Richter TNT for Seismic Example Magnitude Energy Yield (approximate) -1.5 6 ounces Breaking a rock on a lab table 1.0 30 pounds Large Blast at a Construction Site 1.5 320 pounds 2.0 1 ton Large Quarry or Mine Blast 2.5 4.6 tons 3.0 29 tons 3.5 73 tons 4.0 1,000 tons Small Nuclear Weapon 4.5 5,100 tons Average Tornado (total energy) 5.0 32,000 tons 5.5 80,000 tons Little Skull Mtn., NV Quake, 1992 6.0 1 million tons Double Spring Flat, NV Quake, 1994 6.5 5 million tons Northridge, CA Quake, 1994 7.0 32 million tons Hyogo-Ken Nanbu, Japan Quake, 1995; Largest Thermonuclear Weapon 7.5 160 million tons Landers, CA Quake, 1992 8.0 1 billion tons San Francisco, CA Quake, 1906 8.5 5 billion tons Anchorage, AK Quake, 1964 9.0 32 billion tons Chilean Quake, 1960 10.0 1 trillion tons (San-Andreas type fault circling Earth) 12.0 160 trillion tons (Fault Earth in half through center, OR Earth's daily receipt of solar energy) http://www.seismo.unr.edu/ftp/pub/louie/class/100/magnitude.html
8) An answer to Richard Warnock, SONWGS employee regarding the dangers of TRITIUM:
Earlier this month, The North County Times published an unwarranted attack on this author's credibility. They did not publish the follow-up, which is shown below, and probably won't, since today (Dec. 30th, 2004) they published one of my later tsunami letters, and quoted this writer in their front-page coverage of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's assertions that San Onofre would be safe from a tsunami. I've posted Warnock's original "Community Forum" online here with the response and various related online links:
This assistance of Marion Fulk, Sally Devline, Leuren Moret and others is gratefully acknowledged (mistakes, however, are my own).
Note: In the letter below, a "^" (caret) means "raised to the power of."
December 23rd, 2004
To The Editor:
Richard Warnock, an employee of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, said in your paper's Community Forum (December 20th, 2004, pg. A-8: "Nuclear reactor's radiation is trivial") that radiation is "a rather weak carcinogen when compared with smoking and many chemicals." However, mere milligrams of Plutonium 239, for example, will virtually guarantee lung cancer. Radiation also multiplies the hazardous effects of other chemicals.
Radiation causes cancer, neuromuscular disfunction, leukemia, cataracts, genomic instability, bystander effect (cell-to-cell damage), and scores of other health problems. Cardiovascular problems are another previously overlooked (by "mainstream scientists") health effect of radiation. A study of 53,698 employees at 52 US nuclear power facilities from 1979 to 1997 indicated an unexpectedly-high 248 deaths from heart disease (New Scientist, 18 December 2004, page 18: "Radiation is bad for your heart").
The main topic of Warnock's response to my original North County Times Op-Ed recommending the plant be shuttered (December 12th, 2004, page E-1) was tritium.
Discovered in the 1930s, tritium has an extremely low natural occurrence. It became widely available in the 1950s as a byproduct of nuclear reactors. Tritium use has been declining in biological and medical science because safer-to-use florescent molecules and antibodies are now available.
Even a few responsible members of the health physics community have questioned tritium's use in exit signs, and alternatives are being developed. On 9-11, hundreds of tritium exit signs were pulverized when the Twin Towers collapsed. The dust was also toxic with asbestos and other pollutants, as well as radioactive so-called "depleted" uranium (and more tritium) from the airplanes. Thousands of 9-11 emergency workers now suffer from lung problems. A 14-year-old boy had a temper tantrum and smashed ONE tritium-laced exit sign at a child care center. The hazardous waste cleanup cost taxpayers a quarter of a million dollars.
San Onofre has probably released 50,000 to 100,000 Curies of tritium into the surrounding environment. That would be like smashing tens of thousands of exit signs.
Warnock claims that San Onofre's radioactive releases quickly become "unmeasurable." What he means is they become indistinguishable because of the variations in levels of similar pollutants that are already out there.
There are about 1 * 10^4 Curies in a gram of tritium. 1 curie is 3.7 * 10^10 decays per second, so that's 3.7 * 10^14 dps per gram. There are about 3.7 * 10^11 stars in the Milky Way -- a thousand times LESS than the number of decays per second emanating from a single gram of San Onofre's so-called "safe" tritium.
And just how much damage can a single one of those 370 trillion (370,000,000,000,000) decays each second do if it occurs inside our bodies? Dr. Marion Fulk, a retired Manhattan Project scientist, refers to tritium as "wicked" because of its deceptive "low power" ionizing radiation. Usually the entire 6 kilovolts (average; maximum is about 18 kilovolts) of decay energy is dissipated within a single cell because the "mean free path" is only about 1 micrometer. A single tritium decay can damage thousands of ligand bonds. Normally, such bonds are made and broken in complex and highly controlled processes which make the body the marvel that it is. Such bond making-and-breaking makes it possible, for example, to transmit a pain signal from the toe to the brain. It is not random. Tritium causes (along with all the problems listed above) "cell suicide" (apoptosis). While you have about 5 * 10^13 cells in your body altogether, you don't have vast numbers of every type of cell. Your heart's electrical impulse transmission system, for instance, cannot afford a lot of cell suicides, because there just aren't that many of those cells to begin with.
Furthermore, there was a time when you were just one cell. A single tritium decay could have wiped you out! Fetuses are much more susceptible to radiation damage than adults -- probably at least 1 * 10^3 times more so.
Recent research suggests that the Biological Quality Factor for tritium should be more than doubled (a higher rating is considered more damaging). Instead, the nuclear industry keeps trying to get a relaxation of the drinking water standard, from 20,000 picoCuries (20 billionths of a Curie) per liter to 60,000 pCi/l.
When tritium is ingested, about 10% will stay in the body longer than 10 days, and some will stay for years. All 7 * 10^9 humans are exposed to galaxies of tritium atoms daily because of previous nuclear industry and weapons releases.
We CAN chose renewable power to solve our electrical energy needs. Offshore wind farms, for instance, do not use any land space, they do not kill birds, and they do not even need to be close enough to shore to be seen.
9) Oscar Shirani on Dry Casks -- they only LOOK safe (if that!):
From: Oscar Shirani <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: From RADBULL: 26 [du-list] Feds Won't Test Nuclear Waste Casks
To: "Russell D. Hoffman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Please issue an article in all the newspapers that if the casks were manufactured and built according to the codes of federal regulations and other applicable standards, then NRC could have an argument to prove that their analytical solutions are acceptable and ignore to test the casks, BUT in my 2000 audit of Holtec and US Tool and Die repeatedly proved that those casks were not built in accordance with the applicable design codes and had the proofs in my audit reports that there were flaws in design, flaws in welding, flaws in material, uncontrolled weld filler material, inadequate trained workers, multiple bypassing of Quality Control holdpoints and witness points, welding at risk, bypassing the design changes, bypassing the weld coupons, bypassing the Post Weld Heat Treatment, etc.
All the above violations of the ASME, ANSI, and the NRC codes of federal regulations is the reflection of 100% certainty that the structural integrity is not maintained and the final casks that are already loaded are not supported by any design codes. I will challenge NRC in front of the national TV and congressional hearing. Why NRC does not want to face me to discuss these issues openly? Because NRC knows that I am correct and I have made this argument at many universities and [in the presence] of many mechanical engineers around the world in many of my conferences.
This is why NRC could not obtain the signature of their own technical staff, Dr. Landsman after two years of phony investigation of my issues. Dr. Landsman still refused to accept the NRC's closure of my issues. Dr. Landsman knew that NRC just performed paper audits and investigation of my issues and knew that those issues were massaged and falsified by Exelon and Holtec. Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing the NRC to ignore the cask issues that I raised as the lead auditor of NUPIC (all utilities), because they (NRC and DOE) know that the pools don't have any more spaces and the Yucca Mountain would not be ready for many more years. Even when the Yucca Mountain gets ready, I am willing to prove to all the engineers and scientists and more importantly to the general average Joe in America that those casks are faulty and should be dismantled immediately and as the NRC's Dr. Landsman told the WTTW Channel 11 Chicago news that those dry casks should be stopped from production. Dr. Landsman read my audit report and even though the audit report[s] were massaged and falsified, but [he] had still many alarming issues about the welding flaws, etc..
-- Oscar Shirani
10) The Humboldt nuclear plant was built on an active fault line:
Subject: Your Counterpunch article
From: Sara Reed
Dear Mr. Hoffman: I read your Counterpunch article with great interest.
You pose the question "Why?" as to the continued existence of our nuclear
power plants. Like you, I can't think of a single good reason -- but I can
think of some old, outmoded ones. I am sure you are well aware of the 1950s
thinking that I will outline below.
To my way of thinking, the push for nuclear power plants was a ham-fisted
attempt to provide a "peaceful" use for atomic power in order to make the
age of the atomic bomb more palatable to the American people. The Mr. Hyde
of the bomb was now an ugly fact of life so we looked for a Dr. Jekyll face
to put on it. Also, the US government had decided that the production of
uranium, although now a matter of national security, was to remain private
-- yet protected. So, naturally, private industry uses for the stuff, such
as power plants, were sought.
Then the bottom fell out of the yellowcake market -- when, about 1980? The
US government did not support the domestic producers of uranium as they had.
We import yellowcake now. The initial basis for the rationale -- i.e.
giving a "necessary" and protected private industry something positive and
useful to do --sort of disappeared.
It is extremely unfortunate but sometimes a disaster needs to occur before
obvious risks are effectively addressed with dug-in, vested interests . I
was in Humboldt County, CA in the late 1970s. The Redwood Alliance was very
active. The University's geology department continually warned PG&E that
the Humboldt nuclear plant was built on an active fault line. The
discussion had devolved to a "Is so!" "Is not!" "Is so!" level of
discourse --- when a 6.9 or 7.0 quake occurred -- the night before the day
Reagan was elected President as I recall. Fortunately, there was very
little damage from that quake. But the plant was finally decommissioned as
I hope your writing about the Indian Ocean tsunami vis a vis the remaining
California nuclear plants will provide the same result that it took an
actual quake to cause in Humboldt County. People who have seen the pictures
of the destruction met out by Mother Nature can mentally make the
connection. There are unacceptable risks involved in the nuclear plants
with no upside advantage. The "clean" energy provided by the plants in
question does not bring us one whit closer to independence from fossil fuels
for our electricity (surely our dependence on fossil fuels is the source of
the worst security risks our county faces now). But power generated from
wind and movement of water -- as you described in your article -- does.
Perhaps enlistment of the insurance industry in this argument might be of
help in making it effective. After all, there is a great deal of money at
risk -- as well people's health and property.
Thank you for your very stimulating article.
[[[ Unfortunately, the insurance companies have simply but exclusions to nuclear power catastrophes in all their contracts, so they don't much care, financially, what happens. But we all have a moral stake in this, as well. -- rdh ]]]
[[[ Note: Sara sent an update to this letter (published in a subsequent newsletter) -- rdh ]]]
11) How thick and tall is the sea wall at San Onofre?
From: "Bill Smirnow" <email@example.com>
To: "Russell D. Hoffman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Statement by Russell Hoffman concerning tsunamis and nuclear power plants
Do you know how thick the wall is and what it is made of? How long is it? If a tsunami were to hit along a front of 625 miles of the coast or that matter 1000 miles does that automatically mean there would be a release[s] of radiation or is there a way of scramming them safely for an extended period of time?
Good work below. Have you considered calling people like Matt Wald of the NY Times? William Broad of the NYTimes [who's possibly more receptive]?
[[[ Lighthouses have been knocked over and swept away by tsunamis, and yet these cluckers think they've got a nuke plant that will survive simply ANYTHING! The sea wall at San Onofre is probably not more than 4 or 5 feet thick, perhaps only three, it's straight, not curved against the wave front like it should be, and I read in the local paper today that it's 30 feet high, not 35 feet high as I had stated in my previous letter. That's an extra five foot wall of water coming through!
A tsunami would not "automatically" mean a release of radiation, but a large one that inundates the facility would mean there would almost certainly if not "automatically" be a massive release, from the spent fuel pool with a train car sitting in it, from the dry casks knocked over, about, and open, or from the reactor itself melting down due to loss of (the) control (room), loss of backup systems, loss of everything external to the dome, and who knows, maybe loss of the dome, too! Nothing's certain in this world, but that would certainly NOT be GOOD!
Note: WB may have received the email. MW would not have received it directly.
-- rdh ]]]
12) Morally bankrupt logic by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
From: "Doucette, Arthur" <ADoucette@Atl.carreker.com>
To: "'Russell D. Hoffman'" <email@example.com>
I came across this recently,
"For assessing public safety and developing regulations for nuclear reactors
and materials, the NRC traditionally used a deterministic approach that
asked. "What can go wrong?" and "What are the consequences?" Now, new
information for assessing risks also allows NRC to ask "How likely is it
that something will go wrong?"
Seems to me much like how NASA rationalized Cassini.
Of course their whole rationalization was proven false when they
miscalculated the weight of the Mars lander, their very next orbital
maneuver after their Cassini fly by (Scare by?)
So now the NRC will use the fact that a catastrophic failure is "not likely"
to occur to determine risk?
Probability analysis is great when playing the stock market, planting crops
etc, but this is the same logic Ford used when dealing with flaming Pintos.
They didn't recall them because the cost of the recall was more then their
probability analysis showed they would pay out in settlements to those who
This logic is just morally bankrupt.
13) Speaking of the devil...
Subject: speaking of the devil...
speaking of vulnerable nuclear plants, you may have wished to mention (for readers unfamiliar with our local geography) that PG&Gs Diablo plant is ALSO sited right on the coast -- and atop an earthquake fault.
14) Nuclear power -- request for calculation:
At 08:10 PM 12/29/2004 -0600, "prcarlson" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thanks for your article. I have an interesting question for you. What is the comparative morbidity and mortality and environmental impact of electric generation technologies in the US over a long period of time?? Include all aspects including manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, accidents, decommissioning and the entire fuel cycle and normalize it for an equivalent output of electricity (i.e. what it would be if we were all renewable, all coal, or all nuclear) over a 50 or 100 year period of time. Thanks for your consideration.