A Scientist-Mom Writes Her Rep re Diablo – Guest Blog – Cindy Sage

Environmental Consultant Cindy Sage Writes Her Representative, Sen. Sam Blakelee

23 March 2011
Honorable Sam Blakeslee. Senator
State Capitol, Room 4070
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 651-4015
Fax: (916) 445-8081

Hi Sam,

I have some thoughts for you, as you go after Diablo’s recertification.

Let me tell you what it is like to fly from Singapore to Hong Kong to SF and back to SB
in one day. Because of catastrophic radiation threats from ‘the safest nuclear reactors in the world’ in Japan.

Our daughter Stephanie, her husband and 22-month old evacuated from Tokyo last
Tuesday to Singapore via Osaka and Shanghai. They’ve lived in Tokyo for two years,
and the baby (Avery Orrin, a girl) was born there.

I flew to Singapore for a week to help them. These are thoughts now, about California,
coming back home.

[ Rachel Maddow/Sen. Sam Blakelee (R-SLO): Diablo Canyon Seismic Issues video viewer at end of letter.]

Flying back over the green hills of SLO and SB counties from San Francisco, you think
“we don’t even have 160 miles between us and Diablo”. That is the distance between
Tokyo and Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear plant that now has four reactors in partial
meltdown and thousands of spent fuel rods in empty cooling ponds seeping and belching
radiation directly into the air and the seawater. The government acknowledges this will
likely continue for weeks and months to come. And, the threat of full meltdown of one,
or more, of these four reactors and/or the cooling ponds for spent fuel is not ruled out yet.

Tokyo has thirty million people in one city alone that cannot be moved, or
properly informed because they will panic and bring further chaos to an overloaded

One hundred and sixty miles away is less than one day’s airflow up the SLO and Santa
Ynez valleys to major population areas.

Remember the SB fires? Burning upslope and inland by day, and back downslope at
night, carrying fire, smoke and ash in an endless zig-zag pattern? Remember only the
rain could really stop the fires? In Tokyo, the rain will bring down the radioactivity.
During the Gap fire, we sat at Playa Azul at an outdoor table, and the ash fall was so
thick it coated the food and floated black in the margaritas. We had to leave the food on
the table and go because we couldn’t breathe and couldn’t eat it.

For a week, people in Tokyo prayed that 160 miles was far enough away. Heck, its the
distance from Bakersfield to LA, right? I heard that from seriously smart, educated
Americans, waiting it out.

But events have to unfold, and the chaos involved and unnecessary anguish are
heartbreaking for the families. The slow leakage of information that prevents stampeding
and improves the government’s ability to control events also sacrifices many in the

“Our expectations had a scientific basis, but conditions were exceeded.”
VP of TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company, March 23rd, CNN interview.

Based on the now-demonstrated failure of at least four of Japan’s nuclear reactors to
withstand ‘design’ events that were calculated on the basis of only one catastrophic failure
at a time, we know this kind of thinking is outdated and monumentally risky for
California as well. Japan planned for earthquakes, but not multiple, cascading events that
ran out of control, prevented planned emergency responses, and caused them to throw
away the rule-book in favor of ‘hail mary’ passes like flooding with seawater, one
helicopter squirt at a time. Japan’s TEPCO didn’t even realize for a week that they had
cooling ponds running dry that held thousands of leaking radioactive spent fuel rods.
Because they couldn’t even get into or close to their own plants to survey the damage.
Not until the effort was militarized, and people could be ordered to go into the hot zone
did we begin to see the damage, and understand the colossal breaches of containment and
destroyed plants and cooling equipment. That is not in the rule-book. They had no
response. Now, Daiichi’s reactor 3 in chronic, uncontrollable release-mode, and it
contains plutonium as well as radioactive cesium and iodine. The other three reactors are
in partial meltdown, and even government press releases say they cannot rule out
complete meltdowns as yet.

Japan continues to deal with the aftermath – major aftershocks, continuing loss of
power, loss of back-up power, loss of triple-backup power, fires, radioactive meltdown
and seepage, intentional steam releases of radioactive materials directly into the air to
prevent catastrophic hydrogen buildup, inadvertent radiation releases from explosions
that happen on a regular basis anyway, the spreading plume, the hopeful weather patterns
carrying the radiation ‘somewhere else’, the inevitable recirculation of radiation back over
Tokyo and central Japan, the lack of equipment to properly test air, water, food and the
people evacuating the hot zones.

What pieces of information are reliable? What is the subtext of unfolding US Embassy
and State Dept and military advisories? What ‘indicators’ do you hold out as the trigger
for “what to do next”?

Do you wait until the US government moves the USS George Washington aircraft carrier
out of Yokohama as happened Monday, because it is SOUTH of Tokyo? Is that a bad
sign? Do you wait for the US State Department to issue potassium iodide pills to all
employees and their dependents as happened Monday? Or, the radiation is twice the
infant limit in Tokyo groundwater as happened Tuesday? If you wait, will the trains and
planes be full, and ticket prices quadruple normal fares – effectively prohibiting travel for
families with kids? What can you believe? What is hype or spin? What does it mean
when the evacuation zones seem to be based more on what the government can handle
sheltering people, rather than what the radiation levels should be dictating? You can’t
effectively evacuate 30 million people all at once, even if the exposures are extreme and
otherwise dictate that it should be done immediately.

Getting, judging, and reacting to incomplete, conflicting and incomprehensible
information is an impossible task for people in a crisis, who are also dealing with
emergency flights, emergency housing, trains that don’t run, sick babies, traveling
spouses, planes that are full, empty store shelves, bank accounts that cannot be accessed
due to power outages, overloaded telecom systems that don’t work, aftershocks, grief,
fear, passports that can’t be located, cell phones that are cancelled or don’t work in other
countries, missed connections in foreign airports where there are no diapers, no food,
no sleep, no information, wondering if/when people will not be allowed to fly if they test
positive for radiation contamination. When is it too late to evacuate? IF you go back,
can you get out again?

People with means and money have nearly insurmountable difficulties. People without
means and money simply pray and go into deep denial. They are publicly praised by the
government for their fortitude, while they can do nothing but await their fate with

A week ago, military dependents and ex-pats in Tokyo working for US, German, French, Spanish and other international corporations were formally advised by their employers it would be prudent to evacuate Tokyo. But, there was no health threat. WHO said so.

Ticket prices skyrocketed in Asian countries. Booking evacuation flights and trains
became very difficult to impossible. Families split up. Serviced hotel and apartment units
in Hong Kong, Singapore and other flee-zones were snapped up by corporations for
evacuated ex-pat families…. the one we stayed in went to 97% occupancy in a week.

These families are now trying to figure out if/when they can return. Hour by hour, day
by day, parsing the messages in the media coverage. I did this yesterday. And, all last
week. I’m still doing it this morning, by skype. Only uncertainty is certain.

Lessons learned? What I can tell you is that I think Diablo should be shut down now.
Period. Taken off-line. The Hosgri fault, and perhaps other unrecognized faults, and the
likelihood (not just the remote potential) for major earthquakes, tsunami, loss of cooling
systems, and proximity to major population zones are clear indicators now that this plant
should be mothballed.

The clear underestimation of design earthquake in the original Diablo design, and the
failure to anticipate and provide credible protection against predictable, multiple,
cascading natural disasters is basis enough not to recertify, and to take it off-line now.
Germany is taking some of its older reactors off-line. Why not California?

We don’t get 30% of our power from nuclear in California. We have other options. Japan
does not, so they have to accept rolling blackouts for the foreseeable future. They have to
accept the long-term consequences including loss of transportation and public services
infrastructure, food and water shortages due to radiation contamination, loss of industrial
output, loss of communications, banking, and other vital services, contamination of beef
and dairy herds and row crops, and embargos and bans by other countries on the import
of leafy green vegetables and dairy products from Japan.

Try that on central coast farmers, ranchers, viticulturists and other growers in the
agricultural industry. Talk to Bakersfield, Fresno and the central Valley growers, too,
because they’ll be in the hot zone as well.

Japan doesn’t even have enough meters to measure the safety of food and water. Most
people shop everyday for foodstuffs and walk to get there. They have to go outside to
live. To re-supply their tiny refrigerators. When summer comes, can you imagine being
inside with your kids, unable to turn on the air conditioning or get fresh air because of
radiation contamination? Imagine this in 86 degree weather with 90% humidity? That is
best case, and assumes there is enough power for any air conditioning at all.
PG&E has a similar history of malfeasance and misleading regulators and the public as
does TEPCO. The parallels are clear – both utilities have demonstrated failures in
maintaining critical infrastructure, conducting required safety tests, and providing honest
and timely information to regulators and the public about risks to health and safety. The
time for wishful thinking is over.

Sam, you have no idea how comforting it is to know you’ve got the scientific and
geotechnical background AND the political position to make this issue a front-burner.

Hi and a hug to Kara and the girls (who must be half-grown by now).


Cindy Sage
(805) 969-0557

Rachel Maddow/Sen. Sam Blakelee (R-SLO): Diablo Canyon Seismic Issues

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