Date: Dec. 27th, 2001
From: Russell Hoffman, Concerned Citizen
To: Bill Smirnow
Subject: San Onofre incident shows need for permanent no-fly zones around nuke plants


Thanks for your suggestions (shown below) for contacting local media and enviro orgs.  Fortunately, the local media seem to have had some idea of the danger to San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station from that plane crash on Xmas Day, because they put San Onofre in all the reports I saw about it.  I don't recall CNN mentioning the proximity to San Onofre, although the plane crash did make it onto their news service.  The pilot's name, sure to raise eyebrows, was Jamul Mohammed, by the way.  It was a rental airplane, rented from a place called, of all things, "Airport Security", in Hawthorne, California.  Who knows what's in a name?

In my opinion, this incident makes it very difficult for any of the nuclear industry apologists to dismiss the need for a no-fly zone around the plants.  Permanent 50-mile radius no-fly zones would effectively shut down aviation across America, but the fact is, airplanes and nuclear power plants just don't mix.

As to your question about whether or not the local media is aware of the infamous CRAC-2 government report from 1982, unfortunately, I don't think they are, and so they wouldn't know that CRAC-2 says there would be 68,000 casualties if just one of San Onofre's two operating reactors melts down, not including multiple meltdowns or spent fuel accidents.  And it's even more unlikely that the media would know that CRAC-2 is probably off by an order of magnitude or more.  And I don't think the local media realize that a meltdown might be a very sudden event (especially, but not necessarily, if it's triggered by a plane crash).  After all, the same issue of yesterday's local paper (the North County (CA) Times) that had an article about the plane crash, also had an article about KI availability, quoting the NRC's Breck Henderson saying that "Nuclear accidents evolve slowly.  People have time to evacuate." (Both articles started on page 1 of the local section (B)).

Mr. Henderson undoubtedly knows that not all meltdowns "evolve slowly" (in other words, he's lying), especially those that start with airplanes crashing into the plant.  And I'm sure he also knows that winds can move much faster than evacuations are able to proceed.  The vehicle speeds during an evacuation are usually overestimated at about 25 miles per hour, but people wouldn't really be able to move that fast.  The estimates also generally assume that all possible evacuation routes are utilized, even though there's a good chance that a portion of them will be directly or partially downwind and thus, unavailable.  And the winds, carrying their hidden agenda, can change direction any old time.

In short, evacuation is not really a viable option.  The NRC does have an alternative plan, though -- shut your windows and doors, and wait for help to arrive (some time in the next millennium).

It is worth noting that in the article, Mr. Henderson makes some very frank observations, the first time I've ever seen him quoted that way.  After talking about KI's effectiveness against thyroid cancer, the article states: "However, Henderson said, any radiation released during an accident at a nuclear power plant probably would contain far more dangerous materials than iodine.  People could be exposed to plutonium, cesium and other nuclear reaction byproducts that could cause radiation poisoning in the short term and fatal forms of cancer in the long term.  Also, he said, KI produces serious side effects in a small percentage of people."  (Feds offer to buy Potassium Iodide by Phil Diehl, North County Times, Dec. 26th, 2001.)

As for your suggestion that we try to get local environmentalist Laura Hunter to help, since you heard her on national radio recently, all I can say is we've tried repeatedly to solicit her help without success.  Even a request from a representative of San Luis Obispo's Grandmothers For Peace was a failure.  (The other pair of operational nuclear power plants in California -- Diablo Canyon -- is located near SLO.)

Ms Hunter is one of the heads of the major local environmental organization (Environmental Health Coalition) and a pretty big wheel in town, and as such, the fact that she won't say anything significant against San Onofre damages our cause significantly.  ("It should be studied" is about as strong as she gets on the issue, even after 9-11.)

Unfortunately, I worked with her for about five years before I realized there was a problem.  See this document, where I attempt to spell it all out (it links to several other related documents):

Ms Hunter, for all her years of effort on the issue of the Nuclear Navy, hasn't actually stopped the Navy in any way I can recall, but she gets a lot of local press on Nuclear Navy issues, which of course, blocks any other environmental views on those issues, because the media only needs two sides to every story -- the official side, in this case the Navy side, and one other.  It also prevents dissent because, having risen to a position of power, others logically tend to rally around her because one united voice is always considered best by the activists (a view I agree with, by the way, providing the leader is making sense).  The net result is there's no room anywhere for alternative environmental views here in San Diego.

EHC spent a lot of time and money fighting Navy dredging of San Diego Bay on the grounds that they were using diesel equipment to do it, which seemed a bit off-target to me. EHC never seemed to grasp the real purpose of dredging, which was to get rid of toxic materials the Navy had been dumping into the bay for decades.  In a carefully-planned media campaign to deflect and influence local public opinion, at first the Navy said they were going to dump millions of cubic yards of wonderful white sand on all the local beaches, which are all desperate for sand -- especially free sand that even gets delivered for free.  So the media obligingly reports this, and all the politicians unite up and down the coast in favor of the sand.  Then, coming as a big surprise to everyone except the flock of mostly retired Army guys who walk up and down the coasts of America looking for coins, jewelry, and what-have-you with metal detectors, a couple of people find a few old artillery shells and bullets and other "UXO" (mil-speak for "unexploded ordinance", which is mil-speak for... well, you know, everything that hasn't been exploded yet, I guess).

So they decide to just dump the sand out at sea for the sake of the kiddies (I think an eight-year old stumbled upon something, if I recall correctly, but fortunately the youngster was not hurt).

Of course, dumping it out at sea happened to be exactly what the Navy really wanted and intended to do in the first place.  But if they had just done that, groups like EHC might have figured out what was happening.

After the dredging, the J. C. Stennis, America's newest billion-dollar floating Chernobyl, in one of her first tours of duty inside America's busiest harbor (mostly private yachts, and also one of our nation's largest naval bases and naval ship construction yards), with the bottom well marked and dredged to the Navy's satisfaction, still managed to suck the bottom muck into the reactor cooling system and they had to SCRAM *BOTH* reactors and tow her back to the dock and clean her innards out!

I guess it's a real good thing the Navy dredged out most of the artillery shells before THAT incident occurred!

While EHC was worrying about the diesel fumes from dredging, they barely noticed, for example, the General Accounting Office's 1998 landmark report that indicates nuclear reactor-based carriers offer no significant military advantage over non-nuclear carriers and are more expensive to build and run, even when not accounting for the waste problem they produce.  Not that activists should necessarily rely on the Government's own reports to denounce another branch of the government, but when the opportunity presents itself so vividly and expeditiously, exceptions should be made.  (The General Accounting Office report is formally known as: United States General Accounting Office Report to Congressional Requesters: Nuclear Aircraft Carriers: Cost-Effectiveness of Conventionally and Nuclear-Powered Carriers, August, 1998 (GAO/NSIAD-98-1).)

Please write to Laura Hunter yourself, and try to explain why she should help try to shut San Onofre.  Tell her about the great work of other local activists, specifically Peter Meisen (of the Global Energy Network Institute), and Jim Bell, who can outline, between them, the complete non-fossil fuel, non-nuclear energy solutions the world needs to follow.  And Patricia Borchmann, who knows an awful lot about problems with San Onofre (and whose sheaf of documents on San Onofre Laura Hunter handed to me last spring, washing her own hands of the matter).

By the way, it was probably Representative Bob Filner whom you heard.  I'm sorry to say I don't live in his district.  He seems to be trying to do the right thing in a very difficult environment (Congress) and I have a lot of admiration for him -- especially if he can accomplish anything positive while being helped by Ms Hunter.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Here's a link to today's San Diego Union-Tribune article about Tuesday's plane crash. This article will scare you, if only for the circumstances surrounding this crash:  It was a rented airplane.  The 26-year-old pilot (who survived), Jamul Mohammed, certainly has a lot of questions to answer.  The crash is reported to have been only a half mile from the plant (not three miles away as other reports state).  And according to this article, another airplane was also within 5 miles of the nuclear power plant when the Cessna 172N went down.  This incident is a terrifying reminder of just how vulnerable we all are to terrorism because of these nuclear power plants:

Here's a link to yesterday's North County (CA) Times article about the plane crash:

Here's a link to yesterday's North County (CA) Times article about KI:

"Any terrorist with a wad of cash could charter a Gulfstream, no questions asked, and fly right to a site." --  Warren Morningstar, Vice President - Communications, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association:


At 10:50 PM 12/26/01 , "Bill Smirnow" <> wrote:

  Hi Russell,
                      Hope you can get this into a
letter to the editor and/or call into some local
radio or TV show to get this point across. The
CRAC-2 stats[greatly watered down as they are] for
SONGS ought to open some people's eyes  if you can
reach the public.

  NRC also should be collectively challenged by a
bunch of us to have
updated. Or better yet, instead of NRC- NIRS, UCS,
Greenpeace, people that will give something
approximating an obective picture of the
devastation that'll be wrecked. Maybe Rep. Ed
Markey, Dennis Kucinisch of Ohio & your Rep[forget
his name but I heard him on the radio here in NY
re 2 weeks ago with a woman , possibly Laura
Hunter, doing an excellant of of eyeing the
nuclear navy in San Diego, might be able to help
in getting an obective CRAC-2 or CRAC-3 started.


----- Original Message -----
[ Note: Bill Smirnow's letter included my original letter about this plane crash, which is located online here: >