To: "Editor, NC Times" <>

Subject: Paul Sisson of the North County Times misses the true story about nuclear power (again)

March 19th, 2004

North County Times

To The Editor

While Paul Sisson waxes eloquent about the front page news that nuclear workers apparently, in his view, do good work, in fact, these sacrificial lambs are no better than the rest of us.  They lie, they cheat, they steal, they threaten, they fumble, they forget, they drop the ball.

They're human, after all.

The problem for the public with these high-paid, roving workers is that the "service" the perform is not needed.  There are easily-obtained alternatives to nuclear energy, which are entirely safe in every way.

The problem for the workers is that the cumulative doses they receive, while appearing, in part, on the film badges and so forth that the workers wear, are probably actually 10 or 20 times, or even 100 times, worse that what shows up on the badges and documentation for each worker.  And even if it weren't, the 10 to 20 times "background" levels they might receive over a lifetime, even by the industry's own reckoning, can be fatal for them.

A disabled ex-worker from the Palo Verde nuclear facility in Arizona (nearest to our own except for Diablo Canyon) told me over the phone recently, "they told us there were risks, but they didn't say anything about stroke or cataracts".  And he was a Health Physicist at the plant!  He of all people should have known! 

And indeed, IF somebody would bother to read the fine print of the official government reports, such as the "BIER V" report (several inches thick and quite old now) which I suspect Mr. Sisson hasn't even heard of let alone perused, you can read about these diseases -- the very problems ravaging the worker from Palo Verde.  He knew there were risks.  We all know there are risks.  It's all about properly quantifying those risks, which Mr. Sisson and the whole nuclear industry has never done.

The ex-Health Physicist told me his cataracts are "as big as M&M's", and the strokes he's had have left him unable to work and barely able to care for himself.   Who did this to him, while just in his late 40s?  (Note: I'll be happy to give Mr. Sisson the fellow's name so he can interview him for himself, if he likes.)

These workers are killing us, whom Mr. Sisson has painted so gloriously, riding around the country swapping in new reactor cores for used ones, the new ones being barely more dangerous than Depleted Uranium (no picnic, but nothing compared to a USED reactor core), and the used ones being so deadly nobody on Earth knows what to do with them, nobody has a safe solution, so these workers Mr. Sisson admires just leave these awful reactor cores in a hot pool of radioactive water, and go away, and meanwhile, a 747 or an asteroid 100 feet across or a terrorist could breach the facility and spread the poison all over Southern California.  But the workers, by then, will be in Texas or wherever.  They never take the radioactive waste away, other than in little "fuel fleas" which get on their clothes, and which they leave in hotel rooms, rest stops, etc. everywhere they go.

These people have a lot of unfinished business.

The consequences of failure of these nuclear workers can be disastrous, especially for the local residents, local being anywhere within about 500 or 1000 miles downwind of the plant, perhaps even further (it depends on the weather).

Please visit my web site for the facts about how dangerous these accidents can be.  But here is a quote from a document I was sent recently by a retired San Onofre worker.  How Mr. Sisson can possibly reconcile this sort of situation with his glowing report about these same nuclear workers is beyond me.  He owes the truth a long, long column -- a series of columns.

Another event that could have been prevented was reported to the NRC by LER
(I was the author) when a SONGS technician closed a breaker on an emergency
bus, causing a direct ground through the switch yard. The ground caused
the breaker supplying power to the emergency bus to open and resulted in a
loss of power to the shutdown cooling pumps. The emergency diesel
generators started but could not power the bus because the control power to
the inadvertently closed breaker had been removed. Therefore, [the] breaker
would not open (clearing the bus) during the emergency diesel
sequencing. The reactor, shut down for refueling, was without cooling for
a few minutes before the operators could align another pump. This event
occurred because the technician did not fully understand the operation of
the break he was sent to repair. Present at the time were the System
Engineer and the Operations Supervisor and several other "lookers." I
thought that it was significant that none of the people present realized
the consequences of the technician's plans. Nor did any of them halt the
work because they were not sure what would happen. Also, it was
unrecognized by those planning the work that the temporary ground in the
switch yard would prevent the emergency diesel generators from performing
their intended safety function.

(I'll be happy to provide Mr. Sisson with the worker's name and email address if he requests it for verification of the above email.)

In another email to me, the same ex-San Onofre employee (who still believes in the dream of nuclear power, by the way), talking about a different LER (Licensee Event Report), stated:

"I believe the report contained statements that were designed to deliberately deceive the NRC.  Two days after I raised that concern with the NSC [Nuclear Safety Concerns] office, I was reassigned to other projects . . . The work environment became so hostile, I retired in August 2003."

Like the worker from Palo Verde before his medical problems made him learn the facts, this retired San Onofre worker is probably fairly unaware of all the ways nuclear power can harm him, and us.  But our local reporters should not be so ignorant.  They have a duty to know the whole story, and tell it like it really is.

In one 14-month period recently, California added enough new electrical generation capacity to completely replace our four aging, embrittled, corroded, nuclear power plants.  It's not that hard to stop creating another 250 pounds per day of so-called "High Level Nuclear Waste" (per plant) and society needs it to stop, because there is no solution to the waste problem -- Yucca Mountain is a disaster waiting to happen.  Letting these people continue to refuel these monsters every 18 months (which Mr. Sisson calls two years, but I believe it's much closer to 18 months, on average) is a crime.  Let them camp at the beach all they want, but have them be building offshore wind power when they go to work each day.  This is crazy.  We are killing ourselves and our species by relying on nuclear power.  It's got to stop somewhere; California must say "no" to these ecological disasters-in-waiting.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA