Thursday, February 1, 2024

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant should be closed ASAP, NOT extended!

February 1, 2024

Dear Readers,

Today I spoke at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) online webinar seeking public input regarding extending the license for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCNPP) another 20 years.

Various local government electeds insisted they were speaking on their own behalf, but all were in support of extending the license of the plant. Many highly qualified people spoke in opposition to the extension, a few insisted that Unit 1 should be closed immediately due to embrittlement issues.

At the high point there were a little over 100 people attending the online webinar including several dozen NRC employees, plus phone links. The meeting lasted over three hours: There were still about 70 people online when it ended, plus however many were on the telephone link.

Due to technical difficulties (Microsoft Teams isn't particularly user-friendly) a number of people were unable to speak (mostly microphones that could not be unmuted, but one pro-nuker had a serious problem with an "open" microphone). I was almost unable to unmute too, but at the last minute, 40+ years of prior personal computer experience saved me. (Truly the last minute: The host had tried various things for at least 10 minutes to unmute me, and there was only one more speaker after me, and the hearing was already running overtime!)

After introducing myself and stating that I was speaking for myself, and mentioning that I'm "nearing 70" and have had "two cancers and a stroke" I added that I too (like many of the pro-nukers who spoke) have "toured" a nuclear power plant, although I added that it was about 40 years ago, and was Connecticut Yankee, not Diablo Canyon. I described it as follows: "It was clean."

Then I explained that the rest of my remarks (shown below) were written while listening to the rest of the hearing today, and began to read what I had just written. About 2/3rds of the way through I offered to stop and submit the rest in writing, but the host kindly permitted me to finish. (I decided not to read the last two paragraphs anyway.)

For those living near the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor, there will be a second NRC hearing next Thursday evening, in person, near the plant. Details are available at the NRC web site. I'm sure it will be crowded with plant workers who don't want their jobs to dry up and who have convinced themselves that low radiation doses are harmless, or even beneficial. (This is NOT the position of any official U.S. government agency, as far as I know. They all subscribe to the LNT (Linear, No Threshold) theory of radiation damage. The truth is much more complicated, of course, but LNT is probably a good approximation.)

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California USA

P.S. I forgot to mention that both my cancers have been cured thanks to modern medicine, and the stroke, last year, was "mild." I'm basically in good health. Except for the hernia...well, and a few other things, but nothing life-threatening...except age...and an ongoing pandemic. Will the "public" hearing have high-energy UV air cleaners? HEPA filters (which were originally designed to filter...radioactive particles!)? Will they hand out N-95 masks at the door? Will they wear them themselves?


February 1, 2024
It is amazing to hear the pro-nukers try to justify the continued existence of nuclear power plants.

Forty years ago, they said we need nuclear power because of political turbulence in the Middle East. But America generally exports far more fossil fuels than it imports.

Thirty years ago, they said we need nuclear power because we were going to run out of fossil fuels, but more fossil fuels are  being pulled out of the ground than ever before.

Twenty years ago, they said we need nuclear power because wind and solar power "aren't there yet." But had we invested in them, they would have been there then.

Ten years ago, they finally -- FINALLY --  started to say we need nuclear power because of climate change -- an excuse with no more validity than any of the other excuses.

And now, they say [DCNPP] will save money while we switch to...something, but they assure us nothing is cheaper than electricity from nuclear power (meanwhile, it is, in fact, the world's most expensive energy). They say nuclear power is "baseload" because wind and solar are "intermittent" but ignore not only the sudden losses of such enormous amounts of power, but also the regular removal of this "baseload" power for required fuel replacement and rearrangement -- those outages might start at a scheduled time, but are often extended for unplanned lengths of time when unexpected problems are discovered during the inspections that always accompany the outages. Hardly reliable!

And [DCNPP's] emissions include not only regular radioactive emissions, but also significant fossil fuel use in the nuclear fuel cycle and during the operation of the reactor (several tens of megawatts of power come in to every reactor while it is operating, which are often generated with fossil fuels (and of course, the diesel generators burn fossil fuels if they're needed).

There are enormous risks of enormous emissions: ONE accident can release more nuclear effluents into the environment than all previous nuclear accidents in the United States to date. And there have been bad ones, but nothing like what is possible. Any time. Any day. Any reactor.

There is no reason to compare the emissions of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant with emissions of fossil fuels as an excuse to keep DCNPP open.

The question of emissions MUST include a calculation that includes the risk of accidents and their potential emissions. Because accidents do happen. They have happened, they are happening as we speak, and they will continue to happen.

Accidents have occurred at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Santa Susanna, SL-1, the loss of the Scorpion and the Thresher, lost bombs at Palomares, lost bombs off the coast of Georgia, and thousands of other nuclear accidents have already occurred around the world, each with global consequences.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's own oversight failures have caused huge financial losses and risked causing catastrophic accidents, such as when San Onofre Nuclear [Waste] Generating Station (near where I live) installed poorly designed replacement steam generators that the NRC let them consider "like-for-like" when they were substantially and significantly (and poorly) redesigned. The intent of the redesign was to increase profit for the power plant's owner, Southern California Edison. Instead it cost them billions of dollars and risked destroying all of Southern California.

In Ohio, multiple years of poor inspections on the part of the NRC resulted in a "hole in the head" of the nuclear reactor at Davis-Besse, a problem that was inevitably going to cause a meltdown -- the Reactor Pressure Vessel Head (RPVH) was completely rusted through, and the stainless steel liner was all that was holding back a meltdown -- and it was bulging out. The problem was discovered by a fortunate event: A worker leaned against a control rod during a fuel replacement, and the rod bent over!

DCNPP Unit One is KNOWN to be at severe risk of destruction from embrittlement, as has been mentioned several times in this hearing.

Clearly, the main purpose of extending the DCNPP license, either for the five years Pacific Gas and Electric claims they plan to extend the run of the plant, or for the 20, 40, or even 100 total years of operation that the NRC claims are possible for a nuclear power plant... is profit for the corporation. And kudos for Governor Gavin Newsom, a sly pronuker with an eye on the White House.

Diablo Canyon will be 40 years old soon. Other things that tend to fall apart after decades -- despite regular maintenance -- include buildings, pipelines, dams, computer centers, vehicles, ships...everything wears out.

And there isn't any reason to risk keeping DCNPP open anyway. Renewable energy includes widely distributed sources including, but not limited to, offshore wind, onshore wind, rooftop solar, industrial-level solar, geothermal, and so on. There is also a phenomenal opportunity within California for increased energy efficiency, which requires adding NO new energy sources. DCNPP could be closed just by increasing energy efficiency within the state.

Most importantly, after nearly a full century of being told that there is, will be, could be, or might be a solution to the problem of storing nuclear waste, even today we heard -- on the NRC's own hearing looking for comments from the public -- that we could simply rocket nuclear waste "to the sun" where it could harm no one. To call that preposterous, considering the accident rate of launches, hardly does it justice: Financially it's absurd too!

NRC thanked the person for his comments, which were strongly in support of keeping the DCNPP reactors open.

In reality there is no solution to the waste problem, and the nuclear waste from DCNPP will probably stay on site at DCNPP for centuries, if not forever. Nuclear waste is extremely hazardous -- millions of times more hazardous than nuclear fuel that has never been used in a nuclear reactor is. Yet making ever-more of this nuclear waste, without ANY solution to the waste problem, seems to be the only thing the NRC ever endorses.

The NRC could have already rejected PG&E's license application -- and ALL extensions to ALL nuclear power plant licenses -- because the NRC cannot guarantee safety to any reasonable degree of assurance. The NRC has no record to go on. There have been numerous accidents, releases, and near-misses over the years. Nuclear reactors -- let alone nuclear waste containers left out in the open -- are NOT protected against airplane strikes. They are not protected against numerous earthquake scenarios, tsunami scenarios, terrorism scenarios, operator error scenarios, intentional operator actions that can destroy the reactor...or common-mode failures where more than one or two things happen to go wrong at the same time.  It is well known that the NRC has not, and CANNOT,  evaluate such complex interactions of problems -- problems that can lead to catastrophe.

Lastly, continuing to operate the DCNPP actually BLOCKS clean energy solutions that do NOT produce millions of pounds of the most toxic substance on earth.

There is absolutely no safe and reasonable way to operate a nuclear power plant.

There are truly clean alternatives that are not based on burning fossil fuels.

Close DCNPP now. Don't wait until there is an accident, don't wait for the license to run out, and absolutely DO NOT extend the DCNPP license for a day, let alone for 20 years. The risks are too great and the alternatives are far cheaper, cleaner, more reliable (NOT LESS), and best of all: Safer.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California USA

The author, a computer programmer, has studied nuclear power and nuclear weapons independently for more than 50 years, including interviewing numerous scientists, and collecting over 500 books on nuclear topics.