To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: "Russell 'Ace' Hoffman" <>
Subject: West Wing nuclear episode to air TONIGHT! (Sunday, January
  22nd, 2006)

January 22nd, 2006

Dear Readers,

Tonight, the television show West Wing is going to be about a nuclear near-disaster in Southern California.  It will certainly be interesting to see if the final production matches the script shown below, which appeared in my "in" box a couple of days ago.

If the final production does match the script shown below, they are presenting a happy Hollywood ending to what, at several turns in the script, would be much more likely to end in disaster.  And some of the things that happen are just plain preposterous.  But hey -- that's Hollywood, of course.

I wonder if there is a planned falsehood or confusion, or a mere misunderstanding, when they measure the readings in the stack and they are only a little more than double the readings from the helicopter, and both are in the milliRem range (1200 mrem is the worst reading anywhere).  The readings need a "per unit of time" value to really make any sense, but if we assume they mean "per hour" or "per minute," or even "per second," these would, in fact, be comparatively small values compared to, say, what Three Mile Island was probably releasing while its core was uncovered.  Do they mean per victim exposed to the radiation later, and much further downwind?  Then it's a very significant amount and it's utter guesswork, after all!  Perhaps this is all cleared up in the final script.

Readings were "off the charts" at Chernobyl (and at Three Mile Island), but at Chernobyl alone they amounted to hundreds of millions of Curies of radioactive poison, which was spread throughout the global environment.  Those who took any readings by helicopter, or dumped sand on the burning reactor, were all killed from the radiation.  The helicopter pilots who flew over Three Mile Island have also become sick, and some of them have also died.

Regarding the "auxiliary building" they talk about in the script -- I wonder what they mean?  Do they just mean the turbine room?  That's no "containment" and it couldn't hold back ANY pressure!

Sure, it's Hollywood so these guys will luck out at every turn, the one-in-one-thousand chance will go their way -- over and over -- in the script.  In reality, the next show would be about a bankrupted country, an overburdened hospital system, and a desolate corner of the country (in this case, mine).

After the Twin Towers fell, a lot of people got very sick.  Some of us warned that the air was sickening and the pile should be left alone -- the heat and dust was too thick for there to be any survivors inside, so don't let people go in and tear the place up looking for some lucky few (they found no one).  But no one listened.  Now, thousands of 9-11 "rescuers" are sick and dying, and others have already died.  They die alone in hospitals, at home, in nursing homes, coughing, their chests heaving from lack of oxygen, their bodies losing strength from that same want, day in and day out.

A radiation disaster in America could be 1000 times worse than 9-11.  And we are always mere moments away from it.  There may be NO time for evacuation.  Perhaps that's the biggest misrepresentation indicated in this script.  That evacuation might even be possible, let alone that it will go so well, and that they hold off the "venting" until such time as the winds are right and the people have left.  Don't expect such courtesy.  They had the nerve to build the plant near millions of people in the first place.  They have the nerve to poison the populace on a day-to-day basis.  Why in the world would anyone trust them to only "vent" the poison at "safe" levels when they won't even admit that there's no such thing as a safe level?  And when they give you meaningless values like "mRem" without "per hour" or "per second" or whatever unit of time they mean, is the public just being primed for what really will happen when Osama, Murphy, or Greed destroys a nuclear power plant?

I don't know, but let's all try to watch this show and tell others to watch it too!  And we can all certainly thank the producers of West Wing for looking at these problems at all!

Note: For accurate animations of nuclear power plants, please see:

"Ace" Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

At 12:39 PM 1/20/2006 -0500, Sara wrote:
Hi Russell--

Thank you for the holiday card.  Hope you are well.  This was forwarded to me and given that the upcoming West Wing episode will deal w/a disaster at a CA nuclear power plant, I thought you’d be interested in seeing.  I’m not sure who this is originally from (apparently someone in MA given the Pilgrim reference).  Also, thought you’d want to know that on an episode of Jeopardy! I think earlier this week, they actually had a full category devoted to “Nuclear Power.”  It was sort of the basics of nuclear power (with no mention about any of the ‘bad’ things of course).  I don’t normally watch that show, or West Wing, but given the mass appeal of them, figured that you might want to know about it. 

Take care­Sara

------ Forwarded Message

Advance script for TV show WEST WING Nuclear Episode
Below is an advance script synopsis for upcoming nuclear disaster at a
California nuclear plant
which will air on West Wing Jan 22nd.  Hopefully folks will be informed
by the press about the show; folks will watch it and draw parallels to
our situation here; and folks will follow up with Letters to the Editor.
Why not email the local press; send them the script and ask them to use
it to focus on the upcoming re-licensing battle and concerns about
security; emergency planning; health impact -Oh, and remind them that
Pilgrim has a design flaw - the containment will fail to hold in a
pre-accident pressure build-up situation. The "fix" was that Pilgrim
installed the Direct Torus Vent to vent unfiltered materials (radiation)
directly into our neighborhoods to save containment. Why didn't they
have the vent loop back down into a filtered charcoal bed underground?
Spoilers from #712 "Duck and Cover":
Time cards says 'Wednesday Night, 9:17 pm'. We're in Tampa, in a
hotel at a 'Rock the Vote' discussion with a couple dozen late-teen and
twenty-somethings. Santos and Helen are standing in front of the group
microphones and the young voters are clearly connected with them. Josh,
Donna, and some other aides are watching. Santos is talking about the
deteriorating culture, and concern for young children, weighed against
censorship and its problems. Santos takes a new question: he told
Stone' that he likes Bob Dylan, and the questioner wants to know his
favorite Dylan album. Santos pauses and reminds the group that he's
there to
talk about issues; nonetheless, he responds "Highway 61 Revisited",
he said that so he can talk about his transportation policy. The crowd
laughs, much to Josh and Donna's relief. But Santos then says that his
favorite is actually 'Blonde on Blonde' and says there are clearly no
implications with that choice. This draws a much louder laugh, including
from Helen, but Josh and Donna come to the conclusion that Jay Leno is
to have a field day with that line because Helen is blonde. Josh tells
that this last question/answer is why he hates these youth forums and
he can't believe he got talked into this one. Donna reminds him it was
Bram walks over to Josh with a very serious note; Josh takes a look
and tells Bram to wrap it up. Donna asks why and Josh says there's a
accident in California. Another voter asks Santos about the experience
running for President, and Santos says it's very positive overall but
doesn't recommend it to others, which draws more big laughs - then he
sees a
concerned Bram giving the 'cut' sign across his throat, and we...
Cut to the Oval Office, at night; time card says '9:19 pm'. CJ and
Kate enter from the corridor with aides while Bartlet enters from the
portico, wearing a suit but no tie. Bartlet asks what they know; CJ says
that seventeen minutes ago emergency sirens went off at the Nuclear
Generating Station in San Andreo, California - the feedwater pump
Kate inserts that the feedwater pump carries radioactive, hot water to
steam generator....
   Act One:
Debbie's office at night; time card says '9:24 pm'. CJ and Kate are
each on a phone contacting people while in the background personnel
start to
pour into the White House. FEMA Director Hayes (thank goodness he's not
named Brown) and NRC Chairman Ravitch enter the Oval Office with various
aides; as they do so, CJ and Kate hang up and briefly turn their
to the TV in the background, which has been showing stock footage of the
Andreo nuclear power plant. The reporter is saying that no one knows
really happened but that Arab tourists have been near the facility in
last two days. Kate and CJ roll their eyes and enter the Oval Office
the others.
Bartlet and the group are discussing how to handle the situation.
They're not sure exactly what the problem is, but it's bad because
no coolant going to the core and steam is building up because another
is stuck open and the reactor temperature and pressure are rising. Hot,
radioactive steam is being generated and pumped into an auxiliary
not designed to hold radioactive steam because the. Ravitch says Sierra
& Electric, which runs the plant, thinks any leak would be of little
to public health. Kate and CJ say they can't reach the local power
company. The President decides that the NRC should take over the plant
immediately and calls Governor Tillman to declare a major federal
and orders evacuation of the area.
 Skip a page, and we're in Debbie's office with Hayes and Ravitch,
who are both on the phone, and CJ and Will. Bartlet enters, now wearing
tie, and asks what the odds are that this leads to a meltdown. Ravitch
responds that meltdowns are caused when a dozen things go wrong, not
one. Bartlet thinks there are at least six million people within 40
miles of
the plant. Hayes covers the mouthpiece of his phone and gives FEMA's
recommendation on the size of the evacuation area - a sliver of area 15
miles downwind between the 6 and 9 o'clock positions, as if the plant
the center of a big clock. Hayes then says that the State Emergency
wants to do the legal minimum, which is only 10 miles down. Bartlet says
ten miles is enough, he'll set up his command post with the Governor
miles from the plant and that the state officials will join them there;
Hayes turns back to the phone. Bartlet asks if the press is ready for
statement, and Will says yes. Hayes again covers the phone and says that
State Emergency Services people think 15 miles is now fine. Bartlet nods
walks toward the...
   ...Press Briefing Room, at night; time card says '9:34 pm'. Beyond
stuffed, a blinding flash from dozens of cameras the likes of which have
never been seen before in this room, in addition to the rarity of the
President entering the press room. Bartlet goes right to the podium with
introduction, while CJ and Will take places at the side of the room.
plainly outlines the facts: that 32 minutes ago there was a mechanical
problem at the San Andreo plant that is causing the core to overheat;
has been no evidence of terrorism or foul play and no explosion; that
engineers are working on the problem; that they don't have all the facts
yet, and that the public will have them as soon as they do. Bartlet
reassures everyone that all levels of government are working on this and
that they will handle the problem no matter what happens.
  Pages later, Santos and Josh are talking about their public
statement about the accident. Santos decides he won't comment for now,
let the press go after Vinick and his pro-nuclear stance.
   Situation Room, time card '10:28 pm'. Bartlet enters, CJ, Hayes,
and Ravitch are already there with some other staff. Hayes says there's
a temporary coolant line in place to the core. Bartlet expresses
that this good news isn't met with rejoicing. Hayes says that
steam is still gushing into buildings that aren't designed to take much
radioactive steam, and for safety they had to start pumping it into the
auxiliary building, which is at over half its pressure limit now and
climbing. Bartlet asks for a plain English explanation, and Ravitch
to a blueprint on the table: the original coolant stop made the
water around the core turn to steam, which exposed the fuel rods - and
though coolant is moving in now, it won't be enough to cover them back
This means the rods will remain exposed, and exposed fuel rods give off
hydrogen in a highly explosive gas form, which combined with the
steam is making the pressure very high and extremely dangerous. There's
discussion about what to do if there is an explosion, and it becomes
that an order should probably be given to release the radioactive steam
the atmosphere to prevent it. There are still about 30,000 people still
the area, and Bartlet doesn't want to order the release until everyone
out. Ravitch tells Bartlet he must decide if he wants this release or an
explosion that radiates all of southern California and parts of Arizona
Nevada instead. Bartlet asks how much steam/radiation should be vented,
Ravitch responds the radiation vented should be within the EPA's
dosage limits. With the current southwesterly Santa Ana winds, the
would probably be blown out over the Pacific. Ravitch tells the
President he
has about an hour before the buildings will be at the max amount of
they can hold, and that Bartlet will have to give the order himself to
release because the federal government declared the disaster. Bartlet
he wants pressure readings every five minutes and orders the evacuation
speeded up. CJ says that announcing an impending radiation release would
probably motivate people to leave faster. Bartlet leaves the Sit Room,
visibly frustrated.
   Act Two:
   Inside Will's office; time card '10:41 pm'. The room is packed like
 a sardine can, with an unimaginable amount of people stuffed in there -
spokespeople for all the agencies. Will starts by saying he wanted all
them in one place so he could do something, but before he can finish an
guy named Blieden interrupts, asking if Will has an update. Will tells
about the steam building so fast it has to be pumped into the auxiliary
building and that to prevent an explosion the building will possibly
have to
be ventilated, meaning radiation will purposely be vented into the
atmosphere. The group murmurs and more hands raise up. Will tells them
doesn't have time to answer individual questions and that not one of
them is
going to talk to the press. No one. The EPA spokeswoman says her
sheet is 10 pages long, and Will assures her all of them have called his
office too and that he - Will - will be the only briefer. Blieden says
can't withhold information from people if the incident turns out to be
fault of the administration, and Will says they're not withholding
- they're trying to keep everyone calm and to reassure everyone that
know what they're doing, so there will be one voice only. The Department
Energy spokesman asks about political questions and reminds the group
is a pro-nuclear guy, in the first debate - Will interrupts and again
he will be the only briefer and he won't answer political questions from
reporters. Ten more hands shoot up in the air, and Will is becoming more
frustrated as we...
    ?    ... cut to a West Wing corridor, still at night. Kate and two
uniformed officers accompany Bartlet to the Situation Room. Bartlet is
distracted, not giving his full attention to Kate. She reminds the
that the polls in Kazakhstan open in two hours. He asks if they have
monitors on the ground, and Kate affirms it, saying China needs to see
Kazahstan is a true democracy instead of a Russian puppet government
to take over China's oil interests.
    ?    A page later, we're in the Sit Room. Bartlet asks if there's a
to the San Andreo control room, Ravitch says he has the operations
superintendent is on the line, and CJ says helicopters are in the air to
read the radiation dosage as it's released, to ensure it's below the
acceptable limit. Hayes says the limit is 500 millirems and he will
instantly know the level via the helicopter monitors. Bartlet asks about
support from Camp Pendleton for disabled and elderly evacuees. Ravitch
the President that the structure of the building is aging and the longer
they wait to ventilate the more likely an explosion will happen, putting
untold amounts of radiation into the atmosphere compared to the amount
the proposed ventilation. Bartlet gives the order to ventilate, and
relays the order to the superintendent, who opens the auxiliary stack.
they wait for results, Bartlet asks Ravitch what 'acceptable dosage'
Ravitch tells him it's the maximum amount a body can absorb safely
direct exposure, but that radiation also enters the surface layers of
soil -
where it is absorbed by plants, insects, and the food supply - and that
water sources will absorb radiation too. He continues to say that when
radiation enters the body, it sometimes destroys cells instantly and
times it forms damaged cells. Bartlet says "cancer" and Ravitch affirms.
        The superintendent says over the phone that the stack is opened
there's a steady release of 1,200 mrems. Bartlet repeats the number,
surprised at the level. CJ says that's the level inside the stack - once
it's in the air, below 500 is just fine. The room turns to Hayes and
anxiously waits for more news. A beat passes, then Hayes says it's 569
above the stack - and all the oxygen is sucked out of the room from
Bartlet wants to annouce the number, but Hayes points out the huge
that would cause for the evacuation efforts currently underway. Bartlet
still thinks people need to know because it's more than the safe dosage.
says it will jam the freeways; Bartlet says to make them one way
CJ responds that NOAA and NARAC don't feel comfortable picking which way
'outbound' because those Santa Ana winds can shift at any time. Not
what the President wanted to hear - he can't understand why they're
radiation into the air with thousands of cars on the freeway and they
tell people which way to drive. He orders them to tell Will to announce
    Cut to the press briefing room; time card '11:47 pm'. Reporters are
shouting at Will. One reporter wants Will to clarify that the radiation
release was at a dangerous, unsafe level - Will says it was slightly
EPA's standard of acceptability. Another reporter asks if the government
believes it's safe. Will backs up and says that's not what he's saying -
he's simply trying to present the facts. The same reporter asks if the
President is worried about panic from the one million people who are
out of southern California. Will replies that the President is indeed
worried about their safety, and he is urging those outside the
zone to stay home so those in the zone can get out. The first reporter
if EPA is going to brief - Will cuts him off and says he is briefing on
everything. Still another reporter says that Assistant Secretary Blieden
HHS told them that the weather agencies are concerned about potential
in wind direction and that people might be going the wrong way. Will
a moment, realizing that Blieden directly disobeyed him. Will asks if
Blieden really said that, and the reporter rephrases the question
Will interrupts the reporter and says that he'll investigate - then
his briefing book and isn't very happy as we cut to..
... a Tampa hotel staff room, where Josh is glued to the TV as Bram
enters the room. A scientist on the TV is saying that the government
standards are written by industry in the first place and that no level
radiation is really acceptable. Josh flips the channel, where a clip of
first debate shows Vinick saying nuclear power is perfectly safe and
dependable, and more nuclear power plants should be built. This is the
time Josh has seen that tonight, and he's pleased - he knows it's not
   Skip ahead about a dozen pages to the beginning of Act Three, and
we're back in the press briefing room; time card '1:15 am'. The room is
packed and everybody, including Will, is getting tired and cranky. Will
announces that the emergency secondary line bringing cool water to the
reactor core is cracking and in danger of breaking. He goes on to say
NRC engineers are about to enter the containment building to attempt a
manual fix of the line. Reporters ask about the danger to the engineers
the level of radioactive gas building up in the auxiliary building.
reporter asks Will if he would tell them if an explosion was imminent.
replies that he promised the facts and he would give them.
    The first reporter says AP is reporting these kinds of mechanical
problems are clear evidence of regulatory failures on the part of the
administration. Will responds that many people think they know what's
happening but he (Will) is the only one who does. He's asked if he's
covering something, but Will quickly moves on by saying the President
travel tomorrow morning to a command center outside the evacuation zone,
he will be accompanied by the California Congressional delegation.
There's a
question asking if Senator Vinick and/or Congressman Santos are going;
simply states that Vinick is a member of the California delegation and
other delegations are going. With that, Will steps down from the podium
walks into...
   ... the hallway, where his new buddy Assistant Secretary Blieden is
waiting. Will confronts Blieden about his statement to Time about wind
shifts. Blieden replies he got that information from Will's office, and
says that's why Blieden has been removed from the talking points
distribution list. Blieden is dumbfounded, and complains he needs the
talking points to do his job - but Will disagrees, and tells Blieden he
has a new position at Intergovernmental and no longer speaks for this
government. Blieden, feigning innocence, wants to know why he's being
punished for simply telling people the truth. This makes Will pretty
and he says Blieden is being transferred for telling people something
has no purpose other than to cause further panic. It doesn't matter if
has already said it - Will is trying to prevent mass hysteria in a
climate where everyone is scared, so they must speak with one voice -
Blieden is lucky he still has a job. Will starts to walk down the hall.
Blieden calls after him, shocked, and accuses Will of just trying to
the President look good. Will turns around and says radiation is
into the atmosphere and California is being evacuated, so 'good' isn't
option today.

------ End of Forwarded Message

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