Stopping SONGS’ Black Swan

« 1 2View All»

Black Swan SONGS banner
Stopping SONGS Black SwanPART 4 – STOPPING SONGS’ BLACK SWAN
Short term and long term solutions at San Onofre

Removing the terrorist threats to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station exposed by the Black Swan SONGS series can specifically strengthen this vulnerable nuclear installation.

Unlike the packs of contract-hungry nuclear and defense “consultants” that devour billions of taxpayer dollars in the feeding frenzy that marks the two industries, EnviroReporter.com offers the results of this investigation, and its recommendations, for free.

Reporting on major environmental issues can have striking results like the Ahmanson Ranch story did a decade ago. Other times, even when exposing state and federal EPA misuse of $41.5 million, outrageous betrayals of the public trust are perpetrated and – for now – go unpunished.

This is a way of saying that these recommendations are detailed even though we are not naïve enough to believe that they will be acted upon with reason and resolve. We are under no illusion that any of the entities that could enact our suggestions will do so. We offer them nevertheless because of the obvious: they should be followed.

There are short-term fixes that would yield immediate and lasting results at San Onofre. Long-term fixes, which should take no more than five years to accomplish, would secure SONGS for a long time.

The easily-built fence screen along the San Diego Freeway that EnviroReporter.com has already suggested to thwart a rocket attack on the spent fuel pools (SFPs) buildings is easy to complete with Caltrans. The heightened perimeter wall along Old Highway 101 is also a cinch but SCE would have to build it.

Call in the Marines

The Marine Corps Camp Pendleton commander could take decisive action after verifying with his own eyes the findings of this series. The general is responsible for the safety of everything in the base perimeter and that presumably includes SONGS. Protecting San Onofre protects the Marines and their base which should be all the justification needed for the brigadier general to act.

There are a number of vehicular options that would satisfy the instant suppression of the clear and present danger of the exposed SFPs building. These measures would also protect the spent nuclear fuel in dry casks.

To eliminate the threat of rocket attack entirely in the short term, three relatively-light Marine vehicles could be positioned outside of SONGS. Considering Camp Pendleton’s size and importance, it is likely the base would have the Helo Transportable Tactical Vehicle (HTTV) and the M1043A2 HMMWV Humvee light multirole tactical vehicle to fulfill this mission.

One Marine unit in an HTTV or Humvee could be positioned adjacent the northeastern corner of SONGS on the shoulder of Old Highway 101 facing south. This would mitigate the rocket attack threat from one angle as well as cover the parking lot terrorists would have to run through to get through to the dry casks area.

Cutting off that entry way by essentially guarding the length of it would go most of the way to protecting the dry casks in the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI).

Pfc. Carlton M. Corbin 2013- Photo By LCpl Peacock USMCA second Marine squad facing north could situate itself on the wide easement between the train tracks and Old Highway 101. These two units would have the whole perimeter covered but not in depth. That would have to happen across the San Diego Freeway.

The previously proposed Caltrans fence would interfere with these squads view of the southbound shoulder of the freeway, from where an attack could be quickly launched with an immediate getaway.

A third Marine vehicular unit would solve this problem by being stationed across the freeway to the east along El Camino Real where it would enlarge the security zone to include the civilian-accessible high ground. These three units would always remain in visual and radio contact with each other.

A fourth optional unit could complete the deployment being stationed on the beach and bluffs to keep a vigilant eye on the ocean. New restrictions establishing a boat ‘no-go’ zone could be implemented for the length of the secured part of SONGS along its flood wall out half a mile from the shoreline.

The 24-7 nature of this kind of protection would mean site-specific training, night vision equipment and appropriate procedures. This knowledge and equipment are already on Camp Pendleton property and so should mean no additional cost to the American taxpayer. What would be gained is regional relief that a SONGS black swan would never take off.

Additional security within San Onofre’s perimeter is achievable only if Southern California Edison is a willing participant. But such precautions cost money and SCE is already trying to charge its customers $2.6 billion to decommission the plant as it tries to protect its assets even with its multi-billion dollar debacle. This has resulted in a howl of protest by folks who are more energized than ever to take on SCE over San Onofre.

Despite this, EnviroReporter.com strongly suggests that there are protective short-term solutions and literally concrete long-term fixes that would make the ISFI invulnerable to terrorist attack and much more secure against any kind of tsunami or flooding on the west side of the site. It bears noting again that it is good news that the earthquake faults closest to SONGS are slip-strike faults, which do not displace water and cause of tsunamis.

SCE could immediately erect a formidable security fence along the stretch of perimeter from the parking lot entrance on Old Highway 101 northwards to Beach Club Road where it could turn westward to terminate by the guard kiosk. This fence could have security cameras that have feeds in the SONGS security post and the Marine vehicles outside. The current outer fence backset from the street and bordering the parking lot should be looped with razor wire at a minimum.

San Onofre’s ISFSI sits outside of the reactor and SFP’s security perimeter. Should a terrorist squad elude any Marines on Old Highway 101 and then breach the new suggested property line fence topped with razor wire and make down to the dry casks, only armed guards right on the spot will be able to stop them from exploding any C-4 backpack bomb. EnviroReporter.com recommends tripling the amount of barbed wire atop the ISFSI fence and building a permanently staffed armed security guard post.

Dry Casks

The permanent solution to both security threats exposed by EnviroReporter.com is expediting the dry casking of the cooled-off spent fuel rods still in the two vulnerable spent fuel pools buildings using the dry cask fabricator already on site at the 130 acre Mesa Complex east of the San Diego Freeway. There the dry casks could then be transported the relatively short distance to a more secure new ISFSI at the Mesa Complex which would be much farther from any potential access point that could be exploited by a terrorist on foot or vehicle. With no dry casks left at the current ISFSI and, in five years, two empty SFPs, the terrorist threat nearly evaporates.

San Onofre spent fuel pool - Enformable.comThis could also obviate the need to send these highly radioactive rods to interim storage sites somewhere else when there is still no permanent repository for America’s huge amount of nuclear waste. Such is the high level nuclear waste temporary storage plan of four Senators including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, (D-OR), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Lamar Alexandar (R-TN) and Lisa Murkoswki (R-AK).

Nuclear activists call the plan Mobil Chernobyls in response. One hundred environmental and clean energy groups submitted comments May 24 in opposition to the plan which is still in the “discussion draft” phase.

“This draft legislation is extremely disappointing,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, which coordinated the comments in a press release. “It simply attempts to revive rejected policies of the past while moving our nation no closer to a permanent solution for radioactive waste disposal than we are today. In particular, its misguided emphasis on ‘consolidated interim storage’ would result in the mass transportation of lethal nuclear waste over our roads, rails and seaways while not reducing the number of existing waste storage sites—which is every nuclear reactor site. Moreover, unlike previous Senate proposals, this one would effectively break the linkage between an ‘interim’ site and progress on a permanent solution and thus place any kind of permanent repository even further into the future than it is now.”

The future is now with the threats exposed in the Black Swan SONGS series. The fastest way to get the job done is to first secure the perimeter against tempting terrorist targets and truck the ISFSI’s dry casks over to the Mesa Complex. This would expedite dry casking of the long-ready spent nuclear fuel rods stuffed into San Onofre’s two SFPs and their transfer to the ISFI which is a negligible distance over the San Diego Freeway to the closest thing to permanent storage on site: a new Hardened On-Site Storage, or HOSS.

“Irradiated fuel must be stored as safely as possible as close to the site of generation as possible,” said the March 2010 Institute for Energy and Environmental Research paper. The so-called HOSS Principles were signed by dozens of nuclear watchdog and environmental groups. “Waste moved from fuel pools must be safeguarded in hardened, on-site storage (HOSS) facilities. Transporting waste to interim away-from-reactor storage should not be done unless the reactor site is unsuitable for a HOSS facility and the move increases the safety and security of the waste.”

A robust siting of the dry casks in a large area still on Camp Pendleton land would remove the dangers of having to move so many incredibly heavy and radioactively hot rod assemblies on the roads and rails of the aged American infrastructure. This work could begin immediately if it weren’t for one big catch. More money can be made using the Marine Corps, i.e. taxpayer, property building a new power plant rather than safely storing the toxic fuel SCE generated over decades which needs to be maintained and controlled for thousands of years.

San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns a one-fifth stake in San Onofre, wants to build a new 1,000 megawatts plant on the Mesa Complex property. Preliminary talks with the U.S. Navy at Camp Pendleton were revealed in July. This move would also provide SCE with another excuse to do nothing and let thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods sit in pools not designed to hold them for decades, pools EnviroReporter.com has exposed as being vulnerable to a devastating terror attack.

Some of the recommendations for SONGS could be applicable to other nuclear reactors and spent nuclear fuel rods pools installations in the U.S. But, the NRC’s long record of favoring nuclear industry profits over policies that would better protect the public make it highly unlikely that it would force Southern California Edison to toughen up its defenses let alone any other at-risk nuclear facility in the nation with spent fuel.

BWR Mark I Containment cutawayA sober look at the Pennsylvania Peach Bottom Power Plant reveals the fact that the reactors were built in 1958 of the same boiling water reactor MKI design as Fukushima Dai-ichi’s doomed reactors. With “a weak outer containment,” as accurately characterized by the New York Times, the MKI features its spent fuel pool suspended about four stories off the ground in the same building as the reactor.

This double jeopardy design is such that even though Fukushima Unit 4 didn’t have a meltdown because the reactor wasn’t fueled, its damaged SFP high in the air is at imminent risk of collapse. Additionally, its degrading metal structure sits on sandy soil just four inches above the highly radioactive groundwater swamping the site.

Coming attempts to conjure broken spent fuel rods out of the warped and damaged SFP rack will be one of the most dangerous and technically daunting disaster operations ever attempted anywhere. Should Unit 4’s SFP collapse and fall to the ground, the broken rods will be exposed to the air and each other in the rubble. An unforgettable fire will erupt and the site would have to be abandoned because the radiation would be too intense to get anywhere near it. Tokyo would be lost as well as the top third of Japan.

Peach Bottom has the same design that includes a crane on rails above the SFP. Above that is a roof which is not covered in thick concrete as a cutaway diagram of the MKI shows. Damage or destruction of this area would result in severe consequences. An explosion might destroy the SFP through outright blast or the crane could collapse into the pool possibly rupturing it.

An EnviroReporter.com analysis of the MKI design concludes that the building housing the reactor and its SFP are at huge risk of a devastating AT-4 rocket launcher armed with an Anti-Structure Tandem (AST) warhead. Peach Bottom’s two MKI reactors, with their spent fuel pools high in the buildings, sit along the Susquehanna River which has no boating restrictions. A boat can float to within 300 yards of Peach Bottom’s two SFPs.

An earthquake and tsunami won’t take out Peach Bottom. Using the same resources except a site inspection, EnviroReporter.com has determined that it appears strongly that Peach Bottom would be vulnerable to AT-4 an attack. If successful, it would bring catastrophe to millions downstream that rely on the river for drinking water and irrigation of crops and animals.

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station-IAEAA terrorist squad with AT-4s could easily boat right up to Peach Bottom on the river and take out the SFPs judging from the distance, strength of reactor buildings and ease of incursion and excursion. The other side of the river is close enough that it would take only minutes to escape to the landing at Peter’s Creek opposite the plant. There are also very few people in the area. Indeed, terrorists could attack Peach Bottom from the densely wooded area across from the reactors and simply stroll back to their unseen getaway cars.

The way to lessen the threat would be to have a force on force deterrent that begins with marksmen on the reactor rooftops 24-7, river restrictions that would keep boaters from venturing too close or staying too long in the reactors’ stretch of the river, and keeping a wary eye on the woods across the river.

« 1 2View All»

Filed Under: BlogFeaturedOther Environmental StoriesTop Story

Tags:

RSSComments (8)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-grid-attack-20140211,0,7627269.story#axzz2t20h4AYf

    The recent LA Times story about the military style attack on the Santa Clara PG&E substation last year confirms the worst. There are some completely nutty people out there with very bad intentions, and the will to carry out those intentions. Notice too that this is now “news” although it happened last April 2013. Mainstream media informs us well after something bad happens. (Why is that anyway?). Michael Collins thinks ahead and warns what might happen at nuclear power stations like San Onofre. Let’s hope those warnings reach the right people so that catastrophe can be avoided. Thank you Michael for getting it right. This isn’t something to just hope and pray that never happens. It can happen, it has happened. Now let’s make sure it doesn’t get any worse by happening at San Onofre.

  2. From the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

    Greetings,

    The public comment period on the Waste Confidence Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) and proposed rule closes this Friday, December 20, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. To ensure your comments are considered in the NRC’s preparation of the final DGEIS and rule, comments must be received or postmarked by December 20. Comments received after the close of the comment period will be considered if it is practical to do so.

    E-mail comments to: Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov, citing Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246

    Submit comments online at: http://www.regulations.gov using Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246

    Mail comments to:

    Secretary
    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Washington, DC 20555-0001
    ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff

    Fax comments to:

    Secretary
    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    301-415-1101, citing Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246

    Links to the Waste Confidence DGEIS and proposed rule can be found on the right-hand side of the Waste Confidence website: http://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/wcd.html.
    Transcripts and meeting summaries for the 13 public meetings on the Waste Confidence DGEIS and proposed rule can be found on the Waste Confidence Public Involvement website: http://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/wcd/pub-involve.html#schedule.

    Thank you,

    Staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    Waste Confidence Directorate

  3. Our fearless leaders on the San Clemente City Council will hopefully take a stand for public safety once again. At their last meeting they unanimously agreed to put the matter of nuclear waste at San Onofre on the agenda for Tuesday, 12/17, (see below for details). They will be voting on a Resolution drafted by city staff addressing concerns about a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which concludes that it would be safe to store nuclear waste on site for hundreds of years or indefinitely in the event that a permanent repository does not become available. Although the city’s position statement is not yet available on line, we’ll keep you posted when it is.

    Here is our position statement:

    Although no viable long term solutions are currently available, we insist on the immediate transfer of highly radioactive fuel rods which have sufficiently cooled in the vulnerable pools into more secure, hardened on site, dry cask storage. This process should be accelerated in anticipation of California’s next big earthquake.

    Making matters far worse, years ago the NRC quietly approved burning the fuel in the reactors longer, resulting in “high burnup” waste, which turns out may not actually be safe for storage or transport. High burnup fuel, and it’s excessive thermal and radioactive heat accelerating the degradation of dry cask storage containers, has not been adequately addressed in the GEIS.

    While the NRC has licensed the storage of “normal” radioactive fuel for up to 50 years, they can’t endorse the storage of high burnup fuel for even 20 years. It is urgent for the NRC to look into best practices for each specific site and not try to apply a convenient and unscientific solution to all nuclear power plants. Realistic options must be explored and implemented before time runs out. We strongly object to the seemingly arbitrary change in the NRC policy stating that it will now be okay to leave the nuclear waste where it is, for however long it takes the federal government to create a permanent waste site. That is simply unacceptable.

    Here are two things you can do:

    Mark your calendars and plan to attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17th at the City Hall, 100 Avenida Presidio (map).

    Here’s the schedule for all events at City Hall that evening:

    Press conference at 4:30 (to make the evening news) outside chambers.

    Social gathering/rally begins outside chambers at 5:00, with hot drinks and holiday treats.

    Meeting starts at 6:00 pm. We are last on the agenda, but if a lot of people show up, there is a good chance they will take this matter first. You are welcome to make comments but we encourage you to be brief and not too repetitive for the sake of people there for other topics.
    Just showing up says a lot!

    If not within driving range, watch the meeting LIVE from anywhere you can get the internet at http://live.san-clemente.org/

    *Special guest speaker to attend. For 26 years he managed production of dry cask storage at San Onofre and now says, “We’ve got to get this waste the hell out of here!”

    File a complaint directly to the NRC at this link.

    This is urgent because the period for comments closes on 12/20 (although we are seeking an extension). When you do, please send a copy of your comment to gary@sanclementegreen.org so we can also distribute them to political leaders who can bring pressure to bear on the NRC.

    FYI – The NRC was forced to take comments on this matter because of a court order:

    On June 8, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit found that some aspects of the 2010 rulemaking did not satisfy the NRC’s NEPA obligations and vacated the rulemaking. [New York v. NRC, 681 F.3d 471 (D.C. Cir. 2012)]. The court indicated that in making either a Finding Of No Significant Impact based on an Environmental Assessment or in an Environmental Impact Statement supporting the rulemaking, the Commission needed to add additional discussions concerning the impacts of failing to secure permanent disposal for spent nuclear fuel, and concerning the impacts of certain aspects of potential spent fuel pool leaks and spent fuel pool fires.

    Looking forward to seeing you on the 17th
    Please encourage others to attend and send comments to the NRC

    San Clemente Green
    San Onofre Safety (SOS)

  4. @Donna Gilmore: Should high burnup fuel make San Onofre’s spent fuel rods impossible to move safely to the other side of the San Diego Freeway to stop terrorist, earthquake and tsunami dangers, it makes this investigation’s security recommendations even more urgent. Folks like yourself shouldn’t have to live under a preventable threat now that the evidence of the peril has been exposed by EnviroReporter.com along with detailed security solutions.

  5. San Onofre used high burnup fuel which must cool in the spent fuel pools for up to a minimum 20 years. Also, the NRC has yet to approve dry cask storage for high burnup fuel for more than 20 years. And they have not approved transport casks for this fuel. It’s more than twice as radioactive and over twice as hot as lower burnup fuel. Studies have shown the protective Zirconium cladding is becoming brittle and subject to shattering. This can release radiation in to the environment. See details and sources at http://sanonofresafety.org/nuclear-waste/

    Originally, everyone was told high burnup fuel is the same as lower burnup fuel after it cools a few years longer in the pools. This is not true, but many experts do not have current information about this fuel. The new generation nuke plants also use high burnup fuel.

  6. Even with the avalanche of information exposed in this series by EnviroReporter.com, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has rejected expedited removal of spent fuel rods from its vulnerable spent fuel pools as the National Journal reports (http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/nrc-staff-rejects-concerns-about-nuclear-reactor-vulnerability-terrorism/).

    From the article:

    In a memo made public on Monday, NRC staff concludes, however, “that the expedited transfer of spent fuel to dry cask storage would provide only a minor or limited safety benefit … and that its expected implementation costs would not be warranted.”

    The Nov. 12 document recommends “that additional studies and further regulatory analyses of this issue not be pursued,” and that the issue — one of several that the commission is reviewing in light of the Fukushima disaster in Japan — “be closed.”

    As our series shows, the threat is monumental and must be addressed aggressively, especially at San Onofre. A corrupted government agency and weak-kneed anti-nuker groups don’t seem up to the task, however. The American people can now only hope that potential terrorists are as incompetent and inneffective.

  7. I believe the decommissioning of SONGS presents a significant risk to the Southern California Region. Many hazards could produce a black swan event at SONGS or other nuclear plants such as Peach Bottom. Michael Collins has highlighted one of those risks, and prudent precautions over the short to medium term would greatly reduce that specific threat. I agree with the call to increase security and create additional physical barriers to reduce this type of threat. It remains to be seen if governmental bodies will take appropriate action. Thank you, Michael, for writing this article and calling this situation to everyone’s attention.

  8. Fivos says:

    Incredible. Drove by SONGS today on way to Carlsbad. I could see the Spent fuel pools unprotected just yards from the freeway. Line of sight. There is no doubt a Timothy Mcveigh like malcontent type is out there. That stretch of freeway needs a 30 ‘ reinforced wall immediately.

Leave a Reply