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Nuclear -     1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Nuclear - Page 8

"Treason doth never prosper: what 's the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
- Sir John Harrington

Plane Aimed at Nuclear Facility

Associated Press - By DUNCAN MANSFIELD - September 21, 2001

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. -- Hijackers took over an airliner with 27 passengers and four crew aboard and threatened to crash into the government's nuclear weapons production complex in Oak Ridge.

It happened 29 years ago.

"They let us know that if we didn't have the money by X hour, then we were going to dive into Oak Ridge," co-pilot Harold Johnson said in an interview from his Memphis, Tenn., home. "And there was no doubt in my mind that we would have done just that."

Johnson was threatened with his life and shot before the 32-hour ordeal ended Nov. 12, 1972, in Havana.

Airline hijackings to Cuba were common in those days. The commandeering of the Southern Airways DC-9 was one of about 30 that year, and one of the few previous times in American history in which hijackers threatened to use an airplane as a weapon.

Unlike the recent hijackers, the three Americans who took control of Johnson's Memphis-to-Miami-flight had little training and virtually no plan. They did have guns, a hand grenade and a grudge against Detroit, where two of them had been charged with rape.

Hijacker Melvin Cale grew up in nearby Knoxville, Tenn., and had worked in Oak Ridge before moving to Detroit with his half-brother Louis Moore, another hijacker. Henry Jackson of Detroit completed the trio.

They commandeered the plane about 10 minutes after a stopover in Birmingham, Ala., crashing through the cockpit door with an arm around a flight attendant's throat and a gun to her head.

They wanted a $10 million ransom, 10 parachutes and 10 bulletproof vests. The plane eventually reached Knoxville and began circling Oak Ridge, site of a nuclear research reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"It was surreal in a sense," said Jim Alexander, a former government spokesman at Oak Ridge. "We would look up in the sky and see this jet airliner circling. It was high, but it never left."

In his book, "Odyssey of Terror," the plane's captain, William Haas, wrote that the hijackers became enraged when their demands received a lukewarm response. They forced Haas to begin a steep descent on Oak Ridge, pulling out only when the airline said it would comply.

Johnson, however, said the plane never got below 8,000 feet and that was only so the hijackers could identify Oak Ridge.

The airline finally came up with $2 million for the hijackers, who then forced the pilots to fly to Havana. They shot Johnson in the arm during a shootout with FBI agents when the plane stopped to refuel in Orlando, Fla.

The hijackers were arrested in Cuba and imprisoned there for eight years.

The trio returned in 1980 to Birmingham, where they were sentenced to 20- to 25-year terms.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Employee Advocate - - September 18, 2001

The Associated Press article below, covers the possibility of an air strike against a nuclear plant. Those who wish to see no evil and hear no evil, can no longer pretend that such an event is an impossibility. After September 11, 2001, such denials can no longer be suffered. The warnings that many have given over the years can no longer be ignored.

The consensus is that little can be done to protect against such an attack, other than installing anti-aircraft weaponry. Who would have thought that it would have ever come to that? And just how much time would there be to identify friend or foe? Mistakenly shooting down a friendly craft full of innocent passengers does not make for good press.

And what goes up, must come down. Any projectiles fired into the air will return to earth, possibly adding to the casualties. Any downed aircraft striking the earth will also add to the risk of increasing the body count. For those more interested in cash than carnage: As the planes plunge, what do you think the price of nuclear related stocks will be doing?

The article correctly points out that most nuclear plants “were designed to withstand only accidental, glancing impacts from the smaller aircraft widely used at the time (1960s and 1970s).” A Boeing 767, loaded with fuel, making a power dive into a nuclear reactor is quite a different story. Again, after September 11, 2001, no one can say that this is pure fantasy. And remember, twin towers were completely destroyed in New York by two aircraft. Is it impossible to conceive that twin nuclear reactors could suffer the same fate?

In the unlikely event that the plane completely missed the reactor, the plant would still be put out of commission. From recent experience, we know that it is not likely that the reactor would be missed. It is highly likely that the optimal trajectory would be chosen to inflict maximum damage.

It has been proven that there are those who would not flinch at diving a jet into a nuclear reactor. And then, there is the matter of dry cask spent fuel storage.

Because the fuel is “spent” does not mean that it is no longer radioactive. It was never originally intended for this fuel to just sit in a yard. Spent fuel once resided in concrete bunkers, immersed in water. Now, at many nuclear plants, the spent fuel storage facilities are full. The excess spent fuel now sits near the plants in dry casks.

The enterprising Kamikaze pilot could try to penetrate several feet of steel reinforced, super-strength concrete, which protects the reactor. Or, he could simply plow into the spent fuel dry casks. They sit on their ends, clustered together, like so many white bowling pins, waiting for a “strike.”

Security Tightens at Nuclear Plants

Security Tightens at Nuclear Plants

Associated Press - By William J. Kole - September 18, 2001

VIENNA, Austria –– Haunted by last week's terrorism, delegates from 132 nations opened an annual atomic energy conference Monday with calls for tighter security – and admissions that little can be done to shield a nuclear power plant from an airborne assault.

Governments, fearing a similar suicide jetliner crash at a nuclear plant, have tightened security outside nuclear power and radioactive waste facilities worldwide in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But Japan, which is heavily dependent on nuclear energy and has 52 nuclear plants, warned Monday that nothing can shield the plants from a direct hit from a missile or an aircraft.

At the same time, the world needs to make sure nuclear materials are kept out of terrorists' hands, delegates to the International Atomic Energy Agency gathering said.

In a message to delegates, President Bush urged the Vienna-based agency to keep pace with "the real and growing threat of nuclear proliferation."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the effort "more important than ever in the aftermath of last week's appalling terrorist attack in the United States."

The architects of the world's nuclear plants designed them more with ground vehicle – not airborne – attacks in mind, IAEA spokesman David Kyd said.

Most nuclear plans were built during the 1960s and 1970s, and like the World Trade Center, were designed to withstand only accidental, glancing impacts from the smaller aircraft widely used at the time, he said.

"If you postulate the risk of a jumbo jet full of fuel, it is clear that their design was not conceived to withstand such an impact," Kyd said.

In Japan, Takeo Hiranuma, minister for economy, trade and industry, noted that his country's nuclear plants were built to withstand earthquakes – not "hits from above by missiles or aircraft."

A direct hit of a nuclear plant by a modern jumbo jet traveling at high speed "could create a Chernobyl situation," said a U.S. official who declined to be identified. The 1986 nuclear explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine, killed more than 4,000 people. Tens of thousands more were disabled in the cleanup afterward.

However, the buildings that house nuclear reactors themselves are far smaller targets than the Pentagon posed, and it would be extremely difficult for a terrorist to mount a direct hit at an angle that could unleash a catastrophic chain of events, Kyd said.

If a nuclear power plant were hit by an airliner, the reactor would not explode, but such a strike could destroy the plant's cooling systems. That could cause the nuclear fuel rods to overheat and produce a steam explosion that could release lethal radioactivity into the atmosphere.

In the United States, one solution could be installation of anti-aircraft weaponry manned by military personnel who would be stationed outside the nation's 104 commercial reactors, said Paul Leventhal, president of the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute, a nonproliferation advocacy group.

Last week, military fighter jets scrambled over Massachusetts and Virginia to get to New York after being alerted to civilian airlines veering off course – but failed to get there in time, U.S. officials said.

"The problem is that the industry has been in a deep state of denial for many years. They don't want to unduly alarm the public," Leventhal said. "We feel the public should be duly alarmed. We're in a new era, and we must protect these plants in extraordinary ways."

Editorial (Nuclear) War

Employee Advocate - - September 10, 2001

In “Duke Energy’s Ethics Examined – Again,” we reported that The Charlotte Observer consoled Duke by printing a long article by Mike Tuckman, selling the case for re-licensing Duke’s nuclear plants. Duke received free advertising and was, no doubt, happy.

To The Observer’s credit, they later ran an opposing article by Mary Olson, of the Nuclear Information and Resources Service. To be fair, they gave Ms. Olson as much space as they gave to Mr. Tuckman.

Both sides of the Duke nuclear plant re-licensing issue were equally covered. Everyone should be happy.

Well, Mr. Tuckman was not happy at all! He wrote an article in “Team Nuclear,” on July 9, 2001, entitled: “EDITORIAL MAKES ONE MAD.” He did not like seeing Ms. Olson’s article published, even though his was of equal size and was published first!

Here’s the article:


“A recent editorial in the Charlotte Observer was enough to make me want to have newspaper rage. It was written by Mary Olsen (sic) of Asheville, who is the director of the Nuclear Information and Resources Service (NIRS) – an anti-nuclear group. She alleges that McGuire and Catawba are not safe because they have almost no containment around them and that our plants are most vulnerable to a major accident. She asserts that we are pursuing license renewal to do the MOX fuel project. She urges the use of wind and solar power.

“We are not responding to her in the paper since it generally does no good to get into a public fight. I believe her statements are so outrageous that any thinking person would ignore them.”

This is interesting. Mr. Tuckman would not challenge her comments in The Observer, but made snide remarks about them elsewhere. Mr. Tuckman is right that it does no good to get into a public fight – unless one is right. If one is right, and all the facts are exposed for all to see, it becomes obvious who is in favor of full disclosure and who would like for certain matters to remain hidden.

Regardless of how one feels about either article, it is apparent that Ms. Olson drew blood with that one.

Duke Energy’s Ethics Examined – Again

Public Input Squelched at Yucca Hearing

Public Citizen - Press Release - September 6, 2001

DOE Tactics Effectively Deny Nevada Residents Opportunity to Speak

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The federal government's handling of a Wednesday night public hearing in Nevada effectively prevented hundreds of Nevada residents from publicly testifying on a critical matter: the proposed storage of 77,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste near their community.

"Democracy lost today when citizens were denied the right to speak by the Department of Energy's strong-arm tactics," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "The DOE is ramming this dangerous, ill-conceived plan through, against the will of the Nevada people."

The poor process and choice of location were evident even before the hearing began, when the auditorium at DOE's Nevada Operations Office was packed to capacity with 250 people. Many were forced to cram into a nearby cafeteria to watch the proceedings by video, and the cafeteria soon was standing room only. The forbidding DOE facility is surrounded by a tall chain-link fence and lies on an industrial road outside Las Vegas, far from public transportation. In Las Vegas, though, there are a number of auditoriums that would have been more accessible and could have handled the crowd. The hearing was required by law for the project to move forward. Those present who wished to speak were told by DOE officials that if they had not registered by phone ahead of time, they would have to wait hours to speak. This last-minute change effectively denied hundreds of Nevada residents an opportunity to air their views; many left before speaking because it was so late. Meanwhile, pro-dump people - many from other states - had signed up to speak first.

"Nowhere in the Federal Register or other public notices were Nevada citizens informed they had to register ahead of time," Hauter said. "This is after the DOE gave only nine business days notice for a hearing 20 years in the making, then abruptly changed the location and listed an incorrect address on public notices of the new hearing location. This pattern of Machiavellian tactics cannot, will not, and must not be accepted in America."

Former Nevada Sen. Richard H. Bryan, Nevada's GOP Governor Kenny Guinn, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman joined Public Citizen in denouncing the DOE's underhanded tactics. Public Citizen also rejected the DOE's 15-day public comment extension as inadequate.

"The DOE should not strong-arm Nevadans," Hauter said. "An issue of this magnitude - the storage of America's high-level nuclear waste - demands rigorous scrutiny and transparent deliberations. The DOE is denying the American people their right to have a say in how dangerous nuclear waste will be stored for hundreds of thousands of years."

Plutonium Controversy Rages in S. C.

Employee Advocate - - September 1, 2001

James T. Hammond (The Greenville News) reports that the plutonium controversy in South Carolina is far from being settled. The S. C. politicians do not agree with the Department of Energy (DOE), and do not agree amount themselves. They all do seem to agree that they do not want S. C. to end up holding the bag – a bag full of deadly plutonium.

A press conference, questioning the whole MOX fuel project, was held outside the governor’s office. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League; the Carolina Peace Resource Center; Environmentalists Inc.; South Carolina Environmental Watch; the South Carolina Progressive Network; the United Citizens Party; the League of Women Voters and the midlands chapter of the Sierra Club were all represented and all questioned the plutonium disposal plan. The main concern was the MOX conversion plan. The plan is to convert bomb-grade plutonium into fuel for Duke Energy’s Catawba and McGuire nuclear stations.

State Rep. Joe Neal, Co-Chairman, Progressive Network, said: "The plan to process plutonium to make fuel for commercial reactors will create more radioactive waste. You can't be opposed to more plutonium ending up in South Carolina and be in favor of MOX."

Brett Bursey, Director, South Carolina Progressive Network, said: "Many South Carolina politicians are posturing as environmentalists in order to promote another jobs program at the Bomb Plant. These politicians should be fighting for jobs cleaning up and immobilizing the waste, not for jobs that make more waste."

Susan Corbett of the John Bachman Group of the South Carolina Sierra Club said: "A truck carrying enough plutonium to make five or six bombs is going to be a tempting target for terrorists."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has provide us with a copy of their Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility Savannah River Site Scoping Summary Report. Under 4.6 of the Environmental Impact Statement, Impacts From Terrorism, is stated: “…the EIS will not address the impacts of terrorism…” Well, that’s just peachy.

A NRC complaint was filed in 1999, about the possible negative impact Duke Energy’s cash balance pension conversion could have on nuclear safety. The NRC’s reply was: “Such matters are outside the regulatory purview of the NRC.” With the downsizing of the NRC, it is reasonable to expect less regulating and more rubber-stamping!

The DOE and Duke Energy Corporation are two of the most authoritarian, overbearing entities imaginable. When you get them both together, you really have the potential for serious controversy. Governor Hodges has demonstrated that he has no intention of letting them run roughshod over the state of South Carolina. Salute!

NRC Ignores Widespread Safety Flaw for Decade

Union of Concerned Scientists - August 27, 2001

Two-thirds of nation's nuclear plants susceptible to
dangerous cracking recently found in South Carolina plant

For 10 years the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ignored a deterioration problem that affects the reactor vessels of two-thirds of the nation's nuclear power plants. While France and Japan moved swiftly to correct the problem in their plants after it first surfaced in 1991, the NRC has rejected efforts to replace the equipment in US plants, even though the problem emerged this spring at a nuclear plant in South Carolina.

"The federal agency entrusted to ensure that our nuclear reactors run safely should not turn a blind eye to a serious safety problem," said David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "We're lucky an accident hasn't occurred."

The deterioration problem, which is found in the nation's pressurized water reactors, is in the joints between the reactor vessel and the tubes that house control rods. These joints, or nozzles, are subject to severe stress from heating and are susceptible to cracking -- as was found in a French plant in 1991. If these cracks were to grow large enough they could lead to an ejection of the control rod, leakage of reactor cooling water, and failure of emergency systems, which could lead to a reactor meltdown.

"Instead of a band-aid fix, the NRC needs to follow the lead other countries have taken in protecting public safety by replacing the cracked reactor vessel heads." said Lochbaum. "Anything short of replacing this broken equipment needlessly endangers the public."

Cracks discovered this spring at Oconee Unit 3 in South Carolina extended nearly 45 percent of the way around two nozzles. With a crack this large the massive pressure in the reactor could result in a catastrophic rupture. In 1994 the NRC wrote a report on this type of cracking, based on an inspection of a single US nuclear plant, and claimed that cracks as large as the one at Oconee were not likely. In contrast, similar plants in Europe and Japan underwent aggressive safety precautions when the problem was discovered.

"Waiting a decade until an expected problem crops-up is bad enough," Lochbaum said. "Waiting until an accident occurs is worse."

S. C. Wins Plutonium Standoff

Employee Advocate - - August 26, 2001

James T. Hammond (The Greenville News) reports that the Department of Energy will indefinitely postpone the shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to South Carolina. A DOE spokesman said that there are no conditions on the shipment suspension.

Governor Jim Hodges wisely said that he wants the pledge in writing. Our advice is not to let Duke Energy draw up the papers. Employees had pension, early retirement, and health benefits in writing, but Duke still managed to slip out of upholding their end of the agreement!

The DOE had fully intended to force the plutonium on South Carolina. The shipments are suspended only because the governor threatened to forcibly defend his state from the entry of plutonium.

As usual, those who lie still and pretend to be doormats will be treated as such. Those who make it clear that a price will be extracted from those who attempt to walk upon them will endure considerably less foot traffic.

U.S. Balks on Plutonium

New York Times - By MATTHEW L. WALD - August 21, 2001

A program conceived by the Clinton administration to rid the world of 100 tons of American and Russian weapons-grade plutonium is likely to be abandoned by the Bush administration, according to people who have been briefed about the project.

Under the plan, which was first proposed in the mid-90's, 50 tons of American plutonium and 50 tons of Russian plutonium would be taken out of nuclear weapons and either converted into fuel for nuclear reactors or rendered useless for weapons by mixing it with highly radioactive nuclear waste, a process known as immobilization. When the plan was drafted, Clinton administration officials said the program would reduce the risk that the plutonium would fall into the wrong hands, where it could easily be turned into weapons.

By reducing the availability of weapons-grade plutonium, the project had the added benefit of bolstering treaties between the United States and Russia to cut the number of nuclear warheads deployed by each side, by making it harder to turn plutonium from decommissioned weapons back into warheads.

Bush administration officials deny that the program is dead, but acknowledge that it has difficulties, primarily financial ones.

"The issue is under review," said an administration official who would speak only if not identified. "We've made no secret of that. But no decisions have been made."

But the official continued, "It's no secret that there are a lot of equities to balance here."

One major equity, he said, is money. Early this year the Energy Department predicted a cost of $6.6 billion, about triple the initial estimates, to convert the American stocks to fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. It put Russia's cost at $1.76 billion, which is money Russia does not have.

The expectation under the Clinton administration was that the United States and other rich countries would help pay, but no concrete pledges were ever made.

In 1999 the Clinton administration did agree to pay a consortium of power companies $130 million to use plutonium that the government would convert into fuel. But the conversion factories are not yet built, and the conversion itself was contingent on an agreement with the Russians to take similar steps to dispose of plutonium from their weapons.

Despite the program's expected benefits, the Bush administration's proposed Energy Department budget this spring did not include the money needed to mix some of the plutonium with nuclear waste.

The second path — converting it to fuel for American nuclear reactors, the strategy the Clinton administration hoped would induce the Russians to do the same — also appears likely to be dropped soon.

"There is no enthusiasm for it whatsoever," said a Congressional aide who was briefed by officials of the National Security Council, referring both to the current strategy of immobilization and to conversion to reactor fuel. The issue of what to do with plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons has haunted policy makers for years.

One particular fear is that the material from Russian weapons would be bought or stolen by terrorists or a "rogue" government who could construct a nuclear bomb. In recent years, the security of bomb materials in Russia has been improved markedly by joint Russian-American efforts, administration experts say.

Bush administration officials insist that they share the goal of disposing of American and Russian plutonium.

"There's no philosophical shift that says suddenly we're perfectly fine with surplus plutonium laying around — we're not," said an administration official familiar with the Clinton-era program. But, he added, conversion to fuel for existing reactors or mixing with waste are "not the only options for disposing of it safely."

As an alternative, the Bush administration appears to be considering a variety of untested technical options, including a new generation of nuclear reactors that could burn plutonium more thoroughly.

"They're trying to improve on it by giving up on getting started any time soon," said Matthew G. Bunn, a nuclear expert at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who was an adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Clinton administration.

He and other experts are skeptical that a new generation of reactors, which was also mentioned in President Bush's energy plan as a way to dispose of nuclear waste, would ever be built. Construction on the last nuclear plants built in the United States country was begun more than 25 years ago.

"We're back at Square 1 with the program, and they're looking at imaginary options, like advanced reactors," said Tom Clements, executive director the Nuclear Control Institute, a nonprofit group that opposes the use of plutonium for reactor fuel. "For financial reasons, it's not going to be viable."

Though the administration is considering dropping the program to convert or immobilize weapons- grade plutonium, a separate Russian-American program to reduce the inventory of another Russian bomb fuel, highly enriched uranium, is continuing. In fact, uranium that was intended for Russian bombs now meets more than half the needs of American power reactors.

But diluting uranium to the type used in power plants is technically far simpler and cheaper than the process required for plutonium, which must be converted from the metal form used in weapons to a plutonium-uranium ceramic used in American power plants.

In fact, enriched uranium has economic value as reactor fuel, while converting plutonium appears to be a money-losing proposition.

Even so, Russian officials have said repeatedly that they view plutonium as an asset and would like to build new breeder reactors, so named because they produce plutonium faster than they consume the other main reactor fuel, uranium.

The end of the plutonium program would be mixed news for groups concerned with proliferation.

For example, the Nuclear Control Institute has pushed vigorously for immobilization and against converting plutonium to reactor fuel, which is known as mixed oxide, or MOx.

Officials of the institute say conversion to MOx is very expensive and would encourage international commerce in weapons material.

"We think their assessment of MOx is correct," said Mr. Clements, referring to the administration. "The problem is, it appears they've also rejected the cheaper alternative, which is immobilization."

Nuclear - Page Seven