST to oppose Governor Newsom's SB846 scheme to change state law so PG&E can reap billions of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars to keep the unreliable Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors operating well past their licensed expiration dates. The legislature is slated to vote on the bill this Wednesday, circumventing the democratic process of allowing for a full debate.

The Governor is pressuring the legislature to support this bill by falsely claiming that both reactors must be kept running to prevent blackouts during peak energy demand hours. The fact is that the records of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reveal that these reactors have been highly unreliable. One or both reactors have been down an average of 40 percent of the days in each of the last four years.

This bill's real impact will be to unnecessarily burden taxpayers and ratepayers across California. Ratepayers who receive their electricity from other utilities (SDG&E, SCE, PG&E, CCA's) will be forced to pay for Diablo Canyon in their electric bills, too. The bill will also continue to impede deployment of badly needed renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro technologies.

Speakers will discuss these and other problems with this bill at the statewide press conference.

Daniel Hirsch, Committee to Bridge the Gap
Donna Gilmore, San
Andrew Christie, Director, Santa Lucia Chapter, Sierra Club
Cathy Iwane, Coalition for Nuclear Safety
Harvey Wasserman, Author, Historian
Arnie Gunderson, Fairewinds Energy Education
Steve Zeltzer, No Nukes Action Committee'

Additional Information for SB846


Senate Testimony of Kim Delfino on Diablo Extension

Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi - Statement on Diablo Extension

Testimony of Ralph Cavanagh - Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee – August 25, 2922

Testimony of Ed Smeloff, Clean Power Campaign on Diablo Extension

Testimony of Mark Tony of TURN on Diablo Extension

Final Q&A Session re PG&E Profits Assembly Hearing – 8-25-2022

Critical Reasons to Oppose SB846:
    • Distributed renewables are getting not only $50B in direct manufacturing subsidies and ~$200B in renewables supply
    • Nearly limitless tax credits are available
      • Anybody who needs tax deductions can get them from anybody who buys solar/wind/battery
      • We could literally pay zero federal tax for the next 10 years if we prioritized the energy revolution
    • Renewables can power all other priorities and revenue sources when they are not sabotaged
  • The state legislature *does NOT* need to act immediately on Diablo; rather SB846 is a bad faith deal intended to be forced on Californians secretly at the literal midnight hour end of the legislative session (Wednesday August 31)
  • This rush to extend Diablo's licensing period was pushed by non-registered lobbyists
    • Some "environmental experts" covered in the media are utility managers (one was a PG&E CEO!)
  • An existing agreement was already negotiated by major interested parties and written into law as SB1090
  • The operator of Diablo (PG&E) cannot be trusted: it is a convicted felon that went bankrupt because of its disastrous safety record
  • Diablo Canyon's poorly maintained reactors are unreliable with 40% down days every year (for one or both reactors).
  • To prevent blackouts due to shortages in grid supply
    • 1 GW of battery is already coming online to cover both peak hours and downtime of power plants
    • A massive offshore wind project is scheduled to come online at the same time as the Diablo license expires
    • The independent system operator (ISO), CEC and CPUC reports state that we won't have blackouts if Diablo is closed. Governor Newsom has provided no evidence to the contrary.
  • Rooftop solar *by itself* already generates *more* power than Diablo (by 20-40% statewide) *and* supports more good paying jobs
    • 1500 Workers at Diablo, 70,000 Distributed Renewables workers statewide
    • Rooftop solar gets cut off when rolling blackouts happen, and is not even paid its fair share for its contribution to the grid
      • Per former CPUC president (Loretta Lynch): ISO prioritizes exports to other states for profit rather than California Ratepayers for reliability
  • Nuclear power impedes the development of adequate safe, clean energy in California
  • SB846 Makes all ratepayers who are in CCA's, SDG&E, SCE, PG&E pay for Diablo Canyon in their electric bills and taxes.
  • CalPERS official position is opposed to the extension of Diablo's license
  • PG&E is demanding an Open checkbook – Repairs and upgrades needed to renew Diablo's license can be in the multiple $billions and will result in higher electric rates
  • In summary:  PG&E is panicking about facing actual competition and making a desperate grab for $3.3B in profits on a stranded monolith asset.
August 30, 2022