From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Yucca Mountain Patsy Piece on 60 Minutes
Cc: "Office of Public Affairs/NRC" <>, "Yucca Mountain Comments" <>

October 26th, 2003

Dear Mr.Wallace,

As I sit here in my smoke-filled room, which even two air filters cannot clear the smell of (even though the fires that caused the smell were never less than about 20 miles away from here (they are still burning)), I wonder what your team was thinking when they produced the segment on Yucca Mountain.  I did not catch the first part, but what I saw was a perfect example of what you warned us about in the segment that followed -- stealth advertising.

Oh sure, be aghast if you want, but the truth shows.  You might as well have run a Department of Energy promotional film with your time.  (The DOE is known as the Death of the Earth squad among those who care about what they are doing.)

You will move on to other topics, after pretending to have covered the issues related to Yucca Mountain in your hard-hitting, get-to-the-facts style, and Yucca Mountain will still be the entire nuclear industry's excuse for continuing to produce "high level" nuclear waste at the rate of about 10 tons a day in the USA alone, and four or so times that around the world, and that's just the non-military, so-called "commercial" nuclear power plants!

The day Yucca Mountain is filled, there will be 250 NEW pounds of High Level Nuclear Waste at EACH of our 104 nuclear power plants.  250 pounds of "SPENT FUEL".  250 pounds of terrorist's delight.  250 pounds of carcinogens the likes of which mankind had never seen -- until the "nuclear age" (perhaps the "unclear age" is a better description) came along.

Yucca Mountain, whether it happens or not (and it's a very bad thing, and shouldn't happen) will NOT solve our waste problem!  It will be filled and shut, but the problem will not be solved.

There ARE solutions.  Wind power -- especially offshore floating flotillas of windmills -- CAN happen.  Hydroelectric power is much more friendly than nuclear power, by a dozen orders of magnitude, or more.  It can have a responsible rebirth.  Solar, biomass, OTEC -- what's not to like about all these choices? 

Instead you subtly tell America that we have no choice.

You presented the DOE videos of how indestructible the casks are.  Videos which prove nothing, because the tests they represent were faulty and unreasonable.  The tests set certain limits such as the length of a fire, but they prove nothing more than that some casks may pass the tests -- not that the casks will survive real conditions.  (The tests also assume that all the casks will be made with the utmost care, a dubious assertion at best.)

You'll go on to another topic, after assuring the public that the Baltimore Tunnel Fire burned at 1000 degrees.  You didn't say F or C, but neither would be right.  It was much hotter than the casks are made to withstand.  Much, much hotter.  If a gasoline truck crashes into a cask it too could create a fire much hotter than the casks could stand.  The DOE assured me every shipment the trains would cross paths with along the way would be monitored but that's utter BS.  It will be chancy.

Just before the temperature of the Baltimore fire was expressed incorrectly, we were told the casks were exposed to jet fuel for 90 minutes.  Sounds good enough, but it isn't!

Just a little mistake, eh?

You also said the casks were dropped from "high altitude" but that's simply not true!  The "altitude" was about 30 feet, well below the highest canyons and overpasses they'll travel over, through, and by.  Worse than that, you said, between these two factoids, "and" (actually ANDing two other stress tests, as well).  It's OR.  They did ONE thing to ONE sample, and ANOTHER THING to ANOTHER sample.  Didn't they?  (Frankly, I can't get any straight answers from the DOE, but that's my understanding on that one.)  So what will happen to a cask that is dropped and then burned?  No one knows!

I think you erred from start to finish.  Where Spencer Abraham should be interviewed (if at all) is from a jail cell!

And tomorrow you will go on to something else.  And that's where you really sin.  THIS generation is supposed to solve THIS problem -- BEFORE there's a tragedy.  Not after.  Not when it's obvious to everyone.

Tonight I can watch Planet of the Apes on one channel, or I can watch the list of schools used to evacuate the thousands of people who are homeless around San Diego on another channel, along with bright spots of light where the fires still burn.

Two of the three possible exit routes out of San Diego (I-8 and I-15) are closed today due to the ~200,000 acre fires that appeared out of nowhere in the past 24 hours.  The third (I-5) had two-hour traffic jams all the way into Orange Country.  How will they evacuate from a meltdown at San Onofre, when a plane crashes into the Dry Casks that will soon be used at the plant, just waiting to be hit?  They won't be able to!  That's the facts!  Spencer Abraham can say anything he wants, and it won't change the facts!

My wife and I nearly were mountainbiking in one of the affected areas, but when we got there just after dawn early this morning, the smoke was already thick, and we turned around and went home.  We thought it was smoke mainly from the Camp Pendleton fire although we could see new smoke to the south of where we were (Escondido).  Later, that very area we were going to was reported to also be burning.  (The Camp Pendleton fire has an interesting history.  These guys -- who are supposed to protect San Onofre, by the way -- were using incendiary devices in a "live fire exercise" and the parched hills -- which haven't seen rain in nearly 180 days, a RECORD -- caught fire, and because of all the UXO (UneXploded Ordinance), the firemen couldn't just go in and put it out, all they could do was try to keep it at the base's border.

Now really, didn't anyone there put two and two together, and realize that you just can't do that during "EXTREME" fire danger conditions?  The local parks have signs, with arrows that point to the fire danger level, and the level was "extreme" this week.

Fourteen people are said to have died from the current fires in San Diego county, including two from FEAR!  Everyone is telling us, on the news, not to panic.  Okay, so perhaps those people in those cars, the ones that couldn't get out of the ravines, died without panicking.  I hope that thought makes the Mayor and the Chief of Police, and especially the Fire Captain, happy.  The public didn't panic.  They just died.

Too bad those "leaders" didn't panic LAST WEEK, and renew the contract for the fire suppression helicopter!

Too bad the fire service has to fly 40-year old twin-engine pieces of JUNK that the wings fall off of in the very conditions which they need to fly in to fight a fire!

A month ago there was a big article in the local paper about fire dangers, and it made a big deal about a few dozen million dollars that the Feds were giving to fight fires.  Today's fire will surely cost San Diego BILLIONS of dollars -- about a hundred times what the Feds offered to help.

All of America suffers when fire destroy homes (over 600 have been destroyed by this fire so far).  Every disaster anywhere is a disaster everywhere -- that's our policy.  To help each other.  Help costs money, time, and effort.  And sometimes helping costs lives.

And yet all this is NOTHING compared to a nuclear dry cask storage fire, or a nuclear transportation accident, or a meltdown!  Nothing at all!

You didn't talk about that.  But you're done now, anyway.  Even if your report had been responsible, you won't be reporting on it next week, or perhaps even next year.  Been there, done that, right?  You've done your work, now you'll move on, right?  That's irresponsible.  It must be hammered on again and again and again!  THE WHOLE TRUTH!

How many tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, will die when there is a nuclear accident?  You didn't ask!  You just accepted the DOE's prognostication that they simply won't have an accident! 

And yesterday, San Diego just assumed it didn't need a fire-suppression helicopter.  Last week, the lease ran out, and they didn't plan to replace it.  It was off fighting the San Bernadino fires when San Diego went up in flames.  Fire season was officially just about over, anyway.  Never mind that the rains hadn't come even once, yet.

Some day, anything other than tile roofs will surely be illegal in San Diego back-country homes, and hopefully everywhere.  But even before today, anyone who had watched what was happening, for example in the famous (locally, anyway) "Harmony Grove" fire of a few years ago, already knew -- it was a no-brainer.  Now, perhaps the proper laws will be passed.

Closing nuclear power down -- all the current reactors, including the military ones -- is a no-brainer for anyone who cares about the health of this planet and especially of its human inhabitants.

But you're done, of course.  You did a hard-hitting report on Yucca Mountain, really grilled Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham by golly, and so you'll sleep well tonight, misleading even yourself.  You have done the truth a disservice.  You have committed a gigantic error of omission.  The DOE will give you access next time you want to talk to them.  I'm sure despite everything you might think about yourself, they are satisfied.  No one else should be.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA