From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: NUKE TERRORISM 101: Media frenzy today!  Get your hot schedule! Plop those tapes into your VCRs, folks!
Hi Patricia,

Thanks for your letter (shown below) alerting people to our local power plant's front-page local news coverage (I've included the whole article, below).

Despite the article's ominous-sounding title, the point of the article seems to be that everything's being watched carefully now -- by both sides.  Oh, folks, yes, we know it's a lot to worry about, after all, Sandia said so, but we can handle it. (Sandia Labs reports are heavily referenced in the article; but CRAC-2 is actually such an underestimation, it's practically fiction.)  Just relax folks; go back to sleep.  New security arrangements will stop everything that might be thrown at these plants, and local activists's concerns will help ensure that the government does as much as necessary. 

Of course, the paper's view couldn't be more wrong -- public interest is the only thing that will save us.   The plants are vulnerable to everything from balloonists with radio (or fly-by-wire) controlled, titanium-tipped steel flechettes (which could penetrate the containment dome, as any engineer worth half his degree can calculate) to underwater suicide bombers who float into the intake tunnels with massive quantities of underwater explosives, and remotely actuated charges.  With the right bladder full of simple household chemicals, they could destroy the plant over a period of days by introducing corrosive elements into the coolant loops, which would cross the various barriers through the hundreds of brittle-fracture cracks which are already KNOWN TO EXIST in the circulation loops of these plants.

All hell will break loose if this happens.  Maybe the NRC will dodge a bullet.  But across the nation, it's a barrage, and they can't dodge that.  At least, not with their current meager efforts.

Those who pretend we can provide adequate security for nuclear facilities ignore the real issues. They all argue cutely about guys coming at the plant with a few pea-shooters and fire-crackers, instead of laser weapons (yes, the terrorists might have these), or electromagnetic pulse weapons.  Even crude chicken-wire can be used to short-circuit the plant's electrical systems -- and if you choose the right systems, that alone can bring down the plant, and the operators might not have a chance to drop the control rods, and not only that, they might not drop properly anyway.  That's always a risk.  The industry and the NRC want you to believe "plunk go the rods" and everything's safe at the plant.  It's not nearly that simple.  There are enormous forces, heat, pressure, kinetic energy, etc., which need to be "unwound" and brought to a standstill.  You need every safety system available to be fully working when you do this.  Al Queda knows all of this -- it's ALL elementary stuff to a soldier.  But reporters, mothers, and voters had all better learn it too, because although all this stuff is TRUE, the nuke industry denies it.

Although a little additional public interest in San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station has been generated since 9-11, I'm sure it hasn't been enough to make Ray Golden, the plant's Public Relations front-man, break into a sweat.  (A smirk is much more likely to be all it's raised in him so far.)

What's a little public interest when there are so many ways to put local citizens back to sleep again?   If all else fails, they'll distribute KI and tell us we're safe, now.  We are not to worry, because the plants are at a heightened state of alert now -- so high, they can't think of any way to get it any higher.  Well, I can, my retired U.S. military friends all can, and the nuclear physicists I know all can.  I'm sure the terrorists can, too.

Of course, after the next security breach, whatever it might be, if there is public outcry, the NRC will have no choice but to rethink all their security efforts again.  But they ALWAYS wait until AFTER a problem occurs.  It's so much cheaper that way -- unless of course a meltdown occurs, or some other accident which causes a spread of radioactive dust into the environment, an event the article presumed to be all-but-impossible.

You asked if anyone had seen any other media interest.  It seems that nukes are in the news a lot today.  Our local News 8 on CNN's Headline New's 5-minute local edition is repeating over and over  that during the current inspection, San Onofre has been found safe from possible catastrophic explosions.

There was some strong language, but no mention of the fact that one reactor still hasn't been inspected, and won't be until January, 2003 at the earliest.  It's as if the inspection of the first one has made the second one safe, somehow.

Tonight ATOMIC TWISTER will be shown on TBS -- the ads have some line about "this could make Chernobyl look small!" so it might be pretty good.  That's at 5:pm tonight, then again at 7:pm (local times for North Country San Diego/Adelphia)

Also, TCM is replaying Dr. Strangelove, which is nice I suppose, but their timing is interesting as it conflicts with ATOMIC TWISTER, and, presumably to keep as many baby-boomers away as possible, Paul McCartney's Royal Performance will be shown on VH1 (I'm sure Pauly had nothing to do with the timing of the show).  I'm sure there will be other interesting media distractions as well going on tonight, but TBS has been promoting Atomic Tornado very well and I think that's the thing to watch!  They've surrounded it with Steven Siegal's ON DANGEROUS GROUND, which is ALSO an interesting juxtaposition.

Then, later tonight on CSPAN -- what's sure to be a real treat -- Dr. Helen Caldicott! (see news item, below the NC Times article).


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

At 11:07 AM 6/9/02 , you wrote:
Friends -

Today in North County Times, there was an extensive article by Marty Graham, "NRC Suspends Security Drills at Nuke Plants".   The article devoted alot of room for comments by Dan Hirsch - Committee to Bridge the Gap, and info from the June 2, 2002 Public Health Summit on Weapons of Mass Destruction held at UCLA, and finally some exposure on vulnerability at San Onofre from unprotected spent fuel pools!!!.  

It was a great article!!!  (However, also contained alot of NRC backpedalling and whitewash - Breck Henderson).

Anyway; you should see it (Page 1) Top of Front Page!!!

website -


Was there any coverage in LA Times or Orange County?  If so, please advise!!!


Patricia Borchmann


NRC suspends security drills at nuclear plants

Staff writer

After the events of Sept. 11, nuclear power plants, including the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station north of Oceanside, suspended security drills that test the plants' abilities to protect their reactors and their spent fuel pools, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials confirmed this week.
However, a spokesman for the San Onofre plant says the plant continues to conduct in-house security drills.

The NRC drills were suspended because all of the reactors are on such heightened security that resources are being used to protect them, not to conduct drills, said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Breck Henderson.

Daniel Hirsch, a retired professor and president of the California-based Committee to Bridge the Gap, raised the issue of security drills at a conference Sunday because he believes they are more important now given the dangers of terrorist attacks.

Hirsch, in an interview earlier this week, urged people who live near nuclear reactors to support a bill in Congress that would increase security requirements and testing at nuclear facilities. Hirsch has a 20-year history of fighting with the NRC over security and health issues connected with nuclear power plants.

Still testing security

While the NRC has suspended its drills, Ray Golden, spokesman at San Onofre, said the plant continues to run its own security drills. The difference between the in-house drills and the NRC program is that the NRC drills are run by the commission and not plant staff, they are graded, and they are more comprehensive, five-day drills.

"We are still doing force on force drills, using a portion of the security staff to test the others, and we do that one evening from time to time," Golden said. "We have a very strong security program at San Onofre."

Hirsch, the retired director of the Adlai Stevenson Program on Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz, charged that the last time the NRC tested plants' security, the results were worrisome.

"Even with six months advance warning and even with three attackers on foot and even though reactors have more than doubled their guards, more than half the reactors in the country failed the simulated attacks," he said.

"At San Onofre, mock terrorists were able to penetrate the primary areas, where they could cause a reactor meltdown, in 18 seconds."

Primary areas are zones such as the electrical areas, where a skilled person could begin to damage the reactor systems, according to NRC definitions. Hirsch's definition is more stark: It's where someone could potentially trigger a core meltdown, he said.

The five-day evaluation of San Onofre was done in November 2000.

Measuring the results

To interpret the results of the graded security drills to mean the reactor is vulnerable is a gross misinterpretation, Golden said.

"The NRC team tested our skills and abilities, like our security guards' weapons skills, for five days," Golden said. "They also hired special forces-type people to come in with mock weapons to attempt to get to various targets while we attempt to neutralize them."

The NRC wrote there were no areas of significant vulnerability found, Golden said.

"They did identify two areas of weakness, one where the person didn't move fast enough and one where we arrived at a standoff with the mock attackers," he said.

And, given the number of backup and emergency systems in place, even if the mock attackers did reach the primary areas, they would have a hard time causing a meltdown, the NRC's Henderson said.
"The mock attackers come in with a high level of knowledge about the security systems, motion detectors and equipment so we can test the security for weakness," Henderson said. "Every plant they go to, they find weaknesses and that's precisely why we do these drills, so we can identify problems and correct them.

"Our reports from San Onofre were satisfactory," he added.

New legislation needed

But Hirsch does not agree. And, he said, given the potential for massive harm contained in a reactor, more should be done to protect nuclear plants.

Hirsch spoke Sunday at the Public Health Summit on Weapons of Mass Destruction, held at UCLA. The forum was organized by Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that has advocated for strengthening the public health infrastructure in the wake of the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks.

Hirsch used Sunday's event to push attendees to support the Nuclear Security Act of 2001, in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, that would strengthen security requirements and require the distribution of potassium iodide tablets to homes and offices close to nuclear reactors
The bill was introduced in the House and the Senate last year.

In the House, the bill, HR3382, has languished in the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee since December. In the Senate, Sen. Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., has shepherded the bill through hearings in the Committee on Environment and Public Works, ending Wednesday. It is now headed for the floor of the Senate.

Although the bill mandates distribution of the potassium iodide tablets, Hirsch said having the tablets shouldn't be equated with safety.

"They only counter one of the at least three types of radiation that would be released into the air in a core meltdown," he said. "People shouldn't be lulled into a sense of security because they have iodide."

Revising the standards

Right now, reactors and nearby stores of spent reactor fuel are easy targets for terrorists, Hirsch said.
"How can we say there is a war on terrorism when the vice president says they found plans for nuclear reactors in the al-Qaida hide-outs in Afghanistan and we have not made any changes to improve the security?" Hirsch asked. "We must require real protection of the reactors and if not, we can require that they be closed down."

"There is no middle ground, given the potential harm to the public health," he added.

Since the drills, which ended in September after power plants went to high security alert, the NRC hasn't changed the testing standards, Hirsch said.

According to standards set in the 1970s, nuclear power plants must be prepared to defend themselves against three attackers, on foot, using automatic weapons and having a fourth accomplice inside the plant. NRC regulations require at least five armed guards in place, Hirsch said, based on having one more guard than presumed attacker. And they must be prepared for a small truck bomb, he said.
But they are not required to be ready for a truck bomb the size of the one triggered in Oklahoma City. Nor are they prepared for attack by air, by boat or by multiple teams of terrorists who come from two directions at once, Hirsch said.

Dangers of disaster

Henderson said the NRC believes that the reactors are very secure.

"Besides state-of-the-art security systems, we've got the multiple, redundant backup systems so that just getting into the control room does not mean you can cause a reactor core meltdown," he said. "You can destroy a part of the plant and there will be other protections, other backup systems that will keep things functioning."

After Sept. 11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conceded that it is not certain that reactor containments, like the one at San Onofre, could withstand the impact of a jumbo jet. And, Hirsch said, outside the containment of the reactor, four to five times as much radioactive material rests in the spent fuel pools.

But, NRC spokesman Henderson said, the NRC believes the containment could withstand a jumbo jet hit. And it would take days for the spent fuel to begin to have a fission reaction, which is what it would take to make it a dangerous source of radiation.

"We are talking about walls that are 4 feet to 6 feet thick of reinforced concrete, designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes," he said. "And we are not just depending on the strength of the containment, we are also relying on our multiple backup systems and on other agencies, military radar and defenses, and heightened airline security, for example, to protect the power plants.
"And, even if the containment is breached, that does not mean there will be a meltdown," he added. "There again, the multiple, redundant backup systems matter."

In the worst-case scenario, a reactor core meltdown at San Onofre could promptly kill up to 130,000 people, according to a study done 20 years ago at the Sandia National Laboratories. It would leave another 300,000 people facing cancer in the future. It would also have genetic effects on another 600,000 people, the Sandia study says.

"If you are a terrorist and you can't get your hands on nuclear materials for a bomb, you can get your hands on a massive amount of radiation that would do the damage of a bomb without the blast," Hirsch said.

The NRC estimates a smaller disaster area, about a fourth of the size of the Sandia worst-case scenario study, Henderson said.

"We figure we need a 10-mile emergency protection zone for a core meltdown when we have our drills," he said. "It's very hard to get radiation airborne."

Contact Marty Graham at (760) 740-3517 or

This was sent around by Bill Smirnow:

Date: Sun, 9 Jun 2002 15:01:59 -0400
Subject: [DOEWatch] Dr. Helen Caldicott On C-Span Sunday Night/Monday Morning June 9-10, 2002
On Monday, June 10 at 12:20 am
The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's
Military-Industrial Complex
Helen Caldicott
Description: Antinuclear activist Dr. Helen
Caldicott, author of "The New Nuclear Danger:
George Bush's Military-Industrial Complex,"
discusses the Bush Administration and its
connection to the nuclear weapons industry. Dr.
Caldicott contends that the merging of weapons
firms in the 1980s created powerful corporations
able to influence foreign policy and manipulate
public opinion. She argues that by lobbying for
increased use of military force, weapons
manufacturers ignore the best interests of the
country and increase the threat of nuclear war.

Author Bio: Dr. Helen Caldicott is the founder of
Physicians for Social Responsibility and a nominee
for the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition to writing
for numerous publications and she has authored
four books, "Nuclear Madness," Missle Envy," "If
You Love This Planet: A Plan to Heal the Earth"
and "A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography." Dr.
Caldicott is establishing a new organization
called The Institute for Common Sense in the
Nuclear Age. The institute seeks to educate and
organize citizen for the purpose of opposing the
nuclear policies of President Bush.

Publisher: The New Press 450 West 41st Street, 6th floor New York, NY 10036

Buy the Book