Why use nukes to pump California's water when proper energy solutions abound?

To: feedback@inlandempireonline.com
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com
Subject: Why use nukes to pump California's water when proper energy solutions abound?
Cc: rtgarrett@pe.com, California Senators

To: Editor, Inland Empire Online
From: Russell Hoffman, Concerned Citizen
Re: Why use nukes to pump California's water when proper energy solutions abound?
Date: April 6th, 2001

To The Editor:

Regarding the proposal from Assemblyman Bill Leonard (R-San Bernardino) to construct nuclear power plants to provide energy for the pumps that move our water around the state, I am flabbergasted as to why such a dangerous solution for such a benign problem is being contemplated at all.

First of all, the pumps used by California's water system are hardly state-of-the-art. There are numerous more efficient designs than the four-stage impellers commonly operated, for example at the A. D. Edmonston Pumping Station mentioned in the article. If modern technology were used to replace all the existing pumps, I'm sure efficiency improvements would be in double digits. Efficiency no doubt can be and needs to be improved at the local level as well.

As to Leonard's claim that "the safety record of nuclear (power) in America is incredible" I can only say it is indeed incredible -- incredibly poor. And it's incredible that anyone would claim otherwise. Right now San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has three nuclear power plants: One was closed years ago for being dangerously designed in the first place and uneconomical to fix. Another is down for at least three months because, just 12 hours after being brought back online after a month-long refueling outage (rushed from the normal 40 days to 32 days), a nearly three-hour fire that started in a circuit breaker destroyed electrical equipment. All three lubricating systems for the 200-ton turbine rotor failed. That's a very dangerous situation which could have turned out a lot worse than it did, but as it is it caused tens of millions of dollars of damage. In 1998 the emergency core cooling system (ECCS) for Unit II was found to have been shut down for 27 days. And so it goes. In January Diablo Canyon's two reactors both had to cut power to 20% of normal because of kelp in the water intakes. And it's now coming out that in 1979 Three Mile Island suffered about a 50% core melt, far more than previously suspected.

That's the worst, and the current local problems. Between these extremes have been 1000 other problems. But that's what Assemblyman Leonard calls an "incredible" record!

There are technological solutions to California's energy crises. Unfortunately they require an investment in alternative energy sources, and the current power elite don't like that. But energy sources are available which would supply continuous power for decades without building up pools of radioactive waste, and without any possibility of poisoning the land, air and water for thousand of square miles around in the event of an accident -- something which all nuclear power plants are capable of doing in an instant because of earthquakes, airplanes crashing into them by accident or on purpose, human error during operation, design problems, shoddy construction, even asteroids. They are all time bombs and terrorist's targets.

Nuclear needs to pay for its eternal waste problem UP FRONT, and for the cancers it causes all around the world. It never could afford to do that. Every nuclear power plant releases radioactive waste into the environment constantly during its daily operation, and that's in addition to the enormous quantities of waste which it creates and tries to keep on site until a "safe" offsite storage area is designated, designated not by science, but by political will and power over the logic of science, where such logic is very clear -- there are no guaranteed safe long-term solutions to the nuclear waste storage problems. All so far investigated have proven unworkable. There isn't even anything that comes close -- Yucca Mountain, the closest we've come to deciding on a place to dump the waste, has numerous problems which many scientists agree make it unworkable. Only the politicians and the nuclear power industry like it. Compassionate human beings do not.

There is no known minimum dose of radioactive materials which is not capable of causing the full spectrum of cancers, leukemia and birth defects caused by larger doses. Only the rate of these effects within a population goes down as the dose decreases. The severity and horror of the effects remains the same. Children, who cannot vote of course, are about 10 times more susceptible to the dangers of radiation than adults are.

Coal causes global warming and other environmental problems. Oil is subject to price fluctuations from foreign powers and causes its own environmental problems and contributes to global warming as well.

Wind energy is 100% viable today -- but it does need investment and it needs the alternatives (nuclear, coal, oil, etc.) to be fairly accounted for in the balance sheet. The most common complaints about wind energy are absurd -- that it takes up too much land space, and that it kills raptors. These are both absurd complaints, if only because wind farms can be placed OFFSHORE! And if only because the alternatives are so much more dire for every living thing.

Tide energy is viable in many parts of the world, including along parts of California's coastline. Solar Energy, Geothermal Energy, Hydroelectric Energy, Biomass -- all these are viable energy sources today. They can all compete in a fair market with the deadly three we now use -- but only if a fair accounting of the cost to society is accomplished for each alternative. That's ALL it would take! Even Wave Energy can now be harnessed, utilizing the fantastically more efficient pumps, compressors and motors that are now available to the design engineer.

I've interviewed hundreds of scientists, inventors, doctors, activists, and others about these and related matters over the past few years. It breaks me heart to see such short-sightedness as we are experiencing amongst our leadership these days.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, California

Author, All About Pumps: A broad look at pump technology (includes over 60 different pumps)
(Available for review on request. Includes a photo-tour of the A. D. Edmonston pumping station.)
Webmaster, The Internet Glossary of Pumps (developed from "All About Pumps")

The Animated Software Company (for affiliation purposes)

Please also see this essay on the need for a Global Energy Grid:



Nuclear solution to crisis urged
Inland lawmaker says one plant needed

By Robert T. Garrett
The Press-Enterprise

To end California's electricity shortage, the state should build a nuclear power plant to run pumps that bring Sierra-fed water to Southern California, an Inland lawmaker said Thursday.

"It's time to revisit nuclear," said Assemblyman Bill Leonard, R-San Bernardino. He said nuclear power is clean and affordable.

Leonard has introduced Assembly Bill 1492 to suspend a 1970s state law that, he said, effectively blocks licensing of nuclear power plants.

But environmentalists and consumer groups insisted that nuclear power remains unsafe.

"It's an outrageous idea," said Medea Benjamin, the Green Party nominee for U.S. Senate last year. "Tell him to get with the 21st century."

An energy expert applauded Leonard's attempt to prod Californians to take another look at nuclear power.

"We're going to, as a nation, get back to nuclear power," predicted James Sweeney, an economist and professor of engineering and management science at Stanford University. "It will be the right thing to do."

But even if state law is changed, Sweeney said, federal licensing and the construction of Leonard's proposed plant would take 10 years. By then, he said, California probably will have built enough conventional plants to eliminate shortages.

Leonard said he is researching various aspects of nuclear power generation and plans to refine his proposal.

A draft of a new version of the bill, not yet introduced, would authorize the state Department of Water Resources to issue revenue bonds and build a nuclear generator at an unspecified location -- presumably in the Central Valley, where the State Water Project's big pumping stations are located.

As envisioned by Leonard, it would supply the juice needed to run the State Water Project's largest pumping station at Edmonston in Kern County.

The Edmonston pumps use enough electricity to serve 640,000 homes, he said.

The entire State Water Project is California's single biggest user of electricity, Leonard said.

The project includes 29 dams and more than 600 miles of canals that end at Lake Perris. It consumes 2,200 megawatts -- enough for 2.2 million homes, Leonard said.

"If we would become self-sufficient on the State Water Project, we could almost singlehandedly end the power shortages" plaguing California, Leonard said.

Leonard, a 22-year veteran of the Legislature who served on the Assembly's first utilities panel, said "the safety record of nuclear (power) in America is incredible."

He said spent fuel rods from the proposed reactor can be stored safely under water. He said he does not know how much it would cost to build a nuclear generator.

The nuclear plant would be only the third built in the state and the first to be publicly owned and operated.

At one time, privately owned electric utilities planned to build 25 nuclear generators along California's coast, said former state Energy Commission member Gene Varanini.

Only two were built, including the San Onofre plant near San Clemente, of which Southern California Edison is majority owner and Riverside has a small stake. The other is Pacific Gas Electric's Diablo Canyon reactor in San Luis Opisbo County.

The law Leonard wants to suspend says the state should not license additional nuclear power plants until the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and state licensing officials agree the U.S. has resolved how to dispose of nuclear waste safely and permanently. The federal government still has not agreed on where to build a nuclear-waste repository.

Stanford's Sweeney said "what really killed nuclear power plants was . . . the cost of constructing them just got too high, given the safety measures that had to be imposed in the plants."

Robert T. Garrett can be reached in Sacramento at (916) 445-9973 or by e-mail at rtgarrett@pe.com.

Published 3/29/2001

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First posted May, 2001.

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