DoE PLANS FOR EXPANDED PRODUCTION OF PLU-238 FOR FUTURE SPACE MISSIONS


To: Colette E. Brown,
U.S. Department of Energy, NE-50,
19901 Germantown Road, Germantown, MD 20874-1290 Nuclear.Infrastructure-PEIS@hq.doe.gov

Re: DoE PLANS FOR EXPANDED PRODUCTION OF PLU-238 FOR FUTURE SPACE MISSIONS, specifically, solicited comments based on the DRAFT Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Accomplishing Expanded Civilian Nuclear Energy Research and Development and Isotope Production Missions in the United States, Including the Role of the Fast Flux Test Facility, DOE/EIS-0310D, July, 2000

From: Russell D. Hoffman
Carlsbad California

Date: September 18th, 2000

Dear Ms Brown,

Attached are two items I wish to add to my submission regarding Draft PEIS , which also includes two prior emails, one on September 9th, 2000, and one on September 15th, 2000. Please contact me if you have not received both of those submissions, and/or to acknowledge receipt of this additional material. Thank you in advance.

The first item you should have already received from the original author, a gentleman from England whom I have communicated often with, about these matters.

The second item I have included is a news report about an incident at a Russian nuclear facility. It was sent to me by another person with whom I have exchanged many emails about these subjects, an American living in Japan.

The relevance of the second attachment should be obvious to you, but to make it clear, let me first say that I do realize that our technology is ever so slightly different from Russian technology -- in fact, for all I know righty isn't tighty and lefty isn't loosy in Russia -- but the fact is, they are undoubtedly trying just as hard as our own fellows are, NOT to have a meltdown. But they've already had at least one (Chernobyl) and it appears they came mighty close to having one last week. (And they lost an nuclear sub last month, too). Sure, their "professionalism" might have saved the day this time, but the incident is clearly being described as a seriously close call.

We should take the Russian's misfortune to heart. Our nuclear industry may be very good at "spin" and propaganda, but they are also human just like the Russians, and they have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. Some of the mistakes will be catastrophic unless we shut down and clean up NOW. I'm not saying there are no benefits to nuclear technology, but 99.9% of the nuclear technology we have is useless and all of it is dangerous.

The reasons presented by DOE in the Draft PEIS for wanting to expand their plutonium RTG production facilities are not the real reasons the Government wants the technology, and the dangers are far greater than the United States Government is willing to admit.

Sincerely,

Russell D. Hoffman
Concerned Citizen/Activist
Carlsbad, CA

********************************************** Attachment #1 of 2:
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Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 01:09:45 +0100
From: savage
Organization: http://www.eco-action.org/ X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.7 (Macintosh; I; PPC) X-Accept-Language: en
To: Nuclear.Infrastructure-PEIS@hq.doe.gov Subject: PUBLIC COMMENTS ON DRAFT PROGRAMMATIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (PEIS)

DoE PLANS FOR EXPANDED PRODUCTION OF
PLU-238 FOR FUTURE SPACE MISSIONS

Dear Colette E. Brown,

People in the UK are very concerned that the US seems to be increasing the amount of PU238 in the world. It is not in the interests of the world's people, only of a few scientists, and should therefore not be allowed to go ahead.

Please confirm that you will not be risking our lives, those of the rest of this world's creatures, and of our future generations. You have no right to do this, other than through the abuse of the power given to you by your transient position as the most powerful nation on earth.

This power is yours largely because of your image in the world as the home of freedom and promise, but should people's impression change to seeing you as a threat to their existence, or the well-being of their children, you will not be able to maintain your superiority.

Thanks

Andy Savage.

********************************************** Attachment #2 of 2:
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X-Sender: rwilcox@po.interlink.or.jp
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 08:57:44 +0900
To: "Russell D. Hoffman" From: Richard Wilcox Subject: nuke news

Published on Sunday, September 17, 2000 in the Observer of London
Nuclear Disaster Averted
Russian power plant workers praised for 'heroic' operation to cool
reactors
by Amelia Gentleman in Moscow

A nuclear catastrophe - triggered by a fault in Russia's ageing electrical grid - was averted last week thanks to a 'heroic' emergency operation by power station workers.

Details of how one of Russia's main nuclear plants and the country's largest plutonium-processing centre came close to disaster emerged slowly, prompting new alarm in a country still reeling from a string of disasters.

Nuclear experts said 'courageous' workers at the Beloyarsk power station and the Mayak reprocessing plant had managed to prevent a Chernobyl-style accident. Environmental campaigners warned that the crumbling state of Russia's infrastructure meant such close escapes could be expected with growing frequency.

Preliminary investigations showed that a short circuit in the regional electricity system caused a sudden blackout in three nuclear reactors in the Urals. Its cause remains unclear, although it has been widely attributed to a fault in the poorly maintained network.

Unexpected power cuts at nuclear plants, which are designed to work ceaselessly, pose a severe risk. There was controversy yesterday over whether built-in emergency electricity systems took over as they should have done. Minatom, Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, insisted that all back-up systems at both sites began working in the seconds after the accident, but environmental activists reported that the standby electricity generators of at least one of the reactors had failed to start.

These sources say a technical hitch at the Beloyarsk plant, in the Sverdlovsk region, meant that the diesel generators built into the reactor failed to start automatically. Without a separate supply of electricity, the cooling system at the heart of the plant allegedly stopped working - causing the temperature in the core reactor to soar to dangerous levels, as workers lost control over the chain reactions occurring within.

'The problem was that the diesel generators were in poor condition and so the staff on the plant needed 36 minutes to repair them to get them started,' said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of the Ecodefence organisation, which has spent the past week gathering information about the mishap. 'It was up to the personnel on the plant to avert a serious nuclear accident. They worked heroically.'

Alexei Yablokov of the Centre for Ecological Problems of Russia endorsed this view: 'We were just half an hour from another Chernobyl - had it not been for the professionalism of the plant staff.'

At around lunchtime on Saturday last weekend, a crash echoed from within the walls of the Beloyarsk compound. Local residents - many of whom were celebrating the annual town festival - listened in horror. Most of the people who live in Zarechny, the settlement which has grown up around the plant, are either current or former employees - so were well equipped to judge the gravity of the noise.

The precise cause of the sound remains unclear. Unconfirmed sources suggest that while technicians struggled to get the diesel generators working, they were forced to shut down the reactor manually. Residents may have heard steam spurting suddenly from the cooling plant, as pressure in the system mounted.

One of the immediate results of the shutdown at Beloyarsk was a power failure at the nearby Mayak processing plant in the Chelyabinsk region, where two reactors were in operation.

The potential consequences of malfunction at the vast, high-security Mayak plant are no less alarming. Scientists there take spent nuclear fuel from all over the former Soviet Union and convert it into weapons-grade plutonium and high-level waste. The site is estimated to contain 120 million curies of radioactive waste - much of it held in liquid form in vast tanks - including seven times the amount of strontium-90 and caesium-137 that was released in Chernobyl.

Mayak was without power for 45 minutes and the reactors were automatically shut down. The head of the plant, Vitaliy Sadovnikov, told a local newspaper that this was the worst blackout the station had faced and it was only his staff's 'near-military discipline' which prevented a serious accident.

He said the back-up electricity provider, designed to cool down the reactors in the event of such an emergency, had only been started up 30 minutes after the plant was brought to a halt.

But yesterday Bulat Nigmatulin, a Deputy Minister at Minatom, said these reports were lies. 'This unpleasant situation came about because for the first time there was a breakdown in the local energy system,' he said.

'The atomic installations at Beloyarsk and Mayak are protected against this kind of accident, and on this occasion everything went exactly according to plan, with on-site emergency electricity sources starting up immediately.'

He said 30-minute delays would have led to explosions in the reactors.

Officials at both plants report there was no radiation contamination as a result of the emergency shutdowns. Environmental activists in the region continue to test the site, but are so far satisfied that this is the case.

Although a crisis was averted, analysts agree that both mishaps are sobering examples of the ease with which a disaster could be sparked.

'The fact that the grid was down for 45 minutes is extremely alarming, because it means that control was temporarily lost in these crucial nuclear installations,' said Tobias Muenchmeyer, atomic energy expert with Greenpeace.

Some commentators linked the initial power cut to the campaign by Russia's electricity monopoly to cut off those customers with outstanding debts. They speculated that by suddenly switching off one area of the grid, Unified Energy Systems might have precipitated the short circuit. UES officials deny this, and a government commission has been set up to investigate.

State officials are eager to promote atomic energy as a means of heating and powering their vast country. A strategy document published by Minatom in May advocated that Russia should radically increase its nuclear capacity over the next 20 years, building up to 24 new reactors.

Independent experts affirm that over the past five years the number of emergency shutdowns in Russian reactors has dropped fourfold, and over the past two years financing of safety monitoring has increased. But the memory of the Chernobyl disaster 14 years ago remains uncomfortably fresh.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000

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