Re: Nuclear waste transport issues, nuclear safety issues

To: "Barbara Byron" <>
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Re: Nuclear waste transport issues, nuclear safety issues
Cc: Bob Aldrich <>,, "Barbara Boxer, Senator (CA, D)" <>
In-Reply-To: <>

September 21st, 2001

Dear Ms Byron,

Thank you for your email (shown below).  If you work in nuclear transportation issues for the State of California, as you say you do, where do you expect the waste to be transported to?  And how do you expect it to be transported there safely?  And what safety issues are you involved with regarding nuclear power plants if not terrorism and its aftereffects, as well as threats from tsunamis, earthquakes, equipment failures, operator errors, infiltration, etc.?  What is your conception of what a lethal dose of, say, plutonium is?  What size dose, if administered to the lungs, will kill 10% of the people who receive that dose?

These are questions which in your position surely you can answer.

Indeed, it would seem, from what you say, that you should be capable of providing official state answers to a large number of my questions, so why are you passing the buck on those questions?

What follows is an editorial I wrote for the North County Times prior to the tragic terrorist attack (you should have received this item from Mr. Aldrich already).  (The NC Times did not publish it.)  I would appreciate your comments as an official representative of the State of California regarding the issues I raise, namely, that Yucca Mountain isn't likely (and is even less likely now when people consider terrorist threats to nuclear shipments),  and if Yucca Mountain isn't going to happen, then the nuclear power industry needs to rethink everything about its costs.  And they need to stop lying about Yucca Mountain being the solution.

I look forward to your comments.  I mean, now that you've said what you do I'm even more confused by your reluctance to help me get honest answers from government.  Also, note that I still have not heard from anyone else at the State level or at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  I have not even heard from Mr. Adrich telling me he's properly forwarded my prior comments up the line.


Russell D. Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Below are two items: An proposed Op-Ed for the NC Times, and your letter to me.


To: Editor, North County Times

September 6th, 2001

To The Editor:

The Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) for permanently storing High Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW) is unlikely to ever open.  So, every nuclear power plant needs to get realistic about nuclear waste.  The nuclear reactors themselves are dangerous, the spent fuel pools are dangerous, and we have no place to safely put the waste.

Nuclear materials cannot simply be taken out of the ground, used, and then placed back in the ground.  It's not that easy.  Before nuclear fuel is used it's mostly uranium.  Approximately every 18 months, a third of the fuel in a reactor is removed as "spent" fuel.  Spent fuel contains hundreds of newly-created radioactive daughter products, including various isotopes of plutonium, strontium, cesium, iodine, and many other elements.  These new elements will continue to be created, and will themselves decay into other substances, for thousands of years.

Each day in America, another 10 to 12 tons of HLRW is created (mostly spent fuel), which must be stored away from humans and other living things for hundreds of thousands of years.  Spent fuel is susceptible to sabotage, earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, bad welds, cracked fuel cladding, coolant leakage, train wrecks, and 1000 other dangers.

Most of the plans for YMP are just that -- plans. There have been very few experiments done with real nuclear waste.  Nearly everything is still on the drawing board.  And the YMP team have computer-drawn some very beautiful full-color renditions of things they think will work.  But they haven't tested very much of it.  And they keep rewriting the standards.  America's nuclear waste storage system was originally supposed to rely on natural barriers.  That was a design goal (or just another nuclear industry lie).  When that wasn't possible, more and more man-made systems were added.

I've looked at the YMP information that has been made available to the public, and there is so little real science there, that I find it incomprehensible that anyone without a financial bias would support YMP.  YMP is the last hope of a dying industry, which has lied to the American public for half a century.  We haven't built a new nuclear power plant in America in two decades because nuclear power isn't really financially viable.  Without YMP to take the waste, the nuclear industry should rightfully go bankrupt.  It was their last ditch effort, literally.

I was in North Las Vegas, Nevada, last Wednesday, September 5th, 2001, to attend the first of three scheduled public hearings on YMP (all in Nevada, although nuclear waste is a national problem).  I have been to scores of public hearings, but I've never seen anything like this one!

Nevada's Governor, Kenny Guinn, spoke first.  He opposes YMP, as do 80% of Nevada's citizens.  Governor Guinn left to a standing ovation.  Then Nevada's four Congresspersons (two Republicans and two Democrats) each spoke via live video feed from Washington.  They also oppose YMP.  Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) often points out that the transportation issues have not been solved, and pointed again to the recent Baltimore train tunnel fire as a warning to the nation.  YMP is supposed to take in 77,000 tons of HLRW. The shipments (50,000 to 100,000 are planned) will travel through at least 40 states, passing within 20 miles of about 70% of the population.

It's ridiculous.  A million things could go wrong and the mathematical projections are highly suspect.  The success of YMP depends on luck to an extent no reasonable human should allow!

And Nevadans, who make a living understanding the odds better than most Americans, aren't being fooled by the DOE.

To comprehend the vehemence that will have to be overcome for YMP to proceed, let me describe how the mayor of Las Vegas closed his speech.  Mayor Oscar B. Goodman began to pull something out of his pocket, and as he did so he shouted (this is from memory here, but I'm sure it's close): "They tell me I can't arrest someone who drives a truck full of high-level radioactive waste through my town.  The DOE says I don't have the authority.  They say I can't put that guy in jail.  Well, just watch me.  That guy is going to jail, and he's not getting out of MY jail.  One thing you should never do:  Never give a former prosecuting attorney one of these."

He then flipped out his badge, and walked away to a wildly cheering crowd.  These guys are ready for a fight with the DOE, and God Bless Them.  We should all be so brave.

YMP is a terrible solution to an intractable problem, and the DOE will stretch out this process as long as possible.  During that time, many tons of new HLRW will be produced.  Someone will be stuck with protecting humanity from that waste.  It will cost a fortune, and worse -- it may not work.  Even if the DOE permits YMP to be built and become operational, they can't legislate away accidents or write a document that prevents a natural disaster.

It's time for every American to stop believing the lies that have supported the nuclear industry thus far.  Yucca Mountain is only the latest lie (the first was: "it will be too cheap to meter").  There are clean energy alternatives available.  Wind, wave, tide, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, and many others.  We have to change to these energy sources NOW, before another day goes by, and another 10 to 12 tons of HLRW is created.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

(End of Op-Ed written for the North County Times (San Diego, CA)

At 09:29 AM 9/21/01 , "Barbara Byron" <> wrote:
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 09:29:25 -0700
From: "Barbara Byron" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Forwarded E-mails

I work primarily on nuclear waste transportation issues, but am familiar with some of the nuclear plant safety issues.  

No, I've never worked for the nuclear industry.  I have an environmental studies background and support the Sierra Club.  Nuclear energy is expensive compared to alternatives, especially when you look at the whole fuel cycle, and there are major problems with waste disposal.  Many feel that renewable energy resources are the hope for the future and we have a strong program here at the Energy Commission with renewables.

I hope that this has been helpful.

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First posted September 22nd, 2001.

Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman