Nuclear -   32
Nuclear -   32
www.DukeEmployees.com - Duke Energy Employee Advocate
Nuclear - Page Seventeen
Yucca Waste PlanCBS MarketWatch – by William Spain – February 12, 2002
WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) -- A plan to ship thousands of tons of radioactive waste to Nevada moved ahead Monday as the Department of Energy forwarded to the White House a formal recommendation that Yucca Mountain be used as a permanent disposal site.
The product of the nation's nuclear-power industry, the waste is currently sitting in temporary storage areas scattered around the country, at significant cost to plant operators.
The move comes as no great surprise. Last month, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham informed Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn that he would back the controversial idea, setting off howls of rage from local politicians, businesses and environmentalists.
While it will be at least a decade -- if then -- before radioactive waste begins flowing into Yucca, the Department of Energy's decision to recommend the site is a big victory for the nuclear power industry. Transporting all of its radioactive byproducts to one central location and storing it there -- both at taxpayer expense -- has long been at the top of the nuclear industry's wish list. Currently, most waste is stored on-site, a cost shouldered by the operators, who have also ponied up billions of dollars toward the establishment of a central facility.
While Abraham has consistently maintained that his backing for Yucca is driven by "sound science," his long ties to the nuclear industry - and his acceptance of its campaign cash - have raised eyebrows.
Abraham, a former U.S. senator from Michigan, was defeated in his 2000 reelection bid by Democrat Debbie Stabenow. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he took in over $80,000 in contributions from the nuclear industry between 1995 and 2000, from donors including DTE Energy, Exelon, Constellation, Southern Co. and FirstEnergy.
He also took at least $4,000 from the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group that strongly supports the Yucca plan. Shortly after news broke that he would recommend Yucca, a consumer advocacy group called for Abraham to recuse himself from the decision.
A January letter from Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, to Abraham said that his "financial ties to the pro-repository nuclear industry pose an apparent conflict of interest in your evaluation of a Yucca Mountain site recommendation and threaten to undermine the integrity and objectivity of the DOE's process."
Attorney General John Ashcroft removed himself from involvement in a criminal probe of bankrupt energy giant Enron because he had accepted over $50,000 of the company's campaign money during his own election loss to the deceased Gov. Mel Carnahan in Missouri.
The Department of Energy has repeatedly insisted that Abraham has no such conflict. Abraham based his decision solely on "sound science and compelling interests [of] national security and environmental protection," a spokesman told CBS.MarketWatch.com last month.
The Bush administration has made no secret of its support for nuclear power, as Vice-President Dick Cheney has repeatedly touted its benefits as part of an overall energy plan.
And the industry has responded by stepping up the pace of its political contributions. In the 2002 election cycle thus far, Southern has anted up $630,000 in hard and soft money, with over 80 percent going to Republican candidates and political action committees. Exelon has given $392, 000, with 77 percent going to the GOP; and FirstEnergy is in for $319,000, 78 percent to Republicans.
NEI has given $223,000 thus far, 82 percent of it to Republicans.
If, as expected, the Bush administration approves the site, Nevada's governor or state legislature will likely veto the decision, a move that Congress will have to uphold.
Furious members of the state's congressional delegation, including Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid, have vowed to do whatever it takes to keep the Yucca site from opening. And, even should they fail, Guinn, a Republican, has vowed a court battle. Yucca is about 90 miles from Las Vegas, the nation's No. 1 tourist destination and the economic engine that fuels the Silver State's economy.
NRC Duke MOX Fuel HearingThe Charlotte Observer – Bruce Henderson – February 2, 2002
(2/1/02) - A federal panel has granted a formal hearing on a claim that using surplus bomb material to fuel the Charlotte area's two nuclear power plants would be unsafe.
The ruling came as Duke Power tries to extend the licenses of the Catawba and McGuire nuclear plants by 20 years, allowing them to operate into the 2040s.
An Atomic Safety and Licensing Board agreed to hear testimony on two claims, including the one involving the plants' fuel, that were raised by anti-nuclear groups. If the board agrees with them, both issues would have to be evaluated as part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision on whether to extend the plant licenses.
The board, a panel of three judges appointed by the NRC, had never before granted such a hearing in a license renewal case. No hearing date has been set.
Duke has until Monday to appeal the ruling granting a hearing. "We're looking at our options," said spokesman Tom Shiel.
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service contends that Duke's plan to fuel the plants in part with surplus weapons plutonium beginning in 2007, could accelerate aging of the plants' reactors and make a bad accident worse.
Duke says use of the mixed-oxide fuel, which is part of the government's effort to dispose of surplus bomb material, would be safe but should be considered separately from license renewal.
A licensing-board hearing also has been granted to opponents challenging construction of the facility that would produce the fuel, at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C. Duke has said it won't seek approval to use the fuel until 2003 or 2004.
The board also will hear a second claim, raised by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, that Catawba and McGuire are vulnerable to loss of electric power. Without power, the plants wouldn't be able to pump water that cools the reactors.
The groups say the unusual design of Catawba and McGuire make them less able to withstand such an accident. The NRC has said the plants can operate safely.
The licensing board denied a hearing on other claims by the two groups, but asked that the nuclear commission consider a claim that potential terrorist threats to the plants should be scrutinized.
Four of the nation's 77 nuclear power plants, including Duke's Oconee plant in northwestern South Carolina, already have been granted license extensions.
Nuclear Threat is RealWall Street Journal – February 1, 2002
2/1/02 - WASHINGTON -- In one of the government's most detailed warnings, officials said they had alerted nuclear-power-plant operators last week that terrorists might try to crash a hijacked airliner into one of the facilities -- a near copy of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Spurred by a tip from a captured al Qaeda operative, the advisory from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said an attack had been planned and that three terrorists were on the ground in the U.S. recruiting non-Arabs to take part…
FBI Terrorist Attack WarningKnight Ridder Newspapers – by T. Infield, L. Savino – February 1, 2002
WASHINGTON - Two of the top officials charged with protection of the United States warned Thursday that the nation faced grave threats from terrorists and other hidden enemies.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said he believes that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist group, which the United States blames for the Sept. 11 attacks, may still have undercover operatives in the United States.
"There may well be those in the U.S. who, having been trained by al-Qaida, can come together with others for a particular terrorist attack," he said. "We're doing everything we can to identify" them.
A senior law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said evidence collected in Afghanistan suggests that al-Qaida operatives have been scouting a number of potential targets in the United States, including dams, public water supply pumping stations, nuclear power plants, airports and landmarks.
Washington Gov. Gary Locke said Thursday that a photograph of the Seattle Space Needle, a city landmark since 1962, had been discovered on a computer file in Afghanistan - but that no evidence of a specific plan to attack it had been found.
"If we had specific information about the timing and place of a particular attack," Mueller said, "we would get that to the authorities lightning quick."
Mueller focused on efforts by law enforcement agencies to prevent terrorism at the Super Bowl on Sunday in New Orleans and at the Winter Olympics this month in Salt Lake City. He said that thousands of police and security personnel would be at the two sport sites.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in a speech that called for transforming the military to face new threats, focused on what the country may have to deal with over the next century.
Referring to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, he said: "Let there be no doubt: In the years ahead, it is likely that we will be surprised again - by new adversaries who may also strike in unexpected ways. And as they gain access to weapons of increasing power, these attacks could grow."
Rumsfeld made his remarks at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., where he delivered a speech to military officers and faculty members of the National Defense University.
Mueller and Rumsfeld echoed themes laid down by President Bush in his State of the Union address Tuesday night - that terrorists are plotting to do harm to the United States and that the war in Afghanistan has not put a stop to the threats.
"Our job is to close off as many of those avenues of potential attack as possible," Rumsfeld said. He said that no nation in the 21st century was likely to oppose the United States with conventional armies or navies. That, he said, would be futile.
Instead, he said, attacks will be directed at the nation's weaknesses - its vulnerable communications systems and space satellites among them. Means of attack, he said, could include cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and chemical and biological weapons.
The United States, he said, cannot afford to sit back and wait for attack, but may have to pre-empt threats by destroying them before they can do harm.
He did not say who the enemies might be, but he noted: "The best, and in some cases the only, defense is a good offense."
DOE's Unbelievable Irresponsibility!New York Times – by Matthew L. Wald – February 1, 2002
PAHRUMP, Nev., Jan. 30 — The Energy Department plans to ask permission to dispose of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain before it has finished designing the repository, and it hopes to begin burying the waste long before it knows how to seal the tunnels, department officials said in testimony here before an independent science advisory panel.
Members of the panel, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, said there were enormous gaps in what the Energy Department knew about the site, a volcanic structure about 100 miles from Las Vegas, and about the high-tech canisters it was proposing to put the waste in.
Officials said the research on how well the mountain and the waste containers would isolate the radioactive materials would continue for as long as the repository was open, which could be 300 years.
Congress chose Yucca Mountain years ago for disposal of the wastes from power reactors and the government's weapons programs, and the Energy Department has spent nearly $4 billion over two decades studying the site. It was supposed to start accepting wastes for burial four years ago, but it has not completed the scientific work needed to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to open.
In a two-day hearing of geochemists and hydrologists here, the department acknowledged the amount of work remaining. After a presentation on Tuesday on corrosion rates anticipated over the next few thousand years, one member of the review panel, Alberto A. Sagues, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of South Florida, asked, "Do you agree that this is just barely beginning to scratch the surface?"
The witness, Mark T. Peters, manager of the Science and Engineering Test Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, replied, "I don't know if I'd say `barely.' "
Among the questions is whether to create a "hot" repository, packing the wastes together so that the radioactive decay — which creates heat — would keep the rock above the boiling point for a few hundred years. That would slow corrosion by keeping the metal containers dry, but could induce changes in the rock that could damage the canisters later.
A "cold" repository, with wastes spaced more widely, might mean more corrosion in the early years. It would also cost more and mean more excavation, which releases radon gas, among other hazards. Some scientists say the performance of a cold repository over thousands of years would be easier to predict. The department has not made a decision, partly because it has not tested the metal it has proposed for the canisters, Alloy 22, at high temperatures.
The nuclear industry and the Energy Department contend that a phased approach is appropriate and that technical problems can be resolved later. Lake Barrett, the acting head of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, said the design could be "flexible." But another board member, Norman L. Christensen Jr., a Duke University ecology professor, said, "In a regulatory world, flexibility can be a refuge from dealing with hard problems."
The board said in a letter last week to the energy secretary and Congressional leaders that "the technical basis for the D.O.E.'s repository performance estimates is weak to moderate at this time."
"The board has limited confidence in current performance estimates generated by the D.O.E.'s performance assessment model," the letter said.
Jared L. Cohon, the board chairman and the president of Carnegie Mellon University, said the department's work showed "varying degrees of strength and weakness."
Another expert, Allison Macfarlane of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Yucca Mountain Project, said the board's assessment meant "there really isn't a large enough set of data to proceed, to really make a strong case that Yucca Mountain will be O.K."
This is not surprising, she said, because some of the science is new. For example, she said, scientists have studied underground water flow for years, which is important to the repository because that is the likely means for radioactive material to spread. But they have little experience studying whether rain water could wash radioactive materials through the soil into underground water supplies.
But if the board contends that the Energy Department has not made its case on Yucca, it also has found no factor to disqualify the site.
The department gave Nevada 30 days notice on Jan. 10 that it would recommend Yucca to President Bush. Congress will probably vote on the issue this year. The Energy Department plans to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license in 2004 and wants to begin accepting waste for burial in 2010. That would be 12 years after it was first legally obligated to do so, but the delay seems likely to grow.
Thus Yucca, the longest-term project attempted in modern history, is now rushed. Government officials are eager to make progress before the political consensus that picked Yucca can dissolve. The project faces continual local opposition.
Mr. Barrett said, "We also agree that our technical work is not finished." But he added, "We think we have sufficient science for the step that we are at."
He said that when it came time to apply for a license, the department would have more information, and the same would be true when the time came to bury the waste and to seal the tunnels.
If research turns up a design problem after construction, he said, engineers will fix it. Unlike a nuclear reactor, a waste repository would be "very, very slow-acting," he said. "You've got a lot of time, decades."
2 Utility Terrorist AlertsThe Charlotte Observer – by Seth Borenstein – January 19, 2002
WASHINGTON -- Twice this week federal security agencies warned city, county and state officials about possible terrorist attacks on American utilities, according to threat advisories.
The advisories alerted transportation security agencies and police nationwide on Tuesday and Wednesday to the possibility of an attack on power plants, dams and other utility facilities.
They called for stepped-up security, especially at power plants. One advisory said the FBI has "received indications from around the country of multiple casings" of utility facilities.
Officials fear that al-Qaida members may be using government Web sites to help them develop future attacks.
The advisories urged the power industry and state, county and city governments to scour their Web sites and remove information that could help terrorists.
The transportation advisory reported that terrorists "may be using U.S. municipal and state Web sites to obtain information on local energy infrastructures, water reservoirs, dams, highly enriched uranium storage sites, nuclear and gas facilities and emergency fire and rescue response procedures."
Transportation security officials wrote that al-Qaida members also have sought information on central water-supply computers that run remote pumps, reservoirs and metering stations.
Al-Qaida is the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden, whom the United States suspects masterminded September's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
A suspected al-Qaida cell targeted a petrochemical complex in Singapore recently, a senior U.S. official said.
Evidence seized by authorities who broke up the cell indicates it sought to create a huge toxic cloud at the facility on Jurong Island. It was meant to be similar to the one that devastated the Indian city of Bhopal after a 1984 accident at a chemical plant.
The latest warnings about the Web sites of U.S. utilities stem from "uncorroborated and nonspecific information that terrorists may be using these Web sites," an Office of Homeland Security spokesman said.
Relicensing Catawba Nuclear Power PlantPublic Citizen – by Hugh Jackson – January 12, 2002
Chief, Rules and Directives Branch
November 21, 2001
Re: Comments on environmental issues the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should consider in its review of the proposed license renewal of Catawba Nuclear Station.
To Whom It May Concern:
First, Public Citizen reiterates its opposition to the continuation of the entire nuclear power plant relicensing process.
In the weeks since Sept. 11, the NRC has quietly continued to process relicensing applications as if there were no heightened concerns about the safety of commercial nuclear facilities which is to say as if it were Sept. 10
NRC Chairman Richard Meserve has called for a comprehensive review of security safeguards at nuclear plants. Legislation pending before Congress would require the NRC, in consultation with the president, to write new rules designed to protect nuclear reactors and nuclear waste from potential attacks. As these comments are filed, news reports indicate additional congressional legislation will seek to federalize security forces at commercial nuclear power plants.
Yet the NRC is sticking to a schedule crafted months ago, and herding old nuclear power plants toward license renewals as if the September attacks never happened.
Security in the wake of Sept. 11 isn't the only reason the NRC should halt its relicensing process. Public Citizen has long opposed relicensing of nuclear power plants, because safety risks increase as reactor components age. And the longer a reactor operates, the more nuclear waste it generates. The nation still has no workable solution for the disposal of deadly nuclear waste.
The no-action alternative at Catawba
Public Citizen opposes Duke Energy Corporation’s application to renew the operating licenses for both units of the Catawba Nuclear Station, near Charlotte, N.C.
Public Citizen believes if the NRC takes federal law as well its own paperwork seriously, and sincerely considers environmental issues connected with the prospect of plant relicensing, the commission will reject Duke s application.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires that the NRC consider all reasonable alternatives to a proposal, including the no-action alternative. In this case, that would mean not renewing the license for the Catawba units.
Public Citizen believes that inasmuch as the expiration dates on the current Catawba licenses are a staggering more-than two decades away, the most prudent and wise course the NRC could take would be to adopt a no-action alternative in the Catawba supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS).
What would be the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the no-action alternative? Given that the licenses at Catawba units 1 and 2 will expire in 2024 and 2026, respectively, it is hard to imagine the no-action alternative could conceivably lead to any additional negative environmental or socio-economic impacts on either the licensee, the community or the region s land, air and water.
Granted, the NRC has made a shameful attempt to neuter itself in the generic environmental impact statement for license renewal. As if to define itself into irrelevance, the commission has adopted the position that the purpose and need for the license renewal EIS is merely "to provide an option that allows for power generation capability beyond the term of a current nuclear power plant operating license." However, the commission s selfless act to render itself completely inoperable falls somewhat short, in that the NRC s true emasculation only happens "absence findings in the safety review or findings in the NEPA environmental analysis that would lead the NRC to reject a license renewal application" (NUREG-1437, Vol. 1, 1.3)
Which is to say that despite its best efforts to be ineffectual, the NRC still has a legal obligation to assess the environmental and, by extension, safety impacts of relicensing. That obligation leads to two key points that the NRC must explain in the Catawba SEIS:
*Why is the NRC making a decision that won t take effect for more than two decades, and yet will have an effect for decades after that, based on safety and environmental analyses conducted now?
*How can the NRC justify the assertion (implicit if the relicensing alternative is preferred) that the impacts from relicensing will be smaller than the impacts from the no-action alternative, when relicensing is an event that as a practical matter doesn't take effect for more than two decades?
It s as if the NRC is desperate to sell relicensing. Perhaps the commission should buy time on the home shopping network:
Why take advantage of this incredible offer and relicense now? Because NRC approval of your application is much more than just a finding of no significant impact. That s right, if you order now, the NRC will also assure that there will be no impacts for not two, not three, but for more than four decades!
But wait there s more! Because if you relicense now, the NRC will throw in a bonus analytical conclusion: no alternative energy sources are viable, and none will be--at least not for 40 years!
Little wonder that Duke, like the rest of the nuclear power industry, has its phone glued to its corporate ear, ordering plant relicensing after plant relicensing. The NRC is making a tremendous offer, and NRC operators are standing by.
Meanwhile, on the reality channel, there is simply no way that the NRC can determine if conclusions in the safety report or the SEIS will hold up for the next 45 years.
In the Catawba SEIS, the NRC should examine each and every one of the 92 impacts listed in Table 9.1 of the generic EIS and try to make a sincere analysis of the significance of those impacts through the year 2046.
Public Citizen particularly looks forward to the NRC s analysis in the areas of high level radioactive waste and alternative energy sources, as explained below.
High-level radioactive waste
The NRC "believes that there is reasonable assurance that at least one mined geological repository will be available within the first quarter of the twenty-first century, and sufficient repository capacity will be available within 30 years beyond the licensed life for operation of any reactor" (10 CFR 51.23) What if there isn't? Since the commission rendered it s belief, it s become just as reasonable to assume that there may in fact not be a geological repository in the first quarter of this century, or the first half of it, for that matter. What then?
*If the NRC relicenses Catawba, nuclear waste, whether stored in pools or in dry storage, would continue to accumulate over an additional 20 years of an extended license period. What "reasonable," to use the NRC s word, grounds are there for preferring that option to the no-option alternative in the Catawba SEIS?
*The generic EIS, (126.96.36.199) states: "Within the context of a license renewal review and determination, the Commission finds that there is ample basis to conclude that continued storage of existing spent fuel and storage of spent fuel generated during the license renewal period can be accomplished safely and without significant environmental impacts." Does that finding assume that a permanent repository will be built, or is the NRC stating that waste can be stored safely, without impacts, indefinitely?
*In previous nuclear power plant relicensing documents, the NRC has failed to assign a level of significant impact to collective offsite radiological impacts from the fuel cycle and from high level waste and spent fuel disposal (NUREG 1437, Supplement 5, Chapter 6). If the NRC is tempted to reach a similar conclusion with the Catawba SEIS, it raises the question: How can the NRC claim that relicensing is a preferable alternative to the no-action alternative, when the waste disposal question is so uncertain that the NRC can t even assign it a level of significance?
Alternative energy sources
The generic EIS "assumes that conservation technologies produce enough energy savings to permit the closing of a nuclear plant." (NUREG-1437, Vol.1, 8.3.14).
Is that true with respect to the Catawba plant?
*What is the projected energy conservation from demand-side management in the Catawba service area over the next 20, 30 and 45 years?
*By how much will new federal appliance energy standards, implemented or adopted since the GEIS was written, effect energy conservation in the Catawba service area over the next 20, 30 and 45 years?
*The GEIS tends to dismiss solar and wind power as "baseline" sources of replacement. What is the potential of solar and wind power as replacement if considered as distributive sources, rather than baseline sources, over the next 20, 30 and 45 years?
*What are the environmental and socio-economic impacts of solar and wind power if considered as distributive sources rather than baseline sources, and within that scenario, why would the impacts from the relicensing alternative be preferred.
*Could a combination of alternatives, blending conservation, energy efficiencies, distributive power, including fuel cells, and renewable energy sources constitute a cost-effective replacement for the Catawba capacity?
*Is the prospect of such combination being cost-effective more, or less, likely in 20, 30 and 45 years?
*In previous nuclear power plant relicensing documents, the NRC has dismissed combination alternatives, such as a mix of conservation and distributive power, as "not considered feasible at this time" (draft NUREG-1437, Supplement 5, 8.3). If the NRC is tempted to reach a similar conclusion with regard to Catawba, it begs the question: why does the NRC care what is feasible "at this time" when the applicant s current licensing is not going to expire for more than two decades?
*If, after rigorous analysis of the questions raised above regarding alternative energy sources, it is determined that those sources may likely constitute a cost-effective alternative to relicensing, then, given the distant expiration dates of the applicant s current licensing, why is relicensing preferable to the no-action alternative?
“We Will Hit All U.S. Nuclear Targets”The Washington Post – by Matthew Brzezinski – January 7, 2002
The footage of the hijacked airliner striking the World Trade Center made Aida Fariscal bolt. "Oh my God," she gasped. "Bojinka."
For the retired Filipina policewoman, the nightmare that word evoked had receded into distant memory. Sometimes weeks went by without her even thinking about the terrorist plot she had foiled some six years ago. But there it was, after all this time, unfolding live on television.
"I thought at first that I was having a bad dream," Fariscal said. But as the towers came crashing down, her disbelief turned to anger. "I still don't understand how it could have been allowed to happen."
She is bitter that the generals in the Philippine high command hogged all the credit for Bojinka, while all she received was $700 and a free trip to Taiwan. She is bitter that the Americans apparently didn't take the foiled plot seriously enough. But most of all, she is angry that, in the end, her hunch didn't save thousands of lives after all. "I can't get those images," she said of the World Trade Center wreckage, "out of my mind."
The call came in shortly after 11 on a Friday night back in January 1995: a routine fire alarm, smoke on the top floor of the six-story Doña Josefa apartment building just down the street from Manila Police Station No. 9. Fariscal, the watch commander, dispatched Patrolman Ariel Fernandez to check it out. "Nothing to worry about," he reported when he returned a few minutes later. "Just some Pakistanis playing with firecrackers."
Fariscal wasn't so sure. Her instinct that night told her something was wrong.
"The pope was coming to the Philippines, we were worried about security.... " she recalled.
She, Fernandez and another officer walked past the uprooted palm trees back to the apartments.
"What's happening here, boss?" Fariscal asked the Doña Josefa doorman. Two men, he said, had fled their sixth-floor apartment, pulling on their pants as they ran in the smoky corridor. "They told me everything was under control, just some fireworks that accidentally went off."
In Suite 603, Fariscal found a cluttered one-bedroom bachelor pad. The first thing she noticed was four hot plates, still in their packing crates. Bundles of cotton lay scattered around the room, soaked in some sort of pungent beige solution, next to clear plastic containers of various sizes and shapes bearing the stamp of German and Pakistani chemical manufacturers. And loops of electrical wiring.
They scrambled back downstairs, where the doorman appeared to be in a high state of agitation. "That's one of them," he whispered. "He's coming back."
Patrolman Fernandez grabbed the suspect. He was young, in his mid-to-late 20s, Fariscal guessed. He said his name was Ahmed Saeed, that he was a commercial pilot, and that he was just on his way to the precinct house to explain the firecracker smoke.
"There's the other one," interrupted the doorman, pointing to a thin, bearded individual standing outside. Fariscal set off in his direction. He was calmly talking on his cell phone, smoking a pipe and watching her. Fariscal had no idea she was looking at Ramzi Yousef, the man who had tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993.
The sound of gunfire froze Fariscal in her tracks. She whirled around to see Patrolman Fernandez aiming his service revolver at Saeed's fleeing back. As the policemen gave chase, Saeed suddenly sprawled on the pavement — he had tripped over the exposed roots of a tree toppled by the typhoon. Saeed was back in custody, but in the confusion, his accomplice had fled.
Saeed offered a bribe. "I'll give you $2,000 to let me go," he pleaded. Most Manila police officers don't make that in a year. But Fariscal refused.
By now, the senior inspector had an inkling that she had stumbled onto something big. She couldn't know, however, just how big — that amid the clutter of the chemicals and cotton at the Doña Josefa apartment, investigators would unearth a plan that, with the benefit of hindsight, career CIA officers today admit looks alarmingly like an early blueprint for the Sept. 11 attack on America.
At the precinct, Saeed signed a handwritten statement claiming that he was simply a tourist visiting a friend in the chemicals import-export business. But, perhaps sensing that the game was up, he complained to Fariscal that there are "two Satans that must be destroyed: the pope and America."
The senior inspector had already surmised that Pope John Paul II was a target of assassination, a suspicion that was borne out when she returned with the bomb squad to Suite 603 at 2:30 a.m. and found a photograph of the pontiff tucked into the corner of a bedside mirror, near a new crucifix, rosary and Bible. There were street maps of Manila, plotting the papal motorcade's route; two remote-control pipe bombs; and a phone message from a tailor saying that the cassock Saeed had ordered was ready for a final fitting. "It was obvious they had planned to dress someone up as a priest, and smuggle the bomb past the Holy Father's security detail," Fariscal recalls. But the sheer magnitude of the chemical arsenal Fariscal found in Suite 603 also made it clear that the conspirators had other targets.
It took days for the bomb squad to draw up a complete inventory of the apartment's contents, which included a cornucopia of explosive ingredients: sulfuric, picric and nitric acid, pure glycerin, acetone, sodium trichlorate, nitrobenzoyl, ammonia, silver nitrates, methanamine and ANFO binary explosive, among others.
Funnels, thermometers, graduated cylinders and beakers, mortars and pestles, various electronic fusing systems, timers, circuit breakers, batteries, chemistry reference manuals, a bomb recipe and a box of Rough Rider lubricated condoms rounded out the home laboratory.
The recipe, written in Arabic, on how to build powerful liquid bombs and part of more than 200 pages of classified Philippine and U.S. intelligence documents obtained by The Washington Post Magazine, was chilling in its simplicity. Step 1: "Put 0.5g of sodium hydroxide with 30 ml of warm water. Add to them 3g of picric acid ... " Step 6: "By using an eye dropper, very slowly add sulfuric acid to the liquid until its color is changed to orange, then to brown ... " Step 11: "Leave the mixture for 12 to 14 hours to allow the acetone peroxide to precipitate, then wash on filter paper until pH level 7 ... " Final step: "Put them in a dark place to dry."
That dark place turned out to be the cupboard under the apartment's kitchen sink, where technicians found a foot-long bomb with a Casio wristwatch timer.
"The guys in the bomb squad had never seen an explosive like this before," Fariscal says. Neither had many U.S. investigators.
"The particularly evil genius of this device was that it was virtually undetectable by airport-security measures," says Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of the CIA's counterterrorism center.
Fariscal found dozens of passports in different names hidden in a wall divider. Saeed, apparently, had many aliases. His real name, investigators would eventually discover, was Abdul Hakim Murad.
According to transcripts from his interrogation, he was the Pakistani-born son of a crane operator for a Kuwait petroleum company. He had graduated from high school in Al-Jery, Kuwait, before attending the Emirates Flying School in Dubai and moving on to flight schools in Texas, upstate New York and North Carolina, where he received a commercial pilot's license from Coastal Aviation Inc. on June 8, 1992.
Murad was a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. So, it turned out, was his accomplice at the Doña Josefa Apartments, the thin, bearded man who had given Fariscal the slip. He had registered under the name Najy Awaita Haddad, purporting to be a Moroccan national. But the United States already had a thick file on him, and that was just one of his 21 known aliases. He was in fact Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a fugitive with a $2 million bounty placed on his head by the U.S. government.
Fingerprints lifted at the apartment helped give Yousef away; a life spent assembling bombs had left his fingers burnt and distinctively deformed from mishaps mixing tricky chemical concoctions.
The most damning information found in the apartment was gleaned from Yousef's notebook computer, and four diskettes.
One of Yousef's translated documents spells out the terrorist cell's broad objectives.
"All people who support the U.S. government are our targets in our future plans and that is because all those people are responsible for their government's actions and they support the U.S. foreign policy and are satisfied with it," it declared.
"We will hit all U.S. nuclear targets," the manifesto continued. "If the U.S. government keeps supporting Israel, then we will continue to carry out operations inside and outside the United States to include — " here the text ends.
Another file consisted of a printout of U.S. airline schedules, which initially baffled investigators. The file, named Bojinka, listed the travel itineraries of 11 long-haul flights between Asia and the United States, mostly on United and American airlines. All the flights had several legs, and were grouped under five headings bearing code names of accomplices such as Zyed, Majbos or Obaid. Each accomplice would leave the bombs on the first leg of the flight, and then eventually return to locations such as Lahore, Pakistan. Obaid, for instance, would fly from Singapore to Hong Kong on United Flight 80, which continued as United Flight 806 to San Francisco.
Zyed, on the other hand, would take Northwest Airlines Flight 30 from Manila to Seoul, with continued service to Los Angeles.
Investigators had made the connection between the dozens of Casio wristwatches found in Suite 603 and one discovered a few weeks earlier on a Philippine Airlines flight from the Philippine town of Cebu to Tokyo's Narita International Airport. The watch had served to detonate a blast that ripped through the Boeing 747, killing a Japanese passenger and forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.
In Camp Crame, a military installation on the outskirts of Manila, Murad was subjected for 67 days to what Philippine intelligence reports delicately refer to as TI, or tactical interrogation. By the time he was handed over to the Americans, interrogators had extracted everything they thought they needed to know.
Yousef, Murad said, had been responsible for the blast aboard the Philippine airliner, which was actually a dry run to test the terrorists' new generation of nitroglycerin explosive, known as a "Mark II" bomb.
Yousef had deposited his device — lethal liquid concealed in a contact-lens-solution bottle with cotton-ball stabilizing agents and a harmless-looking wristwatch wrapped around it — under seat 27F on the Manila-to-Cebu leg of the flight to Tokyo. He had gotten off in Cebu after setting the watch's timer for four hours later.
The same plan, code-named Operation Bojinka (which is pronounced Bo-GIN-ka and means "loud bang" in Serbo-Croatian), was to be repeated on the 11 American commercial jetliners, with the timing devices synchronized to go off as the planes reached mid-ocean.
U.S. federal prosecutors later estimated that 4,000 passengers would have died had the plot been successful. The Bojinka operation called for a second, perhaps even more ambitious phase, as interrogators discovered when they pressed Murad about his pilot's license.
All those years in flight school, he confessed, had been in preparation for a suicide mission. He was to load a small plane, preferably a Cessna, with explosives and crash it into CIA headquarters.
There were secondary targets the terrorist cell wanted hit: Congress, the White House, the Pentagon and possibly some skyscrapers. The only problem, Murad said, was that they needed more trained pilots to carry out the plot.
"It's so chilling," Fariscal says. "Those kamikaze pilots trained in America, just like Murad." The FBI knew all about Yousef's plans. They'd seen the files, been inside 603. The CIA had access to everything, too. ...
"This should have never, ever been allowed to happen," she repeated angrily.
U.S. officials say that they did pay attention. FBI spokesman John Collingwood denies that the bureau had advance knowledge of a plot to turn airliners into flying bombs.
"The FBI had no warnings about any hijack plots. There was a widely publicized 1995 conspiracy in Manila to remotely blow up 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific," Collingwood said in a letter to the editor to The Post in October, "but that was disrupted. And, as is the practice, what was learned in that investigation was widely disseminated, even internationally, and thoroughly analyzed by multiple agencies. It does not connect to the current case."
Not everyone in the American intelligence community, however, is of the same mind. "There certainly were enough precursors that should have led analysts to suspect that the U.S could come under domestic attack," says Cannistraro, the former CIA counterterrorism chief. "There's no question about it. We knew about the pilots and suicide plots. Just didn't put two and two together."
That failure to connect the dots — or at the very least, monitor Middle Eastern students at U.S. flight schools — lies at the heart of the intelligence breakdown, Cannistraro says.
To be fair, it's a big leap from stealing a Cessna to commandeering a Boeing 767. "It's the imagination that failed us," says a former senior CIA agent, "not the system." He dismissed the connection to Bojinka as a "hindsight is cheap" theory.
Yet it is precisely the responsibility of the agency's thousands of planners and analysts to dream up what may appear as crazy scenarios to find ways to thwart them. And it is unclear what became of the information taken from Operation Bojinka.
"We didn't file it and forget about it," a CIA spokeswoman said. Indeed, shortly after Yousef's liquid bombs were discovered, the Federal Aviation Administration did begin installing "sniffer" devices, which can detect explosive chemicals, at major airports throughout America. But beyond that, there is no evidence of any other clear response by the intelligence community to the information gleaned from the foiled plot in the Philippines.
The terrorists, on the other hand, appear to have drawn a number of invaluable conclusions from their 1995 setback. "Under interrogation Murad told us several things that should have been of interest to analysts on the deterrence side," recalled retired Gen. Renato De Villa, who served as Philippines defense minister at the time of the raid on Suite 603.
First, the extremists saw the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as a failure and still considered the twin towers a viable target. And more importantly, the cell seemed to be growing frustrated with explosives. They were too expensive, unstable and could give them away.
Though nothing in Murad's confession gave investigators any warning of hijackings, somewhere along the line, his brothers at arms in al-Qaida did make the intellectual leap from explosives to jet fuel and box cutters.
One reason U.S counterterrorism officials may not have been able to outwit the terrorists, critics charged, is because the entire intelligence community has become too reliant on technology rather than human resources.
"Where the system breaks down," says a former staff member of President Clinton's National Security Council, "is not at the hunting and gathering stage" — the ability to electronically intercept information. "We are probably tapped into every hotel room in Pakistan. We can listen in to just about every phone call in Afghanistan," he said. But the problems is with analysts.
"They are a bunch of 24-year-old recent grads from Middlebury or Dartmouth who have never been to Pakistan or Afghanistan, don't speak any of the relevant languages, and seem more knowledgeable about the bar scene in Georgetown. They just don't compare to the Soviet specialists we used to have. I'm not surprised they missed it."
With the benefit of hindsight, Murad's confession today sounds almost prophetic, and as U.S investigators backtrack, piecing together bits of the puzzle left behind by the hijackers, the specter of Bojinka looms large. As in the case of the Sept. 11 attacks, authorities in Manila following Suite 603's money trail found that the deeper they dug, the closer they came to bin Laden.
The critical clue was in Ramzi Yousef's notebook computer. A list of cell-phone numbers on its hard drive led authorities to stake out another apartment in Manila, this one on Singalong Street. There they apprehended a third conspirator in Yousef's terrorist cell, a stocky Afghan by the name of Wali Khan Amin Shah.
Like Yousef, Shah carried many passports under various aliases. He also had mangled hands, and was missing two fingers. Both his legs were heavily scarred with shrapnel, and he had a large surgical scar on his stomach.
Shah turned out to be Bojinka's finance officer. To launder incoming funds, Shah used bank accounts belonging to his live-in Filipino girlfriend and a number of other Manila women.
Most of the transfers were surprisingly small — $500 or $1,000 handed over at a Wendy's or a karaoke bar late at night. Under "tactical interrogation" at Camp Crame, Shah admitted that most of the funds were channeled to Adam Sali, an alias used by Ramzi Yousef, through a Philippine bank account belonging to Omar Abu Omar, a Syrian-born man working at a local Islamic organization known as the International Relations and Information Center — run by one Mohammed Jalal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law.
Shah's and Murad's confessions led to Yousef's arrest in Pakistan, and the three suspects were extradited to New York to stand trial. All three were sentenced to life in prison at a maximum-security facility in Colorado, and Bojinka was filed in the "win" column, even as Mohamed Atta and fellow Sept. 11 hijackers were hatching plans to enroll in flight schools around the country.
That no one seemed to notice the connection, Cannistraro says, is the great failure.
Matthew Brzezinski is the author of "Casino Moscow."
Terrorism Protection for Nuclear PlantsAssociated Press – January 3, 2002
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Former U.S. Ambassador Mark Erwin has warned S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges and N.C. Gov. Mike Easley that nuclear power plants need more protection from terrorists.
In a letter, Erwin, of Charlotte, said his experience as ambassador to the East African nations of Mauritius, the Seychelles and Comoros until last March provided him with insight into the terrorist mindset through intelligence gathering.
There are more than 100,000 trained operatives "moving around the world at will" with terrorist cells functioning in more than 60 countries, he wrote. "Most likely, hundreds of operatives are in America today. They are meticulous planners and are patient beyond our understanding."
The attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, for example, were five years in the making, he said. "It's not a question of whether we'll be attacked again, it's when," Erwin said in an interview with The Greenville News.
"These are people who believe in their mission, are dedicated, smart and well-funded," he said. "And if a terrorist were to be successful and take out a nuclear facility, it would make the World Trade Center pale in comparison."
Nuclear power plants should be considered targets of these groups, he wrote. But they "cannot withstand a direct hit from even a private jet loaded with high explosives" and are not protected from an assault by missiles.
But existing security measures are sufficient, said South Carolina's homeland security director, retired Maj. Gen. Steve Siegfried.
He hadn't seen Erwin's letter, but Siegfried has inspected nuclear plants in the state, including Duke Power's Oconee Nuclear Station.
"I felt just as safe at that nuclear power plant as I do in my own living room," he said.
"We believe our stations are safe," said Duke Power spokesman Tom Shiel. "We have a great deal of faith in our security forces on each site and nothing has happened to change our opinion on that."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is studying whether reactor containment facilities can withstand a plane crash, Shiel said. The federal Office of Homeland Security also is taking a look at nuclear plant safety.
"We have been working very closely with local, state and federal agencies to make sure stations are secure," he said, "and we will continue to do so."
Erwin says the protection is adequate only for minor attacks.
"Our power plants need the equipment only available to our military, including ground-to-air missiles and heavy arms as well as the trained soldiers to operate these weapons properly to protect these dangerously vulnerable sites," he said.