Re: FW: A response to my comments on nuclear terrorism by Jack Shannon, Harvey Wasserman, Eugene Carroll post
To: "Barbara Byron" <BByron@energy.state.ca.us>, firstname.lastname@example.org, "Barbara Boxer, Senator (CA, D)" <email@example.com>
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: FW: A response to my "comments on nuclear terrorism by Jack Shannon, Harvey Wasserman, Eugene Carroll" post
Cc: email@example.com, "Russell Wise, NRC" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Elmo Collins" <email@example.com>, "Pat Gwynn" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Clanon, Paul" <email@example.com>, "Ajello, Julian E." <JEA@cpuc.ca.gov>, "Wong, Zee Z." <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Clark, Richard W." <email@example.com>, "NRC" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Bob Aldrich <email@example.com>, "Steve Woods" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Bob Kahn, Op-ED editor, NC TImes" <email@example.com>
To: "Barbara Byron" <BByron@energy.state.ca.us>, Bob Aldrich <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Steve Woods" <email@example.com>
cc: Governor Gray Davis, Senator Barbara Boxer, NRC, CPUC, etc.
Re: A response from Joe Jaffe to Russell Hoffman (with answers)
From: Russell Hoffman, Concerned Citizen
Date: September 20th, 2001 (2:00 pm PST)
To: Ms Barbara Byron, Mr. Bob Aldrich, Mr. Steve Woods:
Attached is an email from Joe Jaffe, responding to one of my letters which I sent you, which was also forwarded by Laura Hunter and other, to various people including Mr. Jaffe. He raises many arguments against my concerns which I have answered below. Please forward this document as well as all previous communications to the appropriate California State employees as quickly as possible, and to whoever at the NRC is the state's primary technical contact person on these issues.
Russell D. Hoffman
At 12:39 PM 9/20/01 , "Joe J." wrote:
Russell did a great job in preparing these comments. They provide a serious analysis of what we are faced with, 104 targets for terrorists. Unfortunately the suggestions for preventive measures are not sufficient.
[[[ Of course they are not "sufficient". They are only a start. Sufficient measures cannot be taken until the reactors are shut off and they begin to cool. -- rdh ]]]
Shutting down nuclear plants do not reduce their danger.
[[[ It does not eliminate all dangers, but it does reduce the risk very, very substantially right away. All accident scenarios which would not allow the control rods to be inserted, for example, are eliminated if they already have been inserted. It is absolutely incorrect to say the danger is not reduced if the plants are shut down. Ray Golden (PR guy for SON(W)GS) might say such a thing but that doesn't make it true. -- rdh ]]]
Until they have been completely decommissioned, all nuclear materials removed including the fuel rods in cooling tanks they remain potential targets.
[[[ True, but shutting down the plants immediately is the logical (and only possible) first step. The danger is immediately reduced and drops continuously thereafter, until after a few years it is possible to remove everything to a safer location and storage method (not that a very safe place has been found, but where it is is one of the worst places. And not that truly safe storage containments have been found, either. But Spent Fuel Pools certainly aren't it! -- rdh ]]]
Hopefully the suggestions for removing the causes that drive the terrorists will succeed long before the plants have been made completely nuclear free and replaced with alternate energy sources.
[[[ Wanna bet? Terrorism is not new and it won't disappear any time soon. The highest levels of the U.S. government are saying that we should not expect a short War On Terrorism. It will last years, or even decades. The plants could be dismantled in a year or two, after they have cooled sufficiently, which can't start until they are shut down. Whatever our response to this action turns out to be, there is no way it will eliminate all possible sources of terrorism. The only reasonable solution is to reduce our inherent vulnerabilities. Electrical energy derived from nuclear power plants is no different from electrical energy derived from renewable, benign sources. There are plenty of clean energy sources (wind, wave, tide, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric, etc.), so we could EASILY shut off the nukes. I would wager that simply upgrading the turbines at Hoover Dam would provide us with enough energy to close several nukes. I challenge anyone t
o disprove that! The airline industry is in shambles. Employ those same now-unemployed people in the renewable energy industry, and the problem of not enough energy by 14.6% in California because of the loss of the nukes would be quickly solved (that figure (14.6%) is according to Bob Aldrich, Webmaster for the state's energy information web site). Every day San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station stays open, another half a tons of High Level Radioactive Waste is created, which becomes new targets for terrorists. -- rdh ]]]
So in addition to the improvements in ground security recommended by Shannon I suggest the following.
Instead of ordering aircraft to the middle east to prepare for bombing the countries suspected of harboring the terrorists why not use them to police no fly zones surrounding all nuclear facilities that are potential targets.
[[[ I don't think we'll solve this problem by bombing, but this alternative won't work either. There are roughly 1000 nuclear targets in the United States. Many of them are near population centers and thus, near air traffic routes. Many others are under major air routes even if they are not especially close to a population center. A plane traveling at 600 miles per hour covers 10 miles a minute or 100 miles in just ten minutes. Obviously, 100% security from future hijackings is unreasonable. Even the pilots themselves can go crazy. It is quite probable this happened several years ago over Nova Scotia, with the loss of a jumbo jet and all souls on board. But you hardly need a jumbo jet to catastrophically damage a nuclear power plant. Private planes, singles and twins, and even private jets, can come in low and swift and suddenly. Some nukes are just minutes from small local airports. A well-aimed private plane could destroy lots of vital parts
of nuclear power plants, especially if loaded with a fertilizer bomb to enhance the effect. --- rdh ]]]
We also have early warning system radar that is supposed to detect aircraft nearing the U.S. that are not on FAA flight patterns. Such systems should be used to detect any aircraft entering the no fly zones with military planes immediately available to intercept them.
[[[ Why not ask the Drug Enforcement Agency czar (before we fire him) how many planes get through on an average day? -- rdh ]]]
Especially important to San Diego, all Naval vessels powered with nuclear reactors should be far enough away from the coasts so as not to represent a danger to any populated area. Presumably these vessels are adequately prepared to defend themselves from attack.
[[[ Unless the nuclear-powered ships have suddenly all been deployed (I imagine a lot of them have or will be) they are indeed normally way too close to civilians. Could they survive any terrorist threat, plus any accident they might themselves cause, plus all possible engineering flaws? It is unlikely they are as invulnerable as the Navy would have us believe. One has to consider the magnitude of the consequences, not just the percentages of a successful attack. A successful attack on a non-nuclear warship is still a fairly localized event, buckets of paint and chemicals in the ordnance and so forth notwithstanding. A successful attack on a nuclear warship would be a horrendous environmental disaster. This would be true even if the warship were in the middle of the ocean. A successful attack on a nuclear vessel in the harbor could make San Diego, or a large portion of it, uninhabitable for millennia. So the level of invulnerability must be orders of magnitude b
etter than for, say, a non-nuclear battleship. It is an inherently unachievable level of invulnerability.
In WWII, we lost battleships. We lost carriers. We lost subs.
-- rdh ]]]
I am sure the costs of these measures will be far less than the money requested for a missile defense system which would be completely useless in combatting terrorism as well as missiles.
[[[ I agree that Star Wars won't work. As for costs, let's look at the full cost of what happened last week, and realize what a tiny, tiny fraction of the whole United States was actually physically effected by what happened. The cost will be in the trillions. Yet there is little doubt that America, and the rest of the civilized world, will survive. So don't talk about costs, it's irrelevant. The dangers from nukes are too great, and those dangers are growing daily across the country, by about 10 tons a day for High Level Radioactive Waste, and four or five times that for so-called Low-Level Radioactive Waste (which is just HLRW with filler added, like iron, steel, brass, aluminum, rubber, cloth, glass, cement, water, air, etc. etc.). Time ran out a long time ago. Reality is setting in now. -- rdh ]]]
[[[ Here are four reasons military protection of nuclear power plants is not the answer (reprinted from an earlier email):
1) It might not work, and if it doesn't, the devastation would last for millennia and the death toll and suffering would be unspeakable -- several orders of magnitude worse than what we saw at the World Trade Center.
2) Using trained troops for this purpose takes those troops away from other defensive positions where the country could use them. There are over 1000 nuclear hotspots in this country, including nuclear power plants (103), research reactors (~40), training reactors (several), closed reactors (~50), and waste dumps (lots and lots). Hanford alone is about the size of a small state, and just has a fence around it -- very difficult to protect. All nuclear sites are vulnerable to one degree or another, most of them are extremely vulnerable.
3) Having so much weaponry so close to the reactors is unsafe prima facie. "Friendly fire" is an extremely serious risk in any firefight. Also, there is no guarantee that those manning the guns will do what is expected of them. Timothy McViegh was a U.S. soldier before he became a terrorist.
4) It's extremely expensive to protect the plants and the expense will not go away as time goes by. We will need to protect the NPPs from this day forward. Thus, they are not and never will be economical to run (they never were before).
CLOSE THE NUKES NOW! LET'S SWITCH TO RENEWABLE ENERGY TODAY!
P.S. Most places I've seen say there are 103 operational nukes, not 104. -- rdh ]]]
Attachment: Incoming email from "joe j."
Here are some important comments fyi. Thanks to Russell for assembling
them. This is a huge concern for our region.
[[[ Note: The order has been changed by Laura Hunter. -- rdh ]]]
This next item is an article by Harvey Wasserman, AlterNet:
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 01:17:41 EDT
Subject: AlterNet: SHUT THE REACTORS!
CONFRONTING THE NEW REALITY OF NUCLEAR TERRORISM
Harvey Wasserman, AlterNet
Though few are now talking about it, atomic power is high on the list of
realities forever transformed by the terrorist nightmare of September 11.
Despite saturation media coverage, both the Bush administration and
mainstream commentators have been ominously silent about the most obvious
terrorist target of all: our 103 licensed commercial nuclear plants.
The four jetliners hijacked September 11 flew perilously close to at least a
dozen operating reactors, from Pilgrim, Millstone and Indian Point, between
Boston and New York, to Surry, North Anna and Calvert Cliffs near
Washington, to Peach Bottom, Limerick and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.
Though the industry has claimed the containment domes on such plants might
withstand a jet crash, no credible engineer would agree. In fact, it's
inconceivable any of them could survive a direct hit followed by a long
jet-fueled fire such as the ones that destroyed the World Trade Center.
And had the terrorists chosen to target one of those reactors instead of the
World Trade Center or the Pentagon, we would be talking about tens of
thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of long-term
cancers, and hundreds of billions of dollars in property damage.
In short, a holocaust from which this nation might never recover.
Such fearful realities have been integral to the debate over nuclear power
since its inception. Early reactor opponents argued as early as the 1960s
that reactors in populated areas might be terrorist targets. In the 1970s an
airline hijacker talked about crashing into a nuclear facility. In the 1980s
the Ayatollah Khomeini threatened to hit "nuclear targets" inside the U.S.
In the early 1990s followers of Osama Bin Laden are believed to have trained
within a hundred miles of Three Mile Island.
In recent years, ground-level security at U.S. reactor sites has become
notoriously lax. Journalists and anti-nuke activists have easily penetrated
the environs of operating nukes. In many cases, a simple bomb or someone
wrecking random havoc inside a hijacked control room could do
But now the prospect of an attack from the air has taken things to a new
level. Even in the unlikely event a containment dome could withstand a hit
from a jetliner, the ensuing fire would almost certainly lead to a meltdown
or explosion. Nor would it be necessary to hit the dome at all. Pools
holding thousands of tons of high-level fuel rods sit at most reactors sites
with no containment whatsoever. Merely disrupting their cooling systems
could cause a melt-down, as might an assault on turbine housings, emergency
power generators, communications systems and many other parts of the
immensely complex and fragile infrastructure that keeps nuclear plants from
At least one type of newly proposed reactor -- the pebble bed design -- is
being offered with no containment at all. Small wonder those proposing to
build new atomic plants want Congress to approve an extension of federal
liability insurance, insulating them from the consequences of a catastrophic
accident. In other words, because no private insurer will take them on, the
industry wants taxpayer protection against paying for a disaster, one we now
see could all-too-easily come from terrorism even on a far less demanding
scale than what happened September 11.
And what would be the real consequences of such a disaster? Most American
reactors sit in areas that were once isolated, but which have now been
surrounded by suburban sprawl. Evacuation planning is threadbare and
essentially unworkable. Most mass escape schemes are built around the
expected lead-time offered by a mechanical failure, a luxury no terrorist
attack would provide.
Chernobyl Unit Four, which spewed an apocalyptic radioactive cloud over much
of Europe and into the jetstream (the fallout was detected across the
northern U.S. within 10 days), had been operating only for four years. Its
internal radioactive inventory was thus comparatively small.
Most U.S. reactors have operated far longer, and have accumulated far more
deadly radiation, both inside their containments and in the nearby spent
fuel pools. An explosion in any one of them would almost certainly throw far
greater quantities of lethal radiation downwind and into the planet's
At Chernobyl, the death toll has been impossible to calculate, but may
ultimately stretch into the millions due to the long-term effects of cancer,
malformations and stillbirths. Hundreds of square miles remain permanently
uninhabitable. The financial cost estimates run in the range of $500
billion, and growing.
But in the U.S., surrounding population levels are far higher, and property
values are in another range of magnitude. In short, it is virtually
impossible to calculate the damage that could be done. But it would dwarf
what we have just experienced at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Today the U.S. gets about 20 percent of its electricity -- less than 10
percent of its total energy -- from atomic power. Ironically, the recent
electricity crisis in California has shown that a focused public can rapidly
cut into its use of power. Since prices skyrocketed, Californians have used
conservation and efficiency to chop as much as 10 percent of their
consumption, with more savings still coming in. Safe alternative forms of
generation, particularly wind power and photovoltaic (solar) cells, are also
now cost effective on a mass scale.
In short, we could turn off our nuclear plants today and get by. There may
be some short-term inconveniences. But nothing that would compare with the
ultimate horror of a nuclear disaster caused by the kind of terrorism we
have just seen.
Indeed, even though this administration doesn't seem to want to talk about
it, the unthinkable has now become tangible. In the name of national
security and of basic sanity, all U.S. reactors must be shut as quickly as
Harvey Wasserman is author of The Last Energy War (Seven Stories
This next item, by Eugene Carroll, was posted on various nuke-related
Published on Tuesday, September 18, 2001 in the St Paul Pioneer Press
Nuclear Plants Could Be Next Targets of Terrorists
by Eugene Carroll
In the wake of the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Towers in New
York and damaged the Pentagon, American security officials have begun to
think in earnest about some of the other targets that future terrorists
Among those that come to mind are America's huge oil refineries, which
could be set aflame with catastrophic economic and environmental
consequences. Also in the crosshairs of terrorists saboteurs are the
country's communication centers and banking systems, which are essential to
domestic and international commerce. But by far, the most dangerous,
vulnerable and significant targets are the 104 nuclear power plants in the
While these plants are said to be secure, too much evidence suggests
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission administers a number of supervisory
programs to ensure security, chief among them being an Operational
Safeguards Response Evaluation inspection program.
Under the OSRE routine, a nuclear plant is warned that a simulated sabotage
effort will be made against their installation by a team of would-be
saboteurs in a force-on-force exercise. These teams are composed of both
NRC and private contractor personnel under the direction of a David Orrik,
a retired Navy SEAL.
In approximately half of recent tests, the intruders succeeded in defeating
the security measures, even reaching the central control room on occasion.
The NRC downplays these security failures by claiming that they always lead
to positive improvements and overall security is adequate. Indeed, so
sanguine are NRC officials that they are starting a pilot program to allow
private reactor operators to conduct their own security evaluations. Since
when have private companies voluntarily disclosed security shortcomings and
made costly improvements to their security systems and personnel training?
Compare this gentlemanly security program with the fierce determination of
a trained team of terrorists attacking a reactor without warning and taking
it over long enough to disable the safety controls. At that point, a major
Chernoble-syle disaster would be all but assured.
Now that the initial shock and sadness of Tuesday's horror have given way
to anger, many members of Congress are calling for aggressive military
action directed against not only the responsible terrorist organization but
against the nation providing them shelter and support. Though popular here
at home, such action will not provide any protection against further
terrorist actions. If anything, it may well intensify the cycle of attack
Whatever action is finally taken, the first objective should be to protect
American citizens in the United States. But terrorists are not single
minded nor stupid. Seeing a major security effort in process at the
airports, they will simply look elsewhere for vulnerable targets -- like
the country's nuclear power plants. These need protection -- not by their
owners but by government forces.
The sad truth is we cannot guard everything in America all the time against
terrorist attack. The only realistic hope to reduce the danger of future
attacks lies not in violent reprisals by American forces, but in positive
preventive programs, taken in concert with other nations to attack the root
causes of terrorism by political and economic means.
Only by alleviating abject poverty and hopelessness in the poorest nations
in the world can we eliminate the spirit that breeds terrorists -- that
sense that even death is preferable to life under unbearable conditions.
This will not be an easy or inexpensive challenge. But it is far less
costly than the perpetual cycle of attack and reprisal and with targets
like nuclear reactors to aim at.
Carroll, a retired rear admiral, served as director of U. S. military
operations in Europe and the Middle East. Distributed by Knight
Ridder-Tribune Information Services.
© 2001 PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press
These following statement is by:
John P. Shannon
Nuclear Physicist/Nuclear Engineer
Former Manager of Health and Safety at the Nuclear Navy's Knolls Atomic
At 07:57 AM 9/18/01 , Jack Shannon wrote:
Nuclear Power plants have never been designed to withstand the impact of
anything close to a 747 slamming into a Nuclear Power Plant. If the NRC/DOE
have such studies they are now obligated to make them public. I doubt that
the DOE/NRC has even investigated the effects of a 3.5 inch standard
hand held antitank rocket on a concrete containment. I haven't done the
calculations either, but I would bet that a 3.5 inch rocket, designed to
penetrate several inches of tank armor, would go through a containment
like a knife through butter. The American people cannot make decisions about
Nuclear Power in a vacuum, which is exactly what we have been asked to do
years. With the terrorists attacks we can no longer tolerate that kind of
Furthermore, Boiling Water Reactors store several reactor core loads of
depleted fissile and fission products above the reactors, completely
unprotected. If a plane, any plane, crashes into these storage pools very
high radiation level material will be spread far and wide. The consequences
of such an accident are too horrible to contemplate.
We should also note that the track record of the NRC/DOE and many State
agencies have a somewhat less than stellar reputation when it comes to the
subject of Nuclear Power Plant safety
John P. Shannon
Nuclear Physicist/Nuclear Engineer
Former Manager of Health and Safety at the Nuclear Navy's Knolls Atomic
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