From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: TERRORIST, TERRORIST, MAKE ME A BOMB!
TO: Paul Lavely, Director, Office of Radiation Safety, UC Berkeley, CA <email@example.com>
FROM: "Russell D. Hoffman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
SUBJECT: TERRORIST, TERRORIST, MAKE ME A BOMB!
DATE: Tuesday, June 4th, 2002
Your answers to my statements continue to be both ARROGANT and EVASIVE, if, on the face of them, polite. (I understand the guards were very polite at the entrances to the crematoria, too.) I've posted your previous non-response online, for anyone interested in reading how a person of power and authority excuses a lifetime of poisoning the earth, while pretending to be responding to a citizen's fears:
You try to ASSERT through me, to the public and to my readers, that in your expert opinion, America's nuclear power plants are safe -- regardless of the litany of facts I have uncovered and presented to the contrary.
You didn't respond with INFORMATIVE ANSWERS to my questions. Well, no wonder. You have a lot to lose if your pro-nuclear house of cards ever comes crashing down around you. Or more precisely, when nuclear terrorism, Mother Nature, or human error destroys an American nuke or nukes, with a breach of the containment, you'll lose the most valuable thing you've ever possessed -- your credibility. And you'll lose it forever.
But you know what? That's not the really sad part. What's really sad is that Osama bin Laden undoubtedly knows the truth about our nuclear power plants' vulnerabilities, and their awesome destructive powers, at least as well as I do. I am merely a citizen with access to little more than standard public documents and yet I know these awful truths. Anyone who bothers to study what the plants are made of (pumps, pipes valves, and vessels -- and poison, nothing more), and how they are run, knows. Sure, I've had some lucky breaks which have given me some additional information now and then, but that just confirms on a personal basis the things everyone can know if they study the available literature. So Osama knows. Even if you won't speak openly about how dangerous the plants are -- even if you try to mislead me and everyone else who might read your letter -- even if you won't say a word about how perilous our lives are right now. Osama already knows. He and his followers won't ever forget, either. Neither will I. And neither will the other activists. Of course, most of the public doesn't know plutonium from a common cold virus, so they won't be demanding that we stop making TARGETS FOR BIN LADEN.
Americans say we won't forget 9-11. I say we've already forgotten, and it will take another tragedy before we remember. Remember what? That they could have struck four nuke plants that day, and next time maybe they will.
Then what would your response be? Yet more arrogance and evasiveness: "Don't worry folks, this isn't so bad! Let's build more nukes!".
No, let's not. Let's shut them all down and give ourselves, and future generations, a chance.
Here's a true story -- as is everything else in this letter, to the best of my knowledge:
There's a nuclear power plant in the Far East which is so poorly constructed and run, that the joke about it is that it's better to put down on your resume that you spent time in the Texas State Penitentiary for child molestation than to say you worked at that plant! The problems at this particular nuke plant are so well known, in the industries that supply it with parts, that this story was casually told at a dinner table at an industrial products show nearly a decade ago. It was before I got heavily involved in nuclear issues, other than the occasional "letter to the editor", so I didn't realize how interesting a statement it was. But I never forgot it, either. And I'll wager, neither will you.
Such a story about a coal-fired plant would be sad, but at a coal-fired plant, it can't wipe out thousands of square miles permanently, and kill millions of people if a "worst case scenario" occurred. On the other hand, Chernobyl's "exclusion zone" is over 1,200 square miles and should be extended, but will probably be made smaller since land is, and always will be, at a premium. Even contaminated land. Especially for poor people.
Those few members of the public who have bothered to learn the terrible truth about Chernobyl, and about San Onofre, Davis-Besse, Monticello, Indian Point, Three Mile Island, and all those other problem children of the commercial nuclear "fleet", know that there's a serious problem in the system. They knew it before 9-11. So your arrogance and evasiveness are inappropriate. The public has a right to demand that people in positions of power speak the truth. Right now, you should be warning the public, from your exalted professional perspective, that nuclear power plants are extremely vulnerable and casastrophes are inevitable. Osama knows it. I know it. I'm sure you know it, regardless of what you say.
The rest of humanity -- those who might die -- have a right to know it, too.
But you won't say it, of course. You pretend that the NRC's assessment of the situation proves that the NRC's assessment of the situation is the correct view. Strange logic, especially since the official NRC / DOE (Department of Energy (www.doe.gov)) "scientific" studies routinely ignore realistic terrorism scenarios, AND asteroids too, for that matter, in their mathematical calculations for how safe the nuclear industry is. They also ignore 17-year employees with grudges and heavy arsenals. (This particular threat, which occurred at San Onofre, wasn't even mentioned during the NRC's recent public meeting about the plant's safety record.)
These sorts of omissions mean that all NRC / DOE calculations for society's "return on investment" from nuclear power are FANTASY. The math may be "accurate" to many decimal places, but it assumes about 1000 different things that can't possibly ALL be true. There are 1000s of things their calculations ignore, including how damaging a tiny particle of plutonium might be to an 8-month premature infant. (A hundred years from now, don't you think we'll be able to keep 1-month-old fetuses alive outside the human womb?) That particle of plutonium might have been released into the environment years earlier, by some STUPID (OR SIMPLY CARELESS, OR IGNORANT?) BERKELEY scientist, OR by an accident at a nuclear power plant -- a plant that only exists because the "experts" all looked the other way (in a circular fashion; that is, looking at each other), thus coming to a fatally incorrect "consensus".
The error is that there are -- and always have been -- better energy choices. Clean energy in the quantities humans have traditionally tended to need is relatively easy to obtain. Terraforming Mars is a bit more difficult, but CLEANLY utilizing some of the gazillion kilowatts the sun drops down on Earth each day is not a big challenge of technology. It is just a challenge of ideas -- greed versus humanity, in this case. You claim to have considered the alternatives fairly. But you can't look at the alternatives fairly if you concurrently think: (1): That Chernobyl only killed a few dozen people, (2): That all American meltdowns will stay inside the containment dome, (3): That spent fuel fires can't result in a 100% burn of the fuel and evacuations as far as 500 miles downwind, (4): That winds only head off in one direction, like a power line, minimizing their area, or only spread out evenly in all directions all over the globe, minimizing their localized maximum dosage. (Which of these two assumptions a particular study uses depends on which will result in the greatest minimization of calculated health effects.), and (5): that a little plutonium in an infant's lung, if small enough, is a good thing (that poppycock little theory known as Hormesis).
There are SO MANY fallacies, Paul, in your logic. A square 30 miles on each side is 900 square miles. That, you've calculated correctly. How could so much area get contaminated by a spent fuel fire, you lamely ask? The answer is simple: Fire and rain. First, incinerate the fuel, and then let rain deposit the whole load close to the plant because there happens to be little or no wind that day. And despite your claim that such contamination is easy to clean up, it isn't.
In your opinion, is plutonium good for children and other living things? If not, precisely how bad is it at the spectrum of dosages people currently get, or might get if one of your beloved nuke industry's "experiments" goes wrong? How will the nuclear industry contain all their plutonium, besides by giving it to the government, since that just means, handing the problem to you and me. I have a right to a clean environment just because I want one, and so does everyone else. I don't want your "quap". And our lights don't need to go out without nuclear energy. Politics might make the connection, but science, economics, and the laws of supply and demand don't require it. We could shut down the nukes today and it would have less impact upon our economy than when the telecoms went bust, the dot coms went bust, or Enron went bust. In other words, most people wouldn't notice a thing.
Instead, by using nukes, every two or three days we need another new dry storage cask, and you don't care. You pretend to think that we can safely store and protect them all. And if one burns up, it will just spread out so thinly that once again, as when perfectly contained, it's harmless. Or, you propose, we'll clean it up so well that it disappears from the environment. Nice thought, but utterly impractical.
Frankly, I don't think there's a snowball's chance in a reactor's pressure vessel that you actually believe what you claim. You just hope that by lying often enough to the public, and in a unified voice with your fellow pro-nukers, the problem will go away, and the fears generated by 9-11 will fade with time.
But MOTHER NATURE is a better terrorist against our nuclear power plants than bin Laden could ever hope to be. EMBRITTLEMENT is a more likely MASS MURDERER in America than BOEING -- although they (Boeing) were certainly partially culpable for 9-11, and I don't know WHY there isn't public outcry about that. We could have had stronger cockpit doors decades ago.
MUST WE ALWAYS WAIT UNTIL AFTER TRAGEDY STRIKES, BEFORE REDUCING OUR RISKS?
After, say, four meltdowns among our 103 operating commercial nuclear power plants in America (possibly from unknown and unknowable causes), when all those people are dying and suffering around you, THEN will you call for the closure of the other 99 nuclear power plants, which would still be making their owners a fortune? Or would it take 102 reactors melting down before YOU would call for the closure of the last one?
The non-nuclear viewpoint survives the logic tests and your viewpoint doesn't. Your lack of willingness to give forthright answers doesn't aid your position, either. Here are some questions I posed in previous letters, that you didn't answer:
1) Do you approve of the use, in war, of uranium weapons (known, erroneously, as "depleted" uranium weapons) such as those used in Afghanistan, which are nearly as radioactive as a fresh (unused) nuclear fuel rod?
2) Do you think the use of, or threats to use, radioactive weapons can lead to retaliatory radioactive strikes against us, which otherwise would not have been nuclear?
3) What size particle of Pu 239 causes cancer in a health adult male 99% of the time? 1% of the time? 0.1% of the time? 0.0001% of the time? (I've made this question a bit more specific than in my previous letter, because your first answer was to tell me -- as if I or anyone else doesn't already know -- that one cigarette might, or might not, kill me.)
4) In your opinion, is Low-Level Radiation dangerous? In other words, support your position for (or against) Hormesis.
Unbiased people consider all the issues. I've read a lot more pro-nuke and government literature than anti-nuke "manifestos" and books in my life. Can you make the inverse claim about YOUR opposition? I sincerely doubt it.
You refuse to allow consideration of all available facts at the same time. When discussing possible environmental damage, you assume only a tiny portion of all the radioactive waste at a site would be released -- never all of it. When discussing releases, you assume the odds against catastrophic amounts being released are so low that you can completely ignore the possibility. You make the specious claim that radiation in the environment can be cleaned up easily -- it can't. And when discussing accidents, you assume all safety systems are going to work as planned, even being so arrogant as to call Emergency Core Cooling Systems "tested" (your word). In reality, they've NEVER BEEN TESTED. Containment domes have NEVER BEEN TESTED. No plane has ever crashed into a nuclear power plant to TEST the assertion (which defies logic and engineering) that the plant could survive. You know these tests have never been done -- everyone in the industry (and all the activists) know it, too.
So let's set and keep the record straight. What limited testing as has been done has shown invariably that there are very definite and easily surpassed strength limits for dry casks and everything else. No test could ever prove anything else. For example, a cask might be tested to withstand being under 3 feet of water for 8 hours. That hardly means you could recover a spent fuel cask from a sunken ship in an 80-foot deep harbor -- a very realistic potential scenario!
Your letter also confirms my point that pro-nukers always delude themselves, assuming that the control rods will always drop, and that's always the end of that discussion as far as they're concerned. LOCAs, cracked heads, inoperative primary containments -- none of these are worries to you at all. Absolutely NO ACCIDENT you can envision can actually release any of the radioactive MUCK at a site into people's environments -- into an infant's lungs. That's your answer, but it's WRONG, Paul. Fantasies are not allowed after 9-11. Besides, that's the exact kind of minimization I accused the Government of doing -- that you can do it, too, is, well, expected. So what have you proved? You certainly haven't DISPROVED the concept that there IS a direct link between choosing NUCLEAR ENERGY instead of WIND POWER (for that extra 7% of our energy that nuclear gives) -- and PLUTONIUM IN INFANT'S LUNGS.
No nuclear energy? Great! Then NO plutonium in infant's lungs. NO strontium 90 in their bones. NO cesium 137 in their food supply. NO radioactive iodine.
You say you don't promote nuclear -- that you just promote a balanced energy viewpoint. But since nuclear is your electron-supplier-of-choice, then YOU PROMOTE NUCLEAR.
From your responses, one would think that a "worst-case scenario" is an averaged thing -- it isn't. A "worst-case scenario" is one specific accident -- say, the vaporization of all 406,000 Curies of Pu 238 and Pu 239 on board NASA's Cassini space probe in a reentry accident over a major city.
It's a terrorist attacking a nuclear power plant with a nuclear bomb.
HOW MANY DEATHS DO YOU THINK THAT WILL CAUSE?
Your statements are based on minimizations of effects by forces not guaranteed to be present. Fuel pellets burn at somewhere around 2500 degrees C. The center of a conventional-type bomb exploding can be 5,000 degrees C or more -- IN OTHER WORDS, hot enough to start the fuel burning!
AFTER A SPENT FUEL FIRE , permanent relocation would likely be necessary.
Build the plants anyway, you cry! Someone ELSE will stop the terrorist, won't they? No one would ever hate us THAT MUCH! Someone else will stop the asteroid! Someone else will stop the tsunami! Someone else will stop the earthquake! It's not your job, is it?
The truth is, no one can stop all those things all the time. The tsunami wall at San Onofre won't stop a 100 foot tsunami -- at 35 feet, it would barely even slow it down. You claim to have studied the energy alternatives, but you can't tell me the chances of an asteroid impact on your beloved nuke -- and you won't tell me how many deaths you think that can cause. But your JOB demands that you KNOW these things.
Also, although you haven't come out and said it (yet), it appears that you assume "hormesis" is a proven fact. So, if radiation is spread thin enough, it will do no harm or might even be beneficial, even to preemies. Of course, you can't prove that, but you desperately need to believe it so that when radionuclides are spread into the environment, you can claim that the damages are limited to a specific surrounding area, and then you can pretend NO DEATHS OCCUR outside that circle. (That's why you think so few people have died from Chernobyl.) You didn't have an answer for how to stop the crime of spreading spent fuel around after a terrorist attack. You just say it's like a gas explosion or something. That's irresponsible fiction on your part. A nuke accident would be much, much worse. And bin Laden and/or his irritated and irrational followers know it.
There are reasons people in your position -- pro-nukers who are supposedly "experts", that is -- seldom give any numbers which activists (and Congresspeople, and judges in courts of law) could use to determine public policy -- because those numbers might be used to show how many MILLIONS of people would be killed if a few accidents were to happen near major U.S. cities. But the public has a right to know what its energy decisions might cost them. Otherwise, it's a knife in the back when it happens. You don't really want to be guilty of THAT, do you? If not, then please: Answer the questions in a forthright manner from now on (thanks in advance).
During any debate with you, let's not flip-flop from one topic to another every time the going gets rough, okay? If we are talking about estimates of damages from a full release of, say, a fuel assembly, then we are NOT, at that time, talking about the odds for or against it happening. Flipping back and forth is a standard government and nuke industry spokesworm technique. Stay on topic if you really intend to educate me as to why nuclear power plants are safe. I have no need for obfuscation. Of course, maybe YOU could learn a thing or two from ME, eh? I've studied nuclear issues for 30 years, and collected a lot of information, none of which you seem to have ever noticed (like, that there really, truly, is NO SOLUTION to the nuclear waste problem because of basic physics issues that can't be overcome -- in other words, at least some of the 293 as-yet-unresolved technical issues regarding Yucca Mountain are, in fact, unresolvable).
To be FOR nuclear power in America today is to say "HERE, TERRORISTS -- LET ME MAKE YOU A BOMB!" You can't justify that attitude.
I urge you to get hold of Bennett Ramberg's book: Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy: An Unrecognized Military Peril. Also, let me suggest Irrevy by Berkeley's own John Gofman, and Mother Country by Marilynne Robinson. I challenge you to read my own web site, especially a particular group of correspondences known as The NTIRS Collection, so that you and I don't have to go over all that ground again prior to entering an honest debate with at least a few agreed-on facts. I challenge you not to be totally disgusted by Mr. Steadham's rude behavior during those debates (Steadham is the webmaster for www.ntirs.org (a pro-nuker web site)). He served your side poorly, but at least he sort of tried -- even if it did tie him in knots so much that he had to resort to stating opposing opinions on different days.
In those letters, written last summer, I tried very hard to run through the whole gamut -- the expanded explanations you claim to seek in your recent letter to me. If you really seek answers, and if you're NOT as ARROGANT as you appear, then I challenge you to read just a few hundred pages of prior debate:
Sorry they aren't better organized -- I'll add an index when I have a chance -- but I believe they are all there, much though it raises Mr. Steadham's ire for his attempts at vilification of YH&OS to be permanently codified online.
Do you just like debate for the sake of keeping the debate going? That's what's kept America from looking at these nuclear Achilles heels for 6 decades, thus doing nothing to change our nation's deadly course, so of course, I do expect that that is what you want!
You question me about my "sources" as if the reliability of my statements had been a problem in the past -- it hasn't, your lame claims notwithstanding.
So far, it appears that to you, Paul, a "fact" is anything the NRC claims. In essence, you claim, in your letter to me, that the FACT that the NRC went ahead and built nuclear reactors despite knowing that those same reactors wouldn't be able to withstand airplane strikes just PROVES that they (the reactors) actually CAN withstand airplane strikes!
What kind of twisted logic IS THAT, anyway? Is there a name for it (besides "logical fallacy", "circular logic", "vicious cycle", "fatal flaw", and "bass-ackwards")? Do they teach that kind of "logic" in the Nuclear Navy's (ILL-) Logic Courses?
You aren't the expert you pretend to be (and are paid to be). You answer my points with pointless questions. You skip anything you feel is unanswerable (or would take too much of your precious time). It would be morally responsible of you to answer questions to the best of your ability, instead of evading to the best of your ability.
Since 9-11, enough new spent fuel has been created to require another 50 or MORE NEW DRY CASKS. So, 50 more TARGETS for bin Laden and Mother Nature! Since I started writing THIS document, 4 of 5 NEW dry cask's worth of nuke waste has been created. (I wish I could write faster, or more succinctly, but I can't.)
By not discussing the full spectrum of facts, you have helped get us into a terrible mess, and NOW, rather than help FIX IT, you claim that it's not happening anyway. There is no catastrophe awaiting us. There are no worries.
Here's an example of something that worries me: I learned, through an offhand remark, about a chain of events at San Onofre which I refer to generally as "the crane-drop incident", when an 80,000 lb crane was dropped. The loss of the crane was being completely ignored, as if it was of no interest whatsoever -- or perhaps, wasn't even known about by the media. What I discovered the next Monday morning, when I contacted your beloved Nuclear Regulatory Commission (www.nrc.gov), was a regulatory loophole you could -- LITERALLY -- "drop a crane through". It was just one more warning, one which I picked up on, but others could have, and there have been many more WARNINGS since then. Since discussions of these events are already available online (see links to my essays, below), I needn't repeat them here, but somehow, I'm sure you haven't read it yet, or you wouldn't be asserting to me that "the reactors are safe".
One indicator that there's a slew of new problems at San Onofre, albeit hardly 100% reliable, (but far more reliable than asking S.C.E. or the N.R.C.), is the number of activists who attended the recent plant safety assessment hearing -- about 80, compared to just 3 (including my wife and myself) last year. People ARE waking up. You should, too!
There is crystal-clear proof that huge areas of America's commercial nuclear power plants have NO REGULATORY OVERSIGHT whatsoever, and this lack of oversight is completely in opposition to standard American law and universal logic. Yet you tell me the plants are safe. The crane-drop incident proves that at best, no one would know.
Last June (2001), while discussing with the NRC the regulatory environment surrounding the loss of a piece of capital equipment like a crane, I also talked to the NRC about the dangers of an airplane striking a nuclear power plant. Of course, I got nowhere. (These conversations led to allegations handled (or rather, MIShandled) at the highest levels of the NRC's internal allegations review board.) It's all documented at my web site.
In closing, I'm glad to say that I believe in these times of extreme crises, there are (finally) some people in our government (and in particular, in the General Accounting Office (www.gao.gov) who will give my comments a lot more careful consideration than you have. You might as well work for the Nuclear Energy Institute (www.nei.org), your answers are so misleading and inappropriate.
Here is some additional suggested items:
Davis-Besse and related essays:
San Onofre and related essays:
NASA's Cassini and related essays:
List of nuclear power plants in America, with various problems they've had:
"A loophole you could drop a crane through":
Details on Environmental Health Coalition's refusal to help shut San Onofre:
The effects of Nuclear Weapons (a closely related topic):
You keep asking me to lead you to sources -- here's 250 books you can dig through for the stuff they NEVER teach you in the Nuclear Navy:
I've also sent you, the URLs of several government documents on spent fuel hazards:
A related news item seen in RADBULL is shown below. This author is not related to the Hoffman quoted in the article.
*City Council May Back Case Against Berkeley Lab*
The Daily Californian <http://www.dailycal.org>
Lawsuit Asks Lab to Finish Tritium Treatment
*By MIKE MEYERS*
Daily Cal Staff Writer Tuesday, May 28, 2002
The Berkeley City Council may provide $15,000 tonight to support a lawsuit demanding that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory complete its treatment of radioactive tritium.
The Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste, a Berkeley activist group, initiated the lawsuit against the lab. Council members Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington are asking the city to support the underfunded group's efforts.
"Without that piece of funding, (the committee's lawsuit) is pretty much dead, and the message goes out to the community that the fox is guarding the henhouse," Spring said.
A division of the lab, the National Tritium Labeling Facility, lost funding from the National Institutes of Health and ceased operation in December 2001. In a letter to the council, the lab's Safety Director David McGraw said the lab is conducting a "safe and orderly closure" of the facility.
But the committee has said the tritium cleanup is not safe and presents a grave danger to the surrounding community.
"Tritium is extremely dangerous for unborn children and very hazardous for adults," said Berkeley Environmental Commissioner Leuren Moret.
Tritium is an unstable isotope of hydrogen that can replace stable hydrogen in a water molecule. Scientists can use this property to track water molecules in the body and "label" experimental drugs. Beginning in 1982, scientists conducted this type of biomedical research at the National Tritium Labeling Facility.
Despite Berkeley activists' claims to the contrary, many scientists agree that tritium presents little if any danger to humans.
"(Tritium) is relatively innocuous because it has a very low energy emission," said UC Berkeley nuclear chemistry professor Darleane Hoffman.
Tritium occurs naturally, Hoffman added, created by cosmic rays. Small dissolved quantities exist in nearly all the Earth's air and water, she said.
But the alleged dangers of tritium are not the only issue, said some lawsuit supporters.
At the Feb. 5, 2002 City Council meeting, the lab's attorney Nancy Shepard told the council that the lab would complete the cleanup by April 1.
But the lab is still treating tritium. McGraw has written that this is a temporarily delay, but many are doubtful.
"The lab has transmorphed into a waste treatment facility," Spring said. "They're still using tritium; they're still using hazardous waste."
Spring and Worthington's funding request faces a tough fight with council centrist and often swing vote Linda Maio opposed.
"Given that they're so far along on the treatment, I just don't see what a lawsuit would do," Maio said.
Maio said she will reserve final judgment on the issue until she hears testimony from city staffer and toxic expert Nabil Al-Hadithy, whom she called a "neutral third party."
Even if Al-Hadithy testifies the lab presents a threat, Maio said she would prefer to put direct pressure on the lab rather than using a lawsuit.
"(The lab) certainly would not want to get off on a bad footing with the city," she said.
The city's Peace and Justice Commission has thrown its support behind the lawsuit, issuing a statement calling for all radioactive waste treatment to take place away from densely populated and earthquake- and firestorm-prone Berkeley.
Some council members questioned the logic of providing funding for someone else's lawsuit.
"It's taxpayers' money," said Councilmember Miriam Hawley. "If the city feels we need to sue the lab, we should do it ourselves."
(c) 2002 Berkeley, California Email: email@example.com