1) NASA full-bore on using nuclear power sources in space -- What, me worry?
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <email@example.com>
Subject: STOP CASSINI #254 February 15th, 2002 -- HONOR THE FIREFIGHTERS
STOP CASSINI #254
February 15th, 2002
Topics in today's report:
2) NRC on security issues: A day late and a dollar short (make that 5 months and billions of dollars)
3) Firefighters JUST SAY NO to fighting fires at Maine Yankee without proper training (and who can blame them?)
4) Bush backs nukes (but why, we'll probably never know)
5) Back issues of the STOP CASSINI newsletter / subscription information
by Russell D. Hoffman, Founder and Editor
Note: We are restarting this newsletter after a brief (two-year) hiatus because in that time, NASA has apparently forgotten about the opposition to its nuclear policies. We intend to remind them, and your help would be appreciated!
1) NASA full-bore on using nuclear power sources in space -- What, me worry?:
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 02:16:21 EST
Subject: Finally, going "back to the future"
Looking Anew at Nuclear Power for Space Travel
February 12, 2002
By WARREN E. LEARY
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 - NASA says the future of space
exploration is rooted in the past, and it is time to look
again at nuclear power as the way to the stars.
Years after largely abandoning efforts to apply atomic
power to space, NASA last week announced a Nuclear Systems
Initiative that it said could jump-start space exploration
within a decade. Tucked away in the Bush administration's
proposed 2003 budget for the agency is $125.5 million to
begin moving NASA into a new nuclear age.
In the early days of the space program, NASA looked into
nuclear-powered rockets as a possible means of sending
humans to Mars and other planets. The agency tested some
atomic rocket engines, but abandoned the effort because no
missions arose to use them. In the new program, nuclear
reactors would not directly produce thrust to propel
rockets as in the earlier program, but would be activated
when far from Earth, to supply power for other types of
The agency also developed electric generators powered by
radioactive materials that have been flown on two dozen
spacecraft, including the Pioneer and Voyager outer planet
probes and piloted Apollo missions to the moon. In 1997,
the launching of another probe with a nuclear generator,
the Cassini mission to Saturn, drew protests from some
environmental and antinuclear groups that worried that a
rocket explosion might spread radioactivity.
Now only one of these power units, called radioisotope
thermoelectric generators, or R.T.G.'s, remain in the
civilian space inventory, and officials say it is time to
reopen production lines. The new program, they say,
presents an opportunity to design and build new generators
that are more efficient, require less nuclear fuel and can
be used on more varied spacecraft.
NASA is proposing to spend $950 million over the next five
years to develop new types of atomic-powered generators to
supply electricity for spacecraft, and also to build
nuclear electric rockets to propel ships through space at
greater speed than possible with traditional rockets.
The NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, said nuclear power
would help space explorers "conquer the problems of
distance and time." It takes a long time for spacecraft to
travel within the solar system, he said, noting that it
would take more than a decade for a probe to reach Pluto
using current technology.
The continued exploration of the solar system and the space
beyond is being held back by the limits of conventional
chemical rockets as well as existing spacecraft power
supplies, which mostly use solar-powered cells, Mr. O'Keefe
Officials said the nuclear program would be conducted with
the Department of Energy, which has the facilities and
expertise to construct nuclear power units. Earl Wahlquist,
of the Energy Department's Space and Defense Power Systems
Division, said the fuel most widely used in R.T.G.'s,
plutonium-238, is no longer produced in the United States.
Mr. Wahlquist said that his agency would use NASA funds to
buy the necessary plutonium from Russia.
Dr. Edward Weiler, head of space science at NASA, said
nuclear generators were necessary for outer planet
missions, where sunlight is faint. Jupiter, he noted,
receives only 4 percent of the sunlight that reaches Earth.
The Galileo spacecraft, which has been exploring Jupiter
and its moons, is powered by two R.T.G.'s.
But new nuclear generators also could revolutionize studies
of near planets, he said. The Smart Lander mission for
Mars, which was scheduled for launching in 2007, will be
delayed for two years to convert it from a solar-powered
rover to one run by a nuclear unit. For roughly the same
cost, he said, the 180-day solar-powered mission could be
stretched to 1,000 days with nuclear power and the machine
could range up to 50 miles instead of a mile or two as it
looks for signs of life.
For propulsion, a nuclear reactor could be used as a heat
source to power new kinds of engines, like the electric ion
drive successfully used on the recent Deep Space 1 mission.
That spacecraft used solar power to run an engine that
continually pushed it with very low thrust to high speeds.
This approach used fuel 10 times as efficiently as
conventional chemical rockets, which burn for a few minutes
and require the spacecraft to coast for the rest of its
A nuclear-powered ion drive could sent a craft to Pluto in
half the time as existing rockets, Dr. Weiler said.
A major priority of the new program will be safety, he
said, and developing technology that will virtually
eliminate any risk to the public if something goes wrong,
like a launching accident.
"We will design these new systems for a worst-case
scenario," Dr. Weiler said, "They'll be designed to survive
a rocket blowing up, or one going up and then coming down
and hitting the ground. If you can't guarantee this in your
design, then we don't want to talk to you."
NASA officials said the systems they envisioned would be
launched by conventional rockets and not activated until
safely in space. Once operating, they said, neither
electric power supplies nor reactors powering engines would
leave residual radiation.
Still, there is some opposition to the initiative. The
Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space,
a group based in Florida, said it remained opposed to any
nuclear systems in space and speculated that any new
technology developed might be applied to military uses.
Dr. Weiler said nuclear energy was not only safe but
necessary for further space exploration. The limits of
current power and propulsion systems are now starting to
limit space science, he said.
"We are trying to continue the exploration of the solar
system in covered wagons," he said, "Now it's time to
switch to the steam engine and build railroads to explore
the solar system like railroads contributed to the
exploration and expansion of this country."
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
My response to the person who sent the above article to me:
Thanks for sending this. It's totally unpatriotic -- the biased reporting
belongs in TASS, the people at NASA are fascist pigs, the whole thing is
disgusting. God save America if this is how NASA responds to criticism --
where did the reporter get the idea that Global Network is anything more
than a spook's hideout, anyway? NASA should be broken apart into two
groups: Criminals who are jailed, and ex-employees.
Their response to me (clip):
Jeez, Russ -- Don't mince words; tell me what you really think. . . ;-)
Here's an essay from October, 2001 titled: Cassini space probe questions for David F. Doody and others at NASA:
2) NRC on security issues: A day late and a dollar short (make that 5 months and billions of dollars):
"Raymond Shadis" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
To: "DOEWATCH" <email@example.com>,
"Governor Angus King" <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
"Maine Enviro Policy Institute" <email@example.com>,
"NRC CONCERNS" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: "Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch" <email@example.com>,
"Sharon Treat" <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
"Tom Hillman" <Tom.Hillman@state.me.us>
From: "Raymond Shadis" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 18:26:20 -0500
Subject: [JerseyShoreNuclearWatch] At last: " Interim " Measures! - Terrorists Take Note -
Of Course, NRC won't move while you are watching, but if you look away and then back after, say after FIVE months you may notice some tiny shift of light or posture or maybe one of its thousands of tiny tentacles. Ray
U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
Office of Public Affairs Telephone: 301/415-8200
Washington, DC 20555-001 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
No. 02-018 February 14, 2002
NRC WILL ORDER ALL NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS AND KEY FACILITIES TO ENHANCE SECURITY
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will shortly issue Orders to all commercial nuclear power plants and other key nuclear facilities to implement interim compensatory security measures for the high-level threat environment.
Some of these requirements formalize a series of security measures that NRC licensees had taken in response to advisories issued by the NRC in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Security enhancements which have emerged from the on-going top-to-bottom security review will be spelled out in the Orders. The Commission has decided to issue Orders to require prudent interim compensatory measures because the generalized high-level threat environment has persisted longer than expected and, as a result, it is appropriate to maintain the security measures within the established regulatory framework.
The details of specific additional security requirements are sensitive, but they include such things as additional personnel access controls; enhanced requirements for guard forces; increased stand-off distances for searches of vehicles approaching nuclear facilities; and heightened coordination with appropriate local, State, and Federal authorities.
Immediately after the September 11 attacks, the NRC advised all 104 nuclear power plants and other key nuclear facilities to go to the highest level of security, which they promptly did. Specific measures were subsequently defined in a number of advisories, and have been subject to audit by NRC security experts. The NRC is coordinating with other Federal and State agencies on protection of a variety of potential infrastructure targets in the United States.
Security against sabotage has long been an important part of NRC's regulatory activities and licensee's responsibilities. Nuclear power plants are among the most formidable structures in existence, and they are guarded by well-trained and well-armed security forces.
Well-trained and well-armed? These rent-a-cops haven't got a chance against a determined foe.
For a list of "25 simple ways a small group of terrorists can melt down a nuclear reactor and kill millions" (showing that the NRC's new steps are sure to be inadequate), as well as other allegations and a response to the list of 25 simple ways:
3) Firefighters JUST SAY NO to fighting fires at Maine Yankee without proper training (and who can blame them?):
To: "NRC CONCERNS" <email@example.com>,
"Governor Angus King" <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Cc: "Sharon Treat" <email@example.com>, "RWMA" <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
"Maine Enviro Policy Institute" <email@example.com>,
"Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch" <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
"Ellen Thomas" <email@example.com>
From: "Raymond Shadis" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 09:50:35 -0500
Subject: [JerseyShoreNuclearWatch] Firefighters Just Say, "No." to Responding to Fires at Nuclear Facilities?
Honor the Firefighters : After local volunteer firefighters were summoned to a fire in a drum- waste dryer at the decommissioning Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Station, Firefighter Peter Christine of Alna, Maine began to ask questions about his unit's readiness to cope with radiological fire hazards. The following article captures the issue and should serve as a wake-up call to firefighters in nuclear host communities around the country. What the Alna VFD asks is not unreasonable: radiological protection and training for firefighters called to nuclear facilities.
Friends of the Coast
New England Coalition
Top Stories - Lincoln County Weekly
Firefighters just say 'no'
BY KRIS FERRAZZA February 14, 2002
Alna cites lack of training for fires at nuclear plant
ALNA - Citing a lack of training, volunteer firefighters from Alna no longer will answer the call to the Maine Yankee nuclear power station in Wiscasset.
The department membership took a vote on the matter Jan. 30 and unanimously agreed that without the proper training, they have no business responding to fires at the facility.
The newly enacted policy states the Alna department will continue to offer mutual aid to Wiscasset's department, which is trained, and will respond to cover that town's fire station. However, volunteers will not be permitted to respond to the nuclear power site. The policy is signed by Fire Chief Michael Trask and Assistant Fire Chief Peter Christine and has the support of the selectmen.
"This is something, in my mind, that should have been done years ago," Christine said of the new policy. "We don't have enough information to deal with this stuff."
The assistant chief explained the department has had no training for fighting fires in a radiological environment. And with the limited hazardous materials training they have had, volunteers have been instructed specifically to stay away from radioactive materials.
He said Alna began to debate the issue after departments were asked to respond to a small fire that burned last November on the radiological side of the plant. From those discussions, the new policy evolved.
Maine Yankee is closed and undergoing decommissioning, however radiological materials remain at the site, including a large amount of spent nuclear fuel. The material, which is high-level radioactive waste, is isolated and stored in an underwater pool.
Alna Selectman Jim Bruce, who is a safety officer and 20-year member of the town's fire department, said the selectmen support the new policy.
"We wouldn't send people who weren't qualified to go into a burning building. This is the same thing," he said. "If you don't have the training, you don't go in."
He said the board also considered the potential liability the town could face as a result of sending untrained volunteers to a fire at the facility, but safety is the main concern.
Bruce said he believes Maine Yankee officials made a mistake when they did away with the plant's trained on-site fire brigade several years ago.
The company eliminated its professional five-member brigade after receiving an exemption from a number of federal regulations in September 1998. The plant had ceased to operate, and managers argued that a number of risks, including fire, was diminishing as the facility was dismantled.
Maine Yankee spokesman Eric Howes said although the special fire force is gone, the company continues to have two people on duty during each shift who are responsible for "taking the lead" on fire protection. Howes said one is in charge of calling the fire department, if necessary. Beyond that, the staff is capable of fighting small fires using fire extinguishers, but nothing more.
"We do rely primarily on Wiscasset for fire protection," he said.
Howes added he does not expect Alna's decision will diminish the timely response the plant has received from Wiscasset's volunteer department. He said Maine Yankee President Wayne Norton met last week with Christine to discuss the department's concerns.
Fire chiefs in the neighboring towns of Edgecomb and Westport, who also provide mutual aid to Wiscasset, say they will not change their policy on Maine Yankee calls.
Westport Fire Chief Rusty Robertson said his department never was trained to enter the radiological side of the plant in the past, so there is no reason they would go now.
"If we're called, we're going to respond," he said. "But at no time are we ever going to do anything we're not qualified to do."
He said assistant fire chief Bob Gann works at Maine Yankee and is well informed on radiological issues. Gann's knowledge would ensure volunteers in the Westport department were protected, he said.
Westport Selectman Stanley Lane, who was a New York volunteer firefighter for 21 years, says he is uncomfortable with the idea of responding to an emergency at Maine Yankee.
"I can guarantee you I would never go to a nuclear accident. That's not what volunteer firemen are trained for," Lane said, adding he "fully agrees" with Alna's decision.
"I applaud them. I think it makes sense," he said.
Lane said additional training would be necessary to prepare local fire departments to respond to an emergency at the plant, and it is "not fair to the midcoast" to ask the towns to bear that burden.
"I think there's a question of safety, and I think there's a question of financial liability," he said, questioning what would happen if a person was harmed or killed.
Edgecomb Fire Chief Barry Johnston says his department has not discussed Alna's decision, but he remains comfortable with responding to emergencies at Maine Yankee.
"If we did go, we wouldn't be on the front line," he said. "We'd be there more for support than anything else."
The chief said he and one other volunteer in the Edgecomb department underwent additional hazardous materials training in October 2000, which elevated them from the "awareness" level to the "operational" level. He added Boothbay Harbor has people trained to the highest level.
Johnston said Maine Yankee supervisors and technicians are trained and must advise the departments on what they need and what hazards could exist.
"We've never had a problem with it," the chief said. "If this issue was going to come up, I think it would have been back when the plant was running."
February 14, 2002
The idea of asking volunteer firefighters to respond to a fire at Maine Yankee is a tricky one.
On the one hand, the public needs to be assured that if an emergency of any kind occurred at the Wiscasset nuclear power facility, trained personnel would be available to respond and handle it.
But the key word is "trained."
Members of the Alna Volunteer Fire Department voted unanimously Jan. 30 to enact a policy that states firefighters will not answer calls to the closed plant on Bailey Point. The reason? They have not been trained to fight fires in a radiological environment.
The issue surfaced after a fire broke out on the radiological side of the plant last November. Five departments, including Alna, were called to assist Wiscasset, and a number of departments responded to the facility gate. Most of the volunteers waited outside the fence while Wiscasset firefighters, who are trained, went into the plant.
Fortunately the fire was a small one, and was extinguished quickly. But what would have happened if it had not been so easily remedied? If a catastrophic fire ever got going at the facility, we cannot imagine firefighters standing on the sidelines because they lack the training to help out. Fire chiefs assure us they would never allow untrained personnel to respond, but something tells us all bets might be off at that point.
In the past Maine Yankee maintained and paid for its own on-site fire brigade. The five-member squad was trained as a professional fire force. In 1998, the company requested and received an exemption to do away with its brigade, along with the guard towers on the site, emergency sirens that dotted the countryside in neighboring towns, and other off-site security measures.
That means all Maine Yankee personnel are qualified to do now is pick up a fire extinguisher, and if that doesn't work, call 911.
So where does that leave us? The company has eliminated a minor cost and in exchange is relying on a limited pool of trained and untrained fire volunteers to respond to and battle a fire in a radiological environment.
That simply is too much to ask. We would urge the company to consider reinstituting its fire brigade. And if they are not willing to do it voluntarily, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should demand it.
ŠLincoln County Weekly 2002
4) Bush backs nukes (but why, we'll probably never know):
President-Unelected George Bush announced yesterday (February 14th, 2002) that his administration supports nuclear power because it's clean. He doesn't know what he's talking about and he's keeping his list of advisors secret so we don't know who's got his ear. But we know we don't!
5) Back issues of the STOP CASSINI newsletter / subscription information:
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Thank you for reading.