Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2006 01:18:29 -0700

From: "Russell 'Ace' Hoffman" <>
Subject: Strong firepower for you to use against nuclear power's misled
  or simply greedy proponents

July 27th, 2006

Dear Readers,

Enclosed is an excellent letter from Carrie Dickerson, with one significant correction (AS NOTED IN CAPS).  Carrie is one of the most amazing (and oldest, at 90+ years) activists I know, and the author of Aunt Carrie's War Against BLACK FOX Nuclear Power Plant -- a war she won, by the way -- and practically single-handed, so don't think you can't -- but one that needs to be won again and again, all around the world.  People are making money off your child's deformities, and their child's deformities, and your cancers, and your descendent's cancers.  That is the problem with nuclear power.

Also, an article about the recent G8 Conference and what you WEREN'T TOLD.  This is the biggest, darkest secret that everyone needs to know -- the Russians are coming with mobile Chernobyls for you!  Patriots of the Earth, Unite!  Because those who would pollute this earth until it is a LIVING HELL for those who come later, will be able to do so very easily if we do not stop them (if I sound desperate, well, believe me, you are, too).

Next is a letter to a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, about the Limerick (PA) nuclear power plant's plan to poison the place with dry casks.  David Lochbaum won't appreciate my comments, but I don't appreciate his in the article, either!  (This letter includes ant attachment which has been sent to this list previously.)

Lastly is a suggestion for what to do with my tritium article from earlier this year.  This article is especially relevant because the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories (CA) is trying to take a "small" step towards building a "FUSION" reactor (so "small" they are already more than a billion dollars over budget, and they've hardly done anything!).  This fusion reactor, if they can get it to work, will combine tritium and deuterium (two "heavy" isotopes of hydrogen) and thus release energy like the sun does.  But A) Where will they get the tritium?  And B) How can they possibly think they can contain or convert all the tritium?  They can't.  Fusion reactors are perfectly workable -- in the sun and in theory on Earth.  But real experience with fission reactors has proven that the theory and the practice will NOT be the same -- and, in fact, I believe it is a physical impossibility for fusion reactors to operate cleanly.  It will not happen, ever.  Alas.

NOTE: A couple of months ago, I created an educational poster about IONIZING RADIATION which I sent two copies each to about 100 activists and activist organizations around the United States.  I've heard back from many of you -- THANKS for the kind words, all!  Over the next month I will try to mail out another couple of hundred copies, including around the world, to other activists I know, so if you've gotten something from me before (for example, my PROTECTING CALIFORNIA booklet last year), please be patient (unless you have an urgent need) and it will probably arrive in the next six weeks or so.  If you want some now, or don't think you're on my physical mailing list, please send me your request!  The poster was created for a museum in Barcelona, Spain, which is currently holding a six-month Chernobyl exhibit.  I am delighted and honored to have a copy hanging in the museum (CCCB)!  The poster is a colorized, 24 inch by 36 inch version of a famous poster from the 70s, with a few small technical changes.  I'm sorry to say that I apparently neglected to mark all of the mailing tubes as "MEDIA MAIL" (a special postal rate which can be used for educational material) and so some of them may have arrived incorrectly marked "POSTAGE DUE."  If yours did, please let me know and I'll refund the additional postage you had to pay for the posters to arrive (although actually, you shouldn't have had to pay it, as they were certainly NOT marked "First Class," but who knew?)  Anyway, as long as I have posters, there is no charge for them.  None.  And I've got about 700 of them left, although about 400 of them were slightly damaged when shipped to me from the printer.


"Ace" Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

There once was a nuke plant named Limerick
Which made all the good locals very sick
It hasn't melted down yet
But you can make a safe bet
Some day 500 miles downwind they'll curse Limerick!

Carrie Dickerson letter about nuclear power:

Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 19:42:06 EDT
Subject: Carrie Dickerson says:  Nuclear Not Wanted (and dangerous)

BG:  The excellent letter below is a "photo", according to my computer.  I had a terrible time copying and pasting it.  I couldn't copy it into Word Perfect.  I couldn't print it!  Beware.  [NOTE: ACE HAS TYPED IT IN; IT'S NOW IN TEXT FORM -- ACE]
Apologies for duplicates.  (in haste)
A number of recent articles have downplayed the dangers of nuclear power.  This is clearly the beginning of a push to force nuclear power plants on us all.

During a sojourn in the hospital, Carrie Dickerson was dismayed to discover how many of the staff were totally ignorant or misinformed about this issue.  Please read Carrie's letter to the Claremore Progress and pass it on to anyone too young to remember what's wrong with nuclear power.  Ask them to send it on too, please.

Carrie Dickerson's July 21, 2006 letter to the editor of the Claremore Progress
Date: 7/27/06 10:44:46 AM Pacific Daylight Time


In her book, Nuclear Madness, Dr. Helen Caldicott says, "The fuel cycle, including uranium mining, milling, enrichment, and fuel fabrication, building the nuclear power reactors, the transportation and storage of radioactive waste and decommissioning of old reactors, all create excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, the global warming pollutant."

According to Washington based Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), "nuclear power plants are built to leak.  They cannot operate without regular, deliberate releases of radioactive liquids, gases and particles (That cause cancer, leukemia and other untold health effects) into the environment during their routine, everyday operations.  It does not take an accident."

"Nuclear power is now by far the most expensive form of electricity," says Dr. Caldicott.  On July 29, 2005, Congress approved a subsidy of $13 Billion for nuclear power resuscitation.  All across the 60 years of the Nuclear Age, huge subsidies of taxpayers' money have been allocated to the nuclear industry, including the nuclear fuel cycle.  The subsidies should be included in the cost.

Again, I quote NIRS, "The Yucca Mountain site, approved as a national repository for used nuclear fuel, is known to be geologically unsuitable and seismically unstable.  It is in the highest risk category for earthquakes, which have fractured the rock of the mountain, creating pathways for radioactivity to percolate to the groundwater below - a source of water for drinking and irrigation.

"Moving tens of thousands of shipments of high-level wastes through 45 states and Washington, DC, for more than 30 years will not solve the problem.  There would be about as much waste stored on site after Yucca Mountain is full as there is at those plants today." (Radioactive wastes have long half-lives -- some as long as 4.5 Billion years!)

We should stop generating more nuclear waste until, if ever, a safe disposal solution can be found.  [NOTE: THIS IS A TECHNICAL IMPOSSIBILITY AS MUCH AS RUNNING A NUKE WITHOUT DELIBERATE RELEASES IS.  THE PLANTS MUST ALL BE SHUT DOWN. -- ACE]

I am a member of a number of environmental organizations.  We staunchly oppose nuclear power.  There are numerous ways to create ample amounts of safe energy, without compromising all life.

Carrie Dickerson, Claremore, OK

G8 Conference was about nukes -- but not the ones you think they were talking about:

NOTE: I hope Jack's wrong that "we deserve to be damned" but he probably knows better than I do, having designed nuclear power plants in his younger, more foolish years.  -- ACE


From: Russell 'Ace' Hoffman <>
Wow -- this absolutely is sickening.  What a stupid species we must be...

At 05:14 PM 7/22/2006 -0400, Jacksha1@aol.comwrote:

We are doomed!

The decision to go with Nuclear Power is now being placed in the hands, and heads of the most dishonest, corrupt, mean, disgusting bastards that ever been placed on this planet, politicians, and businessmen, just like Jack Welch.

My God what have we done to ourselves?

We hold up, as heroes, those people whose only contribution in life is that they have made a lot of money, or lied their way into public office.

We deserve to be damned!

John Shannon

By Rob Edwards Environment Editor

"World leaders are planning a massive expansion of nuclear power in their own countries and across the developing world, according to documents drawn up for the G8 summit and leaked to the Sunday Herald.

An action plan for global energy security to be agreed in St Petersburg next weekend envisages a network of nuclear fuel plants in G8 countries combined with the widespread sale of reactors to developing countries ­ as long as they promise not to use them for makingg nuclear bombs.

G8 leaders also want to resurrect fast breeder reactors, which are highly controversial because they breed plutonium, a nuclear explosive. It was this type of reactor that was pioneered, and abandoned, at Dounreay on the north coast of Scotland.

Environmentalists accuse leaders of double standards and dangerous hypocrisy. But the G8's nuclear plans are likely to be backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose own much-heralded energy review favouring new nuclear stations in the UK is due to be launched this week.

The G8 summit is due to take place in St Petersburg between July 15 and 17, just over a year

after the leaders of the world's eight most powerful countries met at Gleneagles in Scotland. This time it will be led by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has put global energy security at the top of the agenda.

Confidential drafts of the energy plan of action drawn up by the sherpas, the senior G8 officials who guide prime ministers and presidents towards the summit, have been passed to the Sunday Herald.

One of the plan's main aims is to spread nuclear power stations around the globe.

The latest version of the action plan says: Those of us who have plans relating to the use and/or expansion of nuclear energy believe that its development will promote prosperity and global energy security, while simultaneously offering a positive contribution to the climate change challenge.

Improving the economic com petitiveness of nuclear power will “benefit all nations, the plan argues. But nuclear expansion has to be based, it says, on a robust regime for assuring nuclear non-proliferation and a reliable safety and security system for nuclear materials and facilities.

The idea is to keep the more sensitive nuclear facilities that can be easily diverted for making bombs within the G8. Other countries would not be allowed to enrich uranium fuel, or to reprocess spent fuel to extract plutonium.

They will be permitted to run reactors to generate electricity but will have to buy fuel enrichment and reprocessing services from G8 countries. Participation of developing countries in a shared nuclear energy system through developing the network of international centres providing nuclear fuel services could be a viable option for reducing their energy poverty and bridging the energy gap, the plan says.

At the same time, G8 leaders are proposing to bring back fast breeder reactors, which were scrapped in Germany, France and the UK in the 1990s because they were too expensive. They are designed to create and burn plutonium and are much less reliant on imports of uranium.

The leaked action plan says: “A significant step in promotion of self- sustainable nuclear power would be attained through the development of innovative nuclear power systems based on closed nuclear fuel cycles with fast neutron reactors.

This is a dramatic change, since fast reactors have been off the political agenda in Western countries for at least a decade. And it will run into fierce opposition because of the risks it poses for international efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons.

We've come to expect double standards and dangerous hypocrisy from the G8 but this year they are set to surpass themselves, said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International.

On the one hand we have the endorsement and promotion of the most dangerous nuclear technology ever conceived ­ plutonium fast bbreeder reactors and reprocessing ­ while at the same time condemning the nuclear proliferation threat from Iran and North Korea.

WWF Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon added: Incredibly, this rich boys' club seems on course to peddle reactors to the Earth's poorer nations, at the same time as they are warning us how terribly dangerous the world is.

Among the G8 countries, only Italy and Germany are sceptical of the nuclear future. Russia, the US, Japan, Canada, France and the UK are all enthusiasts and see great potential for increasing nuclear business.

Two versions of the G8 global energy security plan of action have been leaked, one dated March 6 and the other May 12. On nuclear energy their wording is similar in substance and there are no sections in brackets, suggesting the text is not in dispute.

The drive for nuclear power is being led by Putin, who is keen to maximise Russia's technology expertise (AND URGE TO MAKE MONEY WITH AN UTTER LACK OF CONCERN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, HUMAN RIGHTS, ETC. - ACE).  He has a plan for mass producing reactors, installing them on barges and selling them around the world as “floating nuclear power plants.

Copyright © 2006 smg sunday newspapers ltd. no.176088
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Letter to Sandy Bauers, Philadelphia Inquirer:

To: "Sandy Bauers" <>
Subject: Re: Dry Cask Storage Versus Wet Pool Storage Versus Shutting the Reactors Down (etc.)

July 27th, 2006

Dear Sandy Bauers,

Your July 23rd, 2006 article on Limerick's plan to start using dry cask storage stated that either the NRC or Exelon or both (it's unclear which) claimed that there are no other options to dry cask storage.  That's not true.  Shutting the plant down is a reasonable option, the one that should be taken.

I have included, below, several items related to dry cask storage which I hope will interest you.  I have spoken on the subject at numerous public hearings, and have interviewed hundreds of scientists on related matters.  I hope you will consider these comments carefully.

I would like to note that some activists call David Lochbaum an "enabler" because of comments such as those published in your article.  To contend that dry casks are safer than spent fuel pools is foolhardy at best, but at any rate, it is such "managing the risk" comments that hide the truth -- you are NOT choosing a safer alternative to spent fuel pool storage at all, because you (Penna) are choosing BOTH.  For the terrorists, that's just peachy.

Please feel free to contact me any time.  Your article was sent to me by my father, a resident of the Philadelphia area.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Letter to Barbara Byron, California Energy Commission:

To: "Barbara Byron" <>

June 13th, 2006

Dear Ms Byron,

Thank you for your email (shown below in its entirety).

I stand by my comments 100%, including my assessment of your own relevant technical knowledge, and the idea that you do not consider me a human being, do not feel my ideas have any relevance in the real world, and that you have -- diligently -- failed to consider my presentations and comments, year after year after year, to the extreme danger and detriment of the citizens of California.

I hope that your letter signifies a change in policy for the State of California, whom you represent to me on these issues.

Regarding the quote you included in your response, the NAS made numerous assumptions regarding manners of dispersal which negate their conclusions.  Those assumptions are not reflective of the real world.

The total amount of spent fuel in dry casks versus the total amount in spent fuel pools is the question one must ask first, which you have skipped (your NAS quote goes straight to which one is bigger, not asking how many of each there are, or may be).  There are a limited number of spent fuel pools and nobody expects to build more (unless they build more reactors), but we can keep building dry casks ad nauseam (pun intended), because they are much more cost-effective for the utility.  A well-built new spent fuel pool would probably cost BILLIONS of dollars, or close to it.

By the way, spent fuel pools above nuclear reactors, as with most Boiling Water Reactors, are inherently dangerous, and every one of those reactors should be shut down immediately and permanently for that reason alone.  California's four Pressurized Water Reactors should be shut down immediately too, but not because the spent fuel pools are above the reactors.  Rather, one good reason is because the Spent Fuel Pools are NOT inside the containment domes, and thus NOT protected very well from airplane strikes (have you checked the thickness of their roofs lately, in light of the "new" terrorism threats, as well as the STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY of those buildings after all these years sitting in the rust-inducing salty, irradiated air?).

Of course, if California's reactors's spent fuel pools or dry casks were INSIDE the reactor containment dome, I doubt anyone would think it was safe to also operate the reactor!  Well, that works out conveniently, since there is no reason to operate the reactors, anyway.  Certainly not for electricity, which can be obtained other ways, as your own agency's reports on increases in energy production in the state over the past five years have proven incontrovertibly.

Regarding your quote's assertion about how far the contents would spread and how much damage would be done, the amount of fuel in the release scenarios in any estimation by the NAS, the NRC, the DOE, or the CEC is invariably a tiny, tiny fraction of ONE dry cask or ONE spent fuel pool -- say, 0.07% or less --  thus, the quote's "total inventory" point is irrelevant and obfuscating.  To talk about a release of several tons of fission products from a dry cask AS IF that is a scenario the NAS has actually considered is preposterous.  Releases of such magnitude are considered either IMPOSSIBLE, or so unlikely as to make it unnecessary to calculate their consequences.

Such arrogance sank the Titanic and doomed two space shuttles, so far.

The cut-off point for Federal Nuclear Government Work is generally when "they" think something has a likelihood of less than one in one million, sometimes one in ten million.  But who decides what those Las Vegas odds are?  Pro-nuclear, biased "scientists" with plenty of "wriggle room" for "fudge factors," that's who!  Ever hear of the book How to Lie With Statistics?  It's the bible of the nuclear industry.

Your quote -- you -- speak of TOTAL INVENTORIES while, mathematically, only acknowledging FRACTIONAL RELEASES.

Furthermore, the damage done by radionuclides in minute quantities -- after a dispersal has become part of the "global background radiation burden" -- is a matter of serious and significant debate.  Or to put it bluntly, that same NAS doesn't keep up to date with the current literature -- the scientific theories and statistical data -- and nor does the C.E.C., let alone the "Health Physics" community.  Low level radiation is far more hazardous than the pro-nuclear industry assumes.  California leads the way on understanding the hazards of second-hand ("low-level") cigarette smoke.  We should be as enlightened about LLR.

And as to the fission product inventories specifically, there are hundreds of isotopes of the full spectrum of elements in the Periodic Table in each spent fuel rod, and some of them are being released constantly from the fuel rods, and the public needs to be thoroughly and totally protected from these "irradiations" -- and told about them.  Any place where dry casks are stored, there cannot be people.  So when you talk about spreading them out, you are talking about stealing hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of acres from Californians.

And that's without an accident!

Some of the radioactive spent fuel byproducts are radioactive for mere days, which of course means if they get out they are an immediate concern.  Others last for thousands of years and will seep around the planet over time even if they don't disperse very far in the original accident.

Of course, all the NAS scenarios you religiously believe in assume a miraculous cleanup can occur, even though real-life experience with radioactive spills SELDOM results in a successful COLLECTION of the waste:  Most of the time, the waste is DISPERSED and this is considered the same as a true CLEAN-UP.  But due to the health hazard at ATOMIC LEVELS from nuclear fission products, dispersal only makes identification of CULPRITS difficult if not impossible. It spreads the deaths out over time and distance, but IT DOES NOT SAVE LIVES.

In any dry cask, a significant percentage of the original fuel load (Uranium-235) hasn't yet been split (that's why some people want to reprocess the stuff), and the reactions still continue -- hence all that decay heat, which, while several orders of magnitude less than the moment the fuel is removed from the reactor, is still a significant chemical and physical process -- including that it is destroying (irradiating) the zirconium cladding you mentioned, as well as the steel and concrete which the dry cask containers are built out of.  They can't last forever, and they won't, but we have no backup plan in place for if they start failing earlier than your esteemed scientists -- who have been wrong so many times before -- expect.  (Steam Generators were supposed to last, too.)

Fission products continue to be created constantly by the spent fuel, albeit at a lower rate (from about three to six orders of magnitude lower) than when the fuel was in the reactor.  Some of the radioactive isotopes with especially long half-lives are actually still increasing and will be for, perhaps (depending on the exact mix of any particular dry cask), centuries or even millennia to come.

You cannot determine the health hazard of a radioactive substance from its half-life alone.  You must also determine how it interacts with the environment and with the human body, and how ITS "radioactive daughter products" (if any) react, and THEIR daughter products, and so on.  Of course, the NAS knows it all, I am to assume from your letter!  Despite that fact that it was 50 years AFTER the dawn of the nuclear age that the scientific community actually agreed that there is no minimum threshold, no safe dose, of radiation!  And even that "agreement" has not been fully accepted, and the exact details of the various mechanisms for damage are still largely unknown, but hey, that's science, isn't it?  Imprecise.

It is your legal responsibility to assume the worst, in all cases where legitimate scientific ambiguity exists.  The nuclear industry has always assumed that things would work out in their favor, and hasn't been right once yet.

Let me remind you that terrorism with nuclear weapons is not out of the question.  Not impossible.  Not even "unlikely."  In fact, it's probably inevitable sooner or later that a nuclear weapon will be used against a civilian target.  That could obliterate all your "little" dry casks -- the whole farm around Diablo Canyon or San Onofre.   Even a "tiny" nuclear blast could open them all.  The NAS didn't happen to mention that, did they?

One tsunami could ALSO destroy the whole farm, too.  Have you forgotten Bande Ache?

Please see my addition comments immediately below.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Nuclear Terrorism against dry casks, nuclear power excursions, and related issues:

Subject: How Cheney and friends use the complexities of nuclear power to pocket billions of dollars and destroy the planet

May, 2006

It's taken more than 30 years, and well over 3,000 interviews (hundreds in person, thousands over the phone, and thousands more by email), but here's what I've learned:

Nuclear power is really, really complicated.

Duh?  Duh, you say?  Are you a nuclear engineer?  If so, what portion of the whole puzzle did YOU study?  I'll find an expert who's just as good.

And if not, then please just step aside for the moment and watch the Biggies battle it out.  Watch the pro-nuke "experts" dance from one reason to another to prove their point.  That is, watch them give up on one reason we simply MUST have nukes only to argue something different, that you had already argued with them before.  This is what they do.  Circular arguments, with many steps (remember, nukes are complicated, right?).

I did a couple of animation of nuclear power plants last year.  They are extremely accurate depictions (see URLs, below), and even several pro-nuclear sources have described them as "excellent" and asked to use them to describe nuclear power to the public, to university students.

Okay, that doesn't make me a nuclear scientist, but if you find me a pro-nuclear scientist and give me his arguments, I'll find another scientist who'se credentials are just as good to go over my answer if I need to, but I'll answer every one of his arguments.   I've done it before and I'll do it again -- I'll let them argue for 50 pages and dozens of letters if it takes them that long to circulate around to their previous arguments (repeat themselves) or, as is MORE LIKELY, they end up arguing both sides of a coin, which show's they are being merely argumentative, which is not the same as debate.

For example, most pro-nukers can be induced to argue FOR wind power within 10 pages of "debate" (utter gibberish on their part, mind you).  No matter if they started out saying it couldn't work.  Eventually you can always dance them around to admitting that renewables COULD work, if only.

If only this, if only that.  If only they weren't so ugly.  If only they didn't kill birds.  If only they didn't put a lake where a canyon or a flood plain used to be.  If only, if only, if only.

Then, when you turn the conversation to the specific, unique, and INTRACTABLE problems of nuclear power and say, "these are so much more serious than ANY of the arguments against renewable energy," the cycle starts to repeat itself, as they argue that wind power could never replace nuclear power because of this, and that, and so on.  It's all hogwash.

The latest voodoo reason to support nuclear power is fear of global warming.  Not that global warming isn't a problem -- it's just that nuclear isn't the solution.

It would take every issue of every week of this newsletter to describe all the problems nuclear power presents, but in this guest editorial, I'd like to concentrate on some immediate problems California (and many other states and countries around the world) are facing.

First and foremost is the continued accumulation of ever-increasing mountains of nuclear waste -- so called "High Level Radioactive Waste,"  which is also known as "Spent Fuel," a term the nuclear industry likes, because it sounds so harmless.  Well, it isn't harmless and worse, it cannot be safely contained for long periods with defying the laws of physics, which say that a radioactive breakdown is strong enough to break ANY chemical bond -- and not just any chemical bond, but thousands of them at once.

By operating nuclear power plants, we are creating enormous problems for future generations.   So-called "experts" STILL, after 50 years of knowing better, write about the possible creation of containment systems that will not break down, will not become radioactive themselves, will not fail, no matter how many years they are required to last.

Other pro-nuke "experts" STILL, after 50 years of knowing better, talk about "rocketing the waste to the sun."  Really, it's not been forgotten, and I'm talking about by so-called "rocket scientists."  REAL "rocket scientists" who obviously are not statisticians, for statistically, after 50 years, we know that that method could not possibly reliably loft all 77,000 tons (or whatever the exact correct value is; one hear's so many different numbers) of high level radioactive waste out to space.  It's preposterous.

Still other "highly qualified experts" (I don't know WHO does the qualifying, but they get articles in high places so someone must) think that dumping the waste in tectonic subduction zones deep in the oceans is the answer.  They're wrong on several counts, and their numbers are few, but they're out there.

Glass vitrification is another dream, but the construction delays in the Hanford, Washington nuclear facility to try it might put the lid on the idea.  It was a bad idea to begin with, but so is leaving that waste the way it currently is stored, in leaky tanks.

Which brings us to San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.  They are creating so-called "High Level Radioactive Waste" at the rate of about a ton every two days for the four reactors.  There is now approximately ten million pounds of the HLRW stuff and it isn't being rocketed to the sun (thank goodness) or anything -- it's "just" sitting there.

About five years after it is removed from the reactor, spent fuel can be removed from a pool where it is stored deep underwater, and placed in "dry casks."   This transfer itself is a very dangerous operation.  Every step -- and every added step -- is dangerous.  By not having a long-term solution, we are adding lots of steps, every one of which carries an added grave risk.

These dry casks are massive things, but not so massive that a terrorist cannot break them open.  Not so massive that an earthquake, tsunami, or other natural disaster cannot harm them, although the utility will claim otherwise -- it's a lie.  It's an engineering impossibility at the price / performance ratio they must work under to do what they claim they are doing AT A PROFIT.  How so?  A couple of inches of steel and a few feet of concrete just aren't enough to guarantee the job.

And if a dry cask catches fire, it could easily be as bad as a meltdown of the nuclear reactor itself -- perhaps worse.  Each dry cask holds about 1/4 of a full reactor's load of fuel, and if they catch fire, they cannot be put out with water -- it takes flooding them with noble gases, but no one can get close enough to do it (they won't live long enough to get close, if they try) and the casks are not being stored in pits where such a thing would even be possible, AND there is no automated delivery system for such a calamity, nor are there stores of such chemicals on site.

What does the nuclear industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission do instead?

They assume such a thing simply cannot happen.  Really -- that's what they do.  That's the fantasy-land they operate under.  Their idea of a "worst-case scenario" very specifically does NOT include more than perhaps 0.01% percent of the fuel burning or escaping in any way, if that.  Zero Point Zero One Percent.

These "what-if" accident scenarios are utterly unrealistic.  In reality, a dry cask fire can cause widespread death and destruction, just like a nuclear plant.  Furthermore, by storing the dry casks so close to the nuclear reactors, IF a reactor accident occurs, both the spent fuel pools and the dry storage casks are vulnerable to secondary failures,.  For example, some explosive accidents can throw the lid of the reactor half a mile into the air.  The lid weighs about 20,000 pounds.   If it lands in the spent fuel pool or on a dry storage cask, it would cause a secondary release of radiation that might be bigger than the first.

Of course, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a way around this.  They simply deny that such accidents are possible.  They do this by designating such explosive deconstruction as being "outside the design-basis accident."

In other words, the NRC simply refuses to admit that things can go that wrong.  They believe, instead, that the safety systems and backup systems will work as designed, even though experience has shown that to be a baseless assumption.

For example, the Monticello nuclear reactor had its main safety system UNAVAILABLE for nearly 30 years -- since the plant was constructed until just a few years ago -- because 32 shipping bolts were not removed from eight humongous bellows, when parts were installed at the plant during its original construction.

And after that, the system was never tested or inspected.  This is just one of many, many indications that the NRC is a lap-dog regulatory agency and the industry it regulates is dangerously incapable of meeting the incredibly high standards required by nuclear power.

Both San Onofre AND Diablo Canyon -- all four of California's aging nuclear power plants -- are, for all intents and purposes, being completely rebuilt as we speak. By dividing the work up into pieces the full cost -- well over a billion dollars PER PLANT and probably two or three -- is made to appear in media reports as much smaller amounts, and the work is made to appear as little more than accelerated maintenance -- a seemingly good thing, eh? Well, it's a bunch of bull. What's going on is a complete rebuild ALMOST from the ground up, but a piece at a time. There are so many old wiring systems and parts in those plants, though, that no one that works there knows how the system really works -- I guarantee it (and I know quite a few employees and ex-employees at the plant, by the way).

Here are some of the parts that have recently been replaced or probably will be soon, in one or more reactors at San Onofre alone: Steam generators, "heaters" (about 30 per reactor), reactor pressure vessel heads, one main rotor (there is one per reactor) had to be rebuilt after the fire in 2001. Hundreds of pumps, wiring systems, feedback loops and circuit boards (these are humongous things that have to be put in place with forklifts and cranes, nothing like a household circuit at all!).

Yet, in the end, to call these reactors "like new" or even "newly refurbished" would be inappropriate, because, try as they might, there are still hundreds of systems which are corroding in place in the radioactive and salty, smog-filled environment in which these reactors sit. The parts replacement projects are mostly being done on a "when it fails, replace it" basis, rather than on a preventive-maintenance schedule.

And what of the NRC? The industry is "self-regulated" -- they only do paperwork audits, 99% of the time that they do ANY audit at all.

In California, the operation of our nuclear power plants continues, decade after decade, in opposition to the things Californians love. We do not love the risk from earthquakes, tsunamis, riots, or anything else, we live here IN SPITE of these risks. But risks are cumulative, and the added burden of nuclear power is a risk that has been foisted on the citizens of this state -- and on the planet -- through immoral and undemocratic manipulation of public opinion for the past half century.

For example: Let's take a quick look at tritium: Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, with one proton and two neutrons in its nucleus. When it undergoes radioactive decay, it releases a beta particle -- which is just a very high-speed electron -- from the nucleus. As this happens, one of the neutrons (the one that ejected the electron) becomes a proton instead, and the atom becomes, not a very heavy hydrogen atom like it was, but a light helium atom. (Normal helium has two protons and two neutrons in its nucleus. Helium from tritium has two protons and ONE neutron in its nucleus.)

Too technical? Sure, and the nuclear industry is counting on that. So I'll try to refrain for the rest of this commentary.

Tritium is produced at -- and released into the environment from -- all nuclear power plants. Federal regulations are lax on tritium, because it would cost the nuclear industry billions, or shut them down, if they showed proper concern for tritium's hazards.

Pro-nukers -- health physicists, specifically, the specialists who should know better -- will tell you (and have told me) that tritium's beta particle is relatively harmless, because it is a "low-energy" beta particle, as beta particles go.  In fact, they might add, in low doses it might even be good for you.

But find a BETTER expert to talk to (they do exist), and you'll learn that beta particles, when they are ejected from the nucleus of an atom (oh, here we go again!), "dump" all that excess energy that they get ejected with at "the end of their track." At the beginning of the track, the beta particle is traveling TOO FAST (a significant fraction of the speed of light) to be near another atom long enough to have much influence, but as the beta particle slows down, it stays in the vicinity of each atom it passes long enough to have a significant effect -- long enough to cause ionizing radiation damage.

Now, of course, this IS certainly too technical for the average Californian -- I've been studying it for more than 30 years and it's hard for me, too. And thus we are frozen out of the discussion, accused of being emotional and unaware of the facts, or being just another California "whacko environmentalist."

But there ARE experts who will back up what I've just written regarding tritium, and we need to start listening to them.  Indeed, across the country there seems to be a renewed interest in the damage lowly little tritium can do. Tritium leaks have been found at several nuclear plants and local residents, despite official propaganda from the Feds, are scared.

When the blackouts of '01 occurred here, the real reason was probably because three of our four nuclear power plants were "down and out" and the fourth one dropped out now and then and well. The "powers that be" in charge of power in California engineered the blackouts to "prove" that we need all the power, by any means, that we can get.

And now, Southern California Edison (SCE), the operator of San Onofre Nuclear WASTE Generating Station (called SONGS, not SONWGS, officially, since the waste is ignored), is running millions of dollars worth of ads telling Californians that SCE is making major investments in proven green technologies such as WIND POWER.

Yet at the same time, shills for their nuclear industry, such as academicians who were invited to speak to the California Energy Commission last year at rare public hearings (where testimony was NOT sworn, and much of it WAS useless), tell us that WIND POWER hasn't got a chance.

Who's lying?

Both are, and solely to make nukes look good. There is NO real effort to solve our energy problem with renewables, even though it is perfectly possible to do. Instead, the Bush Administration is pushing nuclear power like never before, with every trick in the book and several new ones, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's new policy to license both the construction AND the operation of a nuclear power plant at the SAME TIME, so that, after the billions of dollars and 5 to 10 years of construction, no citizen can oppose the plant before fuel is finally loaded (as happened at Shoreham on Long Island, New York, leaving a bitter, bitter taste in the Nuclear Mafia's mouth). (NOTE: I understand about 5% of the fuel was, in fact, loaded for a time. -- ACE)

AND they have approved the licensing of new nuclear power plants on old sites -- even ones where the previous reactors have been "decommissioned" or perhaps NOT EVEN BUILT! (And "decommissioned, by the way, is a euphemism for grinding them up into radioactive dust and spreading them around the globe, and/or hauling them off in truckloads and trainloads to some waste dump somewhere, except, of course, for the "spent fuel," which just sits, vulnerable, on our coasts.)

If California continues to insist on self-ignorance about this issue -- if we are fooled by the fear of global warming into supporting nuclear power (it's not a solution, as many highly technical articles by highly qualified experts has shown), we are in for a lot of hurt.

A nuclear disaster would be the worst part of ANY accompanying earthquake, tsunami, or terrorist act. It would dwarf Katrina and 9-11 combined. It MUST be avoided, but the only way to do that is to wise up. Will we?

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

At 09:49 AM 6/13/2006 -0700, "Barbara Byron" <> wrote:
The National Academy of Sciences Public Report (2006) Safety and
Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage concluded (p. 68) that
dry cask storage has several potential safety and security advantages
over pool storage.

"Less spent fuel is at risk in an accident or attack on a dry storage
cask than on a spent fuel pool.  An accident or attack on a dry cask
storage facility would likely affect at most a few casks and put a few
tens of metric tons of spent fuel at risk.  An accident or attack on a
spent fuel pool puts the entire inventory of the pool, potentially
hundreds of metric tons of spent fuel at risk."

"The potential consequences of an accident or terrorist attack on a dry
cask storage facility are lower than those for a spent fuel pool.  There
are several reasons for this difference:

(1) There is less fuel in a dry cask than in a spent fuel pool and
therefore less radioactive material available for release,

(2) Measured on a per-fuel-assembly basis, the inventories of
radionuclides available for release from a dry cask are lower than those
from a spent fuel pool because dry casks store older, lower decay-heat

(3)  Radioactive material releases from a breach in a dry cask would
occur through mechanical dispersion.  Such releases would be relatively
small.  Certain types of attacks on spent fuel pools could result in a
much larger dispersal of spent fuel fragments.  Radioactive material
releases from a spent fuel pool also could occur as the result of a
zirconium cladding fire, which would produce radioactive aerosols.  Such
fires have the potential to release large quantities of radioactive
material to the environment."

Tritium URL:

So far, this article has stopped every pro-nuker dead in their tracks.  One even offered me a "residency" at his university (Purdue), when challenged to either respond in detail (after telling me tritium was safe), OR offer me said residency.  So why not see what YOU can do with it?

I suggest you print it out and submit it at EVERY hearing as a supplement to your own written and / or oral testimony.   Demand a technically accurate response.  Submit this whole newsletter, too!  Make 'em squirm and stammer and face the truth:  Nuclear power is the highest folly of mankind (so far).

Tritium explained:

Contact information for "Ace:"