To: <>
cc:, "Office of Public Affairs/NRC" <>

September 13th, 2004

To: Department of Energy

To Whom It May Concern,

It is generally agreed that, despite decades of small-step improvements in things like ergonomics, software graphical user interfaces, control room display design, training and simulation, and the like, the so-called "human factor" is STILL one of the "weakest links" in nuclear power plant safety.

Terrorism is a danger at nuclear power plants.  So are failed 25 and 30-year-old welds.  So is "Mother Nature."  But still, humans must make virtually instantaneous life-and-death decisions (life and death for perhaps a million people at once, like being Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets in the cockpit of the Enola Gay, carrying that responsibility and even a thousand times more, and even against your own people, your community, your family, every moment of every day of your entire worklife).  Such stress takes its toll.  Pilots have had to retire because of the stress from difficult landings with all that responsibility on board.  The souls who entrusted their safety to them.

But everyone loves pilots.  Especially retired pilots, who can no longer fail.

The same cannot and never will be said for nuclear plant engineers.  The world, generally, despises them.  Oh sure, most people don't have a clue one way or the other, but the more people know about nuclear power, the more they -- the "outside world" that is (not DOE employees) -- despises these people.  That's the reality.  Nuclear power is feared not because it is misunderstood, but precisely because it IS understood.  So the world fears its staunchest supporters and most experienced workers.  It fears them and mistrusts them, because it knows there is a "BIG LIE" about nuclear power.  The world can see the paltry, pretend-attempts at using renewable energy to solve our energy problems -- the investments that get lots of time from the Presidential Podium (i.e., lip service) but mere millions where nuclear got -- and gets -- tens and even hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars in research and development funding.  We know a BIG LIE when we see one -- and it doesn't go unnoticed that in Russia, where BIG LIES are so common as to be much more common than the truth, nuclear power is at least as decrepit and dangerous as here, and as well supported by their government as it is here by ours.  Communism isn't dead, it just became radioactive.

DOE LIES.  That's unAmerican.  The whole nuclear industry lies, and the public -- from the creators of "The Simpsons" on down -- knows it.  And it follows that the public is going to suspect that individual nuclear engineers lie, too.

I'm sure that being despised by the general public is very stressful.  Being ashamed to admit what you do, afraid to state your corporate affiliations, for fear of questions, NOT from ignoramuses, but from well-educated, thoughtful, concerned citizens who, it turns out, don't have a ax to grind, they just want the truth, is stressful.

Indeed, on a personal basis, nuclear workers have my sympathy.  Aside from the dangers they face from increased risks of cancer, leukemia, birth defects in their children, and other medical problems, it must be an awful burden to bear, not understanding, for example, anything about the medical aspects of why some types of radiation can be as much as 100 or even 1000 times more dangerous than official government estimates, especially for microscopic, "aerosolized" particles, alpha emitters perhaps (for example Plutonium 238), which lodge in various parts of the body, or merely are passed through it on a random journey from lung to bloodstream to kidneys to bladder and out, or some other pathway.  Many radioactive particles chemically mimic natural, non-radioactive particles the body needs and gathers.  Higher concentrations of these radioactive particles form in various organs and bones of children, or in the spines of infants, or the brains of fetuses.  Plutonium 238 gathers, among other places, in men's scrotum.  (I hope that word is not banned by your "sophisticated" email scanning system.  If it is, all I can say is, "NUTS!".)

Perhaps instead their understanding of metallurgy is weak, allowing things like Davis Besse to occur.  After all, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pretty much flat out stated that they don't understand how Davis-Besse could have occurred physically, although they blame the operators for failing to notice the rust that was gathering in the filters.  Rust in the filters to the extent where they were changing them daily instead of on the quarterly schedule that those same filters normally were changed!  That's nearly two "orders of magnitude" difference, but yet, no one "noticed."  Not the guy ordering filters, not the guy sending them to the dump to be hosed down or whatever they do with the "quap" (H. G. Wells' term for radioactive material) after they've collected it.  The guys changing the filters didn't consider the need for constant replacement to be any big deal.  They were not, after all, metallurgists.

Or perhaps the mathematics behind the statistical computer modeling of failure rates in complex systems baffles them.  And why shouldn't it?  After all, it's hard enough to lay out a "scientific" study using controlled environments.  Sophisticated statistical techniques with names like "Analysis of Variance" (one-way, two-way, three-way, etc.) have been designed to evaluate the role of "chance" and improper scientific methodologies in carefully controlled experiments.  Progress is slow in all fields because of the need for accuracy, for no progress is made on incorrect data (poor readings), or inaccurate calculations, or inaccurate interpretations.  In the "real world" -- in a nuclear power plant, for instance -- it is impossible to isolate all possible "causes" and "effects."  The systems are too complicated.  Mathematical models break down when checked against reality.  That's why we haven't automated the control rooms completely (yet?).  Dr. Stanley Thompson, one of the nuclear industry's earliest authors of technical books for the industry, has shown mathematically that there is a possibility that nuclear power plants can, under some circumstance, oscillate themselves into oblivion in a hurry -- run away, as it were.  Galloping Gerty on Steroids.  This has a statistical probability of less than 100% but more than 0%.  In other words, NO ONE can say it won't happen, and YOU -- the DOE -- can't disprove his assertions, but in the control room, they simply assume the DOE is right not to worry about it.  Case closed.  The math is very complicated, I'm sure.  But the man asserting these things -- Dr. Thompson --  had already proven his competence years before anyone in today's DOE was adding 2 and 2 together and getting 4 (at least most of the time).

And so on.  I've yet to meet a pro-nuker who understands all of these important areas -- they always claim it's out of their area of expertise to talk about at least one of the above.  They then rest their case on that which they do not understand!  That's no way to find the whole truth about a subject.  That's no way to be sure you're making the right decision when you support something.  That's no way to set government policy.  Groves and Company at the Manhattan Project were comfortable admitting how little they knew about the dangers of plutonium.  But that excuse shouldn't hold water anymore. Too much time has past.  Too many people have died.

But instead of seeking truth, for half a century THEY (YOU) have tried to ostracize your opponents -- as McNally actually claims pro-nukers try to do in his recent emails to me (some of which were sent to you previously).  By making honest discourse impossible by flying into a rage every time a significant question is raised about the topic, or by simply calling people uninformed, regardless of the facts, you have, along with McNally and thousands of employees in the nuclear industry, actually succeeded in stifling much of the debate this vital topic deserves.

But it's been costly.  It's cost you your reputations.  It's cost the public hundreds of billions of dollars, thrown down the nuclear rat-hole.  It's cost America our democracy, since democracy is based on TRUTH, not THE BIG LIE that nuclear weapons make us safe, that nuclear power provides clean, safe energy, that the public supports all these ideas, etc..  It's cost lives.  Deaths caused by Three Mile Island were carefully concealed from the public.  Billions have been paid out to TMI's survivors to silence them (every settlement includes a no-speak clause).

All this takes it's toll on those who do it.  Lying is stressful to the liar.  That's the basis of how most "lie detectors" work.

Most control-room jockies have a relatively limited educational experience -- it's not what is called "rich," as in wide and varying and distinguished.

I'm sure many of those that do expand their horizons and get a broad education then LEAVE the nuclear industry pretty darned quickly.  I'd say "wouldn't you?" but I don't know your own personal background, or even, for that matter, the name of any specific DOE employee who is reading these words.  If there is a broadly educated DOE employee who can respond to this letter, I'll be delighted to dialogue with that person.  But I doubt you could even put together a committee at DOE that included the properly educated experts to respond to the many areas of concern I've touched on here, let alone find ONE PERSON to debate these issues before the public.

All this leads me to the purpose of this email, which is to show you a letter I received from Bruno Comby, of France.

France is a very pro-nuclear nation, whose armed forces have repeated attacked so-called "anti-nuclear activists", even killing them in foreign waters.  France has developed nuclear bombs, nuclear power plants (which run dreadfully), nuclear reprocessing centers (they poison the English Channel daily), a nuclear navy, and they probably use plutonium listening devices under OUR harbors, like we use under various other countries' harbors.

In any event, Bruno Comby makes some additional points regarding the subject of "Beta Blockers," which I have inquired about for several months now, and have yet to receive any reply from DOE.  I wish his additional comments to be included in the discussion, and be responded to by the DOE along with their/your response to my own comments (shown again, below).

Thank you in advance,


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

At 12:19 PM 9/13/2004 +0200, Bruno Comby wrote:
Dear Russell,

I'd be interested in the results about beta-blocker consumption in nuclear operators if you get an answer to your request.

The DOE may be embarassed by your request for several reasons : a/ such statistics may not exist - if they do exist, they may not be public 2/ also if they do, the results may be embarassing (beta-blockers are commonly prescribed in the population, and some nuclear operators probably do take some - should they be fired knowing that their behaviour and mental awareness are partially diminished ? 3/ if you have to fire all the nuclear operators that take medications with some neurological side-effects (beta blockers, but also tranquilizers, sleeping pills, etc.) those that smoke, those that have taken drugs at some point in their lives (would they even tell their employer if they did ?), those that drink too much coffee, those that occasionnally drink alcohol, those that are overweight (that also makes you sleepy, diminishes speed of reflexes, and lowers your capacity)... how many will be left to run the nuclear power plants ? 4/ such infos may be difficult to gather (where do you put the limits? would the subjects tell the truth, especially if their job is at risk?) 5/ putting such infos (if they exist and can be considered reliable) in the media may be badly used 6/ but... you're right to ask, and I'd be glad to know the results. Hope they're not too scary !

In fact, a more general medical study including among others, the parameters cited above may be more appropriate than questioning only about beta-blockers (who are commonly prescribed as heart treatment but also for a number of other reasons : as tranquilizers, against hand tremor, etc.).

If I were the DOE, I wouldn't like your question, and I can understand they wouldn't answer you rapidly : it creates extra work for them, it's embarassing, and the results (if any are available, and can be considered reliable) could be mis-interpreted.

Yours sincerely, with kindest regards.

Bruno Comby.



Recherche scientifique et sante publique preventive (ass loi 1901)
Scientific research and promotion of public health (not-for-profit organization)

55 rue Victor Hugo, 78800 Houilles, France

Tel : +33 1 30 86 00 33  -  Fax : +33 1 30 86 00 10

E-mail :
Web : (choose your language)

Russell D. Hoffman wrote:
To:  "MMS Staff, DOE" <"MMS Notifier" <>
cc: <>, "Bryan McNally" <>
September 12th, 2004
To Whom It May Concern:
Thank you for informing me of the inclusion of banned content in the message I sent to DOE last night.  Sorry 'bout that!
The "bad word" was in the letter to me by one of your (DOE's) most rabid (so to speak) supporters.  I had tried to remove all the baddies like that from his message before sending it, but, being human, I must have missed one.
I will reclean his potty-mouth trash and resend the message forthwith, along with the current "round" with the person who has been flaming me on your behalf.
Thank you again for the notification -- I have removed the banned word from the copy of your letter to me (shown below) so that this one can make it past the electronic smothering system at your end.
I would suggest, in the future, you send two separate emails when there is a problem like this -- one WITH the banned words (like yours, shown below, modified) and one without.  This will help ensure that the person sending the email is notified because it will allow the message to get through THEIR system regardless of their settings.  After all, after getting Mr. McNally's letters (which contained the banned words) I was sorely tempted to reset my settings so such words couldn't get through! 
But unfortunately, out here in the real world, such a thing is much more difficult to do than at the DOE, because a lot of otherwise very good writers do use such words from time to time, and it would be a shame (out here in the real world) to lose those essays.  It's good to know how people really feel.  Some have to resort to vulgarities to express themselves, but that doesn't mean their opinions are irrelevant.
Also, people do not necessarily set their outgoing flame-checking the same as their incoming one (they may not even be able to set an outgoing filter, for example), and they sometimes change their settings.  By sending a non-offensive response you would help ensure that your message got through to the other party.
It may, after all, be a matter of vital national security, like this one is.
BTW I'm still waiting for a DOE/NRC response to my inquiry earlier this year about how many nuclear reactor operators are currently on the heart medication known as "Beta Blockers", if any.  Could you please see what is taking so long to get a simple count from each nuclear power plant? 
I would also like to know what the rules are for the use of "Beta Blockers" while working in the nuclear industry.  These drugs have been tied to numerous problems some of which might directly impact their performance on the job, including hallucinations, confusion, convulsions, blurred vision, heart attacks, difficulty breathing, ringing in ears (might think it's an alarm), increased need to visit therapists, and worsening of depression, possibly caused by sexual dysfunction. If the use of "Beta Blockers" is banned, when did the ban take effect and how many workers have had to retire in order to take their heart medication since the ban took effect?
Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA
At 03:52 AM 9/12/2004 -0400, "MMS Notifier" <> wrote:

Your message contained inappropriate language which is unacceptable at
the U.S. Department of Energy.  Please make the appropriate changes and
resubmit your message.

Thank you.

Date: 09/12/2004, 03:52:06 AM
Subject: Re: Stop Cassini (follow-up)
Policy: Obscene Word - Return to Sender (Recipient)
Recipients: <>
List:Obscene Word - Return To Sender
Found the expression "........" 1 times, at 1 points each, for an
expression score of 1 points.
Total Message Score: 1 points.

Most recent related correspondence (a letter to Mr. Bryan McNally):

Subject: Re: Stop Cassini (another follow-up)

To: Bryan McNally <>
cc: "James Lovelock" <>, "Office of Public Affairs/NRC" <>

At 07:06 PM 9/12/2004 -0700, Bryan McNally <> wrote (clip):
I don't know if this is some lame attempt at
intimidating me, or not. I suspect it is.


Mr. McNally,

If you are intimidated by the truth, then yes, that's exactly what it is.  If you're intimidated by facing the facts about what incredible potential terrorist targets nuclear power plants are, then yes, you should consider yourself intimidated.  If honest discourse scares you, be very afraid.

WHY do you find space-based mirrors, offshore wind farms, or OTEC impractical?  Because they haven't been done, you say, so therefore they must be uneconomical?  Nukes received hundreds of billions of dollars in federal investment, while these ideas get perhaps 10s of millions (less than 1/1000th of the investment) and you call the playing field level?  You are no economist, that's for sure.

Proper "pilot programs" could produce enough CLEAN ENERGY to replace California's nukes, at far less danger to the public and probably much lower cost.

As for space-based mirrors, they could provide extended evening and dawn light to downtown metropolises, extending winter daylight, for example, by several hours.  Of course, you say I'm supposed to pardon your ignorance. Why?  Because you've never heard of a practical space-based energy system in your life that didn't involve nuclear power?

I've met real, bona-fide inventors in all sorts of fields, and I trust them a heck of a lot more than I'll ever trust you to have done the research on what is practical and what isn't.  Not everything practical becomes popular.  Inefficient pumps rob society of energy -- but will the pump industry change?  Not on your life!  Why try to get millions of people to change for a 1% energy savings, when they've been buying your "slightly" less efficient pump for literally 100 years?  Why indeed?  Because America and the world has to work together to find clean and efficient energy solutions.  A 1% savings on every pump in the world would be very substantial.  Shall I name a few innovative pumps so you can try to disprove their efficiency scores, or do you get the idea?

Despite your assertions, I have no "church," but if loving humanity is a religion, you are certainly a sinner:   You agree that San Onofre is old and withered, yet you don't call for it to be shut down -- you just blame ME for that, saying it's because I don't allow the industry to build new plants!  But the industry, not ME -- wants the licenses extended on those decades-old deadbeat plants -- you have completely confused the issues and will probably blame "antinuclear" activists when there (finally?) is a meltdown, because, after all, we either complained too loudly, or not loudly enough!

Similarly, all your other arguments for nuclear power are flawed, but you don't question them.  You have done so little research into the opposition arguments as to have failed to come across the name of Dr. John Gofman -- and you say you've tried to study both sides!  Ha!

If I'm "ostracised" (sic), it's because people like you are arrogant and unrelentless in your pursuit of those who might question the current dogma.  "Coal! Coal! Coal!  Look at all the coal!" is certainly the pronuker's most typical response -- right down to the line about the reactors having to be properly operating for your equation to make sense -- those that are within Federal guidelines meet your silly test -- all others get stricken from the record.

You call me a hypocrite for calling SCE "terrorists" for threatening to kill hundreds of thousands of people.  Sorry, but if the shoe fits, they have to wear it.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

P.S. Bucky Fuller was a futurist, although I never met him.  He was also a scientist with about 60 degrees.  What are you?

P.P.S. In an earlier letter to me you included "" under your name and city.  There was no reason not to assume you were affiliated with that oddball organization whose views you mimic, and I'm not at all sure you're now saying you are not.  Your repeated vile attacks (last March you wrote to call me names, too, for instance) do make the issue rather important since they could lose their tax-free status (if they have one) from one of their officers carrying on with such rude and illegal behavior (yes, Mr. McNally, libel is still illegal in America). [Note: Mr. McNally has assured us in further emails that he is NOT an officer of "EFN" ( ). -- rdh]