From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Biased article in North County Times on 2/2/2002
To: Erin Walsh, reporter, North County Times
From: Russell Hoffman, concerned local citizen
Re: Biased article in North County Times on 2/2/2002
Date: February 3rd, 2002

Dear Erin Walsh,

Your article on the front page of yesterday's paper (shown below) was little more than a forum for Ray Golden, the unscrupulous spokesperson for San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station.

America's nuclear power plants represent a tempting target for terrorists.  America better face that fact, and the press has a responsibility to publish the truth.  Any day, terrorists could target any of ~100 commercial nuclear reactors, ~100 Spent Fuel Pools, ~ a dozen ISFII sites (Dry Storage Casks), scores of military reactors, or hundreds of liquid nuclear waste storage tanks.  Some of these facilities are protected by little more than sheet metal.  San Onofre's Spent Fuel is only slightly better protected with a bit of concrete and steel, but hardly enough to stop a jumbo jet, or a corporate jet, or a few rounds from a rocket-propelled grenade.

Putting a few more guards on duty and making sure their guns are loaded just doesn't count for anything in today's threat environment.  If the government's regulatory agency won't take the steps necessary to protect us, namely, shut the plants down forever, the people must demand it.  And they ARE demanding it.  On CNN, and on FOX, the hard questions are finally being asked.  When will the NC Times step up to this challenge?

Immediately following September 11th, Ray Golden, whom you quoted extensively in yesterday's article, assured the public that his company's reactors could survive a similar attack.  Many of us knew at the time that studies had already indicated otherwise.  Nevertheless, the NRC made the same claim generically, but shortly thereafter, was forced to admit that there is no evidence to support such a contention (oh, oops!).  The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been the most frank, admitting that today's modern plants were simply not designed to withstand such an attack.  Nevertheless, Ray Golden continues to get newsprint space in your paper, so that he can falsely reassure the public with his "belief" that our local reactors would survive a direct hit from a jumbo jet.  There is no reason to endlessly let him repeat that lie. The plants are vulnerable, and that's that.  And if not from one airplane, then how about four?  The terrorists are very meticulous.  Our local reporters have to be, too, or the terrorists will win.

At the speed of a large jet, an impact at the plant can occur about 6 seconds after the plane enters the "no fly zone" around the plant, especially on the ocean side where it's just one mile wide.  Nuclear power plants are also vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods, operator error, and about a million other potentially catastrophic things.  They are inefficient and cost society money every day they stay open.  They do make their owners millions of dollars every day they are open, and that's why they are open.  There is no other reason, because renewable energy could easily replace the energy we get from nuclear.

About 500 pounds of new high-level radioactive waste is created at San Onofre every day.  Yucca Mountain isn't the solution -- it's just something the nuclear industry and government use to keep the game going, by pretending it might some day take the waste.  So the plants remain open because society hasn't realized that there is no safe disposal method.  One gram of spent fuel waste could kill thousands of people if it is not safely contained.  The owners and operators at San Onofre use unrealistic dose estimates (the NRC and DOE do too), and thus, deny that low-level radiation causes cancers, leukemias, and birth defects.  So not only do they create more and more of this awful waste every day, they pretend it's not nearly as awful as it really is!  Thus, they claim, for example, that only 31 people died at Chernobyl, when the true death toll is already in the tens of thousands at least, and will continue to grow for many millennia to come -- for hundreds of human generations.  But to the nuclear industry in America -- 31 deaths is all they see.  So how can anyone trust them to understand the dangers they are putting us through?

Unless something changes, soon, we'll have Dry Cask Storage at San Onofre.  Dry Casks are vulnerable to terrorism from airplanes, truck bombs, etc., and to problems caused by embrittlement of the irradiated fuel cladding.  Also, problems with dry casks have been identified a number of times in the past already, including bad welds, poor inspection of welds, falsified inspection documents, improper metallurgy, helium gas leaks, transportation accidents, etc. etc. etc.. -- you, Southern California Edison, and the whole nuclear industry, all ignore these serious problems, in the rush to find a "cost-effective" temporary waste storage solution until Yucca Mountain opens (which, in fact, it almost surely never will do).  Dry Cask Storage isn't safe, and it isn't going to be temporary.

Dry Casks are supposed to sit on site for at least 100 years, with no public input allowed.  The original twenty-year license can be automatically extended at least twice, for the first sixty years, and then, if there hasn't been a major catastrophe anywhere to wake people up (since 9-11 didn't do it), the manufacturers of the Casks expect at least two more extensions to be permitted.  And then, would you want to be the one to open the "time bomb"?  The documentation on how it was built will be lost, stolen, faded, stuck together from moisture, lost in a million other files in the computer somewhere, the original vendor will be long ago out of business and the crazy inventor who designed the thing will be long dead -- would you want to be within 100 miles of a 100-year-old dry cask when it's finally opened, or shipped somewhere?  I won't question your sanity by demanding an answer.  But what about Yucca Mountain?  It will never open!  Go to Nevada and see for yourself the strength of the opposition!  Listen to the validity of their points!  The waste won't be sent there in our lifetimes, or our children's lifetimes.  It will just sit at San Onofre, vulnerable to terrorism, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc..

In less than about 1 generation of large-scale commercial nuclear plant operation (most plants are still in the first 20-year license phase) we have generated about 50,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste -- none of which is properly protected from terrorists.  Not one gram!  President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and the Nuclear Industry all want to build new nuclear power plants, which will only exacerbate the growing nuclear waste problem.

The real New World Order is about facing our nation's vulnerabilities honestly so that we can find solutions.  For example, if they shut the plants down, they could redesign the areas inside the containment domes to hold the spent fuel there, until a permanent repository opens somewhere.  Spent fuel would be a lot safer if it's put back inside the domes than if it's left where it is right now.

The price of proper security would put every nuke operator out of business -- which would be fine.  Instead, since 9-11, Southern California Edison has made hundreds of millions of dollars from San Onofre, by risking catastrophe and death -- our deaths, our catastrophe.  That "profit" could have been used to build Depleted Uranium walls, which are much stronger than concrete and steel.  (Depleted uranium should only be used as an inner layer of armor for nuclear waste to help protect it from terrorist bombings -- the public must be protected from Depleted Uranium in the environment.)  Also, that "profit" could have been used to create a barrage balloon network around the plant, or a huge geodesic structure which would prevent an airplane from getting too close.  While it's true that these sorts of security enhancements would cost billions of dollars at each plant, one accident at San Onofre could cost 1000 times more.  And while it's true that constructing such enormous protection could cost lives if the construction crews fail to observe safety precautions, nevertheless it must be done, because MILLIONS of lives could be lost if the terrorists get through to their targets.

It's pay now, or pay 1000 times more later, with lives as well as money.

Nuclear supplies less than a fifth of our electricity in America (less than 15% of California's electricity, according to official State sources).  That is hardly enough to force blackouts if we all try to conserve a little, and I would be willing to bet that as much as half of that supposed shortfall could be made up from energy sources which are now unused but available, and the rest could be made up from relatively painless conservation efforts during the brief period while we ramp up renewable energy production systems by forcing certain key industries to retool from, say, airplane manufacturing to wind turbine construction.

Such demands on industry by government are perfectly normal, especially during war.  The government is a vehicle for the enactment of the will of the people, and the will of the people is that they be safe from terrorism.  Nuclear energy cannot provide us with that safety.

The terrorists were extremely successful on 9-11.  They have repeatedly threatened to attack our nukes, and there is little question that our nuclear power plants are vulnerable.  The question isn't IF America will be attacked again, it's WHERE will the attack take place?  The time to close the plants, and thus enhance our safety, is now.  Prudence demands a change, and so does simple economics.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

(Below is the article the above letter refers to.)


San Onofre on high alert, already part of a 'no-fly zone'

Staff Writer

SAN ONOFRE ---- The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station remains at its highest security levels, but news of a recent terrorist threat to American power plants has not caused any changes to the station's security measures, a spokesman said Friday.

The plant, along with the 102 other nuclear power stations across the nation, received an alert that terrorists may be planning an attack on a power plant using a hijacked commercial airliner. The alert was received from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Jan. 23, plant spokesman Ray Golden said.

But because all nuclear power plants have been on high alert since Sept. 11 and the threat was not specific to any particular plant, the San Onofre station ---- which has received some 20 such alerts from the commission since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center ---- did not step up security in any way, Golden said.

"We take all alerts seriously, and every time we receive one, it goes straight to our management and security division," Golden said. "If there was a direct, specific and credible threat against San Onofre, we'd take that threat under advisement and would take specific action, but that wasn't the case here."

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration restricted private planes from flying near nuclear power plants, but that ban expired in November. The FAA has not created any additional flight restrictions since news of the threat, FAA spokesman Jerry Snyder said.

"I have no knowledge that the administration is considering any other restrictions over power plants," Snyder said. "The FAA doesn't make unilateral decisions like that lightly, and if they were considering doing so, it would not be made public until a decision was made."

The San Onofre plant, which is 17 miles north of Oceanside on Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, already is part of a "no-fly zone" because it is on a military base.

Under FAA regulations, all private aircraft wishing to pass Camp Pendleton must fly at least one mile off the coast of the Pacific and must remain at least 2,000 feet above the sea, Golden said. The restrictions do not apply to military aircraft.

Throughout the United States, private pilots are restricted from loitering in the vicinity of power plants, dams, refineries and other industrial complexes, according to an FAA notice issued in September.

Still, the San Onofre plant is on constant alert for threats from the air, Golden said.

"We keep the emergency procedures confidential, but if there is a direct and credible threat, the military has extensive resources to prevent air attacks from happening in a very quick way," he said. He cited a threat against Three Mile Island earlier this winter, in which the government responded with Air Force F-16 fighter jets.

Though the San Onofre plant was not designed to withstand the impact of a fully loaded commercial jet, the station probably could sustain a hit from such an aircraft without releasing radiation, Golden said.

"We are talking about layers upon layers of steel and concrete walls that are protecting the radioactive materials at the plant," Golden said. "No, the plant wasn't designed with a commercial airliner crash in mind, but could it survive one without putting people in danger? I believe that with all the precautions that the station takes, the answer is yes."

Power plant security is a big concern, said Assemblywoman Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel.

"Security of our plants is very important; I think everyone understands that," Bates said Friday. "But I rest easier knowing San Onofre is on military land. Any threat to the plant is a threat to the U.S. military, and I feel like I can rest assured that the military will protect it ---- and us ---- from terrorists."

Contact staff writer Erin Walsh at (760) 901-4090 or



New York City knows disaster.  Look at the front page of the same day's New York Post: