Re: Will national Sierra Club take on the nuclear waste issue?

From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Re: Will national Sierra Club take on the nuclear waste issue?
Cc: "Doris Cellarius" <>

To: Bruce Hamilton
cc: Doris Cellarius, Marti Sinclair
From: Russell D. Hoffman
Date: July 4th, 2001

Dear Bruce Hamilton:

Thank you for your response to my email of a few days ago (shown below).

Your letter seems to be saying that the Sierra Club has various definite positions on Nuclear Waste.  Yet if the position of the Sierra Club doesn't say (and you don't say it does) that we should immediately shut down all existing nuclear plants (so that we stop risking catastrophe from their operation and so that we stop making nuclear waste), it isn't strong enough.

You also wrote that the official Sierra Club position on radioactive waste includes:

"Favoring storage on site".

That means what?  The Spent Fuel Pool?  Where pumps must continuously circulate water to prevent a meltdown *outside* the containment dome, susceptible to Earthquakes, Terrorism, Tsunamis (for our local plants; tornados etc. for others)?   Or does it mean you favor Dry Cask Storage, an untested abomination of science and logic?  Who will guard these casks for the 50 or 100 years they plan to let them sit here, and who will be the lucky one to open them in 20, 40, or 100 years or whatever?  Will the coast survive the opening of that time capsule, if something doesn't break it apart first?

So, I rest my case that the Sierra Club needs a stronger position on nuclear waste.  We need to close ALL existing nuclear plants immediately to stop adding 50 tons a year of High Level Radioactive Waste to whatever already exists *per power plant*, and to stop risking catastrophe for expediency.  And we need all Club members to stop being blissfully unaware of the real facts of the case!

No, I'm not for Yucca Mountain either.  I oppose transportation "through urban areas".  I oppose reprocessing, and I definitely oppose new plants that "could lead to more waste etc."

But I know that in the time it takes me to write this brief response to add to my previous email, say, 20 minutes, my local nuclear power station, with two operational plants (a disaster waiting to happen), will produce another couple of pounds of High Level Radioactive Waste and three or four times that of Low Level Radioactive Waste (which is HLRW with filler added, like steel, glass, aluminum, iron, cloth, plastic, water, rubber, etc. etc. -- stuff that generally would be recyclable if it weren't now radioactive.)

And I know it will store this waste on site at the plant if Yucca Mountain (which I oppose) doesn't come online.  They were just granted the authority to begin Dry Cask Storage whenever they need to -- which fits fine with the Sierra Club policy of favoring on site storage.  But the California Coastal Commission, which spinelessly granted the license, would not look at serious safety issues when granting the license -- they ceded all that sort of authority to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1962 and haven't taken it back.  OSHA ceded its authority to the NRC.  CAL-OSHA, the California Resources Agency -- everyone.

So the NRC, a lapdog agency if ever there was one, has half a dozen different Dry Cask Storage methods, and not one of them is a safe storage method in an area where millions of people live, tsunamis are possible at any time, and earthquakes far stronger than the plants (or the dry casks) can stand are possible, according to recognized authorities.

Yet Sierra Club favors on site storage.  Thanks.  Thanks a lot!

I know, and Sierra Club evidently ignores, that nuclear power plants have incredibly lax standards for chemical leaks and releases, much more lax than most industries.

I know, and Sierra Club evidently ignores, that nuclear power plants have a virtually unique regulatory freedom, such as no other private industry in America is allowed.  Not biotechnology.  Not hazardous chemical industries.  Local regulatory control, or even the possibility for local regulatory control, from the state on down, is practically non-existent. 

You say the Sierra Club has made some strong statements.  I would like to know what, exactly, the authors of those statements were thinking about when they endorsed on site storage of waste, without concurrently at least also calling for the plants to be immediately shut down so the problem stops getting bigger day by day by day.

From the time I sent my letter to you to the time you responded was about three days.  In that time, my local nuclear power plant produced approximately another ton of High Level Radioactive Waste and three or four tons of so-called LLRW.  This is not a time for talk.  Talk is cheap and radioactive waste is expensive.  Whoever at Sierra Club is "favoring" on site storage of radioactive waste needs to reassess the problem.  I stand by my request that the Sierra Club should make a strong statement about nuclear waste.

Thank you again for responding to my email.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

P.S.:  I note that the first policy statement of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club was in 1974, and at that time they did NOT oppose operational reactors.  Since that time approximately 200,000,000 pounds of High Level Nuclear Waste has been created in the United States alone, and many times that amount around the world.  Solar, wind, wave, tide, geothermal -- yes, hydroelectric -- and a variety of other, better, options have been ignored by government, or even opposed by the Sierra Club.  And yet, the policy of the Sierra Club remains that they simply oppose new plants, and favor on site storage of this waste.

Various attachments:


At 02:45 PM 7/4/01 , you wrote:

Dear Mr Hoffman and CGC:

I'm not sure of the reason for the genesis for all this email on the topic.
The Club has strong policy and positions on nuclear waste already on the
books and are acting on that policy by opposing Yucca Mountain disposal,
favoring storage on site, opposing transportation through urban areas,
opposing reprocessing, opposing new plants that could lead to more waste
etc.  We are doing this in the context of our broader energy plan, where we
are also promoting positive alternatives, but we aren't shying from the
issue nor do we lack policy in this area.  Bruce

                    "Russell D. Hoffman"                                                                
                    <rhoffman@ANIMATEDSOFTWARE.        To:     CONS-COMM-PLUS@LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG      
                    COM>                               cc:                                              
                    Sent by: Conservation              Subject:     Re: Will national Sierra Club take  
                    Governance Committee Plus          on the nuclear waste issue?                      
                    Subentity Chairs                                                                    
                    06/30/2001 12:13 AM                                                                 
                    Please respond to                                                                   
                    Conservation Governance                                                             
                    Committee Plus Subentity                                                            

To:  Sierra Club Conservation Governance Committee
From:  Russell Hoffman
Re: Nuclear Waste
Date: June 29th, 2001

To The Committee:

I wish to concur with other's recent suggestions that the Sierra Club take
a decisive stand on nuclear waste issues.

First, those who are producing it should pay for whatever we end up doing
with it.  That's not what's happening.  Second, I would say don't move it
at all, but nuclear waste near our coasts, near population centers, near
rivers, near watersheds, and in lots of other precarious places, will need
to be moved once, somehow, although to where, I can't imagine, and how they
can move it safely, I know not that either (and will wager, neither does
anyone else).

I have written extensively about this problem, for example here are some
comments about Yucca Mountain written earlier this month:

And here is a complete table of contents for a set of essays, articles, and
correspondence written this month (June, 2001) which culminate (at least as
of today) with an FOIA to the NRC regarding crane safety at San Onofre
Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station in San Clemente, California:

As things now stand, the local nuclear power station (known as SONGS
because the W (Waste) is ignored) has budgeted about $136,000 in a trust
fund for maintenance of the sump pumps and such for up to about 140 Dry
Casks of nuclear waste.  Each Dry Cask will weigh about 400,000 pounds and
be just sitting there waiting for a tsunami, earthquake, or other hazard to
break them open and kill Southern California, one of the world's most
beautiful coastlines.  If that happens, Price-Anderson kicks in and is a
fly on a elephant's butt in terms of covering the financial losses, and it
won't do Jack to bring back our coast.  It will just pay out some money to
the families of those who died, and for those who manage to survive but
permanently loose their homes, businesses, families, etc..  Fractions of a
penny, or at best pennies on the dollar, and no lives or land are brought
back by any payment.

But yet, day after day, these utilities create MORE waste, and make tidy
profits for the companies that own them, who will never foot the bill for
the long-term problem each new gram -- each new milligram -- of waste will
be.  We have as yet no technological solution to the waste problem after
more than 40 years of researching it and millions and millions of dollars.

So I absolutely do think the Sierra Club should come out with a strong
statement about nuclear waste.

Each day San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating station stays open, it
produces more than 500 pounds of High Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW) and
about a ton of Low Level Radioactive Waste (which is just HLRW with filler
added, like steel, cloth, plastic, brass, rubber, glass, etc. etc.).

Unit I was shut down in the early 1990s because a safety retrofit was too
expensive.  Units II and III are being pushed to the limit, to feed a
hungry grid which won't wait the six months or so that it MIGHT take to
implement enough renewable energy options to replace these two operating
nukes with clean energy.  For like it or not, the world needs and will find
energy somewhere.  The Sierra Club can pretend the energy problem is
solved, and let San Onofre stay open, producing its deadly "Spent Fuel", a
euphemism for the deadliest, most complex, most carcinogenic, most fragile
pile of junk on Earth.  The number of "daughter products" approaches 300
different isotopes, nearly all of them unstable.  It's nasty, nasty stuff,
ready to burn viciously if it comes in contact with the atmosphere, which
must be carefully handled at every step.  For thousands and thousands of
years.  This is not something the Sierra Club should be equivocal or silent

Instead, it can support alternatives like offshore wind farms, which don't
pull oil out of the water or risk irradiating our coasts, or solar panels
on existing rooftops, which don't take any land, or solar panels on
cropland, special new panels, which allow some sun through so shade crops
can be grown right under a hot sun while at the same time energy is being
produced for the whole farm and for feeding into the grid -- it can be
done.  Even wave energy is now feasible with modern pump and compressor
technology.  These solutions sure beat the alternatives -- coal, oil, and
worst of all nuclear.  The alternatives we now use for much of our energy
production in America.

There is no need to let SON(W)GS continue to operate, daily creating more
than 500 pounds of HLRW and about a ton of LLRW, and not even have the
Sierra Club say "boo".  And that goes for the 100+ other nuclear power
plants across the country, and the 400+ around the world.  The problem of
nuclear waste is building rapidly, daily it is getting worse, and immediate
action is called for.

Some activists down here in Southern California are working hard to get
SON(W)GS to stop producing the waste.  We desperately need national
organizations to -- at the very least -- make some public position
statements which (hopefully) will agree with our basic positions.

Here are some statements about nuclear materials, which were outlined by a
friend of mine and reflect comments I've heard from many experts.  I hope
the Sierra Club position will reflect these basic concepts:

1. Nuclear materials are the most hazardous materials on the planet, they
are toxic to all living things and in incredibly small doses.

2. Nuclear materials can not be contained, they destroy their containers at
the atomic level, there is no force in the universe that can prevent this
and thus they will always get out of whatever container they are stored in.

3. In order to build and operate nuclear power plants in such a manner as
to prevent nuclear materials from getting away makes them extremely
complex, expensive and very difficult to maintain, thus negating the reason
for building them in the first place. Not to mention that a single
mistake/malfunction in their operation can result in catastrophic results
to either the plant or its surroundings or both and since they are operated
by humans, eventually there will be these catastrophic

4. There is no, and never will be, a satisfactory solution to the problem
of disposing of nuclear waste.

--- Excerpted from Arthur Doucette's letter to Russell Hoffman, June, 2001

I hope the Sierra Club will consider these issues and denounce the Nuclear
Mafia and their Demon Hot Atom with all its got.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

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At 05:36 PM 7/4/01 , you wrote:

Dear David Orr and concerned activists who have written us,

We appreciate the information and your concern.  Anyone is welcome to
contact the Environmental Quality Strategy Team to offer a proposal for a
national approach to the nuclear waste problem, but we also need people who
will do this work. The Sierra Club is a movement of activists.  Our greatest
resource is our membership, now over 700,000 strong.  The role of strategy
teams is to set up the organizational structure and to funnel organizational
resources to empower the activists within the Club to save their own
communities and wildlands near and far.  If you have seen our calls for new
committee members, you know we have been looking for people to develop
projects and organize around emerging or historic issues.  EQST retains the
responsibility to set priorities and not every idea can be implemented right
now, but certainly nuclear waste would be a top priority.  When the EQST put
out a call for the Waste Committee, which included nuclear waste work, we
had very, very few applicants.  No nuclear activists applied, and we were
very disappointed.

The EQST fully supports the anti-nuclear agenda of the Sierra Club and the
shares its member's serious concerns regarding the disposal of nuclear
waste.  The waste committee has three members and is charged with the full
range of waste issues:  mining waste, emissions from power plants, uranium
processing, waste transportation, site cleanup, waste disposal, and
mixed-waste incineration (occuring in PA).  It works with the EQST, with
access to a limited number of staff.     It has provided resources to
chapters, when requested, and taken taken a formal position against uranium
mining on the Navajo reservation and organized opposing testimony by local
Sierra Club activists at public hearings; we are listed by the tribe as
supporters of their opposition in their literature.

We would like to do more.  Potential projects include developing alerts,
evaluating legislation,  lobbying, writing formal public comments, expanding
the Club's national website information, forming a strategizing cell of the
Club's anti-nuclear activists, forming a Nuclear Waste Subcommittee,
campaign planning, position development, policy revision and updating,
assessing the needs of the Club's grassroots activists and developing a
responsive "tool kit," and partnering with other nuclear activist groups so
that we can work together effectively).

The Sierra Club has policy and guidance related to nuclear waste which can
be used as the foundation of any local, regional, or national campaign. The
directly-related policy is located at < >.  It includes:
Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors, Energy and Energy Economics, Energy
Facilities Siting, Environmentally Hazardous Substances, Hazardous Waste
Management, High-Level Nuclear Waste, Low-Level Nuclear Waste, Nuclear
Exports and Plutonium Separation, Nuclear Power, Nuclear Weapons and Related
Issues.   Related policies and guidance can be found at
< >

Please let us know what you would like to do to help.

Marti Sinclair and Doris Cellarius, Co-Chairs, EQST


Dear Ms Cellarius,

Thank you very much for your letter.  I would be happy to work with or be on, any committee at any level regarding a better Club policy than what currently exists regarding nuclear waste and other nuclear issues.

My response to Bruce Hamilton's email is a bit more specific, and I will "cc" you that when it is ready in a few minutes.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Recent essays on nuclear problems by Russell Hoffman:

Local nuclear news and views -- why are they decommissioning San Onofre Unit 1 now?
by Russell D. Hoffman, July 3rd, 2001:

Fixing regulatory anomalies -- by Russell Hoffman -- July 3rd, 2001:

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