SUBJECT: Nuclear Terrorism, "Poofing," rad waste piling up (1000 lbs/day) -- why California should shut Diablo Canyon and San Onofre NOW!
To: California Papers, including dailies such as LA Times, Orange County Register, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury-News, San Luis Obispo Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune, and the Lompoc Record, as well as weeklies such as San Diego City Beat, Pasadena Weekly, the various Readers, and others.
Date: December 14th, 2004
Re: Proposed Op-Ed for California Papers (as published in the North County Times and the Coast News)
To The Editor,
The 800 word "Perspective" item about San Onofre, shown below, was published last Sunday (12/12/04, pg. E-4) in the North County Times, an award-winning paper in San Diego County. They had requested a shortened version of a letter I sent to a number of papers and nuclear activists on 12/06/04 (URL for the original version appears below).
I learned on 12/13/04 (yesterday) that my original letter of 12/6/04 was also published (sans bio) in the Letters section of The Coast News (a weekly San Diego North County paper) on 12/9/04.
My thanks to both papers for publishing my comments. It's possible other publications also printed the original letter, and several activists distributed it fairly widely as well.
Dr. Helen Caldicott (co-founder, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nobel Peace Prize nominee) said of the original, "an excellent letter."
The North County Times also published, adjacent to my essay, a statement (not a response per se) by the CEO of Southern California Edison. SCE owns the San Onofre Nuclear WASTE Generating Station (SONWGS).
In his statement, he estimated that by repairing San Onofre now, California would somehow save $1 billion over the next two decades. He did not specify any of the assumptions used in his estimate, such as which alternatives would provide the energy.
Even if, by some lucky streak, nothing serious goes wrong at the plant, is that potential $1 billion savings worth creating an estimated 4 million ADDITIONAL pounds of high-level radioactive waste which would then sit, exposed and vulnerable, along our coastlines?
Is it worth the additional danger from having operational nukes in our midst (vastly more dangerous than shuttered nukes)? Is it worth letting nuclear power plant owners line their pockets with gold while offering us NO real security protection, and NO guarantee their billions of dollars in upgrades will protect us from nuclear catastrophe?
There is no question the SCE CEO assumed San Onofre's nuclear dry cask storage system would not be breached by a jetliner, whether intentionally or by accident. Or by an earthquake, tsunami, asteroid, or act of war. Or be poorly designed (the casks use a unique, non-industry-standard system), or be poorly installed.
The SCE CEO offered NO long-term renewable energy solution to our generations-old "energy crises," yet any good scientist or engineer can tell you there are clean solutions which won't generate any hazardous waste of any sort whatsoever (some wind turbines, for instance, are lubricated with mineral oil or other harmless substances). Nuclear power generates the most hazardous of all hazardous wastes possible!
SCE is a 30+ billion-dollar company with a vested interest in the continued creation of nuclear waste. The opinion of its CEO certainly matters -- because it is ruining our state.
When you're stuck in a hole, you don't dig deeper! California should stop all rebuilding of our nuclear power plants immediately. It's time to pull the plug on this dangerous mistake.
I am requesting that you publish the letter shown below (or, if you prefer, the longer version) in your paper as soon as possible. If you choose to publish the version included here, please indicate that it was originally published in the North County Times on December 12th, 2004.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can answer any questions.
Thank you in advance.
The original (~1150 word) version:
Below is the ~800-word letter as it appeared in the NC Times on 12/12/04:
Editions of the North County Times Serving San Diego and Riverside Counties
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Last modified Saturday, December 11, 2004 9:13 PM PST
Shutter the nuclear nightmare on I-5
By: RUSSELL D. HOFFMAN - For the North County Times
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station should be shut down permanently. It is brittle, frail, old. Its bones are hardened. Its arteries are clogged and stiff. It keeps popping and poofing, bursting and spilling, leaking, spraying, steaming, venting, dripping, gushing, pouring out poisons into our environment.
The tritium alone released from the nuclear power plant is a serious environmental concern. Tritium (half-life: about 12 years) is readily absorbed by all parts of the human body. It does occur naturally, but that is no good reason to increase the dose to people.
In normal daily operation, the facility also releases cesium-137, strontium-90, uranium, plutonium (both in a variety of isotopes) and hundreds of other radioactive "daughter products" created by the nuclear chain reaction. Although the plant owners say these legal releases are harmless, many insidious mechanisms for biological damage by radioactivity are now well-known in the scientific community and undeniable to any unbiased observer.
In fact, no energy source is as damaging to our biological structure as ionizing radiation. One atomic decay inside your body can directly destroy 20,000 or more chemical bonds, including those that bind your DNA. A single damaged DNA strand can lead to fetal deformities or cancer.
Radiation accelerates aging (including in humans). Additionally, salty air and water destroy most metals.
Right now, San Onofre's steam generators are failing and need to be replaced (as do Diablo Canyon's). Cost: at least $680 million for San Onofre, and at least $706 million for Diablo Canyon.
San Onofre's water heaters also all need to be replaced (about 30 per unit). Cost: an additional $7 million for each plant, plus $30 million or so for the "downtime." Pipes and joints at the plant have been cracking, and undoubtedly many need to be replaced ---- there are about 100 miles of pipes at the site. Last August, a pipe accident at a 27-year-old nuclear plant in Japan killed five workers. The pipe had eroded to 10 percent of its original thickness.
In 2002, more than 700 pounds of unnoticed corrosion at Davis-Besse, a nuke plant in Ohio similar to San Onofre, brought us, in some ways, nearer to a full-scale meltdown than Three Mile Island did.
Replacing San Onofre's pipes, and maybe her reactor pressure vessels ---- both now more than two decades old ---- could cost ratepayers billions of dollars. Failure to replace critical parts could result in a meltdown.
Old breakers and transformers have exploded and burned, causing outages costing more than $140 million. But the 150 or so identical breakers were not replaced. That's tens of millions of dollars more work that should be added to the list.
Everything at the facility is suspect ---- including the record-keeping. The power plant is practically immune from state and local inspections, even in areas the Nuclear Regulatory Commission won't inspect because they are not "nuclear" areas!
Even if all these (and many more) problems were fixed, nuclear power does not actually generate any "net" energy whatsoever, because of the incredibly energy-intensive processes needed to mine and refine uranium into fuel, as well as construction costs, reconstruction costs, and dismantling costs. Add to that the cost of guarding the hazardous radioactive waste for thousands of generations. Additional funds could also be needed to care for the sick and dying that would result from a serious nuclear accident.
Besides being a financial rat-hole, nuclear power plants are terrorist targets. Dry casks are especially vulnerable, but dry cask storage could be stopped at San Onofre if we shut the facility permanently now.
San Onofre makes money only for its owners, who are practically given uranium fuel by the federal government, which also promises to take it away after it has been turned into radioactive waste (at great profit) by Southern California Edison. Yucca Mountain shouldn't open, probably never will, and if it does, it's more than a decade away at best and will take about 25 years to fill. Meanwhile, new waste accumulates at the rate of 500 pounds every day at the plant; that waste may not fit at Yucca Mountain ---- it may need to wait for Yucca Mountain II! An operating nuclear plant is thousands of times more vulnerable to terrorism, forces of nature, design flaws or operator error than one that is shut down. A terrorist with an armor-plated bulldozer packed into a jacked-up house trailer and off-loaded at the state park could ruin San Onofre in minutes and take Southern California with it.
If properly harvested, the sun provides all the energy we need, through wind, wave, hydro, biomass, and by direct solar power. Currently, the vast majority of that nearly-free energy spills into the biosphere, becomes disorganized, and is wasted.
San Onofre's power is replaceable. Our land and our lives are not.
Carlsbad resident Russell D. Hoffman is an independent researcher on energy solutions, a computer programmer, and a small-business owner. He has studied nuclear issues for more than 30 years and writes a newsletter that is distributed to nuclear physicists, doctors and activists in more than a dozen countries.
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