"Office of Public Affairs/NRC"
From: Russell D. Hoffman (contact information shown below)
Date: July 16th, 2001
Re: Hundred Billion Dollar Fine suggested for Monticello Primary Containment booboo
To Whom It May Concern;
I am interested in being informed of whatever steps the NRC is taking regarding the Monticello incident (NRC #38130) which rendered their primary containment "inoperable" since construction about thirty years ago, due to 32 shipping bolts on 8 separate bellows (four each) not being removed after installation. Further information about the incident that I know at this time is included below. Since all of it was taken from the NRC event report, the Daily Plant Status report, and a conversation with the NRC bureau chief for the region, I assume it is a fairly accurate description of what is known so far.
My suggested fine, $100,000,000,000.00 is not out of line. Many problems that occur in the nuclear industry are transient. This one was permanent -- so permanent that it lasted longer than the NRC has been in existence (30 years versus "only" 26 years, when the NRC was born, along with it's twin nuclear promotion agency, the Department of (Nuclear Weaponry and Nuclear) Energy (known of course as the DOE or "Death of the Earth" squad) of a corrupt Atomic Energy Commission).
But I digress into history, where this problem started. As I was saying, I would guess that most problems for which the NRC imposes large fines are because things happen which endanger the public safety, like a crane accident occurs which could easily have been prevented, or a spill, or a fire, or a failure to properly lubricate something, or whatever. Other fines are probably assessed for problems such as installing a backup system incorrectly, doing shoddy repairs or failing to do maintenance repair work, or for not keeping proper records.
This doesn't really fit in any of those categories. Every time I have ever spoken to anyone at the NRC or in the nuclear industry in America (or Britain, for that matter) about Chernobyl, I am told that our power plants are much safer "because ours have a containment dome".
Now, I've never actually believed this makes much difference, myself, for two reasons: First, our containment domes are full of holes. Holes for people and material to go through. Holes for thick bundles of electrical cables. Huge holes for vast quantities of coolant to go through.
As I said, full of holes. Where the nuclear industry might compare their domes to a foot soldier's helmet, I would compare it to a cook's spaghetti strainer.
But besides that, there is another difference, which is that this lack of containment dome allowed the plant operators in Russia to pour sand and other materials directly onto the reactor in order to smother the flames and cool the reactor enough to stop melting down.
As you may know, bad as Chernobyl was, it could have been a lot worse. But don't ask the pilots or crews who flew the missions that saved us about how much worse it could have been. They're all dead from the exposures they got, and they knew at the time that they were doomed.
But again I digress. My point is that the "primary containment" is NOT supposed to be inoperable, no matter how trivial the cause! And once discovered, the licensee apparently waited as long as your codes permit (four hours), after 30 years of illegal operation, before beginning a shutdown procedure.
What's up with that? I haven't looked at the regulation itself (it's number is in the event report so I suppose I could find it online somewhere, unless it's in ADAMS which is a nightmare) but apparently it doesn't even suggest that they should shut down as soon as possible, it only says they must shut down within four hours, and that's exactly, to the minute, what they did. Every minute means more profits.
They must have said, "So what if the primary containment appears to be inoperable! Damn the torpedoes, and all the people that live near us or would want to for 1000 years! We make millions of dollars every hour this thing is cranking! Keep it running! Who needs a primary containment anyway?"
As you can see I don't think highly of a crew that would not immediately shut their reactor down upon discovering that their primary containment was currently inoperable. Regardless of the wording of the regulations, the safe and prudent thing to do was obvious. Isn't there a regulation that covers such a situation, as well? Regardless of the speed limit, police officers can always cite a driver for driving that is "unsafe for the conditions". I would think the NRC would have similar authority to impose sanctions for irresponsible behavior.
Do you have a way to fine them for each aspect of this transgression separately? I understand the bellows manufacturer is out of business now (I think that's what the NRC bureau chief told me, although my notes are incomplete on the subject).
Then there is the company and the people that installed the part. Will they be fined, if they are not the licensee but a subcontractor? And then there are the inspectors who 30 years ago didn't notice these 32 bolts on eight huge bellows (four each). Will they be reprimanded? Do any of them now work for the NRC?
Will the NRC change the regulation to require an immediate shutdown if it's probable that the repair will take longer than the four hours that a shutdown is required in anyway?
Please keep me informed of the answers to these questions, such as where the investigation is currently at, what the possibility of a fine is, what the timetable for these decisions will be, and what that fine, if any, ultimately is.
Thank you in advance.
Letter to a Mr. Tim Steadham, (which is in response to the 21st letter
this week from him, which explains the opening greeting), which discusses
the Monticello incident. Attached to it is a relevant article, as
well, which I recommend you read.
Got your rant for the day.
Tomorrow, Mr. Steadham, I'll be busy. I intend to be on the NRC's case to know exactly how dangerous the problem at Monticello was. No matter how trivial the initiating event was, that apparently rendered the primary containment inoperable, it was that way for about 30 years. What size fine the NRC decides is appropriate for that failure is of great interest to me. I think it should be at least a hundred billion dollars.
The facts of the case include that another plant discovered the shipping bolts on their primary containment's bellows had not been removed. Monticello has a different bellows, manufactured by a completely different company, but when alerted to the problem (that's a good thing) by the other nuke, a check of their's turned up that the 32 bolts on the eight separate bellows had also not been removed.
The big difference was that in the first case, the bolts were on one edge so the bellows would probably have worked well enough anyway. In Monticello, the bolts were in a square in the middle of the bellows and they wouldn't have been able to open at all. The only thing that was good was that some of the bolts on some of the bellows apparently might have been loosened a little.
So how bad was this? Well, the loss of the "primary containment" is pretty serious, even though you brush it off as just one more "incident" (which in a way, I'd agree with you on. It's just one more nail in nuclear's coffin -- lack of public trust in the industry will do it in, either before or certainly after a major accident). If enough bolts were loose enough, then the loss of the primary containment was not quite total. But at the moment it appears that for thirty years Monticello operated with a totally or nearly-totally inoperable primary containment. If that doesn't scare you, Mr. Steadham, I'd check your pulse.
I personally think that might warrant the biggest fine in the 26-year history of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, although perhaps I'm not aware of other more serious and even longer-lasting transgressions. So while you, Mr. Steadham, brush off this incident as meaningless because a meltdown without a primary containment did not occur, I see it as vastly more important than dissecting the mistakes in your trivial mathematical pursuits.
I working on an appropriate answer to your latest rant, but below is a start. You're way behind I'm sure, but you should push the attached article ahead of the line and catch up with my earlier letter after you've read this relevant item, especially because you keep carrying on about the connection (or lack thereof, according to you) between nuclear power and nuclear weapons proliferation. This meticulous article (shown below) makes the connection quite clear. Not that you'll get it or anything, but others reading our "debates" probably will (I do not yet feel they qualify as "debates" in the classical sense of the term, where issues are discussed rationally).
So read this article, Mr. Steadham, and remember as you do so, that we both live in a country that has accepted "the Nuremberg human rights protocols". So I think it is your duty to pay closer attention than you have been, to the history of the industry you support so blindly. You're killing us, and we deserve a chance to tell you how and why, and that we want you to stop, and we will eventually find a way to MAKE you stop. Right now though, it's time for you to stop your ranting to me, and start reading. Learn some truth.
Responses of yours which I have not yet answered will be answered as time permits. If I have taken some out of order, or even ignored some, that's life. You sent 21 letters in less than a week. Some you've retracted, some you've corrected, many you've mainly just repeated yourself. I think I've handled the onslaught fairly despite any claims you seem to want to make to the contrary.
I expect you to permanently post every word we've written to each other, in order, and I will, if you do it properly, copy your html to my web site so we both have it "published". But you act like I've censored you or something. I've done nothing of the sort. You aren't the only fish in the sea and I continue to deal with your shenanigans and absurdities as time permits. You're the one who wrote me, who invited debate, and who has the new website lacking in depth.
I'm tired, Mr. Steadham. I'm tired of you and I'm tired of the nuclear industry's experimentation on human subjects -- me, for instance, and members of my family, and friends.
(originally from CT, which has closed down its nukes already)
all downwinders!" Check out