OC REGISTER search 20010702 -- correction requested
-- by Russell Hoffman -- July 2nd, 2001


To: ocregister@link.freedom.com
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com>
Subject: OC REGISTER search 20010702 -- correction requested
Cc: letters@ocregister.com, Cathy_Taylor@ocregister.com

To: Editor, Orange County Register
From: Russell Hoffman, P. O. Box 1936, Carlsbad, CA 92018
Re: Correction request
Date: July 2nd, 2001

To The Editor,

In the report in your paper shown below, it says that the explosion June 24th, 2001 at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station "could be heard from the nearby San Diego (I-5) Freeway)." (my emphasis). 

While this is probably true from what I've been able to learn about the incident, it leaves out a far more important aspect:  Namely that debris was thrown onto the freeway!   Also onto the railroad tracks and onto the San Onofre State Beach access road (Old Hwy 101).

These facts can be found in the following quote from a Southern California Edison in-house email about the incident:

> June 25, 2001
>
> TO: SONGS EMPLOYEES
>
> FROM: NUCLEAR COMMUNICATIONS
>
> SUBJECT: TRANSFORMER FAILURE NO THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY
>
> The following is provided to you regarding an event which happened at
SONGS
> on Sunday June 24. Due to this event likely getting media coverage
(Orange
> County Register, North County Times, San Diego Union Tribune) we wanted to
> send this communication to all employees explaining what happened and what
> we are doing about it.
>
> Yesterday (Sunday), at approximately 11 a.m., a Potential Transformer in
> the SONGS electric switchyard failed, resulting in a loud explosion. No
> employees or members of the public were injured. The event had nothing to
> do with the nuclear portion of the plant and did not result in any release
> of radiation.
>
> The failed Potential Transformer, 1 of 54 in the switchyard, was destroyed
> as a result of the explosion. Debris was mostly contained in the
> switchyard, although fragments were found as far as Highway 101 and the 5
> Freeway, just east of the switchyard.
>
> The transformer is located in a section of the switchyard owned and
> operated by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), who is performing the repair
> work.
>
> Cause of the transformer failure is not known at this time, but a Root
> Cause Investigation is underway and corrective actions are being developed
> and implemented to minimize the possibility of such a failure happening
> again.
>
> A Potential Transformer takes high voltage electricity (238,000 volts) and
> "steps down" the voltage to 115 volts. This allows plant personnel and
> equipment to monitor the quality and quantity of San Onofre's electric
> power (e.g., voltage, ampere, wattage, etc.).
>
> The event did not cause the plant to shut down or reduce power output.
> Replacement of the potential transformer is expected to take about one
> week.
>

That debris was thrown onto a public roadway can also be determined from the NRC "daily event report" ("courtesy notification") for June 25th, 2001 which states:  "The failure resulted in debris on the road adjacent to the switchyard (old Highway 101)."  I don't know why there is a discrepancy, but in any case, debris ended up on public roads.  Here's the URL for the NRC daily report:
http://www.nrc.gov/NRR/DAILY/010625dr.htm

I would have to say that debris is of much greater concern than noise, and your report was thus biased at best and dishonest at worst.  The difference is like the difference between going to a noisy rock concert and going to war, so yes, it is important that there be a correction, if not a retraction and explanation of how the Orange County Register could think that a bit of noise is news, but debris flying some 200 feet away (and probably at least 75 feet into the air) onto a freeway where traffic moves at from 60-80 miles an hour or more, isn't even worthy of being mentioned.  This was not a "minor explosion" unless a grenade going off there would also have been "minor", since a grenade would probably throw debris about as far.

Of course, maybe OC Register just missed the facts this time completely.  The report in the OC Register has no byline.  Who wrote it?  Either someone who doesn't check facts, or someone who doesn't know that "sticks and stone my break my bones (especially when thrown at me while I'm traveling on the Freeway) but names (and noises) will never hurt me".

Please note also that the crane accident mentioned in the report occurred on June 1st, 2001, not May 30th as the same report (shown below) states.  Also, there is some discrepancy in published reports about exactly how far the load fell (some say 40 feet, for instance, not 45 feet as you report).  And I understand it was a gantry, which is not usually referred to as a crane as you do in your report, which was "toting" the crane that fell.

Thank you in advance and I would appreciate being informed if a correction will be made.  This letter took approximately 30 minutes to write.  In that time, San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station produced roughly another 10 pounds of High Level Radioactive Waste and 30 pounds of so-called Low Level Radioactive Waste, which is just HLRW with filler added (steel, brass, aluminum, iron, plastic, cloth, rubber, glass, etc.).  Society currently has no idea where to store the HLRW and we're not really sure what to do with the LLRW either; in fact, state regulations are probably going to be getting much tougher on LLRW soon (which is undoubtedly why SONGS is suddenly rushing to dismantle UNIT I while the disposal rates are comparatively low).

We know that people operating cranes (and gantries) at SONGS are going to be moving nuclear waste many times before it's finally put to rest somewhere permanently, if we can find a place.  Let's hope they don't drop any of it along the way, and let's hope you'll be around to report on it if they do.

Sincerely,

Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

>>>>> ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER REPORT: >>>>>

 http://www.ocregister.com/search/ 
 
Monday, July 2, 2001 

June 26, 2001
...

Small blast ignites fires at San Onofre nuclear plant

SAN ONOFRE A minor explosion in one of 54 electrical transformers at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station caused several small fires at the plant Sunday but no injuries, officials said.

The 11 a.m. explosion, which could be heard from the nearby San Diego (I-5) Freeway, did not occur at any of the reactors. No radiation was released, Southern California Edison spokesman Ray Golden said.

The transformer's failure did not cause any power outages to Edison customers because automated back-up systems were in place.

The blast ignited insulation and lubricating oil. The fires were extinguished in about 40 minutes.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation. There was no immediate dollar-value estimate of the damage.

In another matter, Edison is reviewing why a Kevlar sling on a large crane broke May 30, causing the smaller crane it was toting to fall 45 feet.

The accident occurred on an outdoor turbine deck near generating unit 3, Golden said.

Golden said the smaller crane, weighing 80,000 pounds, fell onto a concrete deck. No one was injured, and the mishap did not affect any generating units.

...

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First posted July, 2001.

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