From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: One down, 1143 to go... ("Fireballs Across America")
In-Reply-To: <3D728E02.00003B.01220@bob>
Dear readers,

Here are some news items which are indicators of the problems that might happen during the transportation of spent nuclear reactor cores (aka "spent fuel").  The first two articles shown below are current (September 1, 2002). They contain a few coincidental connections for this author:

Encinitas, where Deputy Noll worked, is the next town south from my own town of Carlsbad, CA.
Like Noll, I also drove an SUV through AZ on Friday, Aug. 30th, 2002 (returning home from a cross-country trip).
An article about me appeared on the same page (B1) of the same paper (the North County Times) just over a month earlier:
Carlsbad, CA and Carlsbad, NM have the same town name.
I met Carrie Dickerson (via phone) during my trip across the country.

The purpose of my trip was to collect documents I had stored, including hundreds of nuke-related newspaper articles from 1978 through 1980.  Several of these articles have been typed in, below.  All are complete and unedited.

Also, please visit the newest entry to my Glossary of Nuclear Terminology:


(Includes an Associate Press drawing of a meltdown from around the time of Three Mile Island!)


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA


(1) From Bob Nichols, September 1st, 2002:
     Nuclear Bomb Material Truck in Accident

(2) From The North County Times, September 1st, 2002:
     Sheriff's deputy, family die in Arizona crash

(3) From the New York Times, July 20th, 1979:
     Atomic Waste Shipping Facing Tighter Scrutiny

(4) From the Bridgeport Post, November 27th, 1979, page 33:
     Radioactive-carrying trucks overturn; one person killed

(5) From the Bridgeport (CT) Post, September 26th, 1979, page 3:
     Fiery truck radioactive?

(6) From the Philadelphia Bulletin, May 10th, 1979, page 8:
    Bomb threat forces evacaution (sic) of nuke plant

(7) From the New York Times, Sunday, December 9th, 1979, page 70:
     Undersea Caverns Could Provide Storage Space for Nuclear Waste

(8) From the Bridgeport (CT) Post , February 12th, 1980:
     Engineer wants to rocket nuclear waste into space

(9) From: Bridgeport (CT) Post, November 10th, 1979 (last page):
     (Untitled article about electrical problems at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station)


At 03:00 PM 9/1/02 , "Bob Nichols" <> wrote:

Subject: Nuclear Bomb Material Truck in Accident

September 1, 2002
contact Bob Nichols

(Oklahoma City) September 1, 2002. From KRQE in Albuquerque: A
tractor-trailer truck carrying nuclear waste radioactive material was hit by
a 19-year-old drunk driver and burst into flames. Mrs. Carrie Dickerson, the
Co-founder of Oklahoma's own Citizen's Action for Safe Energy (CASE), said
"That's bomb grade material they store in Idaho, this is terribly serious."

Department of Energy officials controlled all communications and claim no
one was "seriously" injured. DOE officials also claimed that there was no
visible damage to casks and no obvious leak of radioactivity.

The teenaged driver of the pickup truck, Israel Alvidrez of Seminole, Texas
was not available for comment. He is thought to be in Eddy County jail.

The assistant manager of the waste program for the Energy Department's
Carlsbad field office is Kerry Watson. He said "The accident occurred early
Sunday morning on U-S 62-180 on the north side of Carlsbad." Watson says it
was the first in 1,144 shipments to the DOE's WIPP Plant."

Mrs. Dickerson, of CASE said "We demand an immediate independent
investigation to be sure that no deadly radioactive material escaped. If
there was, it will be there for a time span beyond human imagination. This
is a harbinger of things to come I'm afraid, God bless us all."



Sheriff's deputy, family die in Arizona crash
Staff Writer

ENCINITAS ---- An Encinitas sheriff's deputy and his family died in a fiery crash with a big rig in Arizona, authorities said Saturday.

They said Deputy Scott Noll, 34; his wife, Laurali, 38, secretary to the Encinitas Sheriff's Station commander, and their two children, about 7 and 8 years old, were returning Friday from a family vacation when the accident happened north of the city of Lake Havasu.

"They were great people," said an Encinitas station employee, who didn't want to be named. "Our people are just in shock."

The big-rig driver and the driver of a 1993 Jeep Cherokee also died in the four-vehicle crash. Officials weren't releasing names, pending notification of relatives.

Noll was an eight-year veteran of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. Encinitas Sgt. Chuck Yancey said Noll started working at the coastal station three years ago.

The deputy worked overlapping patrol shifts and he was a backup deputy for the sheriff's SWAT unit, Yancey said.

"He had just been notified before he went on vacation that he had been selected for training officer," said the sergeant.

Sheriff's Department officials declined to comment, pending notification of all the Nolls' relatives and Encinitas sheriff's personnel.

Yancey said Noll and his family had been boating with other relatives during the past week at Lake Havasu. The Nolls were towing a boat behind their 1999 Toyota 4Runner as they headed home Friday, the sergeant said.

The Nolls' SUV was the last of three vehicles traveling north just after 11 a.m. on Highway 95, 3 1/2 miles north of the city of Lake Havasu, said Becca Delap, a communications supervisor for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

"It's a very busy highway," Delap said, noting there are only two lanes.

She said an 18-wheeler rolling south crossed over the highway's center line into the on-coming traffic.

The rig hit the rear of a 1992 Chevrolet truck, but that driver wasn't hurt, said Delap.

Starting to jackknife, the semi-truck and trailer slammed into the 1993 Jeep Cherokee, killing the Jeep's female driver. Delap said the Nolls' SUV, next in the on-coming traffic, went under the rig's trailer.

"At that point the fuel tanks on the 18-wheeler ruptured," she said.

Delap said the big rig and the SUV burst into flames. The Noll family and the truck driver died, she said.

Arizona authorities closed the highway for seven hours for the crash investigation and cleanup.
Contact staff writer Jo Moreland at (760) 901-4085 or


From the New York Times, July 20th, 1979:

Atomic Waste Shipping Facing Tighter Scrutiny

WASHINGTON, July 19 (AP) -- The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said today that his agency intended to tighten scrutiny over low-level radioactive waste that is packaged and shipped across state lines for storage.

The chairman, Joseph M. Hendrie, told a Senate commerce subcommittee that the commission was acting on the request of the Governors of Nevada, South Carolina, and Washington, the three states where waste sites are situated.

Dr. Hendrie said that trained commission and Transportation Department officials would perform inspections on a regular basis to make sure waste was properly packaged for shipment.  "Selected containers will be opened during the course of inspection," he wrote in a letter to Governors Robert List of Nevada, Richard Riley of South Carolina and Dixy Lee Ray of Washington.

Federal officials currently inspect waste packages, but not on a regular basis, according to a commission spokesman.

Governor List, testifying before the same subcommittee yesterday, ordered a disposal site at Beatty, Nev., shut down earlier this month after a truck carrying nuclear waste from Michigan arrived leaking radiation.  Earlier, a waste fire occurred inside a truck parked outside the gate of the Nevada disposal site.


From the Bridgeport Post, November 27th, 1979, page 33:

Radioactive-carrying trucks overturn; one person killed

by the Associated Press

Law officers say no radiation leaks were detected when trucks carrying low-level radioactive materials overturned in accidents in North Carolina and Idaho.  One person was killed.

Authorities cordoned off part of a highway near Winston-Salem, N.C., Monday after a tractor-trailer truck carrying a small glass ampule of krypton 85 -- a gas used primarily in medical research -- collided with a car.

The driver of the car was killed, said officers, who did not immediately identify the victim.

The driver of the truck, identified as William Logan Tomblin, 51, of Rutherfordton, was not injured.

Dr. Richard Witcofski, a radiology professor at Bowman Gray Medical School, said he detected no radiation at the scene. "It poses no danger; it's just a small amount," he said.

Dayne Brown, head of the radiation protection branch of the North Carolina Department of Human Resources, said any leaking gas would quickly dissipate in the open air.

Meanwhile, a truck carrying a package of plutonium and low-level radioactive nitric acid overturned Monday on snow-covered Interstate 80 about 16 miles east of Boise, Idaho.

Bob Funderburg, Idaho Health and Welfare Department radiation officer, said a team of radiation experts examined the wreckage and found no evidence of leakage of radioactive material.

Funderburg said the package contained less than one teaspoon of plutonium 241, a low-level radioactive substance.

"It's not the plutonium 239 that is used in nuclear reactors," he said.  "It is a very innocuous substance that doesn't even require shipping placards on transporting vehicles."

The package was being shipped from the federally owned nuclear facility at Oak Ridge, Tenn., to the University of Washington.  It also contained a radioactive solution of nitric acide inside a lead shilded package, Funderburg said.

The truck driver, Scott Mattson, 44, of Salt Lake City, was treated for a shoulder injury and released.



From the Bridgeport (CT) Post, September 26th, 1979, page 3:

Fiery truck radioactive?

SENTINEL BUTTE, N.D. (AP) -- Authorities planned to search the debris of a burned truck near the prairie town of Sentinel Butte today in hopes of finding a container of radioactive material intact.

"The truck was carrying what we believe is radioactive material, of an unknown type or quantity," said Mike Vorachek of the state Disaster Emergency Services.

"The truck has burned.  We don't know the status of the container or the material.  We do know the material is nonfissile, meaning it won't blow up.  We believe it is a low level, radioactive source and shouldn't pose a danger to anyone in the immediate area."

The truck was en route from a Westinghouse laboratory in Pennsylvania to Hannaford, Wash., Vorachek said.

It caught fire about 5 p.m. after a wheel on the cab of the double trailer truck fell off, he said.

"We're unsure of the exact cause of the fire.  The driver is O.K.  He was alone, " Vorachek said.

Although the area was blocked off , interstate traffic was allowed to pass.  The accident occurred in open cattle country, which is sparsely populated.


[[[ In the above article Hanford, WA is referred to as "Hannaford", and the concept of "bioaccumulation" appears to be unheard of. -- rdh ]]]


From the Philadelphia Bulletin, May 10th, 1979, page 8 (note: "evacaution" is the way "evacuation" is spelled in the actual article heading):

Bomb threat forces evacaution of nuke plant

Richmond, Va. -- (AP) -- A telephone bomb threat forced the evacuation of non-essential workers at a Surry nuclear power plant where authorities are investigating what some have termed sabotage of nuclear fuel elements.

The plant was evacuated for a few hours yesterday, but a search turned up nothing, plant officials said.

The bomb threat came two days after Virginia Electric & Power Co. officials discovered that a white crystalline substance had been poured over 62 new fuel elements.



From the New York Times, Sunday, December 9th, 1979, page 70:

Undersea Caverns Could Provide Storage Space for Nuclear Waste

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8 (AP) -- Scientists say newly discovered undersea chambers, beneath two miles of water, 150 feet of rock and 50 feet of lava, may be ideal places to store nuclear wastes and toxic chemicals.

The vast caverns were found this summer in the Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos Islands.  They have probably been "perfectly sealed" for two million years, according to Roger Anderson of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory.

Mr. Anderson, who addressed a conference on the American Geophysical Union that was held here this week, said the caverns, loosely filled with rocky rubble, could be nearly perfect tombs for "the many things that man makes that must be deposited where they will never come out again."

But he said that only one hold had been sunk in the caverns -- that by the Glomar Challenger, a deep-sea drilling ship -- and more work was needed to see whether they could be used for storage.

A Major Technological Chore

Onshore salt and rock deposits and solid rock layers beneath the ocean are also being studied as potential graveyards for nuclear wastes.  But getting the waste into man-made tunnels and vaults would be a major technological chore, said Mark Zoback of the United States Geological Survey in nearby Menlo Park.

The undersea caverns could be tapped in a standard drilling operation, however.  Once the well was in place, wastes could be poured down the hole and sealed forever, the scientists said.

"You would have hardly any on-site danger at the time of emplacement," Mr. Zoback said.  "When you're drilling the holes things can always go wrong, but the stuff wouldn't even be on site."

Interviewed before he formally presented his findings last Tuesday, Mr. Anderson said a hole drilled more than 1,500 feet into the ocean floor showed that pressures inside the cavern were less than one-tenth the weight of the water pressing down on it.

Water Would Prevent Escape

Because of the vast differences in pressure, anything dropped into a hole in the chamber would be sucked in, and the water would guarantee that it would not escape.

"What we have here is a case where it's very easy to get something in there," Mr. Zoback said, "and the natural plumbing system will keep it there."

Based on tentative findings, Mr. Anderson said scientists believed such impermeable caverns covered "huge portions of the ocean floor -- thousands of square kilometers."

The cavern was found near the Galapagos Rift, where molten rock is bubbling up and creating a new seafloor.


[[[ In the above article, "potential" was misspelled.  But what's amazing is what passed for a scientist back then! -- rdh ]]]


A few months after the above article about sea-bed disposal appeared in the New York Times, the Bridgeport (CT) Post presented an article about Space Disposal in the Health/Science section. (February 12th, 1980):

Engineer wants to rocket nuclear waste into space

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- An aerospace engineer concerned about the safety of future generations has revived the idea of rocketing the world's growing store of nuclear waste materials into interplanetary space.

Stanley G. Rosen recognizes such a project would have political, legal economic and technological complications but he said it may be the best answer to a problem that promises to get worse as nuclear power expands around the globe.

"It appears irresponsible to wait indefinitely to develop the capability ... or to take actions which preclude it altogether," Rosen said at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The problem, of course, is that some radioactive materials produced by nuclear generators and by defense projects remain extremely hazardous for many centuries.  No acceptable, permanent Earth storage site has yet been found.

Rosen, an Air Force officer representing the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, said a careful space disposal plan for nuclear waste would take a long time to develop and the prudent approach probably would be to wait 20 years or so before moving ahead.

But he said now is the time to begin laying the groundwork so the option would be available to the people of the 21st Century.

"It is evident that a project of the magnitude of the space disposal option requires a significant amount of preparation," he said.

"The solution for a problem which encompasses millions of years, involves every person who will live on Earth and depends on the most advance technological and organizational expertise will possibly take decades to finalize."

Since nuclear waste is an international problem, Rosen suggested that a space disposal project be managed by an international organization, perhaps the United Nations.

Developing a way to finance such a project could be a major problem, Rosen said, because the benefits would go to future generations while the costs and risks would be borne most heavily by the generation that carries it out.

"A suitable reconciliation must be developed between these seemingly conflicting facts," he said. "In addition, an equal distribution of costs, responsibilities and risks among participants must be established".

Rosen said the basic technology to carry out such a project is already available although considerable work would be necessary to carry it out.

Not all nuclear waste could be disposed of in space because of the large amounts involved so Rosen suggested that the materials be processed so only the longest-lived, most hazardous substances be rocketed into space.

The best place to send the waste, he said, probably would be into orbit around the sun where there would be virtually no risk of it endangering any planet for millions of years.

The most risky part of the whole scheme would be the launch from Earth because an accident could allow the waste to fall back to Earth.  Rosen suggested a launch site in a remote area near the east coast of South America so the rocket would avoid flying over land areas en route to Earth orbit.

Rosen said such a launch could not occur, however, until engineers develop a fool-proof way to recover any lost waste container from the deep ocean in the event of a launch abort.


[[[ Some nuke waste remains extremely hazardous for thousands of centuries, not just "centuries" as described above.  Also, "fool-proof" containments have not been designed and probably cannot be designed, at least not cost-effectively, which is the name of the game. Also note that Rosen evidently forgot that Africa would be overflown by these launches, and during the more dangerous later stages of the launch, at that.  Lastly, this idea is still being suggested by space enthusiasts, who see the increased business as a boon to their wallets.  The original article had one typo ("the the" for "to the"). -- rdh ]]]


From: Bridgeport (CT) Post, November 10th, 1979 (last page):

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) -- The electrical system at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station may have all the bugs ironed out -- but it still has trouble with mice.

Russ Hawkes, a spokesman for Southern California Edison Co., which operates the plant, said Friday field mice seeking shelter from recent rains may have caused the electrical short that put the unit out of service until early next week.

The 450-megawatt nuclear unit shut down Wednesday when one of two 480-volt electrical buses failed.  A bus is a thick wire which helps carry and distribute electrical power.

"What we're saying is that some sort of rodent may have chewed through the bus," Hawkes said. "It's a fairly routine thing to happen to electrical wiring."

Edison officials said several roasted rodents were found near where the short circuit occurred.


[[[ More recently, irradiated kittens were found inside the plant, which were cutely named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and X-ray, and adopted by various plant employees. -- rdh ]]]