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Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 20:43:39 -0700
To: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
From: Paul lavely <>
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Nuclear terrorism is INEVITABLE

PRIMARY DOCUMENT RECIPIENT: Paul Lavely, Office of Radiation Safety, UC Berkeley
DOCUMENT CODE NAME: "42" (for its deep philosophical meaning)

ORIGINAL DOCUMENT SOURCE: Russell D. Hoffman, Concerned Citizen, Carlsbad, CA
FIRST RELEASE DATE: Tuesday, May 21st, 2002 (GMT)
SUMMARY: Nuke "experts" are so specialized, that they aren't so "expert" after all!


This letter is in response to your remarks (shown below) disputing my previous statements about the possibilities of spontaneous fires in nuclear power plant spent fuel dry cask storage systems.

First, I was not trying to dispute or minimize your concerns. I was simply offering that I do not believe that commercial reactor fuel (new or used) can burn UNLESS there is an external source. A fire would not be enough.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Feb. 2001 Technical Study of Spent Fuel Pool Accident Risks at Decommissioning Power Plants (NUREG 1738).   (If you can get your hands on two copies, I'd appreciate receiving one.)

I will try and see if we can get copies.

The stuff is hot,



and dangerous.

 it's perfectly safe to go up and lick a spent nuclear fuel rod!

My experience with these reports is that they are a mixed bag. However, I think that we all agree that spent fuel is hazardous and will remain so for years and years and years.


Regarding the other things you say you know about (and should know about, based on your professional experience, namely, how well the nuke plants really are run), it's obvious that you haven't bothered to read ANY of my discussions of the litany of events at San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station just since January of last year (2001) -- events which have cost the facility hundreds of millions of dollars:

I spoke from my experience at FPL, Deco, and SMUD. I have no inside information on San Onofre and I agree that I have not tried to get any.
However, the issues you report would for the most part be subject to reporting under the LER system(s). One for plant problems and one for security.

 So don't bother to patronize me by telling me the plants are run safely. They aren't.

It depends on the meaning that you attach to "safely." All industry has accidents and some of those that I have seen are those related to industrial accidents. For example, the steam accident at SMUD that killed several workers could have happened at any site that has a standalone steam boiler. That is, it would help if we can separate nuclear safety from industrial safety.  As to industrial safety - I believe that they are no better than any power generation facility. I worked in a coal unit and they had many of the same safety issues as do nuclear plants (steam, falls, heavy equipment, power, etc.). The real issue that we are concerned with is the safety of the nuclear fuel and associated releases. I believe that they have a fairly good record on dealing with nuclear fuel safety. However, I am open to contrary facts and opinions.

Davis-Besse's corrosion apparently took at least four years to develop.  So don't tell me anybody's been paying attention since you left the NRC inspection team.

I was a utility employee and not a part of the NRC; however, we served as an investigative arm for the NRC. At times, a hard position to be in and satisfy both the utility and the NRC.

The plants are weakly defended.  Devastating terrorist attacks on our nuclear power plants are inevitably going to occur

I do not argue that they need better security; however, I am basing that opinion on 15 years ago experience. I can not comment on 2000's.

Rancho Seco was located about 7 miles or so from highway 99 and south of Sacramento. In the Elk Grove area is an above ground natural gas storage facility VERY near highway 99. I have seen calculations for the destruction that this unit can cause. The effect was to flatten everything in about a 2 to 3 mile circle, fires out to 5 miles. Additionally, the deaths from this are real and 100% attributable to the event. There would be no need for the mathematical calculation of future cancer deaths. That is, we face many targets of terrorist actions. Nuclear power plants have some security, some systems for protection, emergency response plans, etc. many (most?) of the others targets do not.

Each of these casks could wipe out thousands of square miles of our homeland if a terrorist attacked it.

A 30 mile by 30 mile square is 900 sq miles. A single cask rupture and release could not result in enough contamination to deny use of an area near that large. I will look for some calculations that show the effect. Can you give me direction to any?

How does one get much bigger than 9-11 without going nuclear?

I believe that the gas storage unit I described is a better target. More effect, not really guarded, only needs a small amount of explosive, would not require the terrorist to give their life, shows the American public that they can be vulnerable almost anywhere, etc.

 If the nuclear power plants are still operating when they are attacked (by Mother Nature or UBL), Bush (and the country) won't be ready.

Will not be ready to respond to the attack? Perhaps. Ready to deal with a LOCA and subsequent releases? Already in place and tested. Big effect? Certainly a LOCA and release of inventory will have a major impact.

 The difference is, this time, everyone knows (except you, Paul, because after all, terrorism isn't your area of expertise, so you have nothing to say about that part of my previous intelligence briefing (code word: Davis-Besse Newsletter #12)).

I do know something about terrorism; however, I have tried to limit my discussion to areas in which I am sure is still current and that I can discuss. That is, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on plant security issues.

While we may never know exactly who knew what when on 9-11, hindsight really is only useful to figure out what we need to do next.  And what we need to do next is shut the reactors down.

Perhaps I would agree with this IF we were take actions to reduce all the targets at risk to terrorists (such as the one that I described above). Responding to only one set of targets is shortsighted.

While running, nuclear reactors are orders-of-magnitude more vulnerable to meltdowns -- that is, they are harder to protect -- than when they are shut down by having the control rods inserted, then the fuel rods separated away from each other.

A reactor scram takes less than a second to occur and there is no way that someone without extensive training could bring the control rods out of the reactor once that happens.

A successful nuclear attack will cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

I have carefully reviewed this issue. Even the Chernobyl accident has not resulted in thousands of deaths. Anything in the US will be less than the Chernobyl accident due to specific fuel differences.

 Our reactors are vulnerable.

I have not tried to say that they are not; however, they are not the only vulnerable targets.


  A nuclear retaliation now appears to be likely.

Agreed, Once they have nuclear weapons they will certainly use them.

  you have tried to rewrite history with your email (shown below), asserting to me that the nuclear power plants are safe etc. etc.,

Safe? No, I only tried to give information as to what I know. The determination of are they safe or safe enough is a decision that each individual must make. That is, some folks find that flying is not safe and others believe that parachute jumps are safe.

and focusing on whether dry storage casks can suddenly burst into flame if perfectly-plausible conditions are accidentally met!

I was simple pointing out that I believed that fuel can not burn. That is, I was offering an opinion. That is not rewriting history nor is it nit picking. I was trying to provide information. Again, under what conditions can fuel burn?

 Or, as when you first contacted me, you argue about the exact shape of the spray emanating from a burst Reactor Pressure Vessel Head at Davis-Besse, while dismissing out-of-hand the possibility that a shattered RPVH could prevent a sufficient number of control rods from dropping, in clearly foreseeable accident scenarios.  Such ridiculous details!

I responded to a question you raised about the effect of the steam release. What I now know indicates that only a few of the close rods could be damaged. The steam does not have enough power to damage ones a distance away. However, a real mechanical engineer needs to work the numbers on this one.

Do you really think that beating me around on such relatively minor technical issues could ever prove your case for nuclear power?

That was not my intent.

I do not make a case for nuclear power. I am only commenting on issues that I believed were not accurate (such as fuel burning). Simply because I worked in nuclear power does not mean that I am "in favor" of nuclear power. I see significant problems with ALL methods of power generation.
How many nozzle configurations have you modeled on your available supercomputers, anyway?  How many head fractures?

None. I do not have the education or ability to do this if I wanted to.

 Instead, your answer is: "I can't speak to what I'm not an expert in, but Russell, my boy, spent fuel won't burn quite so easily as you describe!"  Minor details!

The above indicates a quote. I never made this kind of derogatory comment and would not. In fact, I believe that comments such as that prevent folks from coming to an understanding of issues and only creates a bigger rift. I assume that you are trying for consensus.

You'll have to do better than that, Paul Lavely, Former NRC Inspector, now Director, Office of Radiation Safety, UC Berkeley!

Never worked for the NRC.

Since you first contacted me about two months ago, I've learned that the ORS in your title stands for Office of Radiation Safety.

I believe that I told you when I spoke to you that I had worked in nuclear power before and was now at UC Berkeley. What I do there is far from a secret - boring perhaps - secret no.

So, tell me, in your opinion (for no one really knows for sure, right?) how much plutonium 239 does it take, inhaled into the lung of a one-day-old, three-months-premature infant, to cause the premature death of that person?  How much plutonium 239 would it take to adversely effect that infant's health in any way over its lifetime?  How much Pu 239 does it take to kill a full-grown man?

I assume that we mean death from cancer and not from the heavy metal effect. Cancer is never 100%. This is why some folks will get tobacco related lung cancer who smoke a pack a day and some folks who smoke 3 packs a day will never get cancer. That is, there is no amount that will guarantee a cancer. The general belief is that the more Pu that is inhaled the greater the risk of cancer. I am not trying to be evasive; however, this is similar to asking "How much aflotoxin (known cancer causing agent in moldly peanuts) will it take to cause a cancer?" Answer, it depends.

According to the UC Berkeley web site, if Berkeley campus police can't answer a radiation call from a student, teacher, or citizen, you are next to call on the list. In fact, you're the second (and third, and fourth) person listed.

We respond to all off hours problems. The police and fire are first responders. ORS and my staff arrive to support them. Although police and fire are trained, ORS is the office with the specific responsibility to respond, assess, report and recover. We rely on police and fire to deal with an issue UNTIL we can arrive.

 But in your email shown below, you shirk responsibility -- you claim not to be an expert in many things related to nuclear issues (everything I claimed in Davis-Besse Newsletter #12 which you didn't respond to).  In fact, only a very small segment of the problems I've outlined drew any comment from you at all.

Perhaps I did not disagree with everything else you wrote or I felt that I should limit my response to those items that I could directly support.

So I wonder how you can protect Berkeley's staff and students, and the local community, when nearby reactors are spewing out uncontrolled -- and unreported -- amounts of radionuclides daily into the atmosphere

Sorry, but reactors are limited as to releases they can make. The total for the highest exposed individual is 15 mrem a year. That person is normally assumed to be at the fence line. Effects further away are much less. More than a few miles from the plant and no effects (contamination) can be detected. The closest operating reactor to Berkeley is PGE's unit and that is very far away.

and risk catastrophic terrorist attacks or accidents daily.   Evidently that's alright with you,

No it is not alright that there may be terrorist attacks. In fact, I believe that the government needs to do more.
despite the fact that you are now in charge of protecting the people around the Berkeley campus from the very product which, in your previous job, you helped create!

I also worked for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. I have been faced by this question in the past. The fact that I worked for the Navy or for the nuclear power industry does not mean that I support what they do. My job was to protect the health and safety of workers and the public. Perhaps having a person in that position who is an avid supporter of nuclear power may not be the best choice. However, in my career in nuclear power, I never felt that I was asked or expected to do anything less than protect workers and the public.

Personally, I don't understand how can you go from permitting the industrial process which resulted in our current 50,000 ton "stockpile" of high-level radioactive waste, most of which is spent fuel, to protecting Berkeley citizens (and the rest of us) from that same waste in nearly-infinitesimal, minuscule quantities, for thousands of years, and not see a conflict of interest.

I did not permit the nuclear power process. I worked to assure that workers and the public were protected. Did I succeed? A judgement call.

 To me, that sounds like the fox guarding the hen house!

Not at all. Few of the thousands of health physicists (radiation safety) professionals could escape this type of criticism. That they work for a company that produces waste or exposes folks to rad materials.

 You blame government for not resolving the waste issue.

ONLY because they were assigned the responsibility to deal with an already existent problem and have not.

But YOU couldn't solve it, and every scientist before you couldn't solve it either!  And if you really know anything about nuclear waste, you shouldn't find that at all surprising!

No, I can not solve it. However, I am not an engineer and I assume that engineering can solve most of these technical issues. If we can put a man on the moon we can figure out how to safety handle these wastes.

You claim the nuke industry isn't secretive.  Then why couldn't YOU find the litany of accidents, incidents, and near-catastrophes at San Onofre Nuclear Waste Generating Station, and not make the irresponsible comment that the plants are well-run? They aren't.  What they are is poorly inspected.  This may make them appear to be well-run to anyone who trusts NRC inspection reports.  No one else is fooled.

I did not search for them.

In the past when I worked at a nuclear plant I received reports (LERS and others) of accidents such as these and reviewed them to assure that we were addressing the concern. As I stated that I believe that the industry is not secretive. In my experience, problems of any significance were reported to the NRC resident inspector and many were reported to the NRC by LER. LERs are reviewed by each plant. That has not changed.

The real world is so different from the dream-world the nuclear proponents live in, Paul!  I've seen the RADSAFE listserv comments about "hormesis" and other specious claims in support of nuclear power.

You have not seen a single hormesis comment from me! What you have not seen is private email I have sent to some who advocate positions with which I disagree. My response to you has been and will continue to be one to one.

This inability to separate the various nuclear activities -- that is, being pro-nuclear with no real limits based on logical considerations, when you come right down to it -- has two major fallacies in this specific instance:  First: MRIs and Ultrasound have been around for years and can completely replace most medical x-rays, and the additional up-front cost is more-than made up for by the fewer cancers which will occur later.

This is not supported by what I hear from medical radiologists and interventional cardiologists (such as Bill Lull, MD UC).

 Blood tests can determine if bones are fractured at all or not, but might be more expensive than an x-ray.  But since our current medical system won't make the changes, some number of people will get cancer from the x-rays and die.  Second: Medical uses of radioactivity and the radioactive waste thus produced (including urine, feces, body parts, etc.), although still a serious concern in our environment, are minuscule amounts (as measured in Curies) compared to the waste created by commercial nuclear power and military nuclear power (for propulsion, generally) and weapons production.

Another major difference is that they generally have much shorter half lives.

Before you write me again, Paul, I suggest you get YOUR facts absolutely straight -- all of them.

Sorry, but I tried. In fact, I can not see a fact that I provided that was incorrect. Please help me by directing me to a fact(s) that I had wrong.

 Concern yourself with the whole picture of nuclear power's costs to society -- including costs resulting from a successful terrorist attack, and the cost of the intractable, unsolvable, growing problem of nuclear waste, and the cost of trying to protect the plants in a post 9-11 world even if that security effort is 100% successful -- let alone, if it isn't.

While I agree that this should be done, it is not something that I am able to do. I do not have the training in the areas that would be the whole picture. Sorry.

Of course, it's entirely possible that embrittled nuclear bomb components, which are rumored to exist, MAYBE EVEN AT BERKELEY, may make this discussion MOOT (for you, anyway) at any moment!   (The person I heard this from has already made his complaint (including the names of those who have direct knowledge) to the FBI, DOE, and NRC, and I believe he's told the UC Berkeley Campus Police as well, but I have no idea if it was ever acted on.  I doubt it, because he's been complaining about it for years.)

UC Berkeley does no weapons research. Berkeley is a nuclear weapon free zone. We do not have materials that can be a critical mass. We do not have a reactor. UCB reports to the state (DHS) and not to the DOE. Our doors are open to anyone who believes that we have these materials to come and look. Have them call me for an appointment for a look around. Without revealing the name of the person making the complaint(s), may I ask what is the specific complaint?

It is when I see things such as the above being given as FACTS, that I have the human tendency to question the credibility of the person making the claim. That is, what would it take to change YOUR opinion on this specific issue?

But of course, a nuclear explosion at Berkeley would be blamed on terrorists, even it if was caused by a combination of embrittlement and negligence, just as a Davis-Besse meltdown would undoubtedly have been blamed on terrorists, too.  The terrorists, for their part, seem comfortable with such blame, since they have claimed that they plan to melt our plants down anyway. We live in interesting times, don't we, Paul?
Many of my most distressing predictions have, over time, been proven accurate.  But, it's silly that I have to be the one to say these things.  The things I warn about are obvious to anyone who gives nuclear power a close inspection.  In 1979, after Three Mile Island, a Sandia National Labs report surfaced, which showed that nuke plants were vulnerable to airplanes, whether from accidents or terrorist attacks. Then what happened?  We forgot, and built many more nuke plants anyway.

If the NRC had been aware of the need for better containment protection from aircraft the design would have been made to address the issue. It appears that NRC did not support the Sandia report. Frankly, I do not know.

You "experts" try to knock me down with a "fact" here and there

No, I was trying to provide you with what I believed was accurate information. If one only searches for facts that supports their belief they will not only hear what they want they will also hear things that can not be supported. I was trying to provide you better information.

(though sometimes, I think you're just trying to discover the source of a fact you'd like to make inaccessible to the public!).  But you can't disprove our logic, Paul -- you can't even come close.

If you can show me how nuclear fuel can be made to burn I will make that fact accessible to everyone I can find.

One NEED NOT be an "expert" to see the stupidity of nuclear power.  In fact, since all "experts" (like yourself in your most recent email) can't speak (or think?) outside your area of expertise,

I can and often do speak outside of my area of expertise. However, when I am speaking to someone who has made statements such as yours I am a little more circumspect. I have faced the other end of the challenge - "then you agree that you ARE NOT an expert on the XX of nuclear power." You can throw in lots of areas - diesel generator availability, appendix R fire protection, snubbers, pipe wipe, PMT, etc. The flight engineer for a big plane may know his job very well, but he/she is not the pilot and does not have the same training or experience.

I'd have to say that you HAVE TO not be an "expert" to grasp the logic against nuclear power!   Okay -- there are exceptions.  Brilliant and brave nuclear physicists like John Gofman at Berkeley, or Jack Shannon, who risk their careers for the public good.  But so far, to no avail.

Universities are exceptions. Professors can take stances that are far from the accepted belief and be at no risk. An example is Peter Duesburg who believes that HIV does not cause AIDS. John was not as altruistic as you portray.

How much more time do we have, with Al Q. threatening, and Mother Nature hovering, each ready to strike at any moment (and don't forget Brother Murphy and Father Time, who manufactures embrittlement -- oh, but that's outside your area of expertise, isn't it?)?

It's time to STOP BICKERING about plant safety records and such, and it's time for you and the entire rest of the "fringe" of the Nuclear Industry to unequivocally admit that tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, terrorists, and so on, which are relatively INSIGNIFICANT problems for all other forms of energy in terms of their comparable effects on society if a power plant is struck, are INSURMOUNTABLE problems for nuclear power.

I would if I could agree. However, I believe that other energy sources (like the gas storage unit) present large problems. Perhaps as large or larger than that presented by nuclear power.

A single spent fuel PELLET can wipe out scores of city blocks.

Not by direct radiation.

If ground into a dust it could contaminate a large area; however, such contamination can be removed. It is much easier to find and remove than chemical contamination.

A single spent fuel ROD can wipe out a large town.  A single spent fuel ASSEMBLY can wipe out a major U.S. city.  A single DRY CASK fire can easily wipe out a whole state,

I am not trying to argue here, but where can I see an analysis that supports this?

If our "experts" can't figure out a way to get rid of nuclear waste (and 50 years of trying makes the answer to that self-evident outside the nuclear industry -- they can't), then they at least had better stop making 40 new tons of combined high-level (10 tons) and low-level (30 tons) radioactive waste every day from our commercial nuclear power plants in America (PLUS hundreds of tons of even lower-level waste which is, for no scientific reason known to humans, "beyond regulatory control", PLUS military nuke waste.)

What do you mean by "beyond regulatory control?"

(By the way, there's no difference between "high-level nuke waste" and "low-level nuke waste" except the amount of filler in it -- brass, iron, copper, gold, lead, cement, rubber, glass, plastic, photographic film, clothing, water, etc. etc. etc.. -- things that once were useful to society, but now are useless radioactive waste.)

"Experts" like you need to help America switch from "CON" (Coal, Oil, Nuclear) energy sources to GREEN, RENEWABLE energy sources.  Let's stop the bickering and the BS, before millions of casualties occur, because, as a country, we refused to change our nuclear energy policies (and our military nuclear policies, and our oil policies) in time.

Perhaps I agree, but I was responding to technical issues and not world wide energy planning.

Nuclear energy, being about a million times more dangerous than coal or oil energy per kilowatt of power produced, should be the first to go, and it's high time it made its ungraceful exit.  Maybe some future generation of nuclear power technology will achieve the dream (I doubt it).  But the current generation of nuclear power plants, especially in today's threat environment, is unquestionably a nightmare.  And there is NO solution on the horizon.  PBMRs (Pebble-Bed Modular Reactors) have inherent and unsolvable safety and waste generation problems.

Warnings from the terrorists are clear.  Embrittlement, on the other hand, carries no warning, but look what it did to Davis-Besse.  Carelessness caries no flag to mark its position as it marches into battle.  It blows no trumpet.  It sends out no threats.  But look what it did at Monticello, at Davis-Besse, and many other places.

Tsunamis can strike in seconds -- Earthquakes just HAPPEN -- there's no signal that's been scientifically detected.  Earth-impacting asteroids routinely go undiscovered until fireballs streak across the sky, perhaps smashing into a dry storage cask.  What ARE the chances of that?  Someone who promotes nukes ought to know, because it's NOT zero.

What we are discussing is not the chance of a release from a cask, it is the effect that this release would have. That is, I can not change the course that the nuclear industry takes on casking; however, I can review and comment on the impact analysis.

What are the chances of additional terrorist attacks in America? About 100%, according to the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and Tom Ridge.

Before 9-11, Bush had a warning, which his administration did not share with the world.

Now, terrorists have given him another warning, but this time the whole world knows he's gotten it.  He knows what the targets are.  Sure, we MIGHT get lucky and they'll "just" blow up some apartment buildings, as mentioned in yesterday's news.  But that's NOT what they've been threatening to "put together" for years now.

What will Bush do?  What will Usama (or Osama, or whatever) do?  What will America do?  What will Mother Nature do?  What will YOU do?


Russell D. Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

P.S. #1:  Regarding your comments shown below, a "system" can encompass both humans and equipment, as well as multiple locations, software and hardware interconnections, methods of management, etc. etc. etc.. Your "misunderstanding" of that, below, appears to be symantec quibbling.

I agree that you can take it that way; however, I was trying to make the point that management and staff are areas that most often cause the problems. I made this point poorly.

P.S. #2:  Also, regarding your comments, the gasses referred to were NOT outgassed elements from the fuel pellets, according to the original article.

Can you point me to the original article so that I can re-read it.

P.S. #3:  Here's the Davis-Besse Newsletters home page where D-B #12 can be accessed:

P.S. #4: In the letter below, I have not made any additions or deletions, and the only change I have made is to accent your new text in

Thanks for taking the time to make a response. I hope that you realize that I am not trying to stop you, stop your comments, or refute your beliefs. I was only offering a different opinion. If we can not respect those who hold positions different from our own we can not communicate. If we do not communicate then no changes will occur. I assume that you want to communicate and not just with those who agree with your opinions.

RSO and Director
UCB Office of Radiation Safety



At 08:48 PM 5/15/02 , Paul lavely <> wrote:


I would like to disagree with a few of the items in your posting. I am ONLY responding to those that I have personal experience dealing with. My comments are not meant to be criticism or harsh - just my opinion as to the facts.

Paul lavely <>
Bang bang we're dead...
Davis-Besse Newsletter #12
May 15th, 2002
Besides, if dry casks are so safe, why did it take about four decades, and the filling of all their spent fuel pools, and the failure to build a Federal repository, for industry to come up with the idea?

Russ, the same could be said for the catalytic converter on a car. Why did it take X years to produce. Why develop casks if the feds are going to do what they were told to do. That is, the reason that dry casks were not developed in the late 1960's was that the entire nuclear power industry was relying on the US government to meet their Congressionally mandated responsibility to have a facility for high level (fuel) waste. When it became clear that the government was not going to meet that commitment on site storage became the only effective method. Some plants (such as Rancho Seco are looking to dry cask storage so that the spent fuel pool can be decommissioned and the fuel stored in a location and manner that they believe is just as safe as the spent fuel pool (some say safer).

So, if they are to continue to operate and pool is filling fast, they need to either build another pool or use casks. That is, you are correct that the filling of the pool is an operational limit. However, they could build pools but casks seemed more secure and cheaper.

The main purpose of dry cask storage is to keep the reactors going without having to build a new spent fuel pool or national nuclear waste repository.

Safer would be a "dry" cask IN a spent fuel pool  -- but that would cost the industry a lot more money.  Safer still would be to put the fuel in casks in pools inside the containment domes!  That would require shutting the reactors down, of course, but that has to happen anyway.

Well actually the best would be dry casks in a containment that would stop entry and contain any release. This is a problem for pools now. That is, your idea is not the "best" answer. The best is small containments to hold the casks.
 When a nuclear plant has problems that can be blamed on management or workers, rather than on a system, that's who they blame.  That way, they can fire people, or even give up and sell the facility to new investors (as was done with Indian Point recently) if there is too much public outcry.  The new owner promises that things will be better, and life goes on.
Management and workers are the system. That is, the components are not part of the system. I have never heard of the "system" causing a plant to have problems. Usually, the cause for problems is worker error or lack of management oversight.

The past saw a push for lots of profits and no problems. That has changed. The push is now for no problems.

As far as I know EVERY plant has an independent review group and a root cause group. They are responsible to tell what is the cause of a problem. Often management disagrees; however, that has not changed the conclusions.
Also, note that spontaneous combustion of spent fuel is possible for many years after the fuel has been removed from a reactor, if the fuel comes in contact with air, or is simply dropped, pushed, crushed, smashed by a plane full of fuel, etc..

Sorry, can not happen for nuclear power fuel. Nuc power fuel is a ceramic. There is just no way to get it hot enough to burn. Exposing the ceramic pellets to air has no effect. Exposing the pellets to water - no effect. However, if the fuel tube (rod or pin) gets hot enough (as at TMI) the Zr can oxidize and form ZrO and the release of Hydrogen. Of course the pin fails and the ceramic pellets fall out too.

 The "inert gas" is NOT just to prevent rust!

The inert gases in fuel are a byproduct of the reaction. They can also result from neutron activation of air. That is, nucs do not use inert gases - they are a byproduct. They have short half life and decay away quickly.

The zircalloy fuel cladding aggressively corrodes in air, releasing the fuel inside.

ONLY at high temperatures. At the temperature in a cask the amount of Zr corrosion from air is very small. You need heat and lots of it to force the reaction of Zr + O = ZrO. No heat? No ZrO.

Also, note that spent fuel which HAS somehow managed to catch fire (perhaps, say, by an airplane crashing into it) is virtually impossible to put out.  A dry cask fire could cause a million casualties or more.

It would be easier to get a ceramic (like a china plate) to burn.
 Radioactive waste cannot be rendered harmless.

No, and neither can lots of chemicals released from combustion processes - including the combustion of "sun cycle" materials like alcohol.

  YES, THEY ARE POOR.  You see, the owners keep taking all the excess money, and on a day-to-day basis, the plants have little money for investing in things like new equipment.  Nearly everything is replaced only AFTER failure -- including pumps, pipes, valves, switches, bearings, straps, hooks, hydraulic lines, control room electronics, etc. etc. etc..

No. There is a replacement program and preventative maintenance (PM) in every plant. These are based on data related to failure history for each part in the entire industry. That is, pumps are routinely rebuilt, bearings are routinely tested for noise and heating, valves are exercised and repaired as needed. Electronics are tested and replaced. Gauges are tested, calibrated, and replaced. In fact, much of the low level rad waste at nuc plants is parts and materials used in PM.
 Only the world's most corrupt, secretive, dangerous AND lucrative "industry" -- the NUCLEAR MAFIA.

I am not sure of what is secretive. Everything I have seen in the industry is open (expect issues of security).

Finally, if the industry was lucrative it would have to be much cheaper than coal and gas. As you pointed out the differential between coal and gas is not enough to make it exceptionally lucrative.

Paul lavely <>

Russell D. Hoffman,
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, California