Additional considerations regarding nuclear power plants and the NRC's assurances

From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Additional considerations regarding nuclear power plants and the NRC's assurances
Cc:,   "Barbara Boxer, Senator (CA, D)" <>,,  "Russell Wise, NRC" <>,  "Elmo Collins" <>,   "Pat Gwynn" <>,  "Clanon, Paul" <>,   "Ajello, Julian E." <>,   "Wong, Zee Z." <>,   "Clark, Richard W." <>,   "NRC" <>,"Barbara Byron" <>, Bob Aldrich <>, "Steve Woods" <>, "Bob Kahn, Op-ED editor, NC Times" <>

To: Mathew Roy, The Virginian-Pilot
Re: Your article at Pilot Online ( )
Date: September 23rd, 2001

Dear Mr. Roy,

I saw your September 21st article (shown below) on nuclear power plants being put on "heightened security" following the September 11th attacks.

Please consider the statements I've included beneath this letter regarding vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants.  They were sent to Governor Gray Davis (CA) yesterday.  They are the tip of the iceberg.

I have interviewed hundreds of scientists, engineers, etc. in the past five years, on the subject of nuclear energy and alternative energy sources. If America knew the truth about the vulnerabilities and nonprofitability of our nuclear power plants, and the viability of renewable alternatives, they (we) would close the nukes down immediately.  That is what I am advocating that America do.  Put the many now-unemployed airline industry workers to work building renewable energy resources.  Boeing can build wind turbines for a few years.  So can General Motors and Ford.  A lot of service industries are going to loose business because of inevitable tourism dropoffs.  So we have an available workforce AND important tasks for them to do.

The nuclear facilities are far more vulnerable than the NRC would have us believe.  In addition, the extent of the damage could easily be 100 or 1000 times worse than the NRC's so-called "worst case" estimates.  Why?  Because the NRC minimizes those estimates in a variety of ways.  They don't properly account for how the radioactive particles affect people at low dosages or over long periods of time, or how they accumulate in the food chain or due to multiple accidents, etc. etc..  Their "worst case" scenario is often only a 1% or 2% release -- or less -- of the material at the site where their "worst case" accident takes place.  If stuff burns, practically the only deaths they count are the people that might die directly in the fire. Long term consequences are virtually ignored.

Shave a little here, and a little there, fudge the numbers a bit all around, and pretty soon you are off by several orders of magnitude.  So, for example, where the NRC might say that 12 people will die beyond the perimeter fence if a release occurs, it might be 1200 or even 12,000.  And where the NRC might say the likelihood of something is one in one million, it might be one in one thousand.  You just can't know, but the NRC numbers are highly suspect.  And anything with a likelihood of less than one in ten million (in their opinion) they throw out completely as being incalculably unlikely.  That's thousands and thousands of scenarios, each just beyond the NRC's horizon.  That's why September 11th's scenario was never considered.  Neither were a thousand similar scenarios.  But you can bet someone out there is thinking of them.

Trying to claim that nuclear facilities are safe from airplanes isn't the only whitewash the NRC and the nuclear industry are guilty of.

The plants are also not nearly as safe from tsunamis as the industry claims.  The plants are not nearly as safe from earthquakes as they claim.  The plants are not nearly as safe from tornadoes as they claim.  The plants are not nearly as safe from old rusted parts causing catastrophic problems as they claim.  The plants are not nearly as safe from operator error as they claim.  They operators are not nearly as perfect as the industry likes to think.

And last and hopefully least, they probably even miscalculated the dangers from asteroids, because they probably didn't account for how much spent fuel they'd have at each site, thinking it would all have been transported away to some never-never-land where problems just disappear and no one's ever heard of leukemia, cancer, or birth defects.

The 20% portion of America's electricity the NEI claims is supplied by nukes is probably even an exaggeration; I believe it is actually usually less than 18%.  In California, with four of the nation's largest nukes, only 14.6% of our electrical energy is generated by nuclear, according to a state energy information employee I recently corresponded with.


Russell D. Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Two items follow:
1) The item shown below, which is also available online, along with related items:

2) The second item is your article in Pilot Online.


To: Governor Gray Davis (California)
From: Russell D. Hoffman, Concerned Citizen
Subject: Recent quotes on the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to airplane attacks.
Date: September 21st, 2001

Dear Governor Davis:

At the end of this letter, I have collected some recent quotes from specialists regarding the vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants to airplane attacks.

Even a private plane, especially one loaded with, for example, a fertilizer-type bomb like what Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma City, could destroy our nuclear power plants.  A hijacked gasoline truck-bomb could destroy them as well.  Insider-caused damage is another significant risk.  And the plants are old and falling apart anyway, as witness the litany of accidents at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station this year alone, including fires (2), explosions (2), a dropped load (80,000 lbs), a hydrazine spill (20 gallons), and more.

The nuclear plants are not safe.  The companies that run them lie to the public and to you.  Furthermore, society's net gain from keeping the plants running is negative:  The cost of security negates any profit there might have been -- and there is STILL (after 50 years and 50 billion dollars in research efforts) no solution to the problem of what to do with the nuclear waste which is being generated.  Please reduce our risk by shutting these plants down now and building a renewable energy infrastructure in California.

I think nearly everyone now knows that we should have built renewable energy solutions in the first place.  But just because your predecessors made the wrong decision is no reason you have to follow in their folly.  I implore you to lead the nation by reducing California's vulnerability not only to terrorism, but to natural disasters and human error as well.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
P.O. Box 1936
Carlsbad, CA 92018


"I'm not sure, you know, that that's something that was considered 20 years ago."

This was heard just now on CSPAN - 1.  The speaker was Thomas Kuhn, President, Edison Electric Institute.  His statement was made regarding airplane strikes such as what we saw last week, but at nuclear power plants.  Contrast this frank and terrifying statement with Ray Golden's statement from last week (published in the North County Times).  Ray Golden is the PR person for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California.:

>>>>> From: >>>>>

The plant's concrete and steel domes that contain its reactors and primary
pressurized systems are designed to withstand plane crashes such as the
ones that occurred in New York, Golden said.

"We are confident that if a plane crashed into it ... that (the plane)
would just break into pieces and not penetrate the structure," he said.



Here's Jack Shannon's comments on the same subject, sent to me yesterday:



...... ....... and I were discussing the possibility of a letter written by the
three of us, with some technical detail pointing out how vulnerable these
plants are. With the widest possible distribution of course. I am personally
fed up with the lies coming from the DOE/NRC. I think the people have a right
to know that a terrorist could turn a Nuclear Power plant into a bomb that
would render living conditions in certain parts of the Country unlivable.
What to you think?


John "Jack" P. Shannon is a retired U. S. Marine Corps Major, a Former Nuclear Physicist/Nuclear Engineer, a Former Supervising Nuclear Physicist/Engineer and Former Manager of Nuclear Safety, Industrial Safety/Industrial Hygiene at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.  He is the designer of the DxG U.S. Navy nuclear reactor, the most common reactor on the planet.  Here's the URL of his web site:


"If you postulate the risk of a jumbo jet full of fuel, it is clear that their design was not conceived to withstand such an impact." This quote refers to nuclear power plants and comes from a spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Commission, speaking in Vienna, Austria after the terrorist attack. Here's the URL of the AP/NYT article (free registration required):


The following quote was seen in this article:

Dean calls for NRC to review VY defense -- MONTPELIER

By MEGGAN CLARK, Reformer Staff (Vermont), September, 2001

"Now that regulators say nuclear power plants weren't designed to withstand an impact from a commercial airliner full of fuel, [VT Governor] Dean has refocused on past security concerns at the Vernon reactor."





Governor Gray Davis
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-445-4633


Four reasons military protection of nuclear power plants is not the answer:

1) It might not work, and if it doesn't, the devastation would last for millennia and the death toll could be three or more orders of magnitude worse than what we saw at the World Trade Center.  That means millions dead instead of thousands.  The suffering of those who do not die rapidly but are slowly poisoned by the radiation would be unspeakably horrific.  If you have nuclear power plants, your enemy doesn't need a nuclear bomb.

2) Using highly trained troops for nuclear power plant security 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), weapons manufacturing facilities (dozens) and nuclear 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 McVeigh was a U.S. soldier before he became a terrorist in 1995.  So was the lunatic who stole a tank in San Diego in 1996, and drove it unobstructed for about 10 miles (he tried to jump the highway barrier and run over oncoming highway traffic, but got the tank stuck midway).  In 1997 an Air Force pilot on a training mission suddenly broke formation, dropped below radar, and flew his A-10 Warthog 800 miles (from Arizona to Colorado), where it ran out of fuel and crashed into the side of a mountain.  The Depleted Uranium bullets the Warthog "tank buster" aircraft normally carries could slice through a Dry Fuel Storage Cask like a knife through butter.  The plane was carrying four 500-pound bombs and magnesium flares (used for decoys for heat-sinking missiles).  An attack on a nuclear power plant by a single A-10 Warthog would be devastating.

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 nuclear power plants from this day forward.  Thus, they are not and never will be economical to run (they never were before).  And if they aren't even economical, why in the world should we continue to risk the dangers they pose?


The risks are significantly reduced as soon as the control rods are inserted and the dangers continue to diminish every day thereafter.  Every day these plants remain open, more nuclear waste piles up which is a security risk and an environmental hazard, as well as being hopelessly expensive to deal with.

-- Russell D. Hoffman, Concerned Citizen, Carlsbad, California, USA, Planet Earth

Matthew Roy's article is shown below:

Nuclear power plants on heightened security following attacks

By MATTHEW ROY, The Virginian-Pilot

September 21, 2001

The nuclear power plant in Surry and others around the nation are on heightened security following recent terror attacks that are likely to influence debate about the future of the industry.

More than 430 nuclear plants generate power worldwide. An attack of a large jet fully loaded with fuel could result in a nuclear catastrophe, International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman David Kyd told The Associated Press.

The day of the terror attacks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended that security be increased at nuclear plants, including each of the 65 sites that contain the nation's 103 commercial reactors.

``We were already at that status before we got that request,'' said James Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Resources Inc. The company owns Surry Power Station, on the James River in Surry, and North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, northwest of Richmond. Both plants have two nuclear reactors.

Dominion also owns Millstone Power Station in Waterford, Conn.

Norvelle declined to detail the heightened security measures. ``The only thing we're saying is we've been on a heightened state of security at our nuclear facilities since shortly after last Tuesday's events,'' he said. He noted that the plant has a full-time armed security detachment.

According the the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group that promotes nuclear power as clean and safe, U.S. plants were built to withstand hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and ``airborne objects up to a certain force,'' with design specifications varying from plant to plant.

Plants are protected by built-in physical safeguards, armed security personnel who drill frequently and surveillance equipment. Employee background checks further help safeguard plants, the NEI says.

But an attack involving a commercial jetliner could result in a nuclear disaster, said Arjun Makhijani. He is president of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research, an organization that speaks out on nuclear and global climate issues.

``No nuclear power plant can survive a full-fuel plane attack,'' he said.

The NRC should convene urgently to consider security measures against various forms of attacks, Makhijani said. ``The NRC has its work cut out for itself,'' he said.

Nuclear power plants provide about 20 percent of America's electricity, according to the NEI.

``We're confident our plants are robust,'' said NEI spokeswoman Thelma Wiggins. ``There's no way for us to guarantee something like this couldn't happen, but we're confident in the strong measures we have in place.''

Reach Matthew Roy at 222-5563 or


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First posted September 23rd, 2001.

Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman