60 Seconds on 60 Minutes by Russell Hoffman, October 15th, 2001
To: (This letter was submitted to CBS through the 60 Minutes Web page)
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <email@example.com>
Subject: 60 Seconds on 60 Minutes
Cc: governor of California, "Barbara Boxer, Senator (CA, D)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Ray Golden-spokesperson" <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>, "Barbara Byron" <BByron@energy.state.ca.us>, "Steve Woods" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
October 15th, 2001
60 Seconds on 60 Minutes
Yesterday's CBS 60 Minutes report, produced by Leslie Cockburn and L. Franklin Devine, claimed to be about terrorist attacks on nuke plants, but it focused almost exclusively on the effects of an airplane strike on a nuclear power plant's containment dome. Only two other methods of attack were mentioned briefly: The words "truck bomb" were uttered, and the possibility of a commando-style raid was discussed. The report mentioned that in mock commando raids, nuclear power plant defenses fail approximately 50% of the time, even when operators are given as much as six months' warning of the exercise.
Here's the URL of a list of 25 simple ways to attack a nuke (in this case, San Onofre, my local nuke), for under about $100,000.00, with less than 20 people. Using any of these methods (or 1000 others), terrorists could lay waste to thousands of square miles for hundreds of millennia, and probably kill millions, and cause uncountable suffering:
The 60 Minutes show never talked about the dangers of a plane crash into a Spent Fuel Pool or Dry Storage Cask, or into the Emergency Core Cooling System and the other systems external to the containment dome, including the backup generators and off-site power connections.
The show never discussed how many Curies of what might be released, or the effects of the escaped radiation. It didn't talk about cancer, leukemia, and birth defects -- the gruesome results of a meltdown.
The show ignored the dangers of Rocket-Propelled Grenades shot at the spent fuel pools or the control room.
The show said that Paul Levanthal (of the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington, DC) said that "thousands" could die if a plane struck a nuclear power plant. Maybe he did, but "millions" would have been more correct. Leventhal must either be talking about a very small release (for example, .1% of the reactor's fuel) or he was misquoted. If a meltdown occurs, the radioactive release could be very large -- even possibly all of the reactor's fuel. Unlikely? Four planes hijacked the same morning, with three of them successfully crashed into highly populated symbols of America and one crashed into a field, all in one morning, was unlikely. Wasn't it?
Perhaps worst of all, the show gave a lot of airtime to Ralph Beedle, spokesperson for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry mouthpiece, whose statements were utterly irrational (as usual). For example, Beedle wants the government to come up with a plan for better security. His projected time frame? Six months! What does he expect the terrorists to do in the meantime?
Also, Beedle said nuke plants would be difficult to hit because they are much smaller and lower to the ground than the WTC. But the terrorists had no trouble hitting the Pentagon, which is also much lower to the ground, like a containment dome. And they could concentrate multiple plane strikes at one nuke to be sure they got it. Somehow, Beedle and 60 Minutes missed that scenario.
60 Minutes didn't give Harvey Wasserman any airtime (I have no idea if they even contacted him). Wasserman has written the best summary of the real situation I know of (shown below).
"Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, floods, fires" were ALL dismissed by the 60 Minutes report as things nukes are entirely protected against. Some plants, near military bases, they said, are even "built to withstand airplane strikes", although no specifics were given.
It's all wrong. And tsunamis weren't even mentioned. San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station for instance, located along the coast in Southern California, has a 35-foot "tsunami wall" which is hardly tall enough. 1800-foot tsunamis have been recorded and 200-foot tsunamis are not unusual.
Asteroids weren't mentioned. Why not? Because an asteroid striking a nuclear power plant would be disastrous, that's why not! So instead of evaluating the risk, the NRC and the nuclear power industry pretend an asteroid strike is impossible. When deciding on our energy solutions, we should be more realistic. At least, do the math! (Due to vaporization of the nuclear material at the site, a relatively small asteroid, which would be a town-killer if it didn't hit a nuke, would be a planet-killer if it did. How small is small? Grapefruit-sized on impact, depending on the speed it comes in at and its chemical composition, should be plenty big enough. But that's one of the calculations the NRC refuses to do.)
60 Minutes claimed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's nearly hour-long delay on September 11th, before going into action after the 2nd plane strike on the second building of the World Trade Center, was a rapid response. It wasn't. The NRC had failed us (again) and its head, Meserve, should be fired.
60 Minutes is a tool of the oppressor.
Russell D. Hoffman
P. O. Box 1936
Carlsbad, CA 92018
Below are five items: Four letters from three different people, and an article by Harvey Wasserman.
>>>>> COMMENTS FROM A LOCAL PHYSICS PROFESSOR WHO TEACHES AT A LOCAL COLLEGE: >>>>>
1) Today I flew over [San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generation Station] in a light aircraft. There are no flight restrictions. It is a major air corridor.
2) Microstructural cracks in steel or other structural materials are not always detectable by X-ray examination. They may be caused by stress corrosion, fatigue, nuclear bombardment, or expansion caused by weldments (which leads to microstructural stresses). From whatever cause, they lead to embrittlement. Since such cracks and consequent embrittlement are frequently not detectable, routine safety practices require regular scheduled replacement of key structural components (as in aircraft engine supports).
<<<<< END CLIP <<<<<
Jack Shannon, USMC (ret.), is the designer of the most common nuclear reactor on the planet, the Navy DxG reactor:
>>>>> LETTER FROM JACK SHANNON (FIRST OF TWO) : >>>>>
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 08:55:18 EDT
Subject: Re: [westcan] SPANO'S BULLS#IT, FOLLOW THE $$ TRAIL
I saw one of the NRC/Entergy spokesman on Channel 6 [Schenectady].
I was also asked to comment about the same containment vessel's for Indian
The spokesman NRC/Entergy spokesman is not be forthcoming.
I asked the reporter [Judy Sanders] in my portion of the interview if the
spokesman had any studies to back up his comment that the containment would
stand a hit from a 737. I think his comment is nonsense and you people who
live near Indian Point should ask for the studies [I happen to know they
I, furthermore, believe that a 3.5 inch anti tank rocket could penetrate the
containment vessel. These rockets are designed to penetrate up to 6 inches of
The NRCC and plant owners somehow keep on believing that continuing to lie
about the safety of these plants will make the problems go away.
John Shannon Major USMC [Retired]
Nuclear Physicist/Nuclear Engineer
<<<<< END OF 1ST LETTER FROM JACK SHANNON <<<<<
>>>>> 2ND LETTER FROM JACK SHANNON: >>>>>
Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 09:37:58 EDT
Subject: Navy Reactors shut down
"The Saratogian" Newspaper announced yesterday, October 13, 2001, that the
Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory [KAPL] had shut down the two remaining
reactors on the site because of the present terrorist threat to our Nation.
The announcement came two days after John Shannon [former KAPL Physicist and
Nuclear Engineer] had been interviewed, on WRGB TV Channel 6, concerning the
dangers associated with a terrorist attack at a facility with two nuclear
reactors, neither of which has containment vessels nor emergency core cooling
A terrorist attack at this site, with something as simple as an anti tank
rocket, would have been devastating to the laboratory employees as well as
the surrounding Saratoga community.
Shannon has been trying for years, through pressure on both elected and
appointed officials to have these plants shut down even without the threat of
a terrorist attack. The terrorist threat has always been a possibility and
has been mentioned on many occasions to the EPA, DEC, DOE, Governor Pataki,
NY Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, Congressman Sweeney, Former Congressman
Gerry Solomon, former Senator John Glenn, former president Bill Clinton,
President George Bush Jr., and a host of other high ranking public officials.
As usual no action was taken until the threat became a reality.
Had the terrorist attack against the WTC been directed against KAPL; the
extent of the devastation would have been unimaginable.
The stupidity of our present Government officials in continuing to allow the
operation of all commercial nuclear power plants, under the present threat
from terrorism, should be well noted, and explained to those not so well
versed in this technology, by those of us who know the damage that could be
caused by an attack against a nuclear power plant. This lack of action and
stupidity, exhibited by our elected and appointed officials astounds even me.
Why we would keep these power plants operating in the present environment
goes beyond stupid, all the way to dereliction of duty.
It would appear that the existence of such a threat from terrorists finally
had an impact upon the intransigent politicians, at least at KAPL. We must
work toward the closure of all nuclear power plants in this Country.
To date the only action taken by elected officials and the DOE is to lie to
the American public concerning containment vessel safety and hire a few more
<<<<<END OF SECOND LETTER FROM JACK SHANNON <<<<<
>>>>> COMMENTS FROM A LOCAL LAWYER: >>>>>
I just wanted to take time to write you this brief note to express my appreciation for your efforts to close the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. I am disturbed that the local San Diego area media have not reported the pattern of operational and security deceptions and distortions you and others have uncovered in your diligent research of the public record. I am also distressed that local environmental groups in a position to do so have not embraced this issue with the same vigor and attention that they have embraced other environmental issues of public threat.
I fear that it will take a catastrophe before there will be an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the problems you have uncovered- which will be followed by an NRC-Edison attempt to blame those long gone who were responsible for the early evolution of the circumstances leading to the disaster. I do not think a terrorist-induced "Chernobyl" is at all unrealistic at San Onofre and appreciate your contribution to the dialogue on just how easy that would be. I note that you have received the usual "accidents can not happen" line in spite of the obvious evidence to the contrary. As Vladimir Lenin, co-founder of the Soviet state observed, if you tell a big lie long enough (in support of governmental objectives), it will be accepted as the truth.
Moreover, I am seriously concerned about some of the materials that worried friends in the Border Patrol and US Customs have told me have been seized at the US-Mexican border (not publicly reported) that could create the kind of damage you suggest is possible.
Keep up the good work!
<<<<< END LETTER FROM A LOCAL LAWYER (CURRENTLY PRACTICING, AS FAR AS I KNOW) <<<<<
AMERICA'S TERRORIST NUCLEAR THREAT TO ITSELF
By Harvey Wasserman
No sane nation hands to a wartime enemy atomic weapons set to go off within its own homeland, and then lights the fuse.
Yet as the bombs and missiles drop on Afghanistan, the certainty of terror retaliation inside America has turned our 103 nuclear power plants into weapons of apocalyptic destruction, just waiting to be used against us.
One or both planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, could have easily obliterated the two atomic reactors now operating at Indian Point, about 40 miles up the Hudson.
The catastrophic devastation would have been unfathomable. But those and a hundred other American reactors are still running. Security has been heightened. But all are vulnerable to another sophisticated terror attack aimed at perpetrating the unthinkable.
Indian Point Unit One was shut long ago by public outcry. But Units 2 & 3 have operated since the 1970s. Back then there was talk of requiring reactor containment domes to be strong enough to withstand a jetliner crash. But the biggest jets were far smaller than the ones that fly today. Nor did those early calculations account for the jet fuel whose hellish fire melted the critical steel supports that ultimately brought down the Trade Center.
Had one or both those jets hit one or both the operating reactors at Indian Point, the ensuing cloud of radiation would have dwarfed the ones at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
The intense radioactive heat within today's operating reactors is the hottest anywhere on the planet. So are the hellish levels of radioactivity.
Because Indian Point has operated so long, its accumulated radioactive burden far exceeds that of Chernobyl, which ran only four years before it exploded.
Some believe the WTC jets could have collapsed or breached either of the Indian Point containment domes. But at very least the massive impact and intense jet fuel fire would destroy the human ability to control the plants' functions. Vital cooling systems, backup power generators and communications networks would crumble.
Indeed, Indian Point Unit One was shut because activists warned that its lack of an emergency core cooling system made it an unacceptable risk. The government ultimately agreed.
But today terrorist attacks could destroy those same critical cooling and control systems that are vital to not only the Unit Two and Three reactor cores, but to the spent fuel pools that sit on site.
The assault would not require a large jet. The safety systems are extremely complex and virtually indefensible. One or more could be wiped out with a wide range of easily deployed small aircraft, ground-based weapons, truck bombs or even chemical/biological assaults aimed at the operating work force. Dozens of US reactors have repeatedly failed even modest security tests over the years. Even heightened wartime standards cannot guarantee protection of the vast, supremely sensitive controls required for reactor safety.
Without continuous monitoring and guaranteed water flow, the thousands of tons of radioactive rods in the cores and the thousands more stored in those fragile pools would rapidly melt into super-hot radioactive balls of lava that would burn into the ground and the water table and, ultimately, the Hudson.
Indeed, a jetcrash like the one on 9/11 or other forms of terrorist assault at Indian Point could yield three infernal fireballs of molten radioactive lava burning through the earth and into the aquifer and the river. Striking water they would blast gigantic billows of horribly radioactive steam into the atmosphere. Prevailing winds from the north and west might initially drive these clouds of mass death downriver into New York City and east into Westchester and Long Island.
But at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, winds ultimately shifted around the compass to irradiate all surrounding areas with the devastating poisons released by the on-going fiery torrent. At Indian Point, thousands of square miles would have been saturated with the most lethal clouds ever created or imagined, depositing relentless genetic poisons that would kill forever.
In nearby communities like Buchanan, Nyack, Monsey and scores more, infants and small children would quickly die en masse. Virtually all pregnant women would spontaneously abort, or ultimately give birth to horribly deformed offspring. Ghastly sores, rashes, ulcerations and burns would afflict the skin of millions. Emphysema, heart attacks, stroke, multiple organ failure, hair loss, nausea, inability to eat or drink or swallow, diarrhea and incontinence, sterility and impotence, asthma, blindness, and more would kill thousands on the spot, and doom hundreds of thousands if not millions. A terrible metallic taste would afflict virtually everyone downwind in New York, New Jersey and New England, a ghoulish curse similar to that endured by the fliers who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaskai, by those living downwind from nuclear bomb tests in the south seas and Nevada, and by victims caught in the downdrafts from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
Then comes the abominable wave of cancers, leukemias, lymphomas, tumors and hellish diseases for which new names will have to be invented, and new dimensions of agony will beg description.
Indeed, those who survived the initial wave of radiation would envy those who did not.
Evacuation would be impossible, but thousands would die trying. Bridges and highways would become killing fields for those attempting to escape to destinations that would soon enough become equally deadly as the winds shifted.
Attempts to quench the fires would be futile. At Chernobyl, pilots flying
helicopters that dropped boron on the fiery core died in droves. At Indian Point, such missions would be a sure ticket to death. Their utility would be doubtful as the molten cores rage uncontrolled for days, weeks and years,
spewing ever more devastation into the eco-sphere. More than 800,000 Soviet draftees were forced through Chernobyl's seething remains in a futile attempt to clean it up. They are dying in droves. Who would now volunteer for such an American task force?
The radioactive cloud from Chernobyl blanketed the vast Ukraine and Belarus landscape, then carried over Europe and into the jetstream, surging through the west coast of the United States within ten days, carrying across our northern tier, circling the globe, then coming back again.
The radioactive clouds from Indian Point would enshroud New York, New Jersey, New England, and carry deep into the Atlantic and up into Canada and across to Europe and around the globe again and again.
The immediate damage would render thousands of the world's most populous and expensive square miles permanently uninhabitable. All five boroughs of New York City would be an apocalyptic wasteland. The World Trade Center would be rendered as unusable and even more lethal by a jet crash at Indian Point than it was by the direct hits of 9/11. All real estate and economic value would be poisonously radioactive throughout the entire region. Irreplaceable trillions in human capital would be forever lost.
As at Three Mile Island, where thousands of farm and wild animals died in
heaps, and as at Chernobyl, where soil, water and plant life have been hopelessly irradiated, natural eco-systems on which human and all other life depends would be permanently and irrevocably destroyed,
Spiritually, psychologically, financially, ecologically, our nation would never recover.
This is what we missed by a mere forty miles near New York City on September 11. Now that we are at war, this is what could be happening as you read this.
There are 103 of these potential Bombs of the Apocalypse now operating in the United States. They generate just 18% of America's electricity, just 8% of our total energy. As with reactors elsewhere, the two at Indian Point have both been off-line for long periods of time with no appreciable impact on life in New York. Already an extremely expensive source of electricity, the cost of attempting to defend these reactors will put nuclear energy even further off the competitive scale.
Since its deregulation crisis, California---already the nation's second-most efficient state---cut further into its electric consumption by some 15%. Within a year the US could cheaply replace virtually with increased efficiency all the reactors now so much more expensive to operate and protect.
Yet, as the bombs fall and the terror escalates, Congress is fast-tracking a form of legal immunity to protect the operators of reactors like Indian Point from liability in case of a meltdown or terrorist attack.
Why is our nation handing its proclaimed enemies the weapons of our own mass destruction, and then shielding from liability the companies that insist on continuing to operate them?
Do we take this war seriously? Are we committed to the survival of our nation?
If so, the ticking reactor bombs that could obliterate the very core of our life and of all future generations must be shut down.
---------- Harvey Wasserman is author of THE LAST ENERGY WAR and co-author of KILLING OUR OWN: THE DISASTER OF AMERICA'S EXPERIENCE WITH ATOMIC RADIATION.
*please circulate & reprint*
CLOSE THE NUKES NOW!
They never did us any good anyway...
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First posted October 15th, 2001.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman