Imaging Potential San Onofre Fallout

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Title slide from Paul Frey's powerpoint presentation. (Used with permission)

What might the radioactive fallout cloud look like at San Onofre from a Chernobyl-like or Fukushima-scale nuclear accident?
Recently two concerned men, each in his own way, have set out to answer that question. Torgen Johnson mapped a scaled overlay of the Fukushima fallout cloud over the San Onofre region. Paul Frey mapped a scaled overlay of the Chernobyl radioactive plume. Their findings are presented below.

But first, just to get a sense of how radioactive fallout can spread (depending on wind and weather patterns), check out this simulation by IRSN, Institute De Radioprotection Et De Surete Nucleaire, of the Chernobyl fallout clouds spread across Europe from April 25 to May 9, 1986…

And check out this NOAA simulation of just two weeks of releases of cesium over the Pacific from Fukushima. Of course, Fukushima is still releasing billions of bequerals per day and will be for the foreseeable future, so picture that as well. [ More info on the sumulation Fukushima Radioactive Aerosol Dispersion here. ]


Click here to view NOAA video.

Torgen Johnson is an architect and urban planner who lives with his family in region threatened by a San Onofre accident. You can see his popular interview in our series here. This is what he has to say:

I want to share this recent graphic produced of the Fukushima radioactive plume overlaid on San Onofre. The image was created for the sole purpose of illustrating the relative size of the plume in Fukushima after only 25 hours vs. the totally inadequate 10-mile EPZ radius size for a U.S. nuclear power plant.

Evacuation would be futile when confronted by a radioactive plume of this size. This is only the first 25 hours and 20 percent of the plume that Prime Minister Kan and the people of Japan faced.

Of course the plume’s shape is specific to the weather patterns in NE Japan and does not reflect what the plume’s shape would be if there was a severe nuclear accident at San Onofre.

Fukushima radioactive plume overlaid on San Onofre - Torgen Johnson

A second image from NASA shows what happens to smoke from brush fires during a Santa Ana wind condition. The plume would not necessarily take an elongated oval shape as I have seen in some probabilistic risk assessment studies.

Smoke from brush fires during a Santa Ana wind condition - NASA

If just the owner-occupied homes in the City of San Clemente are valued at over $20 billion you can imagine the economic impacts of a nuclear accident in an urbanized area like Southern California. The economic impacts need to be discussed at all public meetings. Torgen

Paul Frey’s PowerPoint Presentation

Title slide from Paul Frey's powerpoint presentation. (Used with permission)

Slide 2 - Paul Frey

Slide 3 - Paul Frey

Slide 4 - Paul Frey

Slide 5 - Paul Frey

Slide 6 - Paul Frey

Slide 7 - Paul Frey


Paul Frey concludes,
LA Exclusion Zones, Estimates of Economic Losses, Health Impacts, Liability and Sources

A Radioactive Exclusion Zone is generally defined as an area over 555KBq/square meter of cesium 137. Information from the sources below can show that if fog, wind and rain carried all the fallout from a worst case meltdown or 1000 ton fuel pool fire onto an area the size of the LA Basin, MUCH OF THE LOS ANGELES BASIN WOULD BE DEFINED AS AN EXCLUSION ZONE and would suffer economically for many years to come. Independent and government studies shown below estimate worst case losses in different scenarios from 500 billion to trillions of dollars.

No insurance company will insure against a nuclear disaster. In a 1 trillion dollar nuclear accident the utilities would only have to pay about 1 percent of damages whereas the taxpayers would have to try and cover the other 99 percent via the Price Anderson Act which limits the liability to 12 billion dollars for any nuclear plant accident. Health effects from radiation would depend on how quickly the population in the LA Basin could evacuate.

(1) Radiological Terrorism: Sabotage of Spent Fuel Pools Author: Hui Zhang, Journal Article, INESAP issue 22 pages 75-78. For calculating burning tons of spent fuel and resulting fallout using Chernobyl as a base reference to multiply. Showed worst case fuel pool fires in France would equal 67 Chernobyls.

(2) A Safety and Regulatory Assessment of Generic BWR and PWR Permanently Shutdown Nuclear Power Plants, Brookhaven National Laboratories, NUREG/CR-6451; BNL NUREG-52498, 1997. Shows shutdown reactors with fuel pools are capable of massive radiological releases. Estimates 546 billion dollars economic loss excluding health effects, 138,000 latent fatalities, and 2100 square miles of land condemned in worst case fuel pool fire. This studies modeling was not done using the geography of the LA Basin, which would lead to higher numbers if all the radiation was trapped in the basin.

(3) Environmental Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident and their Remediation – Twenty Years of Experience. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2006, for Chernobyl European fallout map. According to IAEA “Over two decades Chernobyl has cost hundreds of billions of dollars”. See IAEA “In Focus: Chernobyl” The IAEA says they do not know how many hundreds billions it really was due to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

(4) Massive Radiological Releases Profoundly Differ From Controlled Releases Author, Patrick Momal, IRSN, Institute De Radioprotection Et De Surete Nucleaire, Eurosafe Forum 2012 that showed cost for a meltdown would exceed half a trillion dollars. Unreleased leaked version of this report from Le Journal de Dimanche showed worst case costs from French nuclear reactor would be three time the GDP of France or over 4 trillion dollars. The study was done in 2007 and partly released at the Eurosafe Forum in 2012.

(5) The Health and Economic Impacts of a Terrorist Attack at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Author, Edwin S. Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists, 2004. Costs to the New York area would exceed 1 Trillion Dollars in worst case.

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About Admin

James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan administer this blog as well as Planetarian Perspectives. Award-winning media producers as well as educators and community organizers, they co-direct EON - the Ecological Options Network . The EON YouTube channel has over 600 posts and over 3,000 subscribers.
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2 Responses to Imaging Potential San Onofre Fallout

  1. Pingback: Images of potential radioactive fallout, if San Onofre nuclear plant had an accident « nuclear-news

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