Subject: No Nukes is Good Nukes -- and we're just a bunch of cheapskates living off our children's misery!
November 23rd, 2004
To The Editor:
So let me get this straight:
They've installed these metal plates thousands of times across the country, in coal-fired plants, oil-fired plants, and nuclear plants. Only San Onofre's staff couldn't do it right.
Not only could they not tighten the bolts correctly, or use bolt-locking devices (of which there have been quite a few invented over the years), or check the bolts a reasonable time later to ensure they were NOT loosening, or use a bolt-locking chemical (yes, they make industrial-strength versions), but in all the combined years of experience installing these aluminum plates, vibrational loosening had never occurred before anywhere else. So NO ONE thought about where the plate might end up if it DID fall! I'm supposed to believe that only San Onofre is so unlucky -- it's not that they're cutting corners, or hiring unskilled workers, or are trying desperate measures to keep their plants operating, and it's certainly NOT because they aren't being properly inspected. And it's not that they're dumb. They're just frighteningly unlucky, that's all!
And how did a ground wire (the original reported cause of the recent SCRAM) become an aluminum plate, anyway, in the later reports?
Regarding the damage done when the plate fell, apparently that's STILL not being considered for next time, because the solution appears to be to use a bigger hammer (or a bigger screwdriver or a bigger wrench) to hammer on or screw on or bolt on a bigger aluminum plate -- and when THAT one falls -- not in a mere 90 days like this one, but in 39 years, the expected additional life of the plant, now that they've got their first extension for the next 20 years -- what damage will THAT do? SCRAMing a 59-year-old reactor will be a very risky thing to do.
The fact is, despite the current loss of BOTH reactors (one being already down for refueling and "maintenance"), the lights in SoCal have stayed on and we don't need to restart EITHER reactor -- in less time than it takes to refuel the plant, we could build -- temporarily -- a thousand megawatts of additional capacity and then nearly as quickly -- over the next year or so -- we could replace that with offshore wind power and other renewable options.
(Note: Had the lights actually gone out, it would have been due to corporate shenanigans, NOT genuine need! Replacement power for California's four reactors IS AVAILABLE.)
These are not the dreams of scattered visionaries, EVERY reasonable economic outlook requires that we reject nuclear power. Otherwise, our children will be saddled with additional millions of pounds of nuclear waste, OR the results of a nuclear Chernobyl -- or WORSE -- right here in our own yards.
A SCRAM of a reactor is VIOLENT. It is DANGEROUS. It WEARS OUT the plant. Those hundreds of thousands of gallons of swiftly circulating water do NOT come to a halt quietly. It strains every bolt, every weld, every pipe, every vessel that surrounds it. A SCRAM should really NEVER be done -- and never NEED to be done. Normal shutdowns are elongated, drawn out affairs, and if more than a few SCRAMs occur to any one reactor within any one year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- even that lapdog agency -- starts to show concern and starts slapping wrists all over the place.
San Onofre's two operating reactors are already OLD -- that's why things like this keep happening. Their parts need constant vigilance for there to be any chance of safe operation. But TIME AND TIME AGAIN we've seen, instead, failure at the plant -- oh, there was a power failure (8:50 am) -- I think maybe they are trying to restart it. That sometimes drains the whole SoCal power grid. Restarts are also somewhat violent affairs, especially to the power grid.
When a nuclear plant SCRAMs, we lose, in an instant, about 1,000,000,000 watts of power. Delicate electronic equipment all around the local counties -- San Diego, Orange, and even Imperial, Riverside, and Los Angeles counties -- can be damaged by power drops of that magnitude. A more distributed solution -- built from a combination of solar, wind, and other renewables such as tide and wave power -- would mean we would have safe energy, reliably backed up with links to international power sources. In emergencies (when SoCal is a sink instead of a source of power, like it should be) things like Canadian hydro could supply our needs for brief or peak periods.
If we are too poor to do all that -- if we are sticking with the ugly nuclear solution because these things sound too expensive or too complicated or too "futuristic" -- then we are not the high-tech nation we think we are. It's all possible TODAY. If we don't change, we're just a bunch of cheapskates living off our children's misery.
(Poison Fire USA, an animated chronology of nukes in America)