Analysis of SC Director's statements, 1974 and 1987

From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Analysis of SC Director's statements, 1974 and 1987
Cc:, "Doris Cellarius" <>

To: Sierra Club
From: Russell Hoffman
Re: Analysis of SC Director's statements, 1974 and 1987
Date: July 5th, 2001

To Whom it May Concern:

Here are two statements from the Sierra Club nuclear policy pages at the SC web site.  Below them is a discussion of the statements, and why they have been weak and ineffective.

-- Russell Hoffman, Carlsbad, CA



"The obvious difficulty of assuring the permanent isolation of HLRW from the environment confirms the Sierra Club in its belief that the generation of further HLRW should be curtailed.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 2-3, 1987"


"The Sierra Club opposes the licensing, construction and operation of new nuclear reactors utilizing the fission process, pending:

1) Development of adequate national and global policies to curb energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth.
2) Resolution of the significant safety problems inherent in reactor operation, disposal of spent fuels, and possible diversion of nuclear materials capable of use in weapons manufacture.
3) Establishment of adequate regulatory machinery to guarantee adherence to the foregoing conditions. The above resolution does not apply to research reactors.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, December 12-13, 1974"


These statements are full of problems.

Let me start with an easy one.  Look carefully at Item 2 of the second statement.  Better yet, before you do that, look at these two definitions of the word "inherent":

"Existing in something so as to be inseparable."  (Webster's Dictionary, Literary Press, 1986 edition)

"Existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute" (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Gramercy Books, 1996 edition)

So I ask:  When was the Board of Directors expecting a "resolution" to an inherent problem?  On December 12-13, 1974, they were in never-never land, dreaming of the impossible.

Let's look at Item 1 of the second statement, opposing new reactors.  It wants us to:  "Curb energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth".  Well, maybe that's a good thing and maybe it isn't.  But why is it included here, in this statement?  For example, Russia, with little economic growth since 1974 and using much less energy per capita than we do, has a worse nuclear waste problem than even we do (they are the only ones on the planet, at this time, with a worse problem, except maybe England, France, Germany, Japan, etc.).  So what does Item 1 really mean, especially as it relates to the 200,000,000 pounds of High Level Radioactive Waste that has been created since the statement was written, by existing reactors?  Unmentioned reactors which the SC does not oppose?

And now let's look at Item 3 in the 1974 statement, which has two sentences and two glaring mistakes, one in each sentence.  The first sentence wants the "establishment of adequate regulatory machinery to guarantee adherence to the foregoing conditions."  Has the Sierra Club actually looked into the regulatory nightmare under which we have existed for decades now?  What has happened is this:  Essentially all local control, all local investigations into the safety of the plants, all regulatory authority has been -- in a move totally unlike anything else in private industry -- usurped by the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), which is the be-all and the end-all of all nuclear decisions except the most mundane.  By so doing, the NRC has inhibited literally hundreds of government agencies at the federal, state, county and local level from doing the jobs their charters normally command them to do.  In 1962 California ceded virtually all authority to the AEC ( Atomic Energy Commission) which was later split up into the DOE (Department of Energy) and the NRC.  OSHA has ceded jurisdiction as well, and many other government agencies at all levels.  It is the most abominable regulatory climate ever in American history, and this for the most dangerous stuff on earth!  Where we need prohibitions, we get instead the nation's most lax regulations!

The second sentence in Item 3 of the 1974 statement is likewise a gift to the nuclear industry.  Many, if not most so-called "research reactors" were and are little more than training reactors for nuclear workers.  Many have been shut down, and others the rest of the faculty would be happy to get closed, since they suck money and are a danger to their community, and all the most exciting research on campuses around the country is happening elsewhere, like in the computer labs, the nanotechnology labs, the biotechnology labs (!), the medical research facilities, and so on.

Then in 1987 the Sierra Club directors saw fit to write a new message, noting the "obvious difficulty" in  siting a permanent HLRW facility.  Well golly!  Spanning San Francisco Bay presented "obvious difficulties" too (at least up to the 1930s when it was done).  But this -- this difficulty has proven utterly insurmountable and for good reason.  Physics.  The physical properties of radioactive waste do not lend themselves to safe solutions.  Not at all.  I don't mean the solutions are difficult.  I mean they are impossible.

If, even after billions of dollars spent on the problem of what to do with our nuclear waste, our various political leaders in this country cannot recognize the truth about radiation, at least the Sierra Club can, I hope, if they try.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Suggested essays by rdh:

What is a half-life?  (Compares Plutonium 238 to Plutonium 239)

What is the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)?  Is nuclear war winnable?

Hug a tree!  Read why it matters to you what happens to the great Redwoods in California:

As an example of how Sierra Club national policies have hurt local efforts, here is a letter from Jack Shannon which he sent me this morning outlining local difficulties he has had getting Sierra Club attention.  It also points up some of the other problems touched on in this letter:

At 08:49 AM 7/5/01 , Jack Shannon wrote:


Thanks for forwarding my reply.

For your info I gave this information to a guy by the name of Pete Sheehan, a
Sierra Club volunteer in Albany, NY.

Stater and I also had a meeting with him about a landfill containing hundreds
of drums of radioactive/hazardous material on the banks of the Mohawk River.
We also discussed with him false documents given to the State and Federal
Government by GE/Lockheed Martin/DOE [both felonies at the state and fed
levels] concerning a plutonium production facility as well as the landfill.

KAPL even denied the existence of the plutonium facility or landfill until
Stater and I made it public knowledge.

We were hopeful on the day of the meeting with Sheehan that we would get
enormous help from the Sierra Club.

So far we have gotten zip. Which is what we have gotten from the Justice
Department/the NY State Attorney General/NY State DEC/The EPA, etc. No one
wants to hear about fifty years of DOE/AEC/GE/Lockheed Martin lies.

I guess Eisenhower was right about the military industrial complex, but it's
even worse than he could have imagined.

Jack Shannon
(Jack Shannon is a retired nuclear physicist, retired USMC major, designer of Navy nuclear propulsion systems, and one of the best and most outspoken activists on nuclear issues I've ever met. -- rdh)

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First posted September 22nd, 2001.

Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman