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Another way to significantly prevent would-be terrorists from planning attacks on nuclear reactor plants and independent spent fuel facilities is to blur their images out on such Internet programs as Google Maps and Google Earth. If people’s faces and car license plates are easy to automatically blur, it should be simple to remove imagery of these sensitive installations.

This is not a new idea. Nuclear watchdog Scott Portzline has long advocated restricting Internet photographic imagery like this. Portzline’s June 5, 2009 CNN interview makes the point quite handily even if the network actually used sensitive imagery of nuclear sites in the report.

Government flubs spent fuel threat

“But when it’s necessary, [we will] defend the United States against terrorist attack,” President Obama said during his United Nations speech September 24. “We will take direct action.”

Fukushima Dai-ichi 30 March 2011It’s not going to be easy preventing terrorist attacks on America’s most vulnerable nuclear spent fuel pools targets. Taken on a case by case basis, using the same reverse engineering of a terrorist attack employed by EnviroReporter.com during this investigation, it is certainly possible. All it takes is willpower.

Nuclear threats, meanwhile, go on. This has been known for years in the time since 9/11.

“[S]uccessful terrorist attacks on spent fuel pools, though difficult, are possible,” said Dr. Kevin Crowley of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board June 7, 2005. Crowley was speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations First Roundtable on Nuclear Security Issues. “If an attack leads to a propagating zirconium cladding fire, it could result in the release of large amounts of radioactive material.”

Crowley’s SFP study was supported by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the direction of Congress. “The National Academies appointed a committee of experts to serve as the responsible study body,” Crowley said. “The committee has expertise in structural mechanics, fuel behavior, metal combustion, security, health physics, and human factors.”

While the committee identified several scenarios of a terrorist attack on an SFP, those details were provided in a classified report. The public part of the study said that “the potential vulnerabilities of spent fuel pools to terrorist attacks are plant-design specific. That is, they depend on the location of the pool with respect to ground level, the location of walls and other structures that could protect the pool from line-of-sight attacks, and the nature of the surrounding terrain that might make certain types of attacks easier or more difficult to carry out.”

The committee recommended that the NRC undertake a study of just what a terrorist attack on a SFP would do. It didn’t, but a new Department of Defense-related study released August 15 attempts to addresses the issue and demonstrates how woefully underprepared the government is for such a black swan peril.

As part of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, supported with funds from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the University of Texas at Austin released Protecting U.S. Nuclear Facilities from Terrorist Attack: Re-assessing the Current “Design Basis Threat” Approach. The study by a research assistant at the University of Texas indicates the level of priority the issue has with DOD. Not much.

“[T]he report’s main recommendation is for the DBT [Design Basis Threat] to be made uniform for all nuclear facilities posing risks of catastrophic nuclear terrorism – which includes nuclear power reactors and facilities containing nuclear weapons or significant quantities of fissile material – aiming to reduce the risk of successful terrorist attack on such facilities as close to zero as possible in light of available resources,” the “working paper” reads.

Before going on to argue the point, the two authors, Lara Kirkham and Alan J. Kuperman, Ph.D., make this assertion: “A terrorist with enough technical knowledge and means could drain a spent fuel pool, triggering a cladding fire that could result in the release of large amounts of radioactive material. This is similar to what occurred in 2011 in Fukushima, Japan, when an earthquake’s effects drained the spent fuel pools.”

What that statement suggests simply isn’t true. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of the ongoing Fukushima triple meltdowns knows that the SPFs didn’t drain and catch fire. Yet.

Getting SONGS in the pinkThe fear has been that Fukushima Unit 4’s SPF could collapse, which it may do presently because of the worsening conditions of the groundwater-soaked soil beneath it. The perils of such a situation were addressed in EnviroReporter.com’s June 2012 article, The Unforgettable Fire.

If, as the DOD report suggests, the Fukushima SFPs had drained and caught fire, it would have taken out Tokyo and much of the main Japanese island of Honshū. That clearly didn’t happen. Yet.

How an error of this magnitude could make it into a report paid for by the head of our armed forces was not a question Kuperman, an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at U of T, and Kirkham’s supervisor, answered first admonishing this reporter to “[P]lease make sure you read the report.”

Of course the report was read or EnviroReporter.com wouldn’t have been able to catch the mistakes. This document was, of course, paid for the taxpayer but just how much is a mystery since Kuperman said he didn’t know. “I’m not trying to be evasive,” Kuperman wrote in an email. “But I honestly don’t have an exact figure because the funding did not come through me.”

Kuperman remained adamant that everything in the study was correct. “As for fact-checking, the report was subject to internal and external peer review,” Kuperman told EnviroReporter.com August 19. “I have not seen any documented claim that anything in the report is incorrect. Indeed, the report has 136 footnotes, which fully document all of its claims.”

Actually, the statement in question didn’t have a footnote. The error betrayed a fundamental lack of understanding of the worst nuclear disaster in history. Then the Department of Defense made a concerted effort to publicize the research assistant’s working paper hence why its accuracy is crucial if its conclusions are to be taken seriously.

But it does prove a point: DOD paid for this work which boldly states all nuclear facilities, including reactors and spent fuel pools, ought to be thought of as the same.

There are 104 nuclear reactors in the United States. This series has covered just two of them, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station. While both engage in the same industry of generating electricity through nuclear fission, their situations and histories are as different as one would expect.

Inside Jobs

San Onofre had the worst safety record of any nuclear plant in the country when its reactors were actually running. According to several reports, the site suffered from workplace pressure and harassment of employee whistleblowers. That problem could worsen as 1,000 longtime employees are let go by the end of 2013. Were SCE more active emptying its spent fuel pools and dry casking the rods, there would be plenty of jobs for these well-trained nuclear engineers who know the plant best.

SONGS Surfers & seasideThe black swan of an angry fired employee or unemployed San Onofre worker is a consideration that takes flight when considering the consequences of a successful breach or destruction of a SONGS spent fuel pool. An inside job would be very hard to defend against unless the targets were hardened as this series suggests. Such a person might know the plant’s weaknesses and know how to sabotage the plant without getting caught.

In fact, it has already happened. During November 2012, SONGs supervisors informed the NRC that someone had spiked with coolant the oil reserve of one of the reactor’s emergency backup generators. This could have caused the generator to seize up during an emergency which could have led to a meltdown had this grievous act had not gone detected. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in shortly after SCE reported the crime to the NRC. The FBI has not announced any arrests in the case.

The number of allegations of reactor problems at San Onofre substantiated by the NRC far exceeded any other reactor site in the nation. SONGS Units 2 and 3 garnered 16 such “reactor allegations” in 2009, 28 in 2010 and 15 in 2011 and 2012 combined. There have been no such allegations recorded in 2013 through June. The NRC responded to 15 of the 16 complaints in 2009, half of the 2010 total and two in 2011 and 2012.

“Each year, the NRC issues a report about its Allegations Program discussing issues like trends in allegation numbers nationwide and at selected nuclear plants,” wrote David Lochbaum June 11. Lochbaum is the director of the Nuclear Safety Project with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “When there’s a significant increase in the number of allegations received by the NRC concerning a specific plant, the NRC looks behind the numbers for any underlying reasons, such as safety culture problems. The NRC documents its conclusions from these probes in the annual reports. Recently, the NRC probed allegations received for the San Onofre, Susquehanna, Turkey Point, St. Lucie, and Indian Point plants.”

Taken all together, the shuttering of SONGS actually could bode well for SCE and many of the laid-off workers if recommendations in this series are taken. There is no better a workforce for the job of securing San Onofre more robustly than the men and women of SONGS because they know every nook and cranny. These talented and trained workers could be needed solving SONGS security issues as well and have already passed security clearances.

But it’s unlikely that SCE would take such measures. The company has consistently put profits first.

The Fight Goes On

Thankfully, some of the local heroes responsible for shutting down San Onofre are continuing their hard work to keep their communities, and Southern California, safe.

SONGS sunset“San Onofre fuel pools and dry cask storage of high-level nuclear waste are of foremost concern, and potentially still a devastating disaster for our beloved Southern California community,” Gene Stone, head of Residents Organized for a Safe Environment, told EnviroReporter.com. “ROSE would like a seat at the table with the NRC & other federal and state regulators to figure out the best safest way to move forward with waste storage.”

This series has shown that the amazing victory that groups like ROSE won now has to be forged into the real fight: making SONGS and places like it including Peach Bottom, impervious to any terrorist attack.

The residents and their allies have shown the fortitude to shut down SONGS. This is an even higher mountain, one they may find the metal to climb. As long as SONGS’ SPF’s and dry casks are at risk, Southern California will remain hostage to them.

These champions of the anti-nuclear movement must step up where their corrupted and incompetent government won’t and seize the good future of Southern California before it’s lost to a black swan darkening the skies with it irradiated wings.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who introduced black swan theory, notes that a black swan surprise for a turkey is not a black swan surprise to its butcher. He suggests that we work to “avoid being the turkey” by identifying areas of vulnerability and fixing them.

That is the purpose of this series. With SONGS-specific vulnerabilities exposed, we can, and must, prevent black swan events at SONGS and other nuclear reactors and SFPs across the country.

Black Swan SONGS banner

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24 Comments

  1. EnviroReporter.com‘s prescient exposés over the years showing how vulnerable our aged and dangerous nuclear power plant should have been a wake-up call to toughen up standards and security. Now it may be too late with Russia having penetrated America’s critical and nuclear infrastructure according to today’s Ides of March U.S. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) ALERT.


    Alert (TA18-074A)
    Russian Government Cyber Activity Targeting Energy and Other Critical Infrastructure Sectors

    Original release date: March 15, 2018

    Systems Affected
    Domain Controllers
    File Servers
    Email Servers

    Overview
    This joint Technical Alert (TA) is the result of analytic efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This alert provides information on Russian government actions targeting U.S. Government entities as well as organizations in the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors. It also contains indicators of compromise (IOCs) and technical details on the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by Russian government cyber actors on compromised victim networks. DHS and FBI produced this alert to educate network defenders to enhance their ability to identify and reduce exposure to malicious activity.

    DHS and FBI characterize this activity as a multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors who targeted small commercial facilities’ networks where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks. After obtaining access, the Russian government cyber actors conducted network reconnaissance, moved laterally, and collected information pertaining to Industrial Control Systems (ICS)…[MORE]

    READ ENTIRE ALERT HERE

    EnviroReporter.com‘s work exposing these nuclear power plant vulnerabilities is more pertinent than ever. It is never too late to at least try to defend these ‘in-place nuclear weapons’ from Russia and other bad actors.

  2. An end run around the most practical, secure and doable solution to SONGS’ critical spent fuel problem was spelled out in Stopping SONGS’ Black Swan by EnviroReporter.com nearly four years ago:

    “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.”

    Instead of this common sense approach, and perhaps with big dollar signs in their eyes, so-called cleanup activists have attempted this end run to rid SONGS of its goo but failed to check if the place they were go to send it would take it. It won’t. East County Magazine of San Diego explains in an excellent report.

  3. @All: The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works sent EnviroReporter.com the following regarding progress, or shockingly no progress, done to make more safe America’s nuclear power plants and infrastructure. Having just finished Stopping SONGS’ Black Swan will probably have our readers not very surprised at what the outstanding, yet sadly outgoing, junior Senator from California has to say. (Note we highlight her comments on SONGS at the end of her prepared remarks.)

    Opening Statement of Ranking Member Barbara Boxer
    EPW Hearing on “Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission”
    October 7, 2015
    (Remarks as prepared for delivery)

    Today, the Environment and Public Works Committee is holding an oversight hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). I remain concerned about the slow pace at which the NRC is implementing measures intended to protect American nuclear plants in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns that occurred in Japan in March 2011.

    It has been more than four years since the Fukushima disaster, and Japan continues to face challenges in its cleanup efforts.

    Only one of Japan’s 43 nuclear reactors has been turned back on since the Fukushima disaster. A recent analysis by Reuters found that of the other 42 operable nuclear reactors in Japan, only seven are likely to be turned on in the next few years. Reuters also found that “nine reactors are unlikely to ever restart and that the fate of the remaining 26 looks uncertain.”

    For the last four years, I have been saying that in order to earn the confidence of the public, we must learn from the Fukushima disaster and do everything we can to avoid similar disasters here in the U.S.

    Following the last NRC oversight hearing in April, I met with Chairman Burns to discuss the commission’s progress on implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force recommendations. I appreciate the letter he sent me after our meeting outlining the status of the commission’s work and anticipated timelines for completing each of the recommendations.

    While I recognize that progress has been made on some of the recommendations of the Post-Fukushima Task Force, I am frustrated and disappointed with the overall slow pace. Not one of the 12 task force recommendations has been fully implemented. And many of the recommendations still have no timeline for action.

    I am also concerned with some of the decisions the NRC is making on whether to implement important safety enhancements.

    In particular, I am troubled that the Commission overruled staff safety recommendations and voted not to move forward with multiple safety improvements. For example, by a 3 to 1 vote, the Commission decided to remove a requirement that nuclear plants have procedures in place for dealing with severe accidents, like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. These procedures ensure plans are in place when multiple failures of safety equipment occur or other unanticipated events take place.

    This requirement was identified in the aftermath of Fukushima, but after years of work on this and other proposals, the Commission simply chose not to move forward. That is unacceptable.

    The Commission does not appear to be doing all it can to live up to the NRC’s mission “to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment.”

    We need to look no further than the two nuclear power plants in my home state. At California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant, NRC has repeatedly declared the plant safe even after learning of a strong earthquake fault near the plant.

    At the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County, which has been closed permanently, the NRC recently issued exemptions to emergency planning requirements. The plant’s operator will no longer be required to maintain detailed plans for the evacuation, sheltering, and medical treatment of people residing in the 10-mile zone around the plant.

    I am aware that the NRC is planning a rulemaking on decommissioning issues, but rubber stamping exemptions the way the Commission has is the wrong approach. I believe it is wrong to relax emergency planning requirements with thousands of tons of extremely radioactive spent fuel remaining at the site. The millions of people living in close proximity to the plant deserve better.

    The NRC owes it to the citizens of California and the nation to make safety the highest priority and I urge all the Commissioners to refocus your efforts to do just that.

    I look forward to discussing these issues with you today.

  4. @All: This press release was sent to EnviroReporter.com today by the folks at Southern California Edison:

    San Onofre Community Engagement Panel to Discuss Security, Used Fuel Storage

    Posted April 6, 2015

    ROSEMEAD, Calif., April 6, 2015 — The San Onofre Community Engagement Panel (CEP) will discuss nuclear plant security and storage of used nuclear fuel during its regular quarterly meeting April 16 in San Juan Capistrano.

    The CEP was formed to advise the co-owners of the San Onofre nuclear plant on decommissioning the facility and to foster public education and involvement during decommissioning.

    Tom Palmisano, vice president of Decommissioning and chief nuclear officer for Southern California Edison (SCE), majority owner of San Onofre, said the CEP also will welcome several new members on April 16: Glenn Pascall of the Sierra Club, who replaces Gene Stone of Residents Organized for a Safe Environment; Tom Caughlan, who replaces Larry Rannals as the Camp Pendleton representative; and two new city representatives, Dana Point Mayor Carlos Olvera and San Juan Capistrano Mayor Pro Tem Pam Patterson.

    “The Community Engagement Panel has made significant contributions this past year on issues ranging from emergency planning to safe storage of used nuclear fuel,” Palmisano said. “We look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure that safety, stewardship and engagement remain at the forefront as we prepare to dismantle San Onofre.”

    The public is invited to attend the meeting from 6-9 p.m. at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, 25925 Camino del Avion. There will be a public comment period and the meeting will be live-streamed via http://www.songscommunity.com.

    SCE announced in June 2013 that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3, and has begun the process to decommission the facility. SCE has established core principles of safety, stewardship and engagement to guide decommissioning. For more information about SCE, visit http://www.songscommunity.com.

    About Southern California Edison

    An Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

  5. @All: This news from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) regarding Southern California Edison’s carelessness and greed came to us from our friends at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (with original emphasis):

    Senator Boxer’s Statement on NRC Inspector General Report on San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

    Washington, D.C. — Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement regarding a report released today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Inspector General (IG). The report focused on the steam generator replacement that resulted in the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant located in Southern California. Former senior NRC officials told NRC’s IG that if Southern California Edison had followed NRC rules, the flawed steam generator design would have been rejected.

    Senator Boxer said: “When Southern California Edison decided to completely replace their steam generators in order to increase their profit margin, they failed to apply for an amended license as they are required to do, and NRC stood by and did nothing. The IG was correct to highlight the statement of the former NRC Regional Administrator who said that based on information revealed on the conditions of the San Onofre plant ‘the steam generators as designed were basically unlicensable’ and would not have been approved.”

    Senator Boxer initiated an investigation into nuclear safety at the San Onofre nuclear power plant following the January 2012 shutdown of the reactors that was caused by a leak of radioactive water from one of its newly replaced steam generators, which were shown to have experienced unusual levels of damage. The IG’s report corroborates the findings to date of Senator Boxer’s investigation. Senator Boxer plans to hold an NRC oversight hearing in December.

  6. @All: Don’t miss these two very important meetings if you live in Southern California and don’t want to be the victim of a Black Swan SONGS. Courtesy of the folks at Southern California Edison, who own the majority stake in the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station:

    Community Engagement Panel to Meet Oct. 9 on San Onofre Decommissioning;
    Special Meeting Set for Oct. 14 on Storage of Used Nuclear Fuel

    ROSEMEAD, Calif., Oct. 2, 2014 — The public is invited to attend next Thursday’s regular meeting of the Community Engagement Panel (CEP) formed to advise the owners of the San Onofre nuclear plant on decommissioning the facility. The meeting will be from 6-9 p.m. at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center.

    The meeting will focus on Southern California Edison’s (SCE) proposed emergency planning changes for San Onofre now that the plant is permanently shut down and will include a presentation by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission representative. The meeting also will include opportunities for public comment and will be live streamed via http://www.songscommunity.com.

    In addition, the CEP will hold a special meeting Oct. 14 to discuss plans to store San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel in dry storage casks. On-site storage of used fuel is necessary until the Department of Energy takes possession of the fuel. This meeting is from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., also at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, and will include opportunities for public discussion.

    SCE and the co-owners of the nuclear plant established the CEP to serve as a conduit of information between the owners and the public throughout decommissioning. The current owners of San Onofre are SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside. The city of Anaheim is a previous owner. Current and previous owners are responsible for decommissioning.

    SCE announced in June 2013 that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3, and has begun decommissioningthe facility. SCE has established core principles of safety, stewardship and engagement to guide decommissioning. For more information about SCE, visit http://www.songscommunity.com.

  7. The thought of making a Nuclear Facility ‘SAFE’ with regard to terrorism, war, or an angry Mother Nature is ludicrous.

    How many more Nuclear Meltdowns do we need to realize that taking the Nuclear Risk is INSANE!

  8. This is a press release sent this morning to EnviroReporter.com by the office of U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California). We have bolded the pertinent parts of this statement as it relates to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s failure to address the safety and security issues presented in our Black Swan SONGS series:

    Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
    “Hearing on the Nominations of Jeffery M. Baran and Stephen G. Burns to be Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission”
    September 9, 2014
    (Remarks as prepared for delivery)
    Today, the EPW Committee is considering two nominees for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Jeffery Baran and Stephen Burns. These two nominees are qualified and accomplished professionals who have demonstrated they have the ability to get the job done.
    Mr. Baran has had more than 10 years of experience working on nuclear energy issues in the House, including in his current role as Staff Director for Energy and Environment on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He also spent more than five years as that Committee’s counsel, and five years as counsel on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. At the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Baran was the lead staffer on 13 NRC hearings, including those related to NRC’s structure, nuclear waste and post-Fukushima safety. He also worked on legislation related to the NRC and other nuclear issues. On a personal note, I want to congratulate Mr. Baran and his wife on the birth of their son, Gus, on Friday.
    Over the past three decades, Mr. Burns has served in many roles at NRC, most recently as General Counsel from 2009 to 2012. He has also served as senior staff to a former Chairman and Deputy Director of the Regional Operations and Enforcement Division. Mr. Burns has played a critical role on a wide range of NRC policy and enforcement activities. Since 2012, Mr. Burns has been the Head of Legal Affairs for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency.
    NRC’s mission is “to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment.” I believe the nominees’ experience and understanding of NRC’s legal framework will serve them well in supporting NRC’s mission.
    Today, I want to highlight some of my concerns about the way NRC has strayed from its fundamental mission and talk about several issues the NRC Commissioners must redouble their efforts to address.
    First, NRC has failed to require reactor operators to complete implementation of any of the safety measures recommended by the Commission’s top experts in the three and a half years since the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
    Second, NRC’s responsiveness to Congressional requests for information has fallen far short of its legal obligations.
    Finally, I am concerned that the Commission is not ensuring that safety is its primary focus in my home state of California.
    At the Diablo Canyon facility, NRC has failed to require the proper consideration of seismic safety issues, which could defer any needed safety upgrades to 2018 or even later.
    Another safety issue is at San Onofre’s decommissioning nuclear plant, which still has a significant amount of spent fuel in the facility’s pools. NRC’s own studies have shown that the consequences of a fire at a spent nuclear fuel pool could be as bad as a severe accident at a nuclear reactor. This could be devastating for the more than 10 million people who live near the facility.
    In addition, San Onofre’s operator has asked the NRC for exemptions from many safety and security requirements that are designed to protect nearby communities. These include the emergency response measures that were put in place after Three Mile Island, security measures that were first required after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and safety measures that were ordered after Fukushima. In the past, NRC has rubber stamped every single request for exemptions made by decommissioning reactor operators, and I believe the Commission must reconsider this approach.
    Safety must be the paramount consideration of the NRC. I believe the nominees before us today are highly qualified, and their commitment to NRC’s mission will increase the level of confidence the American people have in the safety of the nation’s nuclear facilities.
    I look forward to moving quickly to fill the two vacancies at the NRC, and we plan to act on these nominations later this week.

  9. @patricia borchmann et al: Thank you so much for the kind words! They go a long way in keeping us pumped doing what we do. But most of all, you get it, Patricia.

    Can’t say that for the most august scientific body in the land, the National Academy of Sciences which just came out with their Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants which you too can own for a mere $71.95. But save your cash because we’ll give you the unfortunate news that while the NAS addresses part of the myriad problems with protecting nuclear-powered plants, it totally missed the spent fuel pool when it comes the threats the Black Swan SONGS series exposes.

    The report concludes saying “The overarching lesson learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident is that nuclear plant licensees and their regulators must actively seek out and act on new information about hazards that have the potential to affect the safety of nuclear plants,” adding that nuclear facility operators “must take timely actions to implement countermeasures when such new information results in substantial changes to risk profiles at nuclear plants.” The study also says ways must be developed for “for identifying, evaluating, and managing the risks from beyond-design-basis events.”

    All that and nothing about the serious flaws in the security of our nuclear power plants and spent fuel pools from the obvious: America’s many enemies. Since we completed this series October 17, 2013, the kinds of terrorists we’ve identified as potential nuclear plant attackers now have seized a huge area of both Syria and Iraq and call themselves Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These terrorists were even too radical for al-Qaeda because of its “notorious intractability” and murderous brutality. Now with a “caliphate” at their disposal, rich with oil and awash in weapons, think that ISIL doesn’t pose a threat to places like, say, SONGS?

    Of course it does yet the terrorist threat against our nuclear plants is not emphasized at all in the new NAS report even though we exposed this huge risk nearly two years ago. That the NAS ignored this peril is shocking. But at least you, Patricia, get it and that’s very heartening.

  10. patricia borchmann

    This ENVIRO Report by Michael Collins is another MUST SEE public safety ALARM, especially for the more than 8.4 million within 50 miles of San Onofre (SONGS 2 & 3) in southern CALIFORNIA !!!

    Michael Collins’ work reflects the kind of foresight, and careful analysis, criticism, and doesn’t stop there. ENVIRO Report’s 4-part series ALSO CONTAINS A SOLUTION – PART 4 !!!

    People in so-called ‘So.CA.Paradise” really need to wake up, and get up to speed fast ! Enviro Reports are the easiest way to do that, and not be fooled by SCE/NRC propaganda, doled out in ‘unhealthy doses’ at regular CEP (Citizen Engagement Panel Meetings) in reactor impact communities in San Diego, Orange County, Riverside County, LA County, and far beyond !

    I can only WISH that our elected offcials in local government(s) would get on the stick,the microphone, the tv, radio, social media, and CATCH UP with Senators Boxer. Markey, and Sanders !!

    For the speed-reader’s condensed version (for Starbucks orphans, Starbucks parents, non-science believers), do us all a big favor and EXPOSE yourselves to REAL SCIENCE, REAL TRUTH !!

    Thanks to all contributors to Michael Collins’ Enviro Report! If possible share w/others you love !!

  11. @Chase: We entirely agree. Simple logic says blocking the highly contaminated groundwater will cause subsidence of the land, causing Unit 4’s spent fuel pool to collapse and then sayonara Japan. And you point the obvious out too: it has to operate nonstop forever. To answer your question “Is that safe?” the answer is NO.

    You can watch the archived podcast of the “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”

  12. Regarding Senator Boxer’s short statement on the Fukushima ‘ice wall’. (Maybe slightly OT, but hopefully relevant.)

    I just want to say that, in my opinion, the ‘ice wall’ is a bad idea gone cuckoo loco.

    I think it’s a diversion from the truth about 3 ongoing out of control meltdowns and a delay tactic that somebody will make a lot of money on.

    When building the worlds largest underwater refrigerator freezer…

    ask:

    1. How much ‘energy’ will be needed to operate?
    2. It must operate nonstop for ‘how long’ without failure?
    3. What is the ‘cost’ of operating and maintaining it?
    4. How much freon or whatever will it take? Is that safe?
    5. …

    “DEEP FREEZE: Can Ice Prevent a Nuclear Disaster?”
    😉 (On the screen ‘scroll message at :35 seconds in.)

    ABC News Ice Wall Report Jun 3, 2014
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/japan-spend-300m-ice-wall-isolate-fukushima-water/story?id=20144627

  13. The following expert legal analysis was sent to EnviroReporter.com by Sen. Boxer’s staff:

    Chairman Boxer Releases Expert Legal Analysis on NRC’s Failure to Cooperate with Congressional Investigation on San Onofre
    Expert analysis makes clear that NRC’s refusal to release documents has no legal basis whatsoever

    Washington, DC – During an oversight hearing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released a detailed expert legal analysis dismantling the NRC’s basis for refusing to provide the Committee with documents related to its ongoing investigation of how defective equipment was installed at the San Onofre nuclear plant. Senator Boxer requested the analysis from Morton Rosenberg, a renowned Constitutional scholar who worked as a specialist for over three decades in American public law with the American Law Division of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS).

    Senator Boxer said: “I have repeatedly called on the NRC to stop obstructing Congressional oversight and provide the Committee with all the documents I have requested. The expert legal analysis I am releasing today makes clear that the NRC’s arguments are completely misguided and without any legal merit whatsoever.”

    Excerpts from the analysis are pasted below:

    “The NRC Chairman demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the plenary nature of Congress’s investigatory power in the circumstances prevalent in the SONGS matter; misstates the authority of three cited cases dealing with the law on congressional intercession in agency decisionmaking; ignores the overwhelming contrary case law on the deliberative process privilege that is applicable in this situation; and shows a lack of awareness of over 90 years of congressional investigations in which agencies have been consistently obliged to provide documents and testimony regardless of whether a litigation or adjudication is pending or anticipated, or to explain why an enforcement action or investigation was or wasn’t taken, or whether the agency failure to provide requested information was for the purpose of obstructing a congressional inquiry, all in the face of agency claims of constitutional or common law privilege or policy.”

    “I conclude that your Committee has jurisdiction, and authority and grounds for the successful exercise of compulsory process should the withholding of the documents you seek from NRC continues.”

  14. The following opening statement at today’s hearing was sent to EnviroReporter.com by Sen. Boxer’s staff:

    Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
    Oversight Hearing: “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”
    June 4, 2014
    (Remarks as prepared for delivery)

    Today, the Environment and Public Works Committee is holding its ninth oversight hearing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Japan.

    It has been more than three years since the Fukushima disaster, and Japan is still struggling to clean up the site.

    The massive underground ice wall intended to prevent radioactive water from flowing into the sea will take a year to finish and cost more than $300 million.

    We must learn from the tragic events in Fukushima and take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities in the United States. Today I am continuing to focus on whether the NRC has done that.

    It is vitally important that the NRC remain committed to its mission, which is “to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment.”

    Based on a review of the progress made since the Fukushima disaster and on what additional steps need to be taken by NRC to ensure the safety of the people and the environment, I am afraid that you may have lost sight of that mission.

    The Fukushima Near-Term Task Force, made up of NRC senior staff, recommended 12 measures to upgrade safety in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns.

    In August 2011, the former NRC Chairman testified before our Committee that the NRC should be able to act on those recommendations within 90 days and that they could be implemented within 5 years.

    As of today, the NRC has failed to require reactor operators to complete implementation of a single one of these post-Fukushima safety measures. Some reactor operators are still not in compliance with the safety requirements that were in place BEFORE Fukushima. And the NRC has only completed its own action on 4 of the 12 Task Force recommendations.

    This is an unacceptable delay that puts the safety of the American people at risk.

    I also have serious concerns about the safety of spent nuclear fuel. NRC’s own studies show that the consequences of a fire at a spent nuclear fuel pool can be as serious as a severe accident at an operating reactor.

    Not only does NRC allow that fuel to be stored in the spent fuel pools indefinitely, NRC is considering requests from decommissioning reactor operators for exemptions from emergency response measures designed to protect nearby communities. While the Nuclear Energy Institute claimed in a letter sent to me yesterday that these exemptions are granted only when “special circumstances” exist at a facility, the truth is that NRC has never once denied one. It rubber-stamps them every single time a reactor shuts down. I have introduced three bills with Senators Markey and Sanders to increase the safety of spent nuclear fuel and improve the decommissioning process.

    These are not theoretical concerns. On the same day that this Committee held a hearing on this topic last month, an out-of-control wildfire was burning a half a mile away from the San Onofre nuclear plant.

    My concern about NRC’s commitment to identify and remedy safety problems is also highlighted by my investigation into the installation of defective equipment at San Onofre. For example, I learned that NRC staff was preparing to allow the re-start of one of the reactors before it had received a single answer to any of the technical safety questions it asked Southern California Edison to submit. This oversight investigation is important, not only to get to the bottom of the problems at San Onofre, but also to avoid disastrous problems like this in the future. I am also concerned that whistleblowers at NRC feel they have no recourse but to contact Congress to report safety problems, because NRC’s internal procedures for addressing these concerns are broken.

    Remarkably, NRC is continuing to obstruct my investigation by withholding documents that the Committee has a right to receive. Let me be clear — the NRC has no legal right whatsoever to refuse to provide the Committee with these documents, and today I will make available a comprehensive analysis of this conclusion.

    In order for the nuclear industry to maintain the confidence of the American people at a time when it is increasingly challenged by safety and economic concerns, the agency charged with regulating the nuclear industry must always make public safety its number one priority. NRC’s recent track record does not inspire confidence.

    I look forward to discussing these issues with you at today’s hearing.

  15. This is must-see government in inaction. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is expected to call the NRC to task at this hearing [which will be archived on podcast as well as streaming live]. The NRC, even with everything we know about the triple meltdown at Fukushima, even with what we exposed in Black Swan SONGS, chooses to bury its head in the sand about nuclear reactor and spent fuel pools safety. The consequences, as we have shown, will be catastrophic if this policy of ineptitude and denial is continued. This is the press release, sans contact numbers, that Sen. Boxer’s folks sent us:

    Please note that tomorrow’s hearing will start at 9:30 am ET

    ****MEDIA ADVISORY****

    U.S. Senate Committee on
    Environment and Public Works

    *Full Committee Hearing*

    “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”

    Transmitted June 3, 2014 Contact: ***

    ****MEDIA ADVISORY****

    U.S. Senate Committee on
    Environment and Public Works

    *Full Committee Hearing*

    “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”

    BACKGROUND: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, will convene a hearing with all of the Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners to examine the Commission’s progress on implementing the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force recommendations and other safeguards related to nuclear facilities.

    WHEN: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, 2014
    9:30 AM ET

    LOCATION: EPW Hearing Room
    406 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC

    WEBCAST: Webcast will be available at http://www.epw.senate.gov starting at 9:30 AM ET

    WITNESSES: (Order subject to change)

    Panel I:

    The Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane, Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable Kristine L. Svinicki, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable George Apostolakis, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable William D. Magwood, IV, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    The Honorable William C. Ostendorff, Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  16. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission “will hold an open house on Thursday, May 29, to discuss the agency’s annual review of safety performance at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant. Exelon Generation Co. LLC operates the twin-reactor plant, which is located in Delta (York County), Pa.
    “The open house is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. at the Peach Bottom Inn, at 6085 Delta Road in Delta. During the session, members of the public will have an opportunity to hold one-on-one discussions with NRC staff regarding the plant’s performance in 2013, as well as the agency’s oversight plans for the facility this year. The NRC Resident Inspectors assigned to the plant on a full-time basis, as well as their supervisor, will be on hand.”

    Even in light of the startling revelations EnviroReporter.com exposed in this expose, the 2013 NRC report paints a rosy picture of Peach Bottom plant security, which in and of itself is not surprising considering the “captured” agency’s sorry record. What stood out for us was this sentence: “In 2013, the NRC devoted approximately 6,485 hours of inspection at Peach Bottom.” [our emphasis]

    Thousands and thousands of hours of inspection and not one of them devoted to reading “Stopping SONGS’ Black Swan,” and not one of them looking outside of the plant’s perimeter to evaluate the woeful security of the site from threats from the river and adjacent bank. NRC Keystone Cops will not get the job done in the Keystone State.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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)

  20. @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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

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