1. Regarding your next to last paragraph, my guess is that SCE was trying to do absolutely everything they could to avoid being “Rancho Seco’ed”.

    I was pretty displeased to see a quote from S. David Freeman yesterday about SONGS. That man is in competition with Helen Caldicott for doing significant overall harm to humanity and the earth by way of fighting against the peaceful usage of fission. By my estimate, his actions have likely directly and indirectly caused 20-50 GW (maybe even more) of nuclear power generation to not be in operation today. Somebody feel free to calculate the resultant GHGs, SO2, NOx, etc. emissions resulting from that.

    1. I cannot stop laughing from using the term “Rancho Seco” as a verb. That is brilliant!

  2. Rod, you philosophy reminds me of the refreshing attitude of one of my former COs who was fond of pointing out that on a ship at sea, the reactor is not safe unless the ship is safe, and often the ship is not safe without propulsion.

  3. That attitude is forced upon all commercial NPP operators/owners/utilities first by INPO (about 50% ex Navy) and the NRC. For example ALARA (As Low As Reasonable Achievable) which was to HELP the operation of commercial NPPs has morphed into ALHP, as low as humanly possible. The plants with the lowest accumulated dose are in the upper quartile and get INPO 1’s for this achievement. Those plants with the highest dose get the worst INPO rating in this measure. There are hundreds of these measurements. A Maintenance manager will not get promoted if he has more than a few 2’s in his area. Same for any other Manager at the plant. It has killed many nuclear careers. The maintenance Manager, Nuclear Engineering Manager, AND the senior Metallurgical Engineer ALL would have made the recommendation that “the best course of action is to shut down.” If not they probably would have gotten an INPO 3 (goodby career) in that area and then an NRC “Finding” of a significant color, probably not Red, but significant enough that any other finding would have created at least a violation and possibly a CAL from the NRC.

    Look into the way the NRC elevates the level of findings. The NRC has a web page on it. It considers the fact weather you have unresolved findings and the circumstances of the finding being evaluated. Previous knowledge with inaction or procedure inadequacy can increase the finding level – significantly. One plant I worked at got a $50,000 civil penalty for “breech of containment” because a cap was left off of an instrument tube (think 1/4 inch water pipe like the one that is for the ice maker in your refrigerator). The total leakage from this “breech” was many times less than 1/1000 of the allowable leakage (it is impossible to make a containment 100% air tight) by NRC regulations. The containment leakage test would have passed with the cap off. In fact the test would have passed with a much larger pipe open.

    1. I say this hesitantly, but it seems to me that too much focus on ALARA can actually be detrimental to maintaining equipment either by deferring maintenance or causing it to be performed hurriedly in the interest of keeping dose lower.

    2. @Rich Lentz:
      “One plant I worked at got a $50,000 civil penalty for “breech of containment” because a cap was left off of an instrument tube (think 1/4 inch water pipe like the one that is for the ice maker in your refrigerator). The total leakage from this “breech” was many times less than 1/1000 of the allowable leakage”

      The civil penalty is for not being able to maintain configuration control at a minimum required to maintain a Containment Penetration OPERABLE. If you can’t maintain valve positions and pipe caps installed – the plant’s Corrective Action Program (CAP) should find a root cause and initiate actions to prevent recurrence.
      $50,000 civil penalty indicates CAP at the plant hasn’t taken their findings seriously enough in the past, and the government is jogging the utilities to change managers until they find a team that does take it seriously enough.

      If you can’t change your people – change your people.

      read the posts in this thread – you’ll find others with little regard for a penetration test connection breach. A few years back at River Bend (2007?) , instrument folks left off a scram discharge volume level instrument test pipe cap and left the test valve open.
      Next scram, high radiation alarms and a steam cloud in the Reactor Building revealed the low level issue. Of course when the Control Room reset the scram, the leak subsided as the SDV depressurized ( SDV pneumatic vents and drains OPEN when scram is reset) and drained to the RB Equipment Drain Tank.
      The uh oh squad arrived to assess the damage irrespective of the Control Room announcement to stay clear of the RB.

      The Control Room crew unfortunately inserted a second manual scram to diagnose the leak location, found it , resulting in internal uptake dose to the uh oh squad.

      Pipe cap, small hole + Reactor Coolant 1050 psig 545 F = Car Wash From Hell

      I don’t know if its lack of knowledge or experience, but I’m hearing less and less evidence of the expertise emerging from the Navy Nuclear Power Program. I heard the program changed. I’m seeing it in the industry now.

      1. As I stated, in a roundabout way, the Containment was operable. The leakage was less than 1/1000 of the allowable leakage for the containment. The pipe was on a line that was used to take air samples in the containment. It was not a cap on any pressurized NSSS system, as in your example. It was one that was not normally used for periodic tests and was discovered during the refueling outage. The $50 K my sound small today, but this was 30 years ago and was large at the time (like $500k TODAY.)This for an operable containments. Forty years ago the NRC all but ignored the BOP (balance of plant) systems). Now they are just as vigorous in finding fault with BOP systems as NSSS. The thrust of my comment above, was that plant personnel cannot assume that just because there is a very minor problem, regardless of how trivial they can show it is, (the Incident Report (IR) evaluation showed that the containment was operable) that the NRC has become a “Zero Tolerance Program”, just like a 5 year old gets expelled for taking a toy 3 inch rubber knife to school. And with the last commissioner it is getting even worse.
        If the FAA were to apply the same logic to the airline industry for their regulations there would be no US airplane capable of leaving the ground. It has been 20 years since the air crash in Sioux City IA, due to a failed engine and a severed hydraulic line. And still there are no changes to the hydraulic system. All it takes is an “excess flow check valve” (less than $500 per aircraft) to prevent an opening in one system (each engine has one) from draining all systems. Still not there, still tied together. It is my understanding that military aircraft has this feature, as the lines might get hit by shrapnel, so it is no large engineering problem. The FAA writes it off because the probability is to low – who is going to be shooting at an airplane? How often will a blade fly off of the jet turbine? The cost benefit ratio is not there, the risk is not there so the problem is not fixed.
        I can remember doing cost benefit analysis – 40 years ago! If you search the NRC web site you can find some (ancient) NRC publications on this. However, in the nuclear industry, over the years, especially since TMI, it has morphed to “if there is any measurable risk – FIX IT or shut down.
        Read my other comment about the dam failure. The risk of this is measured in negative powers of ten in the double digits. Can it “possibly” happen – yes, will it ever happen – you or your great, great grand children will never see it. But since it is possible it must be fixed. That is not the philosophy that any of the operating plants were designed for or need to be designed to. Shall we design all NPPs for a multi-ton meteorite strike within the evacuation zone?

  4. Rod,
    I was in the Navy, too back in the 1970s. Served on USS Long Beach, USS Carl Vinson ans USS Enterprise.
    Commercial reactors are not comparable to what you are accustomed to on a warship.*
    We cannot tow them away from population centers. Their fission product inventory is far greater than you are accustomed to dealing with – that represents larger challenges by orders of magnitude on both radiological and a thermodynamic considerations.
    We depend upon three fission product barriers, Cladding, RCS, and Containment to protect the public. Steam Generators when faulted, breach two of the three (RCS and Containment) when a tube rupture occurs. Atmospheric dumps and SG reliefs are environmental release paths in a Steam Generator Tube Rupture scenario. Lowering RCS pressure in the same accident will create boiling if subcooling margin is lost – then threatening the third and last barrier.

    Besides the obvious release consequences of SGTRs, the reflux dilution of the RCS from the SG can cause boron diliution, diminished or loss of Shutdown Margin and the discovery of criticality issues. Simply put, unlike my Old Navy days, Commercial PWRs can dilute critical.

    So if your years of Navy experience has given you the slightest distaste for open air fission products, please consider the low tolerance the industry holds for Steam Generator (and all Fission Product Barrier) defects or degradation.

    Decimal places are great until the severe accidents, and they’re suddenly on the other side of the zero. We live in an exponential industry with low tolerance of buffoonery.

    1. Steam Generators when faulted, breach two of the three (RCS and Containment) when a tube rupture occurs.

      Er … how does a pinhole in a steam generator tube somehow breach the containment?

      That doesn’t make any sense at all. Did I miss something?

      1. During a tube leak, primary water goes into the secondary side of the SG. The primary water then boils and goes out the main steam lines to the turbine. This flow will continue until the main steam isolation valve is closed. For a large tube leak, the operators will bottle up the faulted steam generator and cool down the primary with other steam generator(s).

        1. So some of the primary water goes to the steam turbine. How is this any different than what happens in a BWR during normal operation and how is this somehow a breach of containment?

          1. Brian- In addition to the excellent points made by Rob Brixey, I would point out that BWRs are DESIGNED to have reactor coolant traveling throughout the turbine plant. PWRs are not. A PWR steam plant is basically the same as for any coal or natural gas plant. As an example, the main condenser is kept under high vacuum to increase plant efficiency. This vacuum is maintained usually by a set of steam jet air ejectors that take suction on the condenser and then exhaust to atmosphere. I don’t know what BWRs do, but I am guessing they have some sort of filtration system on the air ejectors to keep fission products from being released to the environment. PWRs might have a similar filtration system, but I remember it is usually kept in standby and bypassed, since the backpressure created would hurt efficiency.

            Also, activating a PWR steam plant would be rather inconvenient, since they are not designed as radiological zones.

            However, I do think the trend from ALARA to As Low As Humanly Possible is the wrong direction. The growing evidence for radiation hormesis demands a rethink of the LNT hypothesis.

      2. I won’t argue the point, I’ll let the regulator inform you.

        Link: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr0933/sec3/067r4.html

        “Safety Significance

        Following an SGTR, the affected steam generator could fill up to the steam line safety valve due to primary-to-secondary leakage from continued operation of the safety injection pumps. The (SG) safety valve could lift at successively lower pressures and fail to fully reseat. The failure to completely reseat could contribute to steam generator overfill by lowering the damaged steam generator pressure, thus raising the differential pressure across the broken tube and sustaining the leakage despite reduced primary system pressure. Failure of the valve to reseat would also provide a direct pathway for release of radioactive primary water to the environment. This sequence of events is BEYOND THE DESIGN BASIS (my caps) for SGTR events in SRP11 Section 15.6.3 to establish that the radiological consequences meet 10 CFR 100.”

        SGTRs are a big deal. Tube integrity is a big deal.
        The reason is – multiple fission product barriers are at risk at one time.
        Lets use good SGs and operate the plants many years.

        1. Look, nobody is arguing that tube integrity is not an important factor in the proper operation of a PWR nuclear plant. This is why the tubes are regularly inspected and plugged if a problem is encountered. The company that I work for makes a lot of money off of this type of work.

          But you have provided a perfect example of the silliness that Rod is talking about. I’m with Rod on this one.

          A beyond design basis event is not the end of the world, nor does it mean that containment has been breached. My question to you is, how has containment been breached? Sure, it is possible for radioactive primary water to get to the environment, but first it must escape the (closed) secondary loop, then it must escape the building, then it must be sufficiently mobile in the environment to leave the plant boundaries. A compromised SG tube is a breach of only one barrier. You have yet to put forward a convincing case to the contrary.

          1. Bryan:
            “first it must escape the (closed) secondary loop, then it must escape the building, then it must be sufficiently mobile in the environment ”

            1) SG Safeties are atmospheric, a release path outside containment.
            2) The SG Safeties lift point is below RCS Pressure and Safety Injection Pump Discharge Pressure
            a) SGTR Primary overpressurizes SG, SG Relief lifts = RELEASE
            b) Safety Injection established to cool primary, leaks to SG = RELEASE

            My point is SG Tube Leaks are indicators of barrier degradation, two barriers may be failed by the SGTR and the remaining fuel clad barrier may become threatened by accident progression.

            Indian Point 2 had a SGTR resulting in a radioactive release due to 2a above.
            The leak was terminated by lowering RCS Pressure below the reseat point of the SG Safety.

            How quickly life changes in a Control Room… at IP2, records indicate
            2/15/00 1915 ~3.5 gpd of pinhole tube leakage became 146 gpm at
            2/15/00 1929 .

            In 15 minutes time a Tech Spec LCO tracking item became an ALERT Emergency Action Level. ( Callout Staff, Activate the Emergency Plan, ERO, and NRC Staffs up the EOC, notify State and County officials, etc.)

            See pages 5 and 6 of http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0037/ML003746663.pdf

            I may not convince people in the industry that fission product barrier integrity is a big deal – maybe that’s another indicator of lost fundamental knowledge our industry is experiencing. Maybe its that there is a new arrogance that we are an extension of the military and don’t need public opinion or approval to build and operate our plants.

            Neither bodes well for the industry. After 35 years in the industry, I never thought I’d have to take such a stance with (informed?) people who work in this industry.

          2. Last time I checked the steam generators have three main containment boundaries. Feed isolation Steam isolation and the safties/PORV’s. The tubes are a poor boundary and is why there is a design basis leak specification.

            The tubes are important. They transfer heat. They are thin, there are a lot of them and they have been problematic from the get go. Other things like having failed fuel. Fuel leaks. when there are several hundred assemblies each with a 17×17 matrix you are going to get leakers. The amount of capital expended to meet a metric that one in particular is crazy. The lost use the replaced fuel. Here too there is a design basis for the number of failed assemblies.

            Somebody must be cooking some damn good koolaid. The design basis is how we operate the plant once we get outside of it we have certain actions to take. Unnecessarily shutting down the reactors to meet an arbitrary goal not based on safety is foolish and stupid and placed several thousand people at risk in Southern California and cost the regional economy a huge chunk of change.

            Operating plants off of subjective metrics is foolish, dumb, and dangerous. You operate based off of what is important. If the company does not support its managers to make those decisions then that is not a good company to work for because they have the wrong priorities and need to think long and hard about what their mission is and what constraints they have to operate within.

            It is hard enough meeting the standards, the legal standards, and achieve the highest return on capital. Why invent some new metric to make it that much more expensive and difficult to do our jobs?

        2. @Rob

          One of the challenges I have always had when working with some nukes is that they can convince themselves of the possibility of almost anything based on fanciful “what if” exercises. That is especially true for the people who get immersed into the NRC culture, where there has been a history of antinuclear plants appointed by political leaders with an agenda of making it as costly as possible to operate nuclear plants that compete against their favorite flavor of energy production – or non production in the case of some who actually believe the false Lovins mantra that “negawatts” are actually equivalent to megawatts.

          1. Rod: “fanciful “what if” exercises”

            Welcome to accident analysis and probabilistic risk assessment, two requirements to operate in the commercial power industry.

            You should see what a (Browns Ferry 1975) Appendix R fire can do if “fanciful” is entertaining to you.

            1. @Rob

              Did you miss the part where I discussed the alternatives to operating nuclear energy plants? The search for perfection is the enemy of good enough.

              If I come across as callous about fission product release, perhaps it is because I have studied what the real damage was when Tepco melted three reactors and did additional damage to the plants that allowed primary coolant that was already far more heavily contaminated than ordinary primary coolant to be released to the environment.

              Sure, there is a public outcry, but NO ONE was even hurt. The real problem is that nukes have scared themselves so much by their fanciful “what if” disguised as probabilistic risk assessments based on “worst case” conservatism that they have also scared the public. Why have we forgotten that our power is so much better for the environment than the power produced by our competitors?

            2. @Rob Brixley

              While I understand just how expensive and damaging the real Browns Ferry fire was, I also know that the event was pretty close to the worst realistic case event. It still did not hurt anyone or put the public at any real risk.

              The amount of energy production lost, the amount of money expended, and the continued imposed costs are wonderful examples of the lack of proportional response within the industry that I am pushing back against. The real, fundamental problem at Bowns Ferry was that a human being made a dumb mistake and used a candle to perform an inspection. Similar experiences could have been just as successfully avoided by not making that specific error again.

              You keep banging on the Navy program as if I was the only representative and as if my opinions wre widely shared. My position is my own; it has been formed as much by what I learned after my Engineer Officer tour (which I completed in December 1990) as by what I learned while in the program.

              I learned many invaluable lessons by operating a couple of nuclear reactors under conditions of stress and transients that would never be allowed in a commercial facility, but I have also learned a lot about the technology, the alternatives to nuclear energy, the economics of the power business, the competitive motivation that underlies the opposition to nuclear energy and the health effects of radiation that the Navy never taught.

          2. The reason the nuclear engineers do these “fanciful” exercises is that INPO and the NCR forces them to. If either discover a “fanciful” accident that you are not protected for and or have evaluated for then managers are fired and fines are levied. As a result of Fukushima accident, the plant I retired from is now upgrading their flooding design to cope with the failure of a dam at peak level due to an earthquake, the ensuing flood causing three other dams, again at peak level, to have a catastrophic failure, and create a wall of water 60 feet above normal river level. Way beyond design basis! It makes no difference that it is beyond design basis or that if this happened there would be hours to shutdown and cool down the plant before that wall of water hi the plant, and even days longer before it penetrated the present flooding control measures. The NRC says “Don’t do it and then don’t startup!” I have been told that the present flood doors, that are similar to the bulkhead doors on a navy ship, will need to be upgraded to be more like those on a sub (but not quite as thick.) Other plants on rivers are doing the same calculations now. The NRC, with the help of INPO, has turned into a “Zero Tolerance program.”
            Realistically, if 50 to 60 feet of water washed through ten cities with populations exceeding 10’s of millions, are we really worried about the small amount of radioactive particles. if any, that may not be washed away? All that we are reducing, not eliminating, is the media hype after this theoretical accident.

          3. Update: forgot to mention that the failure of the closest dam is already part of the design bases and that failure of the next one upstream of it will not cause failure of the one closest to the plant. They need to go four (it might be 5) dams up stream to create the domino effect that will cause this accident. Additionally, all dams must be at peak level.

          4. Rich, it sounds like the appropriate mitigation measure would be to shut down the plant when the dams got full enough to support that kind of failure scenario.  So long as those dams also have hydro generation on them, the grid ought to be able to manage the loss of the nuke until water levels came down again.

          5. Rich, does this new peak level happen to be an elevation in the range of 746.5 feet?

          6. Rod,
            I am with you on this.

            Leslie Corice told me the difference between the Japanese safety standards and those maintained by the NRC. The Japanese were easily 10-15 years behind us and had not implemented a number of safety features that we had hear.

            We blew up three reactors evaporated the water down to the top of the fuel out of a spent fuel pit all at the same time all due to the same beyond design basis event. We have not killed anyone as a result, the release of radiation will not hurt people, however LNT will make cleanup expensive. And all of this was done with safety standards less restrictive than ours.

            In my simple mind that makes a clear case of we had safety right before TMI in this country. It was enough to keep the plants from doing serious harm. What we saw in the 1980’s in operational improvements was due to greed. Greed is good. Greed means you want the highest return on capital year after year. That act alone drove drastic improvements in in plant performance and reliability. One can argue that if you are on the clock less because less stuff breaks you have a safer plant. All this legal quest for safety did is to make building new reactors damn near impossible.

            The NRC is there to ensure minimum safety standards. That’s it. Meet those, keep moving cary on. If you have inept personal accountability standards and programs, well guess what those reactors aren’t going to make you a lot of money, because the plant will be a hangar queen. Personell regulation of the NRC is in my opinion of dubious warrant. Yes operators have a the most significant role in ensuring reactor safety. When did it become crawl up inside and have a look around. That’s right TMI. Never let a crisis go to waste to exert more regulatory authority… We let short term emotions and fears prevent level headed decisions. They melted the fuel and the utility lost a generating asset. Guess their shareholders have the right to ask for the heads of the company to loose billions of their investment.

            1. @Cal

              You will not get me to agree that “greed is good”, because often the sin of greed is accompanied by a lack of integrity and a lack of understanding any metric other than the number of zeros behind the dollar sign.

              IMHO, the tightening of regulations post TMI was driven by greed – greed on the part of people who wanted to sell more hydrocarbons, greed on the part of certain portions of the “nuclear” industry who liked all of the extra money flowing into their pockets for implementing the stupid rules, and greed on the part of the groups who gained additional power and control in government.

              The real reason that the NRC exists instead of the far more balanced AEC is that the AEC effectively protected the public from harm while enabling a huge new energy supply to be developed. The only people put at risk by the many actions of the AEC and its supporter in Congress – the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy with representatives from both the Senate and House – were those whose fortunes were tied to ever increasing sales of oil, gas and coal. The action of fracturing the AEC into an unbalanced set of organizations with tightly focused priorities was an act of pure greed conducted under the cover provided by a captured news media, a captured government, and a captured group of people who sold themselves as people who were protecting the environment.

          7. Rod,

            Greed is good was a bit hamfisted. The profit motive of a free market is good. What happened with nuclear was the game got rigged against nuclear to preserve the existing social order. In this case the market share of existing generation. I will also add along with this was the work of Stern and Muller to get LNT adopted as a protection standard in BEAR I. This allowed discrediting the AEC as not having the public interest in mind. Policy still revolves around both ideas. Without cronyism skewing the markets, the profit motive would have given us clean and unlimited energy.

            In attacking greed, you are conflating two different things. What you cite is cronyism. You and I agree that this is very detrimental. I was referring to market based greed, Which is to do the very best that you can with what you have and not take it without consent from competitors and customers. This profit motive, greed, is honorable. What else can be respecting those around you while doing your absolute best be considered.

            I have an idea that had nuclear power not come overly burdened with regulations that the problems that we are hemming and hawing over with CO2 emissions, acid rain and the like. The impact that bad policy has is abhorrent.

          8. Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. Why don’t you both drop such a loaded word as greed for something like “rational self interest,” which I hope you both would agree is a good thing.

            The last thing this blog needs is more arguments over cliches from movies.

  5. The problem with the industry downplaying the (most likely nonexistent) risks of low dose exposure is that it provides ammunition for their opponents in the activist community and the media. Imagine the outcry if the response of the UN nuclear industry to Jeff Donn’s last hit piece was: “its really not that much tritium”. The public’s mind has been so poisoned by a steady diatribe of material, all very “sciency” in nature, that it will take a very long and well coordinated education outreach to mitigate this.

    1. Hate to say this in the clear, but the main reason for the lack of public nuclear power enlightenment in this country is the sheer lack of competence, guts, and drive among both nuclear industry and nuclear professional organizations to wage an aggressive media/web PSA FUD-busting war like yesterday, period. There is no excuse. I don’t have a few spare thousand to do the job, but the industry and orgs have the bucks and talent and resources to do the job on the side and earnestly turn the public’s misconceptions about nuclear energy, but instead they’re sitting on their hands passing bucks and “responsibility” when it’s their own careers and industry at stake. Take about self-preservation! Why don’t they just invite Arnie and Helen to dinner! Those polls claiming most Americans are just okay with nukes just doesn’t jive with the fact that there’re hardly any being built since TMI and in fact there’re states hell-bent on kicking nukes out without high public protest. A lack of hard nuclear public education/media-web PSAs. Please — I’m watching Puppy Rescue PSAs splattered all over cable here in NYC — the nation’s most expensive media market, and don’t tell me the coffers of nuke industry/orgs can’t cough up enough change to at least equal that kind of grass-roots niche PSA coverage! Nuclear Tupperware parties aren’t going to cut it when the whole country needs some serious nuclear education. That neither prez candidate isn’t mouthing much about nuclear energy isn’t their fault; the people who ought be most passionate about promoting their own interests and careers extolling the virtues of nuclear energy have hardly made a whine loud enough to blip on their radar.

      But anti-nukers and animal rescue folks sure have!

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

      1. Agreed – they don’t seem to believe in their own product with respect to relevant issues sometimes or they waste time defending the entire energy industry or ham handily attacking policies and technologies that are not a reasonable threat to expended nuclear technology.

        I live near the University of Florida that has a nuclear science department. I hear nothing about the crystal river shutdown – 2 or three times a night I hear the TRAIN LOAD coal deliveries going into the filthy coal station nearby. Even here I have to contend with the totally ridiculous “give coal a chance” arguments.

    2. …and shouldn’t WE be the ones with the high standards of performance and low tolerance of defects and leave these critics disarmed?

      1. @Rob Brixley

        Please do not misunderstand me. I have a hgh regard for excellent performance and high standards. I also have a realistic acceptance of the unavoidable fact that nothing is perfect and that a “zero defect” mentality will inevitably lead to extreme costs with poor results because it can distract people into a focus on trivial matters. I have seen it in action where a whole team can be called out to fix what amounted to a blown fuse, causing a situation where no one was watching for the large ship barreling down on a collision course.

        I suggest you listen carefully to the press call that SCE held. Pay attention to the fact that at least one of the power stations that was called out of retirement into service for the quite mild summer of 2012 will not be available at all in 2013. Listen to their plan for keeping the grid running if they cannot start at least one of the units at San Onofre up. Think about the precedent that this Southern CA plant is providing. Think about the hazard to the public that would be imposed by forcing a large plant in a place that got cold in the winter to respond in the same manner to a failed u-tube.

        The root cause here is known, the conditions are known, and even the experts who are predisposed by culture to an extreme position of conservatism have agreed that Unit 2 is ready to start. What is the hold up?

        1. @Rod Adams
          I don’t care how trivial the SONGS SGs tube leaks were.
          IP2 went from trending a 3.5 gallon per day leak to 146 gpm ALERT EAL in 15 short minutes.
          New SGs ought to be better than that, low initial design quality is not indicative of a device one make prediction on with any degree of confidence.

          I assure you if SONGS 2 or 3 have an IP2 SGTR and release, the State of California will lean on the NRC harder than Harry “Kill Yucca” Reid to decommission SONGS.

          We operate only with the permission of the public.
          It is a privilege to do so, we have to earn it every day.
          Get your standards up or leave the industry.
          This ain’t our Navy.

          1. Did any one here say it shouldn’t be fixed? I think the sentiment was the whole plant shouldn’t be shut down. Since the shutdown of San Onofre all five turbines at the 965-megawatt Encina plant have been running continuously to replace most of the lost power; emitting AT LEAST 800- 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. Not to mention the other issues surrounding natural gas use.

            Why is there no one at the NRC, at the various “concerned citizens” groups or in this forum addressing that? Why has that not been made clear since the beginning?

  6. Yet another spectacle brought on by an unquestioned belief in the validity of the oppositions propaganda. This time the assumption that the “public” is terrified of radiation, something that only seems to show up in the media’s reporting, but rarely on the ground.

    In the wake of the announcement that the Gentilly 2 NPP would not be refurbished, most of the media here in Quebec dragged out the story that there were clusters of childhood leukemia and birth defects in the area near the plant. This was an old, thoroughly discredited bit of Greenpeace propaganda that that organization tried to float some two decades ago, but was reported as if it was current and valid. Yet over a thousand people from the Trois-Rivieres and Becancourt area (the supposed victims of the plant) turned up to support it at a rally, and the business leaders and politicians there are vowing to do whatever it takes to convince the government to reverse the decision.

    Now arguably the people protesting will be impacted economically by the closure, but that is the whole point: are we to believe that these people are so stupid that they will risk the health of their children (born and unborn) for this plant? No they know that the dangers of working and living near this facility have been overblown because they are smart enough to have examined the evidence and decided on that basis.

    I have harped on this over and over: we need not react to the propaganda being leveled against nuclear energy particularly that which makes claims about public opinion unless it is backed up by real numbers. The over reaction of the Southern California Edison people in this matter was clearly a reaction to what they perceived to be a major PR issue. This is exactly what the enemies of nuclear energy want to see, and it is the effect that they work hard to create. And like the idiots we are, we rise to the bait every time. This must stop. We cannot continue to dance to the tune of those that oppose nuclear energy. No one else in the energy sector reacts to their critic like nuclear does and does so to its detriment.

    Rob Gauthier

  7. I have been in this industry 30 years now and I cannot tell you how funny (and downright ridiculous) it is to hear an operations manager tell me that we have to think “outside” of the box. The last person on earth to ever think outside of the box will be an operations manager.

  8. Look this is CA

    Send one or three or four people out covered in bananas to “protest” the plant shut down. Call the press tell them about a protest at the Nuke. When they show up the protestors point out that they and the camera crew are now exposed to far more radiation than the plant could release. Bring some nuts for backup and a Geiger counter would be fun

    Folks. Shutting down the whole shebang is STEALING. Plain and simple theft. Theft from rate payers and theft from owners. It’s stealing!

  9. Anti-nukes will be anti-nukes regardless of how safe your plant is. They don’t care about safety. They care about the elimination of the industry in its entirety. If they cared about safety then they wouldn’t label themselves as anti-nukes. You, as a nuclear engineer or employee at a nuclear plant can not do anything to make them happy. Everything you do will be spun against you.

    If you shut down then you are just digging your own grave. Once you shut down you have PROVEN that your plant is too dangerous to stay open, regardless of the facts about why. Anti-nukes don’t care about facts and they don’t care about safety. Many of you need to realize this. You can’t satisfy them unless you shut down forever.

    You need to just stop listening to them and pandering to their every complaint. You need to target the other group of the population.

    You need to realize that the most intelligent audience members you have are those who are not actively protesting nuclear. This same group of people is also the majority of the population. Sure, you may think that when 220 anti-nukes come to your 200 seat NRC meeting that the world is against you. Realize that the other 100,000 people in town didn’t go to protest.

    I’d never even heard of Helen Caldicutt till I started reading pro-nuclear forums. You might be surprised how little the public has been poisoned by these lies.

    1. I agree with you. The average person disinterested in nuclear power is not especially afraid of it.

      But here is what I see, from my perspective as a mechanical engineer involved in sustainability consulting to the HVAC industry.

      It is people like me, working in the ‘sustainability sector’ who are becomes anti-nukes and spreading this disease through their work to the general population. This is a psychological and economic process. ‘Sustainability consultants’ frequently have little actual technical training or experience, relying instead on ‘popular sources of information about sustainability’. So if some marketing manager flack writes an article in a popular ‘sustainability’ magazine about the ability of so-called ‘green roof’ systems to ‘filter out particulate matter and absorb CO2’ on buildings, then they will take that and work with it. Never mind that fact that ‘green roof’ systems actually *increase* fossil fuel burning due to regular maintenance and have virtualy *zero* effect on actually reducing local air polution. They will happily try to convince companies and local councils to install ‘green roofs’ costing as much as $200 per square meter of roof area.

      Similarly, a ‘sustainability consultant’ will pick up on grossly misleading or blatantly false anti-nuclear propaganda. A dear personal friend of my wife, who happens to work as a sustainability consultant, told me at a dinner party a few months ago how happy we should be about the German Atomausstieg. I nearly spat my soup across the dinner table. It took me several hours and several sittings to finally convince her that the German ausstieg was far from a welcome development, but rather a horrific disaster for the environment and the German people.

      In my view, fraudulent and lying anti-nuclear activists do indeed not directly increase anti-nuclear sentiment in the population. I agree with you on that. But the effect of their propaganda seems to be very high in the corruption of the ‘sustainable consultancy’ sector. And it is that sector that in turn DOES influence the general public to become irrational and antinuclear.

      So in addition to James Greenidge, I recommend that the nuclear industry spends more time concentrating their message on this group: the ‘sustainability consultants’. They should compile lists of all the popular sustainability magazines and journals and regularly insert informative articles and essays focusing on debunking typical anti-nuclear falsehoods. I think that would be very helpful in stemming the growing(!) tide of anti-nuclear misinformation that is destroying the intelligence of the public through the indirect conduit of the sustainability consultancy sector.

      1. @Joris

        Good idea regarding the need to target sustainability magazines and journals. Can you provide a list of the top publications in the field from which we can start to build the database?

        1. I’ll see what I can find. We get a lot of Dutch publications concerning green building at our office, too many to read almost, but those should probably be approached by Dutch nuclear groups. I’ll have a look tonight what publications are most popular to sustainability consultants in the USA.

          See my other post below. In order to grab the problem at the root, a consultation with for example the US Green Building Council may be a good starting point. They administer the highly influential LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification methodology, which is also popular outside of the USA. I’ve done a few LEED projects myself in the Netherlands.

          The following I found will give you a taste of what it is about, concerning energy sourcing under the LEED rating system:


          Note that LEED does include extra criteria for biofuels in order for them to qualify as green. In my country, our local Green Building Council for BREEAM (a competing green building rating system) does not yet recognise this difference and abusively labels all biomass-derived fuels as ‘green’.

          1. Here’s a magazine for LEED users:


            An article in this one showing how nuclear energy could meet the same criteria of the currently accepted green energy sources would be great. At any rate, if a good pro-nuclear article with good reference to the LEED energy philosophy appeared here, I’d be one person using a copy for presentation purposes.

            The LEED energy philosophy is to reward both on-site renewable energy fraction and low building energy costs (compared to a benchmark), with on-site renewable energy rewarded extra depending on how large a fraction of the energy used by the building is generated on-site.

            This rather dated study about LEED still explains the main features and drawbacks of LEED quite well.
            Page 63 deals with the EAc2 renewable energy credit. EAc1 deals with the way that LEED determines building energy efficiency.
            For anyone interested.

    2. A second set of players that are engaged in anti-nuclear propaganda are so-called ‘Green Building Councils’ who administer various ‘sustainable building codes’. The codes give building developers a recipe of criteria that – when met – allow a building to be ‘certified green’. In the past few years, several of these codes have increased the scope of their influence by including criteria that specify what type of energy the building owner should contract. For example, a building owner who can show a multi-year contract to use only ‘green energy’ will get extra points and a ‘greener’ certification level. In the list of ‘green energy’ provided by these (commercial) building councils, nuclear energy does not feature.

      I recently opened a debate with our local Green Building Council on why nuclear energy is not included in the list of energy types eligible for the label ‘green’. After some correspondence, it turned out that this building council simply chose various energy type that they thought were green, based on the general perception of them being green. And since nuclear energy was not perceived as green by most people, they had never considered adding it to the official list of green energy types. When I asked why biofuels were on the list, since they are obviously far from green, which studies have shown to be the case every time, the response was also that the only thing that mattered was the fact that biofuels *could* be green, and indeed were perceived as green.

      Now, the interesting thing is when I ask people involved in green building about whether they think nuclear energy is green, one guy responded that is wasn’t because the Green Building Council doesn’t include it on the list of green energy types

      How about that for a clear case of group think and circular reasoning!

      incidentally, I was trying to get the Green Building Council to include nuclear, because I am involved with many long-term development large building projects, including complete business parks, airports and medical centers, where we are usually called to work according to such Green Building Codes. And I wan’t to include the option of mini nuclear power plants for such projects – or at least allow such projects to obtain green credits by contracting nuclear power from the grid – so I need the Green Building Council to okay nuclear as a green energy source. So far though, I have not been successful.

  10. Rod, thank you for this excellent piece.

    In small part I was able to observe this conservatism in action in my recent visit to the US. It is actually deeply worrying to me. From the POV of an Australian trying to see NP introduced in our nation, I was somewhat dismayed. The frame of reference for safety, approvals processes, testing and standards appeared to be entirely a nuclear one… not an energy one!!! The result of course is that fossil fuels, demonstrably more harmful in every conceivable way and by very long margins, just continue to be built, deployed and operated while costs and timeframes for nuclear get driven up and up. While popularly regarded as the Gold Standard, this is not actually a framework I would wish to import.

    Everyone needs to step back and take a helicopter view of the interwoven challenges of energy security, operational safety and climate change with all energy sources in the pot, and frame approvals consistently from that type of framework.

  11. Fukushima ( which must be Japanese for “didn’t hurt anybody” ) has changed our industry.
    US has many BWRs in Mark I Containments.
    Analuses since the 1990s MELCOR analysis of Peach Bottom

    1. @Rob Brixey,

      We regular readers to Rod’s articles who are in agreement with his basic premise are not trivializing either the issues at SONGS or the root cause process. What we are doing is questioning the extreme “exceptionalism” that is now being applied before they can return to operation.

      California is experiencing the highest gasoline prices in history right now partly due to a refinery fire and pipeline issues that happened earlier this year. The economy of California might grind to a halt temporarily due to a shortage of gasoline. A request to ship fuel from other states that doesn’t meet strict state emissions standards is now being considered by the State board in control of that issue. The average California citizen is facing extreme financial hardship. Some gas stations are shut down because the wholesale price is too expensive for them to buy on the open market. It also appears there is hoarding which is contributing to the massive spike in prices.

      Based on that fact alone there should be some push back by the general public to ensure this never happens in California again if the public were truly interested in vaguly defined issues of “safety” and “economics”. The way to make sure this type of spike in prices does not occur again is to ensure the fossil fuel supply and delivery industries meet the same extreme nuclear exceptionalism design and operational criteria. But that outcry is not happening.

      Another example where nuclear exceptionalism has not been applied is the San Bruno pipeline fire. It caused millions of dollars of damage, 8 people died and the cause was defective welds in pipelines first laid down in 1956. In the nuclear arena these issues are actively being dealt with and recovery plans are still being implemented due to NRC imposing fines or the potential of fines. Millions of dollars have been spent in both inspections and mitigation issues to deal with piping issues at nuclear power plants. (I am not saying the mitigation plans are wrong. Carbon steel pipes corrode after many years in the ground for a variety of reasons.)

      However NTSB will phase in new rules that will not require public meetings with usual list of antis that are always present at any NRC meeting. Any new rules imposed on the natural gas pipeline industry will just be implemented after review by the affected industries which will allow them direct access to the final regulatory language.

      Imagine the howling though that would commence if the California petroleum industry were forced to automatically upgrade, replace or revise plant systems every time an incident happened anywhere in the world, not just at their own facility. Lobbyists would be given blank checks to spend millions in Sacramento and Washington DC pushing the petroleum’s position against those regulatory changes. Editorials would be written about how much those criteria would hit the consumer in their pocketbooks complaining the politicians are taking an ultraconservative position that is unnecessary. But millions are being lost right now and people have died due to natural gas pipeline explosions so why the difference? Radiation isn’t the only reason.

      Would the petroleum industry have voluntarily imposed the same restrictions on themselves as did SONGS? Of course not! However they are also industries that are allowed to operate at the “permission of the public” as you put it.

      My point is that no one is protesting to have those fossil fuel industries shut down. The public meetings held by NSTB or DOT on those two incidents did not have protesters waving signs or chanting anti-gasoline slogans. Nor were there non-stop editorials from supposed self-declared fossil fuels experts about how those plants need to be shut down no matter the cost to the general public, many who have never worked in the industry they are complaining about or even studied science or engineering subjects beyond basic, required college or high school levels.

      Yet because of the POTENTIAL of a radioactive discharge that would result in little to no harm to the general public that MIGHT happen IF SONGS is brought back on-line, extreme bureaucratic measures are being put in place before they are “permitted” to return back to operational status. All because of a fear that has been a part of the SoCal area since the plant was first proposed and is continually stoked by many who have taken up the anti-nuclear crusade as a quasi-religion or as a business venture.

      As the article at NEI recently written by Pete Deitrich of SCE indicates, the phenomenon of fluid elastic instability seems to be the contributing factor. We are all in agreement that the Mistubishi’s analysis either falls into the lessons learned category or into the incorrect category. Either way those steam generators should not have been put in operation and are not worth the money SCE paid for them. However the issues that are causing the SG problems appear to be ones that have been identified, can be mitigated and the plants can come back on line at reduced power. Those plants need to be put on line as soon as they can complete their operational checks and get their operators retrained for the new issues presented by the steam generator conditions.

      The definitions of “safety” and “economics” are being allowed to have one definition for all other power sources while nuclear energy has let those terms be redefined by its own internal and external critics. Yes radiation and contamination can get away from the operators at nuclear power plants if proper attention is not paid and at the extreme end can have a large impact on the public. However natural gas pipeline explosions, refinery fires, refinery leaks and chemical leaks are also possible due to human inattention to details with many demonstrated examples of having a large impact on the public.

      But the nuclear industry is now to the point of killing careers about rad levels that are below background at the plants. Somewhere, sometime that rigid mindset has to stop. Because if that rigidity and lack of push back against nuclear critics does not change, the next generation of motivated engineers and operators will choose to pursue other career paths which would be tragic for the entire nuclear industry as well as our economy and our future.

  12. Analyses since the 1990s MELCOR analysis of Peach Bottom has shown the loss of all three fission product barriers seen at Fukushima.

    The NRC is now processing petitions (see NRC Enforcement Monthly Reports) asking the commission to revoke operating licenses on similarly vulnerable US plants.
    It is not a limited population.

    BWRs in Mark Is are listed by petitioners. As are plants built on dam controlled rivers, plants on coastal California (tsunami risk), and plants in proximity of seismic faults.
    In addition to the Japanese severe accidents ( which were in 10 to the minus 6th probability range ) the US had North Anna in excess of design seismic acceleration, and Fort Calhoun in the paper regarding design basis floods.

    Now we have to look in excess of design basis. Post TMI mandated Severe Accident Guidelines were sort of fatal resignations from the beginning, operators know what I’m saying. There are no calculationally based success paths – pretty much a collection of good ideas, some with low probability of success.

    “Success” as defined in EOPs and SAGs is adequate core cooling, not “nobody got hurt”.
    Oddly – we have no licensed physicians in our Control Rooms.

    I do not believe the “nobody got hurt” defense (or promotional theme) is well advised.
    I believe that media is our problem, oil pays a lot more for commercials than we do.

    I agree that FLEX is a good idea. We should standardize Severe Accident response which also facilitates unaffected sites ability to help out during a Severe Accident.

    We do need to raise our fundamental knowledge – outside of normal procedures – to facilitate success. Example: BWR Target Rock reliefs cannot open while containment pressure is 120 psig. Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 ran into this. The pneumatics supplied to the Target Rock pilot diaphragm is 110 psig. It won’t budge, no matter how many car batteries are connected to the solenoids. It is necessary to vent the containment first. This can be done without power. In some plants these are MOVs with handwheels, in most plants these are pneumatic. If wearing an SCBA with a piggy back hose, take a regulator and hook up to the pneumatic connection on the containment vent valve actuator and it opens with no DC.

    Everyone needs to know what it takes to make valves move.
    We don’t need excuses, we need to be able to do this.

    1. Thanks for giving a specific technical answer to a political problem.

      The problem is not stuck valves but a lied about measure of the risk of radiation.

      When folks are lying, especially over and over. You need to point out the lie.

      “Sure we can fix the tubes but no one was or ever will be hurt.”

      This requires comparison and funny illustrations that stick in people’s minds. It requires aproxations and stories.

      Yes the NRC requires stupid stuff and bright engineers think first about how to solve the “problem” I.e. the technical problem. But not restarting 2 perfectly good steam plants is NOT a technical problem.

      NOT restarting many perfectly good nukes in Japan is NOT a technical problem.

      1. @David:
        Thanks for giving a specific technical answer to a political problem.


        No problem. If we take care of threshold technical issues, the political problems don’t appear.

        You may not have known that.

        I believe educating people about what happened is necessary, but class around here would run rather long.

        Above, I had to explain how SG degradation threatens multiple fission product barriers – and discovered many don’t know / care / realize the severity of the concept.
        There are people in the industry who won’t last long unchecked. And for God’s sake, I pray they don’t come around my plant.

        I will agree that we are held to a higher standard.
        Complaints may be registered with US Department of Fairness. 🙂

        Since the 70s, I’ve swallowed that pill.
        An Admiral friend told us of radioactivity, of how its intensity early in earth’s existence made life impossible, how its gradual decrease allowed life to begin, but now mankind was restoring radiation that nature had taken so long to eliminate.

        We are charged with its control by working in this industry.

        Those who served in the Navy may have missed that lesson.
        We are licensed in the public trust.
        Our license is issued in the public interest.

        Then there’s eveil NRC intervention.
        Pull up your pant legs, it got deep at this plant.
        Fort Calhoun could start up today. The Missouri River shorted out some buswork causing Spent Fuel Pool Cooling Loss.
        Is it SAFE to startup? I’d say so.
        Based on previous flood compliance issues prior to the electrical fault – they got a Confirmatory Action Letter with TBDs for their next MODE 2 checklist.


        Threshold indicators were insufficient for them to correct known issues on flooding.
        Now – plants all over have flooding issues identified when likely very little concern existed.

        Take care of thresholds, or the NRC will.

        “This is the business we have chosen.” Hyman Roth, Godfather 2

        1. @Rob Brixey

          Just out of curiosity, what was your position while in the Navy? Did you ever have the opportunity to get involved in discussions where people forgot that a safe reactor on a sinking ship would still be a safe reactor on the bottom of the ocean, but the people who depended on that reactor would be dead?

          I do not take pills and I do not ascribe god like powers to the politically appointed Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I also do not even believe that Rickover himself was always right or that he had any real understanding of the effect on future generations of restricting nuclear energy to a tiny segment of the energy market while allowing the profligate use of coal, oil and natural gas to continue without competition.

          The root cause analysis at San Onofre has been completed. The steam generators in Unit 3 were not well constructed, but those in Unit 2 are at least as good as those in all other operating PWRs. The plant could have been started up months ago, but the risk averse operators convinced themselves that they needed several times the normal independent reviews. SCE has spent several hundred million and continues to spend at least $1.4 million more each day on fossil fuel plants that are doing more daily harm to the environment than the leaky S/G U-tube ever did.

          That amount of money and the associated human effort could save a lot of lives if invested in better ways.

          1. I was a Reactor Operator.
            You can read my profile at LinkedIn.
            Yes, I served aboard a warship decades ago. Different animal.

            Commercial power plants are fixed in position among civilians.

            A sunken submarine. although disastrous, is not a threat to public health and safety, the US has two on the bottom with no threat shown by either. Add to that the intentionally dumped original Seawolf core and a few Soviet submarines, they are still likely no threat. The crew loss is significant, but this is a military of volunteers. Accepted risks among participants are involved. In some cases unmitigated threshold level human error is a contributing factor.

            Civilians do not voluntarily accept our risks.

            Neither should they be required too. It is our job to minimize them and address threshold indicators proactively before issues arise.

            San Onofre itself has a legacy of issues. I consulted there in 2008. The issues at the plant were not limited to SG integrity. Management change resulted, the course of decisions has changed. I mentioned the regulatory influence of management change above.

            Poor operational results guarantee increased scrutiny. Personnel issues evolved into equipment issues, generating a regulatory issue.

            The correction of the personnel issue – getting the right standards and culture – limits the equipment degradation, and ultimately avoids the regulatory intervention.

            The problem is people with low standards – in my 35 years a constant truth.
            Two people with low standards is a culture issue in the making.
            Spread it a few years and the plant shows it.

            Be the solution, not the provider of justification.

            1. @Rob Brixey

              I am not asking the public to accept any additional risks. That is the point. They are not put at any health risk from nuclear power plants EVEN in the case of a catastrophic failure of the cooling systems and a core melt even if that event happens at three adjacent reactors almost simultaneously. If you do not believe me, how about reading the State of the Art Reactor Consequence Analysis study – http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/research/soar.html

              In contrast, when nuclear power plants are not operated or built the public is asked to bear the burden of fossil fuel waste dumping as a routine part of enjoying the admittedly life-giving benefits of a reliable source of electricity. They may not do the cost benefit analysis directly, but they accept the risks of accelerated climate change, acid rain, dangerous fly ash, occasional explosions, and routine discharges of toxic materials into the water supply from ash piles. The people who decide to buy those fossil fuel plants instead of nuclear plants do so because the nuclear plants are too darned expensive and carry too high a risk that a minor mechanical issue will cause a year long loss of revenue (San Onofre) that can stretch to several years (Crystal River).

              Your attitude is a wonderful example of the diagnosis that I have been writing about. The search for absolute perfection is the enemy of good enough. It is what has caused the cost ratcheting of nuclear power plants to the point where we cannot even compete against a seriously inferior fuel source located 5,000 feet below the surface of the earth and extracted with a great deal of effort and potential for environmental degradation.

              I was a good manager who ran a safe plant. We were only late for an underway one time during my tour and that was caused by a maintenance issue on our trash compactor. My sailors might have been volunteers, but I was still entrusted by their parents and by the nation with the task of getting them home safely. I would never have risked the ship in order to respond in a “conservative” manner to a minor issue with the power plant.

              I was not a Reactor Operator; I had about 8-10 qualified ROs who worked for me. I signed their qual cards to recommend their qualification to the CO. We both agreed on the balance between keeping the plant safe and well maintained and keeping the ship safe. So did our bosses. We used our best technical judgement and trained our people to do the same when they were making recommendations and taking immediate actions.

  13. @ Rob

    “No problem. If we take care of threshold technical issues, the political problems don’t appear.”

    This is exactly what I respectfully disagree with. Nuclear power is already super safe. Super super safe. Radiation is simply not very dangerous. All the water from the core could spurt out on the ground and no one would die. Not that day or the next. If you think I am wrong could you please quote the radiation levels that cause sickness within 15 days and compare those to the levels a person would be exposed to from leaking water?

    1. “All the water from the core could spurt out on the ground and no one would die. Not that day or the next.”

      First of all, if all water leaked out to the core, core melt will occur. If all the water was capable of spurting out on the ground, so is the core. Once melted, cores migrate, Please look at TEPCOs search for Unit 1 fuel inventory here in the Reactor Building Basement …


      …and here in the DW Lower Elevations ….


      what is initially assumed to be fission product inventory in a fuel rod, then a reactor, then a containment – leaves all three in a Severe Accident.

      So molten fuel on the ground in the mass of one bundle, ~400 lbm will kill you before you get to it. A single bundle of freshly discharged fuel (by whatever means, removal or melting) is in the multiple Million REM per hour dose rate on contact.
      Walking towards migrating core debris, you will die of Central Nervous Syndrome before being able to describe what you see. And what you will see may only be blue light, with your eyes open or shut becuse the vitreous humor inside your eyeball will glow with the Cerenkov blue light, like the water surrounding our irradiated fuel.

      Answer: death in seconds.
      Dose: ~10 to the 4th R/ sec

      In the TEPCO example, all the coolant spilled out of the core, and much of it into the Reactor Building after containment failure.
      Followed shortly by molten fuel.

      1. @Rob Brixey

        You are wrong. The only isotopes that left the building at Fukushima are various forms of Cesium and Iodine. They are volatile or water soluble at the temperature reached and were able to migrate with the water that was being used to provide some core cooling.

        Factual evidence from Fukushima shows that the scary tales you are spreading did not occur; no one was even injured, much less a victim of Central Nervous Syndrome.

        Update: As Rob Brixey pointed out, I neglected to mention that isotopes of Xenon and Krypton, which are inert (noble) gases were also released. Those gases represent a large portion of the curies that escape when reactor cores are damaged, but little of the hazard since they are rapidly dissipated and do not get accumulated in biologic tissue – they are chemically inert.

      2. Uh, Rob,

        No one died. No one got sick. Hum, Why? Could it be that the containment worked? It seems liked your idea that if the water leaves the core would leave out the same holes just did not happen. At the most a few pounds escaped dissolved in the water. As far as I have heard only a couple of guys got sick enough to qualify for a sun burn. NO ONE outside the area was hurt at all. So, Fukushima proves exactly what I proposed.

        The false imagination that a melted core will exceed all the projections of the engineers who designed the building to contain a melted core is an insult to those engineers. It is worse than an insult, it is a falsehood.

      3. @ Rob,

        Your reply says that a person will be dumb enough to approach a melted core without a Geiger counter. Either that, or that the core will be scattered around so widely that it will be difficult to detect. Which is it? What would I need to actually do in order to approach this melted core? Tear open the containment? Drill through very heavy reinforced concrete? Do a special superman laser eye trick? If the core is scattered isn’t it less dangerous? If is not not scattered (which how in the real world could that happen?), then why would I approach it without simple precautions?

        One of the super safe things about radiation is you can track it so easy a child can do it with a Geiger counter. Teach the kid what levels are safe and the kid can stay out of the way. In other words, you insult both the engineers who designed the plant and the engineers / operators in charge after an accident.

        Let me draw a rough (very rough) parallel for you. (In the context of the information found on this blog and similar which I have read for about 5 years now). Let’s say I take my car, a 1,000,000 mpg diesel jetta, to the mechanic. The Mechanic says I need a superwhatisit switch to keep my car safe. I ask him how much this switch will cost. He tells me it will cost about 10,000 dollars. I say, hum that is close to the value of the car, what does the switch do? He says, “Well, it is required in case a semitruck were to turn over in the lane beside you from a blown tire and the driver of the truck is ejected from the cab and cannot control the steering at the same time as the truck happens to be passing you on the oncoming lane while the contents of the truck are scattered all over the road creating a driving hazard.

        1. Is this a conceivable accident? – well yes, I just dreamed it up, therefore it is conceivable.
        2. Will the superwhatisit switch save me? Well, according to the best engineers in Detroit yes. It keeps me safe by making sure I cannot drive faster than 3 mile per hour.
        3. Is the accident likely? Well it has a 10 to the -22nd possibility in the next 1000 years of happening to someone. (I just made up the number in case you are following too closely). Or I am 100 times more likely to be killed by a coconut falling on my head while I am dancing the hula. Which is why I don’t have any coconut trees in my condo.
        4. Has it ever happened? Well, 25 years ago we had an accident just like this and the press still talks about it. It was the first one and only one but it is still very very famous and we need to make sure it never happens again. (Even though we had a car blow up killing all the passengers just last year but no one talks about that model).
        5. What if I don’t want to buy the switch? Can I take what seems to me to be an acceptable risk? Nope – Government orders. You have to buy the switch it is required for your model of car.
        6. Do other models of cars need this switch? Nope, they are not required.
        7. Wouldn’t it do better to spend my 10,000 dollars on a different model of car? Why yes, and by the way, I happen to have several models for sale that are all government approved. Some of them are even subsidized by the government!
        8. Do they get 1,000,000 mpg? Why no they all get about 3 mpg.
        9. Are they safer than my jetta? Nope, they shake rattle and roll, and you have a grand time with them! Full of thrills!
        10. They are NOT safer???!!! How many have died using them? It looks like about 30,000 a year. But no worries, they are government approved.
        11.And how many have died from the accident that might happen to my jetta? Only one – the truck driver died when he ejected from the cab, but the people in the car were not hurt. But they could have been!! This is why the government is increasing the safety of this model by installing 12,000 dollar switches next year! It is a whole new model of switch and everyone who owns a jetta will be required to purchase it.

        I don’t want the switch and I don’t want to buy one of your defective junk heaps that you have persuaded the government to back while blackballing my car.

        You see, you are actually selling Natural Gas, Diesel and Coal power plants (which is all that wind and solar are a mask for). By being deceptive about the real risk of dying from radiation in the worst possible NPP accident, you are not just working within the system. You are supporting a system that robs people of a power source that is about 2 million times more powerful pound for pound than any other power source. You are forcing millions, indeed, billions of people to pay a premium price for energy when a very safe, reliable, and technically proven source of energy which is already in use would be available at a much lower cost if given a regulatory environment that was similar to every other source of energy.

        Radiation is NOT uniquely dangerous. It is – as far as I can read – fairly innocuous. It takes a whole heaping bunch of it to kill a person. As you point out – I need to open the REACTOR CORE to kill myself. Kinda along the same smarts as opening a Coal Boiler while under full steam.

        1. @David,


          As one who has peformed design engineering, project engineering and project management functions in both nuclear and non-nuclear jobs your analogy nails it.

  14. Rod –
    I normally agree with most of your posts, but this one I have to disagree with. Here’s a few points:

    1. You are right, the public fears and concerns about nuclear accidents are grossly overblown. But it doesn’t really matter that they are wrong, what matters is what they believe. If SONGS starts back up, and has a multiple tube rupture, the California public will demand immediate and permanent shutdown of SONGS and Diablo. Follow-on actions in other states would be very likely. So really, operating the SONGS units is a gamble with the entire US nuclear industry on the table. I think a ‘conservative’ engineering approach is warranted.

    2. The concern with the tube leak at SONGS is not the radiological consequences of that particular leak back in January. Rather, the concern is, why do we see multiple tube wall thinning in SGs with very low operating time? Is there is a design fault that makes tube leakage more likely than what we’ve seen with the original generation of SGs? I have not seen any results that explain in detail why the SONGS RSGs show higher rates of tube leakage. Maybe I missed the report, if so can you point to it? What changes to the operating conditions will be made? Why does SCE feel it is necessary or prudent to inspect the SGs after a five month run? What are the uncertainties in the predictions?

    3. Rob B. notes that a SG tube rupture is a breach of two fission product barriers. You and several other commenters take issue with this, why? The SG tubes are patently a portion of the RCS pressure boundary (that’s one barrier). Fission products entering the SG secondary side will bypass containment (another barrier) via the main steam lines and the main steam safeties upstream of the main steam isolation valves.

    4. Here’s my main point: your argument is essentially that the consequences of severe reactor accidents are much less than generally perceived, and in fact are much less than the consequences of normal operation of the alternatives (i.e., coal and natural gas fired plants). This leads to your submarine analogy: it is better to risk the core and save the boat. Well that’s fine and may even be correct. But here in the US there is no person with the authority to make such a decision. We don’t have an Admiral or a Navy Secretary to decree, “electricity shall be generated by burning uranium.” Instead we have a complex mix of private and public utilities who invest in and own the generating plants, regulated by a mix of local, state, and federal entities, with plant operating licenses granted by various environmental and other agencies. Messy, but there it is. I think if you want to see an increase in the portion generated via nuclear, you have to assess a cost to the folks burning coal and gas, currently using our atmosphere as a no-cost dumping ground. This, of course, is political suicide, so it won’t happen until Louisiana and Florida are submerged.

    5. Finally, you say “The only isotopes that left the building at Fukushima are various forms of Cesium and Iodine.” Are you sure this is true? The dose rates published are typically given in terms of ‘effective’ iodine or cesium doses; but this does not mean that they are actually the only isotopes measured.

  15. You are wrong. The only isotopes that left the building at Fukushima are various forms of Cesium and Iodine.
    @Rod Adams

    Dead Wrong.
    Gap release, the first radiologically significant phas of core damage sequence results in massive Krypton and Xenon release. Certainly a man of letters and a nuclear alumnus, you understand that Noble gases vent when the Containment is vented. Decay Heat, Hydrogen and Fission Product gases took containment pressure to 120 psig. When vented, 100% core inventory of Noble Gas is released

    See your SOARCA link (ADAMS ML 120260675) page 84 top graph)

    You’ll notice they have not pumped down the RB Basement – they need the shielding from the resolidified ex-Containment fuel.


    No one died. No one got sick. Hum, Why?
    Fuel became recovered with water, by action and coincidence.
    It migrates until it finds water sufficient to resolidify.
    We call the target value MDRIR (Minimum Debris Retention Injection Rate).
    They are STILL maintaining MDRIR at Fukushima Daiichi 1 through 3 through feedwater and core spray piping.

    Additional water provides shielding necessary to access the RB.

    your example: ” all the water…” = core melt every time, containment breach every time.
    Injection must be re-established, fuel must be recovered.

    If you contact molten or resolidified fuel of substantial mass, in person, you will be dead.

    1. @Rob,

      Yep, and they have managed to contain it so far safely. Smart folks and I trust them to do a good job. In fact, people in the evacuation areas could have moved back home about a year ago. A few Geiger counters would have kept them safe and still could today. Your have not proven your contention, that the release of radiation from the cooling water would harm anyone. You have only proven that if someone is dumb enough to open the core or walk into it without shielding they will get sick. That is a very different proposition. You have proven – that cores need cooling to keep from melting – Got that. But you have not proven that a melted core is really going anywhere. (outside of very trace amounts possibly dissolved in water).

      Notice, I am not arguing that a melt down is a good thing, but only that the public consequences of it are not really all that horrible. Well within the normal dangers we face as human beings in the regular course of life. You are arguing that if we have a melt down the public will be endangered.

      Prove it! Show me a reasonable path for a dangerous (killer) amount of radiation into the environment. Sure some of the water could blow out the tubes. The plant would shut down immediately.

      By endangered, I mean that someone in the public – not a worker at the plant – will be killed by radiation / contamination within days of the melt down. I DO NOT mean by endangered that someone in the ensuing decades who we cannot identify or measure might die early. By those types of standards, most of life is too hazardous to live. Strange thing about that – everyone seems to die….

      What I am arguing is that running a power plant with two of the three exchangers is not a big deal, and would provide much needed electricity as well as cash flow for the utility to pay for a new exchanger.

      What I am also arguing is that acting like a NPP melt down is the end of the world is simply a lie.

      Krypton and Xenon release. = high radiation? Instant death? Hum, maybe a slow painful death in 50 years?

      I like the bottom line. At age 50 I am on the way down hill, so I like to understand if I am talking about a real winner for my retirement or a dud. Would Kevorkian have used Krypton and Xenon? For that matter, would Kevorkian have used C 137?

  16. @gmax137

    The public will demand this unless some person from the Utility gets up with the strength to say. “Folks, even if this ruptures – Ain’t nuthen hapanin. Radiation fears are overblown and we have 100 years of data to prove it.”

    Why aren’t people saying this? It’s true and if the truth is repeated with clear evidence most folks get on board. I have flow nearly around the world. I have no doubt it is round. Truth is truth. Facts are facts. Bowing to “public opinion” in the face of real facts is to allow con men (or women) to steal from people. The real question is who has the guts to tell the truth?

    Excuse me, or did I miss the “fact” that two of the exchangers are just fine?

  17. I like to call it the great “Nuclear Health Hypocrisy” whose royal flush has chronically been underplayed by nuclear advocates. We pretty well know of the worker and public health effects of normally operating nuke plants and those in rare accident-events. We know or should know what effects certain amounts of particulates and chemicals from normally operating and accident-event fossil plants have on their workers and local public. I’d like a study to see the results of applying the exact health and mortality tolerances applied to nuclear plants to fossil fuel plants. Break it down to common Joe terms; when you pass by a city bus belching fumes whose emissions WILL make its way inside you, what’s the radiation dosage health effect equivalent in chemical health effects of that tainted breath? Would this result libel the EPA and other enviro/health groups for bias for giving the infinitely far more pernicious health effects of fossil fuels a pass? Wonder why such has never been brought up before!

    James Greenidge
    Queens New York


  18. Does the evidence from the SONGS SG inspections show that SG tube failure and in particular, multiple tube failures, is more likely than had been thought? Does the SCE report consider this question?

    This link (ML092890375) provides some interesting info on SGTR events and it has an extensive reference list worthy of further study:


    Having been the person doing calculations that provide the basis for saying “Folks, even if this ruptures – Ain’t nuthen hapanin.” – I can assure you that that conclusion is based on single tube rupture (read any FSAR (typically in Section 15.6) if you don’t believe me). If you have other analyses in mind, please provide a link.

    1. Hi Gmax137

      I read the report you have linked. I can’t see that it adds anything to my major point.

      “Radionuclides released from degrading reactor fuel will vent through the ruptured steam generator tubes into plant buildings or directly to the environment without mitigation by natural processes or engineered safety features in the reactor containment.”

      My point has been this, Yep this is a bad thing, no Utility would want this to happen. Makes horrible economic problems. Melted fuel is not making money but costing money. Bad bad PR.

      But the second part of my point is that how much “Radionuclides” are really going to be released? Enough to really hurt someone? Kill them or make them sick in a few days? I noticed that the NRC report did not mention anything about the volume possibly released. Am I way off base to understand that even if these got straight into the atmosphere, and on the ground that really not a whole lot would happen to anyone?

      Folks, I have to go to bed. I will not be able to keep up with the conversation – other than to read your replies. I am on the other side of the world from most of you and I have work to do in the morning. As always, I have enjoyed the conversation. I have learned a great deal.

  19. @James G
    “Wonder why such has never been brought up before!”

    Well, consider the reactor vendors (WEC, GE, CE, and B&W) made both nuclear, coal, and gas fired boilers; the electric utilities own coal, gas, and nuclear fired units; and the constructors (Bechtel, EBASCO, Fluor) build coal, gas, and nuclear units. The equipment suppliers (valves, heat exchangers, switchgear, etc.) supply their products to coal, gas, and nuclear plants. Get the picture? Who is going to throw rocks at their own customers or at themselves. As david says, “ain’t happenin…” Bottom line, contrary to popular concept, there is no “nuclear industry.”

  20. OK, you wanted all of the coolant from the core on the ground, I described it.
    That’s a severe accident with all three fission product barriers breached.
    You have no problem with open air fission products – I get it.
    No problem, you say.
    I’m OK with that, I talk to people all the time who don’t understand nuclear power concepts.

    We sell power. Plain and simple.
    A public has options about where to buy their power.
    Occasionally the 10 to the minus 8th per reactor year accident happens, or three of them in the same week. Sometimes a plant exceeds Design Basis ground acceleration such as North Anna, or flood criteria such as Ft Calhoun. Usually without consequence.

    Fukushima Daiichi certainly changed things.
    They see their kids getting whole body assays.
    They see people lose access to their property.

    In the US NRC is slammed with petitions to decommission vulnerable (read: just about all) US units. Many BWRs in Mark I, many sea level units, many dam protected river sited plants, many plants near seismic faults.

    Right, wrong, or indifferent. Its what the public sees, hears, or experiences first hand.
    Now to sell your product here at home you guys say: (correct me if I’m wrong)
    1) existing measures are good enough
    2) you won’t get hurt
    3) you have our word

    AFTER you have just spent effort above in this thread minimizing the importance of the only barriers between fission products in fuel and fission products in the thyroids in customers.

    AFTER minimizing threshold level failures and avoiding the larger breach is NOT in your interest.

    Make THAT sale.

    There are plant responders at Fukushima in excess of 100 Rem exposure.
    It would be nice to avoid that. I have not seen the site boundary dose calc, but EPA PAGs are clearly out the window upon initial venting, manual or mechanistic, whichever occurred first.

    I have always and will continue to operate in the public interest as license requires.
    I understand not everybody gets it, I’ve had to dump several trainees who don’t get it in my career.

    1. “There are plant responders at Fukushima in excess of 100 Rem exposure.”

      The largest numbers I have seen are > 60 Rem (600 mSv) for two control room operators because they didn’t take, or didn’t have, their KI pills. Four other workers got between 25 and 60 Rem according to UNSCEAR.


    2. “I have always and will continue to operate in the public interest as license requires.”

      I am the public. I am a user of energy (no ties to nuclear industry). If energy becomes too expensive (sun/wind), or too dirty (fossil fuels), or too morally reprehensible (biomass) then I suffer. Grievously. Therefore, I want nuclear power and I will accept whatever risk it poses, as long as that risk is appreciably smaller compared to that of the other options I’ve mentioned.

      Judging from serious research into the balance of risk and external costs, like Extern-E, nuclear power is a dead winner in all categories. That is why I like nuclear power. I hope to see nuclear power replace fossil fuels before the middle of this decade, worldwide.

      I’m not sure I (i.e. the public) is best served by a nuclear industry that aims for perfection rather than simply maintaining and optimizing a very good record in terms of safety and costs, compared to all other options. To put it bluntly: If I had to accept a yearly dose of up to 100 mSv/year due to some kind of rare accident at a nuclear power plant near my house, then I would accept that with no problem, I would not abandon my house or develop extraordinary fear of cancer. What I care deeply about is that climate change is stopped, resource wars become obsolete, and that energy costs are contained! The rest is just abstract fluff and philosophical doublespeak that doesn’t interest me.

  21. Rod,

    Your title is indeed correct to point this as a US oddity.

    Take solar. After the massive failure of Spain, California is going to the brink with solar. I know the outcome. So do we all.

    The Saudis have a truck load of sun as well. But I guess they read the economic tribunes of the western press and have seen the failures linked to solar energy.

    And looks like they can do what Clinton calls ‘arithmetic’ too. They are going nuclear.

  22. I am with Rod on this. We need the SONGS reactors running again as soon as possible. With a restart of SONGS, safety, physical health of the public, the economic health of California, and profit (yes!) all converge.
    Safety and physical health improvement would be had because the replacement power comes from sources that we know are more hazardous. This is not a case of comparing nuclear power to some ideal energy source like many so called environmentalists like to do. The reality is that the replacement power comes from dirty, hazardous sources, and will continue this way for a long time if SONGS is not restarted.
    The replacement power is more expensive, endangering the economic health of the state. The owners of SONGS deserve to be rewarded with profit for supplying less expensive power. There are some of certain political persuasions who claim that the profit motive endangers the public. Quite the contrary. Keeping the plant in top condition so that it can crank out as many megawatt-hours as possible is the way to maximize profits, while at the same time providing the public with safe, low cost power.
    Nuclear power is and should continue to be one of our safest sources of power. It should operate and be regulated with transparency. But we have a regulatory failure in safety by the NRC and other governmental bodies when they keep a nuclear plant off line in a misguided effort to make nuclear power perfectly safe, while ignoring the much less safe source of replacement power. While the NRC (and others) have no authority to regulate those other sources of power, these regulatory agencies need to consider the safety consequences of NOT having nuclear power when doing their regulation. As Rod stated, we have a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good, or, in reality, the perfect being the enemy of the better!

  23. Thank you, Rod! I may write something similar in this week’s Nuclear Buzz about the results of the EU stress tests. How much safer can nuclear reactors and plant operations be? That’s a rhetorical question. I’m sick of it already, the using of a natural disaster in Japan to make a safe industry “safer.” No wonder some members of the public think “all radiation should be eliminated.” Radiophobia in regulators who know better getting caught up in politics. Did I say I was tired of it? 😀

  24. This is of topic, but I think that the people here would be interested to know that a very popular comedy website just said something positive about nuclear power.


    In summery it said that even though the media acted like “The Fukushima 50” were doomed in actuality a year later they are still just fine. Well, they said things a lot better and in more detail that, but that’s the general drift of it.

    You might want to check it out. The article was posted today and it already has 488 comments plus 266,518 views, and while only 1/5 of the article was about nuclear power there are probably quite a few comments about it already.

    Some anti nuclear people have already commented. For instance one person said.
    “Nobody knows precisely what smaller but constant radiation levels do, since no scientific studies have ever been done on the subject, for obvious ethical reasons.

    Worse still, it’s extremely hard to determine, on the long term, whether a cancer has been caused by radiation or something else altogether, which is why the real death toll of an accident such as Chernobyl (of Fukushima) is so hard to pinpoint, ranging anywhere from between 28 to 100 000 according to different sources.

    And finally there’s the climate of mistrust surrounding the nuclear industry: this results in the industrialists always trying to reassure the public and over-minimizing the dangers; and on the other side you have anti-nuclear activists grossly inflating them.

    Read more: 5 Big News Stories That Left Out the Most Important Part | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_20048_5-big-news-stories-that-left-out-most-important-part_p2.html#ixzz28pmeoeGo

    I hope I’m not annoying you guys with such an unrelated post, but I read this blog regularly, and I thought that some people here would find this interesting.

    1. I had never visited cracked before but happened to come accross this story while reading another today. Funny coincidence that you posted a link to it.

      Anyway, it is a good article and does a good job explaining the reckless behaviour of the media especially when it comes to Nuclear power. There are not that many comments on the story regarding the Fukushima portion, but the ones I found were usually pro-nuclear with a lot of “thumbs-up” for the comment.

      1. I follow both cracked and this blog so as soon as I saw a positive nuclear story on cracked I thought about sharing it here. Now I’m glad I did.

        When I first read the article one of the most recent comments was the one I quoted above which lead me to think the comments were going to be anti nuclear, but you’re right that for the most part they weren’t. I’m glad that the majority of my fellow cracked readers aren’t anti nuclear.

  25. WOW, this Vice Presidential debate really dug deep into the energy issue.

    Where has these moderators been ? Who is prepping them ? About the No Bozos rule ?

    Candy has better do a better job.

    1. Id be careful for what I asked for. Energy and environmental policy has been politicized too much already this election. People are going for bumper sticker slogans now, not real answers.

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