Report: FBI taking over sabotage case at California nuclear plant — Criminal charges possible — Employee: I’m not completely surprised, people do crazy things — Expert: Similar incidents around US

Published: November 30th, 2012 at 4:07 am ET


Title: San Onofre Nuclear Plant Investigating Possible Sabotage Of Safety System
Source: Huffington Post
Author: Tom Zeller Jr
Date: 11/29/2012 10:08 pm EST

A California utility said Thursday it has notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of potential sabotage, possibly by an employee, of a crucial piece of safety equipment attached to one of its nuclear power reactors.

[…] the plant operator found engine coolant had been poured into the oil reservoir of an emergency backup generator, which would have likely caused the generator to malfunction if needed to help cool the reactor during a power failure. […]

A [sic] employee at the plant who asked not to be named because he feared reprisals from management said supervisors told employees on Thursday that the FBI would be taking over the investigation and that criminal charges were possible. […]

More from the unnamed San Onofre plant employee

  • “Most of us are kind of baffled by it”
  • “While morale is as low as it has ever been and the environment is as chilled as it has ever been, no one I know could imagine doing such a thing. First of all, the chances of getting caught are so high. But more importantly, what are you accomplishing? You’re only endangering yourself and your coworkers and the surrounding public. I can’t understand the logic behind it.”
  • “On the other hand, I’m also not completely surprised because the environment really is so harsh. People can do crazy things when they are under extreme stress.”

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and former employee of the NRC who leads the nuclear safety division of the Union of Concerned Scientists

  • Not uncommon for workers facing layoffs at nuclear power plants “to express themselves in destructive ways”
  • [He] pointed to previous incidents of minor sabotage at the Browns Ferry plant in Alabama, the North Anna facility in Virginia, and other plants where disgruntled workers were known to have cut electrical wires, put coins in the lubricating oil cases for emergency diesel generators, and used super glue to fasten doors shut
  • “Does this history mean that the fuel oil at San Onofre was intentionally watered down? No, but they sure set the stage for such a reaction when they laid off hundreds of workers who had access to vital areas of the plant”

See also: [intlink id=”officials-sabotage-at-californias-san-onofre-nuclear-plant” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]

Published: November 30th, 2012 at 4:07 am ET


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22 comments to Report: FBI taking over sabotage case at California nuclear plant — Criminal charges possible — Employee: I’m not completely surprised, people do crazy things — Expert: Similar incidents around US

  • getoutwhileyoustillcan

    So one disgruntled employee having a bad day could've wiped out southern California. Great.

  • markww markww

    I would start checking the back grounds of every employee and see if they have hired a middle eastern with ties to Terror Organizations


    • guezilla

      Extensive backgroun checks have been a requirement for access authorization to work at US nuclear sites already for decades: Sorry to disappoint, though, they're not supposed to discriminate on basis of ethnicity.

      However I think the fact that such procedures are already in place makes it all the more poignant that they're still finding cases of sabotage – even if these disgruntled lay-offs aren't your average extremists or nutjobs.

      Still, it makes you question how well they carry through their psychological screening and other background checks, and what kind of injustice would make a generally stable individual feel the need to commit something like this. It also raises the question of whether they're intentionally committing easy to detect sabotage, or if there's dozen times more in rarely tested, intricate systems waiting to be discovered.

  • nedlifromvermont

    @Markww … how about checking up on the recent activities of Jeffrey Immelt, or any other executive at GE … if you want to find someone with ties to a real 'Terror organization' …

    … am now engrossed in the riveting 'Shut Down' … Nuclear Power on Trial … Radiation is causing cancer and birth defects … Nuclear Power on Trial … Experts Testify in Federal Court … a word for word record in the case brought against the NRC by Jeannine Honicker in 1978, John Gofman and Ernest Sternglass both testify against the NRC, recount numerous instances of research funds withheld from honest scientists trying to get the truth out about nuclear power, we almost had the beast killed, then the Iranian Hostages, then Reagan's Ray Guns … and we all went back to sleep for thirty tears, not even awakening at the Chernobyl alarm clock … the murderers at the NRC and associated industries (GE) kept on murdering …

    … we built the bomb to stop the fascists … then we needed to institute fascism to keep control over the bomb (enter the Terror Organization par excellence) the NRC/AEC corrupted science … now the bomb and radiation are our false idols, nuclear science has become our false God, we are doomed and damned, there is little any of us can do about it, 'cept chirp about the 'Truth' so as to open a few eyes, as the luxury liner of capitalism gone rancid, slips beneath the waves, and we let go our last impression of the kindly face of God ..

  • ftlt

    Mark: The biggest terrorist organization in the world is here already… It is the national military industrial and intelligence complex – gone international now.. It has become a border less world terror organization and has been that for way over half a century now… Killing millions every decade around the world for the profit of the few… And they certainly are not making my or your family safer… That is not their job anymore..

    Open you eyes… Your boogieman may be living right next to you… And he ain't a Middle Eastern type

  • "…no one I know could imagine doing such a thing."
    – SO Employee

    The Risk Management people probably didn't put too much weight on that one either.

    There are so many, too many, scenarios like this that can cause the entire world to suffer.

  • Jebus Jebus

    Makes you wonder if they even did a pressure check on the cooling system to determine if the lower liner seals are leaking coolant into the oil. Happens all the time in a diesel engine that has high hours or just sits there, unused…
    Electrolysis is little steam explosions in the bubbles that tend to collect around the outside of the liners when running with deteriorated coolant. The silica in the antifreeze stops this, but drops out of the coolant, settling in the radiator, over time. The pits in the liners from the steam explosions, if near the orings sealing the piston liners, will cause them to leak coolant into the oil. Just a thought…

    • Radio VicFromOregon

      Well, a very informed and well reasoned thought, Jebus, i might add.

    • Radio VicFromOregon

      Jebus, didn't it take management a while to even noticed the thinning on the steam tubes? That was only found because of an inspection, if i recall, but, i might be getting my facts mixed up. The rattling, or what should be taken as the warning, was simply ignored and allowed as acceptable play in the tubes. So, maybe management isn't really nuclearly trained? Can it happen that people get into positions in nuke plants where they have little or no understanding of the technical and engineering issues? I thought i listened to a whistleblower – Jean? – about that very thing at other plants. Do you know? Any one?

    • @Jebus Nah, that makes too much sense. 😉

    • PavewayIII PavewayIII

      Coolant in the oil of the scrap-heap diesels maintained by a utility company? Yeah, first thing I thought of was sabotage.

      This is exactly what the sneaky old terrorist-nun WANTS everyone to think! Don't fall into her trap. She was only caught ONCE, but who knows how many 'successful' missions she completed?

      1. Get a chemical analysis of the coolant in the generator. Fast neutron spectroscopy would work great.

      2. Chopper in DHS SWAT teams to various convents at 3 A.M. and seize all coolant on the premises for analysis. Nuns drive Fords a lot, so there should be half-used jugs of anti-freeze hidden everywhere.

      3. Round up all nuns over 70 that own sneakers or Ninja boots. Your nuclear nun's 'gear' has to be among them. Run them through the neutron spectrometer to identify residual coolant (both the nuns and the footware).

      4. Detain a handful of the most likely suspects for 'questioning'. They're pretty tough, so use your South American or Eastern European assets to soften them up a bit.

      "…Your prayers won't help you NOW, sister… SIGN the paper!"

  • NoNukes NoNukes

    Published: Nov. 30, 2012 Updated: 8:24 p.m.

    Buddhist monks march against San Onofre

    …Their purpose: to support the permanent closure of the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant

    The monks said they also want to call attention to what they believe are the global dangers of nuclear power as well as nuclear weapons, making repeated reference to the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan that crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant and caused a release of radiation.

  • PurpleRain PurpleRain

    Jebus, I think that your ideas on what may have happened make the most sense. These places do so much background checks and so much personality tests it's almost impossible to believe that this was deliberate.

    • aigeezer aigeezer

      Jebus' hypothesis has strong appeal. One can imagine industry spokespeople reluctant to admit poor maintenance practices coming up with "let's blame a bogeyman" – sort of like OJ's vow to spend the rest of his days hunting down the real killers.

      The situation reminds me of pre-911 airline propaganda to the effect that the skies were safe because cockpit doors were locked. Of course, it turned out that the locks were inadequate when it mattered.

      Anyway, the industry has now created an interesting PR problem for itself (this thought arises from reading PurpleRain's post). If the industry is really really good at its background/personality checking then how could a saboteur slip by vs. if a saboteur slipped by then how could the industry be really really good at its background/personality checking.

      Either way, they must acknowledge that their system is porous and therefore (in my opinion) the risks are unacceptable.


      • or-well

        Background checks: thorough.
        Operational procedures: beyond reproach.
        Maintenance: magnificent.
        Safety: superb.
        Sabotage: never again!
        Acts of God: not applicable…err, um, He/She/It/They wouldn't.
        Nature: oops…

        Game, set and match.
        No use to pout.
        Gaia bats last.

        • aigeezer aigeezer

          Nice turn of phrase, as always, or-well.

          Gaia's turn at bat never ends. If there is weakness (and there is) then Gaia will find it.

  • horndoggie horndoggie

    I was gonna say blown head gasket…