Nuclear Hubris Reaches for the Stars – Updated August 2020

A rendering of Project Orion, a spacecraft proposed in the 1950s that would be propelled by a series of atomic explosions detonated behind the craft | Image credit: NASA/Rocket Rundown

From Trinity to Tokamak to Space, the Moon & Mars…
No Limits on Delusional Nuclear Ambition

The Atomic Age began with the Manhattan Project’s infamous Trinity nuclear bomb test 75 years ago, July 16, at Alamogordo, New Mexico.  The blast spewed plutonium over thousands of uninformed local native people, their water, fields and livestock.  Before the explosion U.S. scientists reportedly laid bets on whether or not their experiment the next day would destroy the planet. That ‘let’s just do it and see what happens’ attitude continues to characterize the pro-nuclear mindset as a new generation of nuclear true believers set their sights on the stars.  This article gives a sobering overview of that potentially catastrophic trajectory over the past 75 years and the continuing citizen push-back that opposes it.  It presents a scan of recent developments and concludes with videos of this year’s virtual, nation-wide grassroots Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75th. commemoration events.

By James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan – EON

“Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”  – Bob Marley

“Consensus Trance” – Term coined by psychologist Charles Tart – “a collective agreement not to let objective reality impinge on a shared belief system, generally more or less in agreement with the official narrative. “

Duopolistic Entrancement

Whatever their respective campaign talking points on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons issues, both the U.S. duopoly parties appear to be essentially pro-nuclear by default.

Having won the apparently ‘aspirationally awarded’ Nobel Peace Prize, Democrat Obama nevertheless went on to initiate the New Nuclear Arms Race for global full spectrum dominance, which the Trump Administration and the GOP are continuing in spades.

The Biden-Harris platform has ambiguously embraced a flaccid ‘all of the above’ energy policy and – aside from seeming to favor a rebooting of the Trump-scuttled Iran Nuclear Deal –are unlikely to ‘endanger America’ by eschewing a ‘no first use’ nuclear weapons position, or an end to the bi-partisan Obama/Trump trillion dollar new nukes development program.

Both parties, it appears are seriously victims of the ‘Consensus Nuclear Trance.’

According to no less an elite, oracular authority than Forbes Magazine, that puts both of them in sync – as shown by the following graphic – with the mass of the entranced U.S. population.

Young people overwhelmingly favor Democrats because of environment issues. Attitudes towards nuclear indicates a general favorability of all age groups, but males aged 18-34 have the highest approval at 73%. NEI

Young people overwhelmingly favor Democrats because of environment issues. Attitudes towards nuclear indicates a general favorability of all age groups, but males aged 18-34 have the highest approval at 73%. NEI

That makes a hard look at the consensus trance on nuclear issues all the more urgent and relevant.


Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, California. Like … [+] AFP via Getty Images

After 48 Years, Democrats Endorse Nuclear Energy In Platform

It took five decades, but the Democratic Party has finally changed its stance on nuclear energy. In its recently released party platform, the Democrats say they favor a “technology-neutral” approach that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” 

That statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy. Read more…

Entranced – True Believers in the Church of Nukes Forever

Little did Bob Marley know (see epigraph above) that with his 1975 hit composition he was creating the perfect theme song for nuclear technocrats everywhere, who continue to share Tart’s consensus trance.

Few recognized that more clearly than the late S. David Freeman. In his decades-long career as a civil engineer in the nuclear industry – in the course of which he helped to close down more nuclear reactors than any other utility administrator – Freeman reached an outspoken opinion of  the prevailing pro-nuclear ideology he spent his life bucking.  

Back in 2012, not long after the still-ongoing Fukushima disaster started, in a lively interview with EON, laced with pithy statements, Freeman said, “You have to understand the nuclear industry and the people that run it. – and I say this advisedly – they have a religious belief in nuclear power. So facts don’t interfere. You know, religion is belief. They believe in nuclear power.  And so you’re up against folks that are not subject to just rational thought process because they have a belief in their technology that’s religious in nature.”

In Freeman’s view, “we got the final wake-up call at Fukushima … we need to phase out and shut down the 104 reactors in America. I will put it very bluntly,” he said.  “We need to kill them before they kill us.”

The late S. David Freeman – “I will be very blunt. We have to kill nuclear power before it kills us.” – EON photo.

A Coming Cascade of Shutdowns
In the years since 2011 a cascade of actual and scheduled reactor shutdowns has in fact begun across the country.
Beyond Nuclear reports that 9 reactors have been shuttered just since 2013, with at least 12 other shutdowns now scheduled.

In addition, several new reactor construction projects, are all uniformly beyond schedule and over budget.  Some have been abandoned, both here and abroad.  South Carolina’s $9 billion effort to build two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer site has been abandoned by the utilities SCE&G and Santee Cooper, leaving the public to pick up the tab for power they were forced to pay ahead for, but will never get.

The Intercept reports that “Documents released as the project unraveled show that both SCE&G and Santee Cooper were well aware of shortcomings, mismanagement, and lack of oversight that eventually made the reactors impossible to complete, years before Westinghouse declared bankruptcy and. both companies pulled out. Former NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko pointed out that “They were allowed to charge the customers for all the money that they spent, plus a return, even though they failed to deliver the project.”

Georgia Power’s Vogtle reactor construction project continues despite the fact that it is $1 billion over budget and behind schedule.  Government staff and monitors reported being “shocked”  at the  80% failure rate for new components installed at the site. ‘The components, when tested, “did not initially function properly and required some corrective action(s) to function as designed.”’

The most recent casualties abroad reports the Guardian, are “Toshiba abandoning its plans for Moorside in Cumbria and Hitachi scrapping its Wylfa plant on Anglesey. Wylfa’s death means a second Hitachi plant planned for Oldbury, Gloucestershire, is doomed, too.”

Nevertheless, the Chinese company CGN is forging ahead with its UK reactor construction project at Bradwell in Essex and China has announced its intention to build 6-8 new reactors per year between 2020 and 2025.

Artist’s impression of the planned nuclear power station at Bradwell, Essex. China’s CGN is accelerating work on the plant, hoping it will be online by 2030. Photograph: CGN/PA/Guardian

The  United Arab Emirates News Agency (WAM)  announced just days ago that the UAE has started operating the first nuclear power plant in the Arab World, built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation.  More nuclear plants are reportedly on order in Saudi Arabia.

The Barakah nuclear energy plant in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Twitter

Many years ago visionary energy analyst Amory Lovins quipped that the nuclear power industry was already beginning to die from, as he put it, “an overdose of market forces.” The ‘Black Swan’ Chinese and Arab examples to the contrary not withstanding, in most of the world his prediction seems now to be coming true in spades. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report, produced yearly by Paris-based energy consultant Mycle Schneider, indicates that globally, the nuclear industry’s situation continues to deteriorate.

Nefarious Nuclear Politics v. Terminal Market Forces
In this country, in response to mounting economic pressures, desperate nuclear utilities are resorting to nefarious methods to keep their aging, dysfunctional and money losing reactors running at the public’s expense.  The latest breaking scandal is in Ohio, where investigative reporters Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman were the first to report that “Ohio’s biggest-ever bribery case is rocking America’s reactor industry … and the fall election.”

Karl Grossman, Beyond Nuclear’s Linda Penze Gunter and others are reporting on the story.

The FBI has charged Republican speaker of the Ohio house of representatives Larry Householder with taking million in bribes. (photo: Columbus Dispatch)

At a press conference U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David DeVillers described the case as the “largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of Ohio.”  It’s a complex tale of GOP gerrymandering, electoral thuggery, dark money and political corruption that starkly validates Nader’s list of nuclear energy’s ‘uns.’ (Uneconomic; Unsafe; Un-insurable; Un-financeable without tax-payer subsidies; Un-democratic; and Un-protectable from disasters, natural or man-made.)

As Fitrakis and Wasserman outlined it in an article last November, “The Perry reactor east of Cleveland, and Davis-Besse near Toledo, are among the world’s most dangerous, decrepit reactors. Both were set to shut because they cannot compete with wind and solar, as well as fracked gas. But Akron-based FirstEnergy spent millions to ‘persuade’ the legislature to hand them a billion dollars to keep their un-competitive, uninsured and essentially unregulated reactors on line.”

Channeling ‘dark money from undisclosed donors through a non-profit front group called Generation Now, First Energy got several compliant legislators elected and helped Larry Householder become speaker of the Ohio House.  Then it bribed them to engineer the passage of billion dollar bail-out bill that forced Ohio tax-payers to shoulder the costs of keeping the two decrepit reactors and a pair of dirty coal-fired plants in operation.

The racketeering case being pursued against Householder and his co-conspirators may well get Ohio tax-payers off that billion dollar hook.  Says District Attorney DeVillers, “This is by no means over. We are going to continue with this investigation.”

But, whatever its outcome, the case illustrates to what lengths desperate nuclear true believers will go to keep their moribund industry alive.

Carl Grossman’s Enviro Close-Up

 #646 – Nuclear Corruption

Nuclear corruption is a major element in why and how deadly nuclear power plants exist in the United States. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI have just charged the speaker of the Ohio House of Representative and four others in a $61 million scheme to use $1 billion in ratepayers’ money to keep two decrepit nuclear power plants operating. And this kind of situation is not limited to Ohio. Harvey Wasserman, co-author of “Killing Our Own: The disaster of America’s experience with atomic radiation,” and Bob Fitrakis, an attorney and editor of the Columbus Free Press early on were blowing the whistle in the Free Press about the nuclear corruption going on in Ohio. They detail the nuclear corruption—in Ohio and elsewhere—in this Enviro Close-Up. And they also in the program speak out about another form of corruption—Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 election, a move which both are deeply involved in fighting. Fitrakis warns of the possibility of a “coup in the fall” involving Trump and the presidential election.

“The Federal Trash Man Never Came”
Even if all aged U.S. reactors were to be shut down tomorrow, their lethal legacy would still loom over this and  all future generations in. the form of the tons of lethally radioactive waste accumulated at each reactor site from decades of operation.  It is waste that will remain deadly to all lifeforms for millions of years, and for which there is no known method of isolating from the environment for longer than human civilization has yet existed.

Despite decades of trying and billions in expenditures, the federal government has never succeeded in keeping its promise of taking possession of all the waste from all the country’s commercial reactors and moving it to a central government repository.

David Freeman put the issue this way in his trademark pithy style, “It’s not just the nuclear reactor itself but all of the spent fuel, all of the nuclear trash that has piled up for 30 years. People don’t realize the trash man, the federal trash man, never came, and if you can imagine in your backyard your trash piling up for 30 years, that’s the situation at just about every one of these nuclear power plants. But it’s especially dangerous at (California’s)] San Onofre and Diablo Canyon because these are plants that are near earthquake faults.”

Both nuclear plants Freeman presciently mentioned remain in the news nearly a decade later. Our updates on San Onofre and related news are here and here.

Freeman himself helped broker a deal between some citizen groups and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in which the utility is allowed to continue operating Diablo’s two reactors until 2024 and 2025 respectively. Safety advocates are alarmed that the aged, embrittled
reactors are being allowed to run without inspection.  Their legitimate fears seem to have been born out on July 17 when the plant’s Unit 2 reactor had to be ‘scrammed’ or manually shut down because of what was termed ‘increased hydrogen usage.’ The implications of that event are unclear at this writing, though reported local rumor has it that ‘corroded pipes’ are involved. The reactor is reportedly scheduled for restart shortly to complete its remaining years of operation, despite local opposition.  Once the reactors hopefully make it to shutdown without serious incident, the waste will remain stranded on-site indefinitely.

Painting: “Meltdown At Diablo” –

Devil in the Details – Non-Enforcement of Regulations is a Subsidy
Edwin Lyman @NukSafetyUCS reports :
“The Diablo Canyon 2 #nuclear reactor was shutdown on July 23 because of an auxiliary feedwater system leak, and pipe corrosion was found. Now PG&E is requesting an emergency license amendment to inspect the same system at Unit 1 without shutting it down.

Pacific Gas and Electric is seeking an exemption to requirements in its NRC operating license by retroactively changing the license. If allowed by NRC officials, that will permit the notorious, bankrupt utility to continue operating its two aged, embrittled reactors to produce unneeded, over-priced power until their respective shutdown dates of 2024 and 2025.  It would effectively constitute a subsidy to PG&E for  $7 billion in cost overruns set to be charged to CA ratepayers, including CCAs.

Radioactive Rubble – A Corollary
Another fundamental fly in the nuclear energy ointment is the fact that
nuclear power reactors generate nuclear waste throughout their entire operating lives…and then the reactors themselves become nuclear waste.

Once a reactor is finally shut down or ‘decommissioned,’ another problem beside the stranded on-site waste issue arises – what to do with the radiation-emitting wreckage created by the plant’s demolition? 

As more nuclear plants close in coming months and years, that will generate a staggering amount of radioactively hot rubble to deal with.  Current trash disposal rules don’t allow dumping radioactive materials into existing landfill sites and, as noted, there’s no central federal nuclear waste repository.

So the corporate geniuses who run the industry and its captive, ever-compliant Nuclear Regulatory Commission have come up with a bold plan, mind-boggling in its simplicity: just ‘reinterpret’ the regulations governing radioactive waste.

Nuclear waste stored in underground containers at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls. Low-level radioactive waste is primarily disposed of in highly regulated sites. Photograph: Keith Ridler/AP

The NRC’s proposal –  permitting “very low-level” radioactive waste to be disposed in regular landfills rather than licensed nuclear waste facilities where there are trained personnel and requirements for handling the waste –  has sparked outraged opposition from groups like the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and the Committee to Bridge the Gap (CBG).

Dan Hirsch, president of CBG, and the former director of the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy states,  “This would be the most massive deregulation of radioactive waste in American history.” Hirsch explains,  “What they’re trying to do is prop up a failing industry so that the cost of decommissioning these (nuclear) reactors is reduced so you don’t have to send it to a place that is expensive because it’s designed to safely handle it.”

The NIRS website reminds us, “U.S. nuclear promoters and ‘regulators’ have tried to get the public to agree to deregulation of radioactive waste dozens of times since the beginning of the Atomic Age. Their goal has been to shield the nuclear industry, the NRC, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) against the enormous expense, responsibility, and liability that comes with protecting public health and safety, the environment, and the genetic health of all future generations of all species from these dangerous radioactive wastes. Each time, the U.S. public soundly defeated every known attempt to deregulate radioactive wastes.”

NIRS goes on to explain, “The term ‘low-level’ radioactive waste is deceptive and can mean very high risk to humans and other life. Very small amounts of radioactive substances can do great, irreversible damage to the health of humans and Earth’s ecosystems. For example, plutonium remains hazardous for a quarter to a half million years. John Gofman MD, PhD, a Manhattan Project scientist and former Director of Biomedical Research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, stated that even one-millionth of a gram of plutonium inhaled into the lung, will cause lung cancer within 20 years. Women and children are more susceptible to health impacts than men, who are also at risk.”

NIRS’ analysis of the NRC’s proposal shows that, “This back-door deregulation could lead to contaminated scrap metal, concrete, asphalt, wood, plastics, soil and other contaminated items and materials getting into our recycled materials supply, our communities, and our homes. Once at a municipal landfill, there will be nothing to designate these materials as radioactive. There is nothing to protect people who collect or recycle “found” materials at dumps from taking VLLW -so-called “very low level waste” contaminated materials – especially if a landfill fails to detect materials contaminated with dangerous and long-lived alpha-emitters. Gamma detecting scanners used at landfills cannot detect alpha or beta radiation. Landfills with methane burners may release tritium and other radioactive substances into the air.”  Radioactivity is likely to leach into surrounding waterways.

To take action on this issue:

Weapons Waste – Giving New Mexico the Shaft…Again

Waste isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico – Image: DOE

Of course, nuclear energy production is not the only source of deadly, long-lived radioactive waste; the other is nuclear weapons production.

As the site of Trinity, the first atomic bomb test, the subsequent massive contamination of people and environment from uranium mining, and now (with Texas) one of the two target state for proposed Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) for stranded commercial waste, New Mexico, with its Native American and Hispanic populations, has more than its share of nuclear afflictions. Adding to its radioactive woes from hosting Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs and their  immense radioactive pollution, the state is also the location of the Waste isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), DOE’s dump site for long-lived intermediate-level waste from the US nuclear weapons program. WIPP houses more than 171,000 waste containers stored in salt caverns 2,100 feet underground.

Constructed during the 1980s, and touted as the first and most secure permanent deep geological radioactive storage facility, WIPP was predicted to remain safe for thousands of years. In February of 2014, that myth was vaporized in little more than 2 decades of the dump’s operation. First an underground fire forced a worker evacuation. Then, a few days later, a chemical reaction in one of the waste barrels DOE calls a ‘deflagration’ which destroyed the container and, as one report tells it, “spread contaminants through more than 3,000 feet of tunnels, up the exhaust shaft, into the environment, and to an air monitoring approximately 3,000 feet north-west of the exhaust shaft.1 The accident resulted in 22 workers receiving low-level internal radiation exposure.”  Americium was reportedly detected all the way in nearby Carlsbad, NM.

Long shut down for repairs, the WIPP facility is now again in the news with citizen watchdog groups – including the Southwest Research and Information Center, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping –having discovered that DOE is quietly constructing a whole new deep storage shaft without following required procedures of public disclosure discussion. The clandestine project will be carried out with U.S. taxpayer funding, which makes it an issue of national concern.

Stealth Project -New Mexico underground – Image DOE

As Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan explains in a recent e-mail, “Also national in scope is the inherently high-risk transport element, with plutonium and other transuranic (TRU) contaminated waste shipments from DOE nuclear weapons complex sites, bound for WIPP, NM, coming from as far away as Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, and Savannah River Site in South Carolina, passing through a large number of states in between.”

Kamps goes on to explain, “Of course, the two high-level radioactive waste CIS facilities targeted at the very same local area as WIPP (Holtec International/Eddy Lea Energy Alliance’s, and Interim Storage Partners’, at Waste Control Specialists, just over the border in Texas) compound the environmental injustice, as well as the transport risks.”

Folks are urged to give DOE their comments;

For a sample comment, click this link:  Sample Comment 

For more infor:

Nuclear Pie-in-the-Sky Debunked

One of the most ubiquitous of new nukes true believers is self-styled ‘eco-modernist’ Michael ShallenbergerIn a recent New York Post article he warns that a reported deal between China and Saudi Arabia that will help the Kingdom set up a facility to produce uranium “yellowcake” from uranium ore means that the US nuclear industry is in danger of loosing its nuclear ‘leadership to China and Russia.  A skilled self-promoter with apparent deep pocket funding, Shallenberger has recently published an ardently pro-nuclear book with the confidently upbeat title Apocalypse NeverHis consistently Pollyanna message for years has been that ‘advanced’ forms of nuclear energy production are the both necessary and sufficient solution to carbon-induced climate change.

A recent review of his book by Amy Westervelt on elicited a storm of immediate debunking feedback from a number of sources, not the least of which was Rocky Mountain Institute’s chairman and chief scientist, arch renewable energy magus Amory Lovins. 

Lovins writes, “You and Michael Shellenberger both omitted nuclear power’s economics and its climate implications. Citing his own 2019 essay in Forbes, Lovins goes on, “In fact, building new reactors, or operating most existing ones, makes climate change worse compared with spending the same money on more-climate-effective ways to deliver the same energy services. Those who state as fact that rejecting (more precisely, declining to bail out) nuclear energy would make carbon reduction much harder are in good company, but are mistaken.”

Lovins’ excerpt from his own Forbes essay continues, “To check that claim, we must compare nuclear power with other potential climate solutions. What criteria should we use? Here I’ll use only two — cost and speed — because if nuclear power has no business case or takes too long, we need not address its other merits or drawbacks.

“Most analysts ignore common-sense comparisons of both cost and speed. The result is akin to arguing that since people are hungry, hunger is urgent, and caviar and rice are both food, therefore both are vital to reducing hunger. Since in reality money and time are both limited, our priorities in feeding people or in providing energy services must be informed by relative cost and speed. Lower cost saves more carbon per dollar. Faster deployment saves more carbon per year. We need both.”

Lovins concludes, “The bedrock economic principle of “opportunity cost” means you can’t spend the same money on two different things at the same time. Each purchase foregoes others. Buying nuclear power displaces buying some mixture of fossil-fueled generation, renewable generation, and efficient use.”

Noting Shallenberg’s ‘poor scholarship’ tendency to “cherry pick his sources to reinforce his arguments,” another critic, Dr. David Lowry, senior international research fellow at the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, cites a newly-completed chapter of the forthcoming book “100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything,” by Stanford’s Mark Jacobson.

Dr. Lowry writes,  “In the chapter, ‘Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security,’ Dr. Jacobson argues cogently, “There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh…[O]verall emissions from new nuclear are 78 to178g of CO2/kWH, not close to 0.”

Nevertheless, the mistaken meme of ‘clean’ nuclear power persists at the highest levels of decision-making.

Small is Unlikely to be Beautiful – INL Aims to Get the ‘JUMP’ on New Nukes

Oklo Inc. is hoping to build a commercial microreactor using Idaho National Laborator (INL) reprocessed nuclear waste material as fuel.  Conceptual graphic shows sloping roof for snow load, side panels for solar power(?).

As the cases of San Onofre and Diablo epitomize, the national radioactive waste conundrum is currently far from being solved – or even rationally and honestly confronted – by industry and government policy-makers.  It is only likely to be made worse by the creation of the new generations of nuclear reactors now being called for as a ‘clean’ energy solution to climate change.

Nevertheless, the corporate and government quest for the so-far mythical beasts known as micro-reactors – which would generate less than 10 megawatts (MW) – and small modular reactors (SMRs) – planned to output 60-300 MW – continues apace both here and around the world.

The Idaho National Laboratory has recently moved to become home to both types of new experimental mini-nukes. 

One is the proposed Oklo Aurora microreactor  (pictured above) which will be the first to use so-called HALEU (high-assay, low-enriched uranium), i.e., reprocessed nuclear fuel.

The other is the NuScale small nuclear reactor (pictured below), a joint project of the U.S. Department of Energy, a local group called the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and NuScale Power to develop the Joint Use Modular Plant (JUMP). It is part of the  Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP).  According to the report, “The CFPP plant will consist of 12 independent NuScale small modular reactors (SMRs) in a shared pool. These SMRs – 60 megawatts electric each – will be constructed offsite and shipped to the plant located in the desert west of Idaho Falls.”

Rendering of NuScale small nuclear reactor power plant planed to be build at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Graphic: NuScale Power


“lingering technical issues” for NuScale & INL’s SMRs

Passive safety?

“Normally, convection circulates water—laced with boron to tune the nuclear reaction—through the core of NuScale’s reactor (left). If the reactor overheats, it shuts down and valves release steam into the containment vessel, where it conducts heat to a surrounding pool and condenses (center). The water flows back into the core, keeping it safely submerged (right). But the condensed water can be low in boron, and reviewers worried it could cause the reactor to spring back to life.”


Construction of NuScale’s proposed small reactor design at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) depends on DOE contributing $1.4 billion to the cost of the plant. Graphic: Science

An article in Science by Adrian Cho reports that “NuScale’s likely first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), has delayed plans to build a NuScale plant, which would include a dozen of the reactors, at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory. The $6.1 billion plant would now be completed by 2030, 3 years later than previously planned”

The delay is typical of the stumbling blocks, both technical and regulatory faced by allegedly “walk-away safe” SMRs now on the drawing boards.

NuScale claims its reactors will be so safe that it is asking the NRC to let its plants operate without the standard 32-kilometer-wide emergency planning zone. Bad idea, say expert critics.

 “I don’t think these things are show-stoppers,” says Michael Corradini, a nuclear engineer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  That assessment is shared by M. V. Ramana, a physicist at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Ramana says the company has oversold the claim that its SMRs are “walk-away safe.” “They have given you the standard by which to evaluate them and they’re failing,”

Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists says, “This is a case of the public relations driving the science instead of the other way around.”   The program director for the environmental group Uranium Watch,  questions NuScale’s request to operate without an emergency planning zone.  “That’s a crazy thing to do for a reactor design that’s totally new and with which you have no operating experience.”

Just one more example of the ‘consensus nuclear trance’ in operation?

Read More

[ Editors’ note: As of 8-20-2020, looks like at least one of the towns participating in the project has awakened from the trance.  Activist emails report: “According to Holly Daines, Logan Mayor, Logan voted last night to withdraw from

the UAMPS SMR project.” ]


‘Power Balls” – Hope Springs Eternal in the Nuclear True Believer’s Breast

Nuclear power balls – Courtesy of X Energy/Wired

“Nuclear ‘Power Balls’ May Make Meltdowns a Thing of the Past” gushed the headline of a Wired story touting yet another nuclear industry wet dream.  According to the story, the new approach features “Millions of submillimeter-size grains of uranium individually wrapped in protective shells.”  Called “triso fuel,” –  a contraction of  “tristructural isotropic,”  the fuel “is made from a mixture of low enriched uranium and oxygen, and it is surrounded by three alternating layers of graphite and a ceramic called silicon carbide. Each particle is smaller than a poppy seed, but its layered shell can protect the uranium inside from melting under even the most extreme conditions that could occur in a reactor.” Its designers claim it will be ‘meltdown proof,” but, as the NIRS website observed some time ago, “Every new type of reactor introduced throughout history has been costlier, slower, and more difficult to produce than projected. Further proving our money and resources would be better spent on developing greater energy efficiency and affordable, safe renewable energy sources that are available now.”


The first piece of the Iter tokamak being lowered into place. The entire reactor will weight 23,000 tonnes. Photograph: EJF Riche/Iter/Guardian

Tokamak – Putting the Sun in a Bottle
Another seemingly perpetual nuclear unicorn quest is the pursuit of fusion, not blowing atoms apart, but forcing them together, like what happens in the sun.  France has announced its push to demonstrate that ‘clean’ fusion power can be produced at a profitable commercial scale.  It is spending 20 billion euros to build a 23,000 tonne tokamak fusion reactor billed as “the most complex engineering endeavor in history.”

According to Wikipedia, “A tokamak is a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine a hot plasma in the shape of a torus. The tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices being developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion power. As of 2016, it is the leading candidate for a practical fusion reactor.”

France has announced its start of a five-year assembly phase of its own tokamak which will be the world’s largest nuclear fusion project. It plans to generate the first ultra-hot plasma by late 2025. Called the Iter, the fusion reactor has been in the works since 1985, but has experienced many delays. As one official describes the project, it is,  “Constructing the machine piece-by-piece will be like assembling a three-dimensional puzzle on an intricate timeline [and] with the precision of a Swiss watch.” Designed to “replicate the reactions that power the sun,” the Iter will employ “almost 3,000 tonnes of superconducting magnets, some heavier than a jumbo jet, will be connected by 200km of superconducting cables, all kept at -269C by the world’s largest cryogenic plant.”

A Guardian report explains that the device will generate “a temperature of 150m C, 10 times hotter than the core of the sun. The hydrogen fuel is obtained from seawater and just a few grammes is needed but huge magnets are needed to contain the plasma in doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber.”  When up and running, says the report, the device will “use a significant amount of electrical energy … to power the magnets and scientific instruments.”

Not answered in the Guardian’s gushing coverage, is the question of where is all that electrical energy going to come from to keep that sun in its bottle, and what happens that power source fails?  Seems like the French are risking getting one hellova sunburn.

Deep Fried Shrimp – Pollute and Push On

Radioactive carbon-14 from Atom bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s has been found in crustaceans living in the Mariana Trench, one of the most inaccessible environments on Earth. Credit: Daiju Azuma Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5).

The Scientific American reports that scientists have found radioactive ‘bomb carbon’ contamination in shrimp-like creatures living 70 miles down in the Mariana Trench, in the western Pacific Ocean between Japan and Papua New Guinea.  American and French atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific are the likely source.

“A very small amount of the “bomb carbon” from these gigantic explosions has decayed,” says the article,  “but the rest has spread around the world and been taken up via carbon dioxide by plants, which are then eaten by animals—including humans.”

The piece goes on to report that “Other studies conducted around the world have also recently identified the residue of the weapons tests of the mid-20th century—as well as the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters—in mountain glaciers, another landscape often considered pristine and remote.”

“Worse still,” it notes, “the fallout locked in glaciers includes more worrisome radioactive elements (such as americium-241, a product of the decay of plutonium)—and could be released as the world warms and the ice thaws.”

Polish scientist Edyta Lokas ominously observes, ““The legacy of radioactive contamination will be felt by many generations ahead.”

Off-World Ambitions – Onward to the Stars!

Where will they get the cooling water? Jus’ ask’n.

But, permanently pissing in the terrestrial gene pool and putting the sun in a man-made bottle, are only two examples of the Church of Nukes Forever’s boundless hubris.

According to recent reports [for example here and here] the U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it wants the private sector to build nuclear power plants designed to create a supportive environment for humans in space.

Not to be satisfied with irreversibly contaminating our home planet, nuclear zealots have set their sights on outer space and beyond.

Trump’s U.S. Space Force will be needing orbiting nuclear reactors to ensure its full spectrum dominance of earth, and no less reputable a news source than Fox News
reports “US eyes building nuclear power plants for moon and Mars.”
Watch this excellent 5 min. video Trump Signs Executive Order to Mine the Moon.  The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space reports regularly on all aspects of this unfolding disaster that requires
massive taxpayer spending while our health system languishes in a pandemic.  Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global
Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space says “The weapons industry views space as a new market; the nuclear industry views space as a new market and they’re trying to create this new arms race that they say will be the largest industrial project in the history of the planet.”

A rendering of Project Orion, a spacecraft proposed in the 1950s that would be propelled by a series of atomic explosions detonated behind the craft | Image credit: NASA/Rocket Rundown

Last August, just after Trump changed U.S. policy on the “use of nuclear systems for both commercial and government spacecraft,” an article on the Rocket Rundown website reported “The United States has revised policy to allow the launch of spacecraft that utilize nuclear-powered systems.”

“Our primary objective here is to ensure that rigorous and effective nuclear safety analysis and reviews are conducted prior to the launch of any space nuclear system,” said Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Meanwhile, Back Down Here on Earth – the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is an Oozing  Monument to Irresponsible U.S. Nuclear Hubris

Graffiti in May 2018 is written on Runit Dome, in Enewetak Atoll of the Marshall Islands, urging the United States to take responsibility for the radioactive waste encapsulated inside the leaking concrete structure. The U.S. government paid a contractor to remove the graffiti from the dome’s surface. (Mika Makelainen / Yle)

Outspoken Hawaii Democratic Congress woman Tulsi Gabbard is disputing a recent Department of Energy (DoE) report making the on-its-face absurdly false claim that a leaking U.S. nuclear waste repository in the Marshall Islands is safe for island residents already genetically damaged by American nuclear bomb tests in the 50’s and 60’s.

The L.A. Times reports that Rep. Gabbard is calling for the DoE to convene a more independent assessment of the waste site. “I think it’s time the Department of Energy relied on someone with fresh eyes to examine the situation,” Gabbard said.

The Congresswoman’s laudable stand is helping stimulate long over-due renewed public attention to America’s  many nuclear ‘crimes against humanity ‘ and against our common biosphere.

The Real ‘Nuclear Triad’ – Energy, Weapons and Waste – Joined at the Hip From Birth

Former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz now touts maintaining U.S. commercial nuclear industry and infrastructure as a vital support for nuclear weapons development.  Getty Images

Ever since the days of Eisenhower’s successful “Atoms for Peace” propaganda campaign, nuclear energy fundamentalists have been at pains to play down or flat-out deny any important connection between “peaceful” commercial nuclear power generation and the production of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Now that the ‘peaceful atom’ is afflicted with the existential threat of terminal market forces, that public relations messaging strategy has changed.

The point man for this 180-degree messaging shift is former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who now serves as CEO of an organization ambiguously named the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The new psy-op meme now being promoted is that the U.S. needs to maintain a robust commercial energy sector, a trained, young labor force, and an up-to-date national infrastructure in order to support ‘national security’ – i.e. prop up the sprawling U.S. nuclear weapons production complex and ensure continued America’s primacy in its self-created New Global Nuclear Arms Race.

Awakening from the Consensus Trance
Ralph Nader – who helped spark the anti-nuclear movement way back in 1974 with the founding of the Critical Mass Energy Project  – summarized the many drawbacks of nuclear power in a 2014 interview: “In the early ’70s, the Atomic Energy Commission, which was promotional of the atomic power industry as well as supposedly a regulator, estimated that there would be 1,000 nuclear plants in the United States by the year 2000, 100 of them up and down the coast of California. Well, of course that never happened, and there are less than 100 operating today in the entire United States, and there hasn’t been an order for a nuclear plant fulfilled into operational mode since the early ’70s. Why?”

Life-long nuclear safety advocate Ralph Nader is fond of listing the many ‘uns’ of nuclear power: Uneconomic; Unsafe; Un-insurable; Un-financeable without tax-payer subsidies; Un-democratic; and Un-protectable from disasters, natural or man-made. – EON photo.

Nader went on to answer his own rhetorical question, “It can all be summarized in the following sentence, which has ample documentation. Nuclear energy is unnecessary. It is uneconomic; it is unsafe; it is un-insureable without government guarantees; it is unable to be financed by Wall Street without the taxpayer guarantee in it through Uncle Sam; it is un-democratic because it’s so secretive and it restricts engagement by citizens whose environment is exposed to a proposed operating nuclear plant; and it is unable to be protected from a catastrophic, deliberate sabotage. Otherwise,” Nader conceded, “the heating towers are very artistically shaped.”

No Separation Between Nuclear Church and State
Few Californians are aware that Livermore Laboratory – long run by the University of California – is a major plexus point in the vast U.S. nuclear weapons design and production complex. 

Located just east of San Francisco in upscale Livermore, the Lab’s website has humbly billed it as “The Smartest Place in the World.” Its a key epicenter in the country’s billion dollar push to ‘win’ the New Nuclear Arms Race, which it has itself started.  This, despite 122 other nations that in July 2017 signed on to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty aimed at becoming the  outlawing the building, possession or even threatened use of nuclear weapons.  Now in the process of being ratified by nations around the world, the TPNW aims to be the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

Each year in August, for over a decade now, nuclear disarmament advocates have rallied outside the Gates of the Livermore Lab to commemorate America’ atomic massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by staging a die-in on the tarmac and risk arrest to protest the Lab’s continued pursuit of ever new generations of nuclear weapons.  The yearly event is organized by the local organization Tri-Valley CARES, and regularly features a keynote address by legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Danial Ellsberg.

This year the Covid lockdown has made a virtual demonstration necessary. 

We feel there’s no more appropriate way to conclude and tie together this article on resistance to rampant nuclear madness than to offer these archived videos of this year’s inspiring, empowering,  coordinated grassroots events around the country – beginning with the Livermore action.

#StillHere: 75 Years of Shared Nuclear Legacy, August 6

#StillHere: 75 Years of Shared Nuclear Legacy, August 9.

James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan Co-Direct EON, the Ecological Options Network. The EON feature documentary SHUTDOWN which they are producing with co-director and editor Morgan Peterson is now nearing completion for release later this year.  EON is a 501 (c) 3 organization. You can support their work by making a tax-exempt donation here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Nuclear Hubris Reaches for the Stars – Updated August 2020

Commemorating Two Barbaric – and Totally Unnecessary – Events

President Truman, aboard the cruiser Augusta, reads reports of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Japan [AP file]

“We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.” – President Truman announcing U.S. use of the Atomic bomb.

“The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it.” –
J. Samuel Walker, Chief Historian of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Posted by Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle – EON

Debunking Decades of Nuclear Deceit

75 years ago this week in August, U.S. aircraft dropped the first – and as yet, only – atomic bombs to be used in warfare on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Between 129,000 and 226,000 people – most of whom were civilians – were killed immediately and hundreds of thousands of others condemned to slow deaths or life-long suffering.  U.S. bombers had already mass fire-bombed 67 Japanese cities, but had spared Hiroshima and Nagasaki to use as ‘demonstration cities’ for the bomb’s destructive capacities.

For over half a century,  the official justification for that act of nuclear barbarism has been that “it won the war and saved millions of American lives.” Now, as John LaForge shows in his  Counterpunch article, that fabric of lies has been reduced to tatters by fact-based scholarship by historians and the documented statements of numerous government and military officials of the time, including: Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the 21st Bomber Command, Navy Admirals King,  Halsey, Radford, and Nimitz; and no less an authority than then-General, and later President Dwight Eisenhower himself.

Today, as people around the world gather to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and as we are showered daily in newly-minted government and industry propaganda aimed at selling us a New Nuclear Arms Race – it is appropriate to remember how we have been bamboozled by all those past decades of official deceit.

What follows is a brief sampling of just a few of the commemorative events being organized around the globe – most, necessarily virtual in this time of Covid lockdowns.


California’s sprawling national nuclear bomb shop, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Government photo.

Not enough Californians are aware that Livermore Laboratory – long run by the University of California – is a major plexus point in the vast U.S. nuclear weapons design and production complex. 

Located just east of San Francisco in upscale Livermore, the Lab’s website has humbly billed it as “The Smartest Place in the World.” From almost the beginning of the Atomic Age, the Lab has played a major role in nuclear weapons development and remains today a key epicenter in the country’s billion dollar push to ‘win’ the New Nuclear Arms Race, which it has itself started.  This, despite 122 other nations that in July 2017 signed on to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty aimed at becoming the  outlawing the building, possession or even threatened use of nuclear weapons.  Now in the process of being ratified by nations around the world, the TPNW aims to be the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

Each year in August, for over a decade now, nuclear disarmament advocates have rallied outside the Gates of the Livermore Lab to commemorate America’ atomic massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by staging a die-in on the tarmac and risking arrest to protest the Lab’s continued pursuit of ever new generations of nuclear weapons.  The yearly event is organized by the local organization Tri-Valley CARES, and regularly features a keynote address by legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Here is a clip of Tri-Valley CARES’ indefatigable Executive Director Marylia Kelly’s address to the crowd at last year’s Livermore Lab protest event.

This year the Covid lockdown has made  virtual demonstrations necessary. 

This year Marylia is on the steering committee of a national coalition of groups
formed to coordinate efforts to remember the victims of the bombings, and mobilize the public to take action through a 2-day virtual event.

She writes, “We believe that this anniversary is an opportunity to come together, to reflect and to push for a more just world that values peace and the safety of all people.”

“And, she adds, “I want to tell you that if you haven’t done anything yet – it’s NOT TOO LATE. Here are some simple ways to help…
  1. Sign on to our position statement. You can sign the statement by filling out this form.
  1. Share the hibakusha appeal with your networks. This petition was created by the survivors of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons. This resource can help you figure out the best way to promote the appeal through your organization, and you can reach out to Lilly Adams at the Union of Concerned Scientists if you have any
  2. Join and help promote our virtual event on August 6th and 9th. While we are highlighting frontline communities we know nuclear violence intersects with other systems of oppression here in the U.S., and we want to educate and mobilize more people on those intersections. You can find much more detail by following the link. If you can help promote the event, click on the “receive event updates” button to be looped in.
“And, finally, here is a one-pager that outlines lots of other ways to take action, including raising awareness in the media and sharing the many local events happening across the country.”

You can join this year’s inspiring Livermore event from 8 am to 9:30 am on-line here on August 6.

California and Japan San Louis Obispo Mothers for Peace member Carol Hisasue writes:

Dear Friends,
I hope you are all doing well in this very strange 2020. I am hopeful that the pain of this year is like the pain of labor and that it will give birth to something completely different and wonderful.

This year is also special because it is the 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This year, Mothers for Peace will be making a special video of different people reading Haiku related to the bombing, nuclear weapons, peace, etc. and we would like you to be a part of it.

I am attaching invitation flyers about the project in English and Japanese. We need your help. Please spread the word! Please consider participating!



See also #still here Coalition website

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation graphic

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation suggests the following:

August 5: Our friends at May Peace Prevail on Earth International are hosting an online event “Hiroshima Nagasaki 75” on August 5 from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm Pacific Time. Speakers will include survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, as well as survivors of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters. You can tune in live at

August 6: The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 26th annual Sadako Peace Day will be streamed online on the NAPF Facebook page at 9:00 pm Eastern / 6:00 pm Pacific. This year’s keynote speaker is Toshiharu Kano, who is perhaps the youngest survivor of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The event will include music, poetry, and reflection. Tune in live at 9:00 pm Eastern on the NAPF Facebook page! A recording will also be available to watch at a later time. More information on this year’s speakers is here.

August 9: We are excited to announce that a new film, “The Vow From Hiroshima,” featuring Hiroshima survivor and NAPF Advisory Council member Setsuko Thurlow will be available to stream online for free for 24 hours on August 9th. The exact link for streaming is not yet available, but you can find more information right now on the Facebook Event page. I had the opportunity to preview this film a few weeks ago, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Coretta Scott King marches in the 1971 Women’s Strike For Peace, the largest national women’s peace protest during the 20th century.  Archival photo.


Little-remembered today is the fact that pioneer U.S. civil rights leaders like Coretta Scott King. Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King were ardent participants in the early international movement against nuclear weapons. Later,  there was separation of the two movements.  Now, Dr. Vincent J. Intondi, author of AFRICAN AMERICANS AGAINST THE BOMB: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism and the Black Freedom Movement
is working to bring the two movements back together.



These events and many others are listed at which will be hosting live-streamed events on August 6 and August 9.

Bayard Rustin speaking to friend, mentee, and fellow activist Martin Luther King, Jr. / Image via Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Gurzon of Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security
offers the following recommendations:

He begiins with two resources that will take you more deeply into the human meetings of the Atomic Bombings than almost anything else.

First is Sumiteru TANIGUCHI’s memoir, The Atomic Bomb on My Back. Translated from the Japanese and edited by yours truly, it provides the painful history of one of the most tortured A-Bomb survivors, his courageous commitment to live a loving and full life, and the story of the creation and activities of the Hibakusha movement for nuclear weapons abolition and to secure government assistance. The book can be pre-ordered online. But you can get two blessings with one payment, by making a $100 contribution to the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security. It will help us to keep on keepin’ on. Donate at

The other is the searing 17-minute Hiroshima Nagasaki 1945 is comprised of film footage taken by Japanese photographers and locked away in a Pentagon vault for 20 years to prevent the Soviet Union from using it for propaganda purposes. It’s upsetting to watch, but like the video of George Floyd’s murder, it documents truths that we must know:

A fact sheet that you can use for writing letters to the editor and op-eds can be found at

You can sign and circulate the Hibakusha Signature Appeal at:

For those of you in Massachusetts, you can find a listing of local events at:

You can join the 2020 World Conference against A and H Bombs (Online): August 2, 6 and 9, all at 10:00 am-12:30 pm (JST)/03:00 am-05:30 am (CET); 09:00 pm-11:30 pm (EDT, previous day)

The 2020 World Conference has moved online with the International Meeting on August 2; Hiroshima Day Rally on August 6; Nagasaki Day Rally on August 9. Please join live with many grass-roots Japanese peace activists and important international speakers, including: Nakamitsu Izumi, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; Amb. Syed Hasrin Aidid, Permanent Representative of Malaysia to UN; Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima Hibakusha; Hiroshima/Nagasaki Mayors; Kate Hudson, CND Secretary General; Philip Jennings, IPB Co-Chair; Beatrice Finh, ICAN Secretary General and many others. English translation is available for registered participants online. For details and registration:

Terrorists in suits –  They had reportedly rushed the Nagasaki bombing fearing the war would be over before they got a chance to test the plutonium bomb.  – Truman Cabinet meeting at the White House, Aug. 10, 1945, one day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. (Abbie Rowe/Truman Library)

Contact: World Conference Organizing Committee:

Also, on August 6 and 9 you can join’s nationwide 8 hour virtual commemorations at

The recording of our excellent webinar with Sueichi Kido, Secretary General of the Japanese Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Organizations, the historian Gar Alperovitz, and Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chair Rev. Liz Theoharis is at–Qkh35Q

A “fabulous” Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA) webinar, “Fund Health Care Not Nuclear Warfare,” featuring me, Elaine Scarry of Harvard University, Bill Hartung of the Center for International Policy, and Shally Gupta Barnes of the Poor People’s Campaign can be found at:

Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle Co-Direct EON, the Ecological Options Network.  The EON feature documentary SHUTDOWN which they are producing with co-director and editor Morgan Peterson is now nearing completion for release later this year.  EON is a 501 (c) 3 organization. You can support their work by making a tax-exempt donation here.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Commemorating Two Barbaric – and Totally Unnecessary – Events

Targeting of Civilians Is Now the Ugly Norm – Guest Blog by Roger Johnson

This handout picture taken on August 6, 1945 by US Army and released from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum shows a mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb dropped by B-29 bomber Enola Gay over the city of Hiroshima. Charred bodies bobbed in the brackish waters that flowed through Hiroshima 70 years ago this week, after a once-vibrant Japanese city was consumed by the searing heat of the world’s first nuclear attack. About 140,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the attack, including those who survived the bombing itself but died soon afterward due to severe radiation exposure. AFP PHOTO / HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM/AFP/Getty Images

Guest Blog – A version of this Op-Ed by Roger Johnson appeared in the Los Angeles Times Friday August 4, 1995, the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima.

[It’s a sad reminder of the persisting power of the U.S. propaganda machine, that what was old news for some in 1995 is still new news for many in 2020 – Eds. ]


Targeting of Civilians Is Now the Ugly Norm

Mass bombing was made possible by technology, which still  dictates policies of callous disregard for life.


Blood and destruction shall be so in use,

And dreadful objects so familiar

That mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quartered with the hands of war.

“Julius Caesar,” Act 3

William Shakespeare

  The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City brought out the suffering that can be caused by a single bomb detonated in the middle of a city.  Magnify the Oklahoma City devastation by 25,000 times and you have the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb.  Imagine a freight train 300 miles long loaded with Oklahoma City bombs.  That’s the equivalent of one modern nuclear warhead, just one of tens of thousands poised all over the world.

  The policy of destroying cities with bombs deserves some reflection as we mark the 50th anniversary of the most destructive bombing that the world has ever known.  The firebomb raids on Dresden in February, 1945 and on Tokyo the following month killed at least as many as the atomic bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  From May to August, 1945, the United States dropped 158,000 tons of bombs on Japan, roughly the equivalent of 300,000 Oklahoma City explosions. 

  The deliberate killing of civilians is a relatively new practice in the conduct of war.  World War II was the first major war in which the majority of the victims were civilians.  Today, civilian casualties vastly outnumber military deaths in Bosnia, as they did in Chechnya.  Paradoxically, as the efficiency of killing civilians has increased, the moral outrage as decreased.

  There is a long and mostly forgotten history of the problem that the Pentagon euphemistically calls “collateral damage”.  In the 4th Century, St. Augustine wrote in “The City of God” that peace may require violence against evildoers, but warriors should kill only with anguish and regret.  This “just war” doctrine became elaborated over the ages in the Christian world, but it always held that the deliberate killing of civilian noncombatants must be forbidden.  Today, the targeting of civilians is routine.  How did this dramatic change in morality come about? 

  Indiscriminate killing was greatly advanced when airplanes became weapons of war. The first use of airplanes to deliberately kill civilians took place right here in the U.S. in June of 1921 during the infamous race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  White racists commandeered U.S. postal service planes and dropped turpentine bombs on black churches and residential neighborhoods.  The firebombing resulted in widespread death and destruction.

  On April 26, 1936, Nazi planes flew over Guernica, Spain and dropped primitive explosives on residential areas.  This act drew immediate public outrage all over the world and inspired the painting that has become a classic anti-war statement: Picasso’s monumental “Guernica.”  The following year, Italian pilots did the same thing to Barcelona.  There was widespread sentiment at the time that pilots who kill innocent civilians should be tried as war criminals.

  On Nov. 14, 1940 the Luftwaffe bombed Coventry, England, killing 554, mostly civilians. The Germans coined the word Coventrisieren  (to raze to the ground) to describe the tactic.  Outraged, the Royal Air Force retaliated a month later by destroying the city of Mannheim.  And so it began. 

  The master of such planning was Arthur Harris, commander of the Royal Bomber Command.  In July, l943, he monitored the weather patterns over Hamburg until they were just right for creating a firestorm.  When conditions were optimal, his bombers dropped thousands of 4-pound phosphorous firebombs designed to set roofs on fire.  As planned, a catastrophic firestorm of hurricane proportions engulfed the city and killed at least 30,000. Twenty per cent of the victims were children. 

  As the war in Europe was drawing to a close, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled from the Russians toward the undefended German city of Dresden.  This historic and cultural treasure was of little military significance and one of the few German cities unscathed by war.  The British and Americans, concerned about Stalin’s postwar ambitions, decided to impress him with a show of military ruthlessness.

  On the night of Feb. 13, 1945, the RAF dispatched a wave of 245 bombers that carpet bombed the medieval city with hundreds of thousands of incendiary fire sticks.  A few hours later, a second wave of 550 bombers was sent in to magnify the blaze.  The next day the city was attacked a third time by 450 B-17 Flying Fortresses from the U.S. 8th Air Force.

  Official estimates of casualties have ranged from 30,000 to 250,000.  Some military analysts called Dresden one of the major atrocities of the war.  Others shrugged it off and argued that civilians could no longer be immune in airborne war.  As one American navigator who took part recalled, “It was just a normal type of raid.” After the war, RAF General Harris was knighted and became Sir Arthur Harris. In 1992, the British erected a monument in London to honor his achievements.  But many now remember him by his other name: “Butcher Harris.”

  In spite of the terrible destruction in Europe, the technique of saturation bombing was still in its infancy.  With the larger and faster B-29 Stratofortresses deployed over Japan, the U.S. Air Force turned carpet bombing and firebombing into a science.  In the closing months of the war, 75% of the munitions dropped on Japan were incendiary bombs, designed primarily to ignite wooden homes.  The firebombing of Tokyo in March, 1945 killed 100,000 people, destroyed 267,171 structures and left 1 million homeless.

   The killing of civilians by the hundreds of thousands was now commonplace, and this made the decision to drop the atomic bomb even easier. Accounts of the atomic bombings usually show the pretty mushroom cloud from above rather than the incinerated city below littered with corpses. The U.S. has always been eager to justify and minimize this historic and barbaric event, the only time in history that atomic weapons have been used in war.

  Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, trivialized the suffering by telling the U.S. Senate in 1945 that high-dose radiation exposure is “without undue suffering” and “a very pleasant way to die.”  After the bombing, the U.S. was quick to assert that the A-bomb ended the war and prevented countless future casualties by making an invasion of Japan unnecessary.  While this cover story is still believed by many, most scholars have concluded that the war was already over and the A-bomb was totally unnecessary.

  History now reveals that Japan and the U.S. had already been meeting secretly for months to negotiate an end to the war. Japan had agreed to surrender but negotiations were stuck over the Japanese demand that the Emperor be spared, a provision that the U.S. eventually agreed to.  As for the dreaded invasion of the mainland, it was not scheduled until the spring of 1946, hardly a major consideration in August when surrender was weeks away. 

  After the war, a long list of generals, admirals, and high U.S. government officials insisted that the atom bombs were not necessary.  The list included generals MacArthur and Eisenhower and fleet admirals Nimitz and Halsey. Did dropping the bomb really end the war or were there other reasons for the decision? 

  Many scholars discard the cover story and instead cite three other reasons.  As the war was drawing to a close, top U.S. officials worried about the next great threat: Joseph Stalin and the communist empire.  One of the reasons for the horrific firebombing of Dresden near the end of World War II was to send a message to Stalin to beware of American might, determination, and ruthlessness. The same reasoning was behind the decision to drop the A-bombs.  Evidence of this comes from a personal conversation in March of 1944 between Gen. Groves and physicist Joseph Rotblat.  Groves explicitly stated that the real purpose of the A-bomb was not to defeat Japan but to scare the Russians.  Upon learning about the real purpose of the bomb, Dr. Rotblat promptly quit the Manhattan project.  He was the only senior scientist to do so, and recently he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

  The second reason for dropping the bomb was the intense political pressure which resulted from diverting enormous amounts of war funding into the Manhattan Project.  Both critics and defenders of the project demanded results. There would be all hell to pay if all that money was spent and the bomb was never used.

  The third reason was the technological imperative.  The military wanted to know more about what the bomb did to cities and how it killed people.  Scientists were eager to learn more about atomic weaponry and in particular they wanted to study the difference between a uranium bomb (Hiroshima) and a plutonium bomb (Nagasaki).  Everyone feared that the war would end before they could use the new “gadget,” as Truman called it.  Like Dresden, the military wanted to bomb an intact city rather than a partially destroyed city.  Thus, Hiroshima was seldom attacked during the war to “save” it so that it could be totally destroyed with the new weapon. 

  The military objected to a demonstration (like creating a tidal wave in Tokyo Bay or blowing off the top of Mt. Fuji) because they wanted to experiment with a populated city. Of great interest was the effects of radiation on human beings, something that would be difficult to study after the war.  In order to learn more, the U.S. formed the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission after the war to study radiation effects on the hibakusha, the Japanese on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who managed to survive.  The hibakusha were tested and examined, not to help them but to document incidence of cancer and other radiation-induced diseases.  The result was the heavily-flawed Hiroshima Survivor Study which was manipulated by authorities to trivialize the effects of radiation.  It is still widely cited by the nuclear industry to claim that radiation from nuclear power plants is not harmful.  

  The fascination with the effects of radiation on humans continued for three decades after the war with 4000 secret experiments conducted with unsuspecting people in the U.S. and in the Marshall Islands. It was not until 1995 that the U.S. government finally confessed to these Nazi-doctor experiments with the publication of the 925 page report, entitled, Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.  In order to apologize and admit guilt, the U.S. Congress passed the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act (RECA) which has awarded billions to tens of thousands of victims of the radiation experiments. 

  In Japan, the suffering from Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued long after the A-bombs were dropped.  By 1950, over 200,000 Japanese had perished from the bomb.  Very few Japanese soldiers were killed and ninety-five percent of the casualties were civilians.  Those who died from cancer and other medical complications in the following half century are generally not counted.  The Japanese government estimates that over 2,000 citizens continue to die every year, not from old age, but from medical effects related to when they were irradiated as children in 1945 on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  Meanwhile, the use of new technology to kill civilians continued to advance.  In the Viet Nam War, carpet bombing techniques were made even more deadly with the greater payloads of the B-52.  More bombs were dropped in Viet Nam than in all theaters of World War II combined.  Unexploded cluster bombs and anti-personnel munitions continue to kill and maim civilians, 40% of them children.

In the Persian Gulf War, the public was led to believe that most of the allied air attacks involved “smart” bombs with pinpoint accuracy aimed at military targets.  After the war, we learned that the vast majority of the ordinance consisted of old-fashioned “dumb” bombs that often missed their targets.  The Pentagon insisted that it was not targeting civilians, yet it deliberately destroyed water supplies, knowing full well that the suffering would be borne mainly by women, children and the elderly.  American public health officials estimated that more than 100,000 Iraqi children died from war-related causes.

  In the British War Museum, a special clock tallies the number of human beings who have died from wars in the 20th Century.  The toll is fast approaching 100 million, 12 times higher than that of the 19th Century and 22 times greater than the 18th Century.  At this rate, we might expect 1 billion people to die in the wars of the 21st Century. Military analysts believe that a nuclear war could easily generate 500 million casualties.

  Where is the outrage?  Are our national priorities in the future going to be as militaristic as in the past?  Fifty years after the war that made targeting civilian populations routine, bomber pilots are celebrated as heroes.  The search for more terrible weapons continues.  Today, the current conservative Congress has censored a Smithsonian exhibit critical of the suffering at Hiroshima.  Congress has slashed funding for education, the environment, health and the arts, and voted huge expenditures for long-range nuclear attack B-2 bombers.  The American public appears to be supportive since 3.9 trillion tax-payer dollars have been sunk into nuclear weapons programs alone since 1945.  By this measure, all the ingredients are in place to guarantee that the future will be worse than the past. 

Roger Johnson, PhD is a retired Professor Emeritus, Fulbright Scholar and Guggenheim Fellow, formerly living near the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant near Manhattan and now living in San Clemente near the San Onofre nuclear power plant. As a child, he lived in Japan and visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in ruins shortly after World War II. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Targeting of Civilians Is Now the Ugly Norm – Guest Blog by Roger Johnson

Updated: Southern California Edison Must Warn of “Routine” Radioactive Releases – Why Don’t Other U.S. Utilities?

San Onofre Now Required to Give Public Warnings Before Radioactive Discharges

Guest Blog by Roger Johnson
[ An update from Roger Johnson is at the end of this article]

There is an important new development at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).  Southern California Edison (SCE) is now required to provide advance public warnings of their regular radioactive discharges into the Pacific Ocean off of San Onofre State Beach.   A 48 hour warning notice is quietly posted on their website:   There have been 6 such releases between late May and late July. The warning notices are not well publicized and unfortunately few people see them.  When they are discovered, concerned residents have gone down to the beach to post warnings for swimmers and surfers.

Unfortunately, SCE only announces liquid batch releases into the ocean but does not disclose their atmospheric releases blasted from air ejectors into the prevailing winds.

All nuclear power plants during routine operation regularly pump radioactive effluents into waterways and blast out atmospheric releases through air ejectors. In the case of SONGS, liquid releases are diluted with seawater and pumped through giant 18 ft. diameter pipes into the ocean off one of the most popular state beaches in California.  The practice relies on the theory that the solution to pollution is dilution.  About 2.5 million swimmers, surfers, campers, and hikers visit San Onofre State Beach each year.  Until now, few had any idea that nuclear waste was being dumped into the ocean nearby. 

A warning to surfers. photo – R. Johnson


While the San Onofre releases are a concern for ocean lovers, the seafood industry, and those who value marine ecology, the atmospheric releases are worrisome for all the densely populated cities and towns down wind.  For more than a half century, these discharges have been conducted in secret.  The exact dates, times, and contents of the are never disclosed.  In the past, some discharges have gone on continuously for over 24 hours.  Annual reports are made which are buried in the NRC website the following year. These reports are only quarterly averages which conceal data on individual releases.  There is no way to know if very large discharges were averaged with much smaller discharges to produce an innocent sounding disclosure about the levels of radioactivity dumped into the environment.

The health effects of regular discharges of low-level radiation into the environment are unknown.  While each release may sound harmless, the health effects of ionizing radiation are cumulative over years and decades.  This is especially true for women and children who are more vulnerable to radiation. (Radiation safety standards are based on the average young adult male.)  The NRC labels the releases as “allowable” but is careful not to claim that they are harmless.  The local operators are more reckless and often say that they are safe even though there is no evidence to support that claim. Excess radiation is a major concern for everyone now that cancer is the number one killer in California and much of the nation.

The only major American study of cancer clusters around nuclear power plants was done in 1990 by the National Cancer Institute.  It failed to find cancer clusters but the study was heavily flawed and the results are now considered invalid. It never proved there is no increased cancer near nuclear power plants as the nuclear industry sometimes claims.  It merely failed to find a cancer effect, probably because the research was poorly designed.  It studied only where people died, not where they lived or worked.  It went by political boundaries rather than by distance from the discharges.  It measured only deaths, not incidence.  

More recently, the National Academy of Sciences spent 5 years and millions of dollars on two reports which examined how to study the problem should actual research ever be carried out.  The final report, titled Analysis of Cancer Effect in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities proposed a pilot study which would look for cancer clusters in the 50 km radius around these 7 nuclear facilities:

·  Dresden Nuclear Power Station, Morris, Illinois

·  Millstone Power Station, Waterford, Connecticut

·  Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, Forked River, New Jersey

·  Haddam Neck Plant, Haddam Neck, Connecticut

·  Big Rock Point Nuclear Plant, Charlevoix, Michigan

·  San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, San Clemente, California; and

·  Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin, Tennessee.

Unfortunately, the NRC terminated the funding so no actual research was ever conducted.  While there has been little research in the United States, better and more recent studies in Europe have reported cancer effects.  In early 2020, a petition by the Samuel Lawrence Foundation asked for congressional funding of new research regarding cancer clusters near nuclear power plants.  “Near” is defined as living within 50 km of a nuclear power plant.  Millions live “near” the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plants. Over 1,100 signed the petition.   

SONGS appears to be the only nuclear power plant in the world where discharges are announced in advance. This all came about when Southern California Edison went to the California State Lands Commission for a permit to dismantle their cooling intake system.  The Surfrider Foundation in San Clemente objected to Edison’s environmental impact statement and requested that SCE provide advance public warnings of liquid discharges.  The State Lands Commission agreed and required that advance public warnings of discharges would be a condition for the permit.

It remains to be seen if others elsewhere wish to bring pressure on their own nuclear power plant operators to do the same.  If the nuclear industry claims that these discharges are harmless, why do they fiercely resist making public disclosures in advance?   Could it be that they do not want the public to know about these routine regular radioactive discharges into the local environment?  If they are harmless, then why do they conduct discharges in secret with no advance warning?

Update from Roger Johnson –
Many have asked how those living near San Onofre got Southern California Edison to agree to provide a 48 hour advance warning before they conduct a liquid radioactive batch release.  (They did not agree to provide an advance warning for atmospheric releases.) Below is a link to an article which discusses what happened should others want their NPP to do the same.  It turns out they are doing releases almost weekly with 6 discharges in the last 2 months.  The next one is tomorrow July 31!  It appears that few people realized that they have been doing both liquid and atmospheric releases in secret for over a half-century.  It also appears that San Onofre is the only NPP in the world where the public is given advance notice.  These notices have brought new public attention to what goes on at a NPP.  The locals are up in arms about these discharges off our beaches.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, maybe activists all over the country should pressure their own NPP to demand the same. If they claim it is safe, then why do they insist on doing it in secret?  Could this be one of the reasons why cancer is now the number one killer in the country?  Our petition to demand funding to restart the National Academy of Sciences study of cancer clusters near NPP now has over 1100 signatures.  We will soon present it to the four members of Congress representing the 50 km area around San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.  These releases illustrate how nuclear power plants are the most environmentally damaging form of energy production.  Lets work toward radiation-free energy! 

May we encourage others across the country (a) pressure your local NPP to provide advance notice of radioactive releases, and (b) contact your representatives in Congress and ask them to support the NAS cancer research project.

Here is a link to our petition:

Roger Johnson, PhD is a retired Professor Emeritus, Fulbright Scholar and Guggenheim Fellow, formerly living near the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant near Manhattan and now living in San Clemente near the San Onofre nuclear power plant. As a child, he lived in Japan and visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in ruins shortly after World War II. 
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Updated: Southern California Edison Must Warn of “Routine” Radioactive Releases – Why Don’t Other U.S. Utilities?

“Boo, Yes.” – Coastal Commission Vote Sets San Onofre Radioactive Dump-by-the-Sea in Concrete – Updated

Southern California Edison’s radioactive waste dump-by-the-sea (center left) sits between the rising sea and the state’s main north-south rail and highway corridor in an earthquake and tsunami zone, surrounded by a population of 8 million people. What could possibly go wrong? – Photo from EON’s forth-coming feature-length documentary SHUTDOWN –


By Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle – EON

“We’ll hold our noses and vote.”
Despite passionate public comments from community groups and individuals – and even concerned comments from some Commissioners themselves – presenting a long list of the legitimate public safety and environmental risks posed by the San Onfre dry storage facility for 3.6 tons of intensely radioactive fuel rods being created by Southern California Edison, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously on July 16, 2020 to give the project the go-ahead.  There were, however, two “yes, boo” votes.

[ As of July 24, 2020, Attorney Mike Aguirre writes: “If people want to challenge the Coastal Commission decision on the grounds that (1) the hearing was unfair it should have been an evidentiary hearing and it was marred be cause the commission had already made up its mind before the hearing started; (2) the findings don’t support the decision and  (3) the evidence does not support the finding we must act within 30 days from the decision or sooner.” ]

Community Pleas for a Hot Cell Facility
In a remarkable show of community agreement, the bulk of the public comments from individuals and organizations advocated for the preservation of existing cooling pools plus the construction of a sealed ‘hot’ or ‘dry cell’ building.  This would allow damaged canisters or those containing damaged fuel to be robotically repaired or repackaged into sturdier thick casks that can be monitored and repaired as needed and meet transportation safety requirements. 

All current thin welded-shut Holtec canisters at San Onofre are gouged along their entire 18 ft. length as they are lowered into the vaults, initiating stress corrosion and galvanic corrosion that’s increased in the salty ocean climate.  The chance is high that these damaged canisters will need to be repackaged.  Also called for was the creation of a building where the casks would be protected from the elements and terrorists.  Many cited the model of the Swiss Zwilag facility that includes all these common sense precautions. 

Southern California Edison Plan
None of these provisions are included in the Southern California Edison plan for decommissioning, which calls for:

  • Transferring the remaining highly radioactive fuel assemblies out of the cooling pool and into thin stainless steal canisters to be lowered into concrete silos in an Independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) just above a popular surfing beach;
  • Demolishing the pools;
  • Rubblization of the remaining radioactive reactor domes and other structures to be shipped for ‘disposal’ – possibly in ordinary landfill sites as currently proposed by the NRC – in California or other states;
  • Returning the site to so-called ‘Green Field’ status to be used for public recreation or,
  • Reusing the cleared site to relocate the dry cask ISFSI to higher ground further from the rising surf, if no off-site alternative has been found.

Citizen Concerns
Citizen opponents to the plan question the durability and safety of the thin Holtec stainless steel canisters being used by Edison to store the radioactive fuel rods. They point out that these types of canisters are known to be susceptible to through-wall cracking caused by the stress of the corrosive salt sea air. They warn that through-wall cracks can occur in as little as 17 years even without being gouged first, as is the case at San Onofre.
Remember, each of these 72 canisters contains more radioactivity than was released from the Chernobyl disaster. [ A 73rd canister contains greater than Class C waste. ]

The California Coastal Commission requires that the canisters be preserved well enough to
be able to be moved by the year 2035.  However, there is no proven way to check the condition of the fuel inside the welded canisters without opening them and inspecting the enclosed fuel rods.  This would only be possible with a hot cell facility that allows robots in an inert gas filled environment to handle the intense radioactivity safely without exposure to oxygen or people. 

The Holtec Hi-Storm Umax dry storage system for spent fuel at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. (Courtesy Southern California Edison)

Too Hot to Move Until the Year 2100
Additionally, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board’s 2019 report, Preparing for Nuclear Waste Transport  clearly states that huge canisters like those at San Onofre that contain 37 fuel assemblies each of extra thermally hot and more radioactive high burnup fuel must be repackaged into smaller casks.  If not repackaged, the extra heat and radioactivity will prevent them from being transported until the year 2100.  This is the case even though the designs of the canisters have been licensed by the NRC. (pg. 76)

So even if by some miracle, the 5/8 inch thin canisters that are already gouged significantly survive to the year 2035, they will be too hot to transport.  However, predictions are that within only 20 years sea level rise and increased storm surge from climate change will affect the San Onofre dumpsite 108 ft from the shore.  Again, repackaging is only possible in a hot cell facility and that was blocked by Southern California Edison and the NRC representative who said it wouldn’t be needed.

From the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board’s 2019 report pg. 77:  “DOE has examined the trend in SNF dry storage at nuclear power plant sites (Williams 2013). On average, during 2004–2013, the nuclear utilities discharged SNF that has higher burnups (approximately 45 GWd/MTU) than previously discharged SNF and, therefore, is thermally hotter and more radioactive. In addition, the nuclear utilities are loading SNF into larger dry-storage casks and canisters to improve operational efficiency and reduce cost. The largest of these canisters now holds as many as 37 PWR assemblies or 89 BWR assemblies. As a result, these larger casks and canisters are hotter than earlier dry-storage casks and canisters; therefore, they will take longer to cool sufficiently to meet transportation requirements.DOE estimated that if SNF was repackaged from large casks and canisters into smaller standardized canisters (and using standard assumptions about the operating lifetime of the U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors), DOE could remove SNF from all nuclear power plant sites by approximately 2070. However, if no repackaging occurs, some of the largest SNF canisters storing the hottest SNF would not be cool enough to meet the transportation requirements until approximately 2100 (Williams 2013).

Flooding Dangers
The location of the waste storage facility yards from the surf, inches above the water table  in an earthquake and tsunami zone is given added significance by a report by Public Watch Dogs.  Consulting expert Paul Blanch revealed that Edison’s own data show that  the current site and its immediate surroundings are vulnerable to severe flooding damage in the event of an earthquake and tsunami.  Blanch’s report suggests that, in such an event, all 74 of the site’s waste storage silos could be catastrophically damaged.

Edison’s own assessment of tsunami and flooding risks at its ISFSI-by-the-Sea, Graphic courtesy SCE via PublicWatchdogs

Here are video clips from the meeting excerpted as a public service by EON, the Ecological Options Network – and links to recent news coverage.

[The full meeting video is here.]

Video Excerpts

Public Comments by San Onofre Safety founder Donna Gilmore

Public Comments by San Clemente Green co-founder Gary Headrick, U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA), Adm. Len Hering.

Public Comments by Public Watchdogs spokespeople Charles Langley, Paul Blanch, Nina Babiarz.

Public Comments by San Diego Sierra Club spokesperson Cody Petterson.

Coalition for Nuclear Safety
Public Comments by Coalition for Nuclear Safety spokespeople Dave Rice, Bart Ziegler, Cathy Iwane.

Alice McNally – Coalition for Nuclear Safety
Public comments by Alice McNally of the Coalition for Nuclear Safety  

Michael Aguirre – Aguirre & Stevenson
Comments by Michael Aguirre of Aguirre & Severson LLP.

Surfrider Foundation –

Public Comments by Surfrider Foundation spokeswomen Rose Acheson. Katie Day, Mandy Sackett

Commissioner Wilson Questions CCC Staff & SCE

Commissioner Mike Wilson questions Coastal Commission staff members Alison Dettmer and John Webber and Edison spokesperson Tom Palmisano.

Commission Comments and Final Vote

Commissioners Dayna Bochco, Roberto Uranga, Sara Amenzader and Chair Stephen Padilla comment and vote in the July 16, 2020 California Coastal Commission meeting on radioactive waste storage at the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant.

News Links

Orange County Register

By Teri Sforza

Inspection plan for San Onofre’s nuclear waste gets green light from Coastal Commission
‘It’s never easy to really approve of this kind of a situation,’ one commissioner said, ‘but it’s the only recourse at the moment’

About a dozen of the 73 nuclear waste canisters at San Onofre are slated for robotic inspection over the next 15 years, to the dismay of some critics who lobbied for more, according to the maintenance plan for its dry storage system approved by the California Coastal Commission.

“I have a little bit of a gnawing feeling,” Commissioner Mark Gold said at the end of the 4 1/2-hour online meeting Thursday, July 16. “I know this is based on extensive data and what has occurred in the industry, but, when you look at 1 in 10, it’s hard to guarantee that’s representative of the whole.”

Two commissioners actually prefaced their “yes” votes with a “boo.”

“From the perspective of the commission and Southern California Edison, we all need to advocate for getting this (waste storage system) in a different location than it currently is,” said booer Mike Wilson.

Read more

Times of San Diego

Coastal Panel Votes 10-0 to Allow Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel at San Onofre
Posted by Chris Jennewein

The California Coastal Commission voted 10-0 in a special meeting Thursday to approve an inspection and maintenance program allowing Southern California Edison to store spent nuclear fuel in a storage site at the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The program outlines actions SCE will take to inspect the canisters that contain spent nuclear fuel, as well as how potential issues with the canisters will be remedied. Read more

Donna Gilmore of comments on the above article:

The Commission staff report was severely flawed. The Coastal Commissioners asked great questions, but were given lies or misleading answers from SCE, LPI, NRC, and Coastal Commission management. New leadership is needed at the Coastal Commission and the NRC. They are not protecting the public or the environment.

All these parties know or have evidence these thin-wall canisters cannot be inspected for cracks nor adequately repaired. They know cracks are likely already growing through these thin-wall canisters that are only 5/8″ thick. Some canisters are already 17 years old.

SCE has no real plan to prevent or stop cracks, leaks or hydrogen gas explosions in these canisters. Instead of a plan, they hope nothing goes wrong until they can dump this mess onto some other community or at least turn over title to the federal government (at the existing site).

With each canister holding roughly a Chernobyl nuclear disaster full of radionuclides (as admitted to by SCE), none of us will be safe until these thin-wall canisters are replaced with thick-wall casks (10″ to 19.75″ thick), the standard in most of the world.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to reveal just how disfunctional our country is compared to our European and other friends around the world. It’s time to learn lessons from them. This includes nuclear storage lessons.

I urge everyone to look at the Swiss Solution for storing highly radioactive nuclear fuel waste.

If we don’t learn these lesson now, the resulting “nuclear pandemic” will make the coronavirus pandemic look like the good old days.

A recent Sandia National Lab report for the Dept. of Energy (Dec 2019 Technology Gap Report) states risks of short-term through wall cracks in these thin-wall canisters is a priority #1 problem that needs solving. They also said a dry fuel handling system [e.g., hot cell facility] is needed for replacing canisters. And they also said they need to study what the consequences will be from through-wall cracks. Why did the Coastal Commission managers not tell the Coastal Commissioners this? Why did they defer to the LPI consultants (who were paid by SCE)?

Why when one of the Coastal Commissioners asked LPI (after looking at the safety checklist comparing thin canisters to thick casks) if there were better systems than what SCE is using, LPI responded “it’s political”? Press Release – “Fear and loathing…”

California Coastal Commission sings sad “SONGS” about Southern California Edison’s Inspection and Maintenance Program (IMP) for nuclear waste

Unanimous vote gets “boos” from two Commissioners!
In a vote tinged with boos, and what one Commissioner described as “fear and loathing” the California Coastal Commission voted “yes” today to a Southern California Edison plan for the beachfront nuclear waste dump at San Onofre State Beach Park. the site of the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Read more

New York Times

A Big California Quake Just Got ‘a Little Likelier’
A new analysis puts the likelihood of an earthquake slightly higher than earlier forecasts, but researchers said there’s no reason to panic.

By Henry Fountain

An analysis of recent changes along earthquake faults in Southern California suggests there is an increased possibility of a major quake on the San Andreas Fault, researchers said Monday.

The changes in fault stresses, resulting from a pair of strong earthquakes last July, increase the likelihood of a quake on a stretch of the San Andreas in the next 12 months to about 1 percent, or three to five times the probability of earlier forecasts, the researchers said.

A major quake on that section of the fault, called the Mojave, could devastate Los Angeles and its surrounding communities, which are home to 18 million people.

“We are still saying this is unlikely,” said one of the researchers, Ross S. Stein, a former United States Geological Survey geophysicist who now runs a consulting company. “It’s just a little likelier.”

The findings were published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Read more

A 770-ton nuclear reactor pressure vessel from the old Unit 1 facility at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has completed its journey through three states to a disposal site in Clive, Utah. (Nevada Department of Transportation)

Los Angeles Times

770-ton load from San Onofre nuclear plant arrives at Utah disposal site

By Rob Nikolewski

The seven-week journey of an old but vital piece of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, a shipment weighing in at 770 tons, has been completed.

The reactor pressure vessel that helped generate electricity at Unit 1 of the plant arrived last week at a licensed disposal site about 75 miles west of Salt Lake City after being shipped by rail and then over highways in Nevada and Utah.

The removal of the vessel “is an important milestone” in the larger efforts to decommission the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, or SONGS, said Doug Bauder, vice president at Southern California Edison and chief nuclear officer at the facility.

Read more

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on “Boo, Yes.” – Coastal Commission Vote Sets San Onofre Radioactive Dump-by-the-Sea in Concrete – Updated