San Onofre Whistleblower: This is extremely significant — They had an actual tube rupture — This is very, very significant (VIDEO)

Published: February 7th, 2012 at 1:44 pm ET


Title: Whistleblower Interview: San Onofre – How Safe Is It?
Source: Nuclear Hotseat Podcast
Author: San Onofre Safety
Date: February 4, 2012


Libbe HaLevy interviews whistleblower James Chambers

A summary of the current status of San Onofre nuclear reactors after last week’s leaks, discovery of over 800 damaged pipes, and employee falling into the radioactive refueling pool. Featuring an interview with James Chambers, a licensed nuclear reactor operator and whistleblower from San Onofre, who offers his unique perspective on what these alarming developments might mean.

Listen to the full broadcast here

See also: [intlink id=”nuclear-expert-pipe-ruptures-at-calif-nuke-plant-could-have-lead-to-meltdown-china-syndrome-catastrophic-radioactivity-release-video” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]

Watch a CBS News interview with Chambers here:

Published: February 7th, 2012 at 1:44 pm ET


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45 comments to San Onofre Whistleblower: This is extremely significant — They had an actual tube rupture — This is very, very significant (VIDEO)

  • Mack Mack

    The NRC has known about problems in steam generator tubes for years.

    In 1996:

    “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports that cracking of steam generator tubes is surging in US reactors. Cracking has been identified by NRC as having serious safety implications because the thousands steam generator tubes constitute a major reactor coolant pressure boundary.”

    • Mack Mack

      Yet another reason for Californians to support the California Nuclear Initiative:

    • Duh, guess what happens when you drive a car for 500,000 miles and then re-license it to drive another 500,000 at 140 miles per hour?

      The fuel is HIGHLY radioactive, and it can blow up and kill millions of people… especially the MOX plutonium type…

      In a study of plutonium danger on 144 Beagle dogs, they had them breathe some plutonium dust and ALL of them died horrible deaths within a few years.

      Does this make ANY sense at all?

      Of course, the military likes it.. they need the plutonium from these reactors to make more bombs, so we can kill EVEN MORE PEOPLE.

      • Replacant Replacant

        I hear a talk from a weapons expert when the US ‘Star Wars’ missile defense was still talked about and his point was even if we’re able to intercept the missiles the plutonium raining down would killas many people just slower as plutonium is so toxic. But yes let’s make steam from this toxic crap for 50 years, no matter there’s no place to bury it.

    • fireguyjeff fireguyjeff

      The PGE (not PG&E) Trojan NPP near Portland OR was shut down
      because of “worn out” brittle reactor plumbing.

      The problem was very public for many years as a serious safety issue.
      It was endlessly spun as OK until the accountants discovered that the record keeping had been goofed (or in more modern vernacular “EPIC FAIL!”) and that the backup “redundant” pipes had already been put in to service way earlier than the designers had expected/planned. They had run out of “spares” and found themselves stuck with very brittle pipes.

      Once the bean counters realized that it would be more expensive to replace them than the profit they could make by running another 4 years, they shut that sucker down in a matter of weeks (as I recall).

      Now we are left with some Barney Fife’s babysitting the SFP!!

      Yes, that’s right, WE are still stuck with the spent fuel and NO WHERE TO PUT IT!!!!!

      • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication


        OT. So good to hear from you again fireguyjeff. Everyone wants to know where you are? Thanks for posting about the Portland PGE plant. Very worrying that spent fuel is still there because nowhere to go.

  • jec jec

    Wonderful. Known problem..and now we have to IMPORT the steel from China or Asia. Not a warm and fuzzy feeling when the quality is not consistent–or high. And it this product used to make the pipes..which have been fracturing/rupturing.

    • Cataclysmic Cataclysmic

      “A further issue emerging with manufacturing is metallurgy. Generation III+ plants can use existing metal alloys, but Gen IV plants operating at higher temperatures will require new materials, which will need a long (eg 15-year) lead time to develop. At 700ºC degradation problems are much more severe than at today’s operating temperatures.”

      details on maker of boiler
      Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) will spend JPY 15 billion ($138 million) to double its capacity to make nuclear reactor pressure vessels and other large nuclear components by 2011. However, it does not have its own forging capacity. Also MHI will triple production space and add processing tools at its factory in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture. The company aims to reduce the time to make a reactor vessel from three years to two, and to triple annual sales to 600 billion yen in ten years from 200 billion yen in 2007.

      MHI has contracts to supply two 1700 MWe APWR nuclear reactors to TXU/Luminant in Texas for Comanche Peak, and now expects orders for about four reactors in Japan. Currently the Kobe shipyard, established in 1905, makes reactor pressure vessels up to 590 tonnes for the APWR. In 2007 it reached a milestone of 50 reactor vessel heads for domestic and overseas nuclear plants and 100 steam generators. In 2009 MHI announced that with Comex Nucleaire it would supply six 300-tonne replacement steam generators for EdF plants in France, to be made at its Kobe shipyard, delivery to begin in 2013.

      check out other nations abilities to manufacture…

    • vivvi

      Know what you mean about crap metal imports. In Australia over the last year or so, my boss has seen about half a dozen imported trailer couplings just break in half. Thats just in our local area. Make on the cheap in India now, apparently. The local makers all went broke. The potential for fatal accidents with these things is alarming, but our government doesn’t give a damn, and will do exactly nothing about it. The extreme poor quality is obvious when you look at the metal where it cracked, its brittle and full of casting holes.

      Looks like the same attitude prevails for nuke puke plant parts. And everything else too. Import it cheap from asia, and too bad what happens after its sold to some unsuspecting chump.

      • Mack Mack

        They are allowing radioactive metal contaminated with cesium-137, etc. into the marketplace.

        The radioactive metal can be mixed with non-radioactive metals and products are made from that.

        I really wonder if the brittleness and poor quality of metal is because it’s radioactive, or mixed with radioactive metal.

        From the link below:

        “Reports are mounting that manufacturers and dealers from China, India, former Soviet bloc nations and some African countries are exporting contaminated material and goods, taking advantage of the fact that the United States has no regulations specifying what level of radioactive contamination is too much in raw materials and finished goods.”

        • vivvi

          Probably true, but even if it isn’t contaminated, its still crap. Imagine driving down the highway with a trailer, and having the coupling snap in half. The potential for a fatal accident is staggering. Our customers only lived to tell the tale because the safety chain held when their trailers let go. The government doesnt care a DAMN. We know, cos we asked what they were gonna do about it, and the answer is NOTHING. Governments dont care about anything that might affect their campaign donations.

  • Same thing happened with the San Francisco bridge.. problems with the Japanese steel, and it cost more to redo or whatever than if they had gone with a slightly higher bid from a US steel manufacturer. I heard this from Rep. Garamendi at a local jobs forum here in town.

    I heard the same thing happened with a railroad that bought lots of foreign made rails… lots of problems, but initially it was a cheaper price than US steel rail suppliers.

    In the end, I bet it cost them more to deal with all of the issues than if they had just gone and had US steel plants make the rails.

    I think this is a lesson many individuals and companies are learning right now.. Cheap is NOT better, in many or MOST cases.. Quality suffers and then you have to deal with the consequences…. Repairs all cost money, time and energy, and if it ends up being multiple repairs, the cost goes up exponentially, way above what it would cost to just do it right, and buy a quality product in the first place.

    With a nuclear power plant especially, QUALITY should be FIRST, rather than the LAST consideration. Price should be secondary.


    Of course, if people’s lives are cheap or free, than who cares about quality…

  • Mack Mack

    —-> “San Onofre Safety Issues Summary”

    —-> “Edison says they have ample reserve power without San Onofre”

  • Anthony Anthony

    San Onofre,
    Washington State,

    I know there’s more…

    I THINK this is how many serious nuke plant issues that I’ve become aware of since 311.

  • Mack Mack

    From the CBS/TV Link above:


    “5 miles from earthquake fault

    Like Fukushima, it has a long history of management problems and safety violations

    Faulty diesel generators

    Falsified fire watch reports

    Inoperable emergency batteries

    2008 – employee welded radioactive-waste canister incorrectly

    2009 – 10X the average industry of safety complaints

    Management pressured one worker to stop making complaints

    Very little oversight”

  • GoFrodo

    Lucky for us we have all these whistleblowers willing to come forward. Brave people.

  • Mack Mack

    Remind you of anything?

    “Workers install monitoring equipment in San Onofre 3 reactor”

    What’s also interesting is that it says the $782 million dollar cost of the new generators was passed on to the rate-payers! That would be you California electricity consumers.

    And beware…the $1 million dollars a day that it costs them while the plant is closed will probably be passed onto California rate-payers, too.

    Compare this to when a windmill breaks:

    A few guys pull up in their trucks, mount a ladder and fix it.

    No protection needed, no geiger counters, no robots…

  • jackassrig

    The fatigue cracking may be caused from flow induced vibration. The article points out that the tubes are thinning which may be erosion due to high velocity. The vibration can be caused by too long a tube span, vortex shedding, or whirling motion of the fuild as it enters the tube array. When the fluid frequency hits the natural frequency of the tube large displacements can occur. Most engineers will specify a vibration study of their heat exchanger. The tube will most likely fail at the tube sheet where the tube is rolled into the sheet. There is a shape corner where the tube enters the sheet causing stress risers. The bursting strength of a tube is very high so I doubt the tube burst. IMHO

  • bleep_hits_blades

    These were new tubes according to the interview, replaced at high cost.

    But maybe inferior quality were purchased, as suggested by several here.

  • jackassrig

    Due to the rolling of the tube into the sheet, the wall at the tube sheet is thinner than the wall of the tube. If the deflection is say at the center of the tube span, the notch at the sheet and tube causes a stress riser that can multiply the calculated stress many times. If the tube is vibrating many times per minute, it would not take long for the tube to reach its fatigue limit. We don’t have much to go on so I’m supposing.

  • chrisk9

    I worked at San Onofre a number of times as a subcontractor doing radiation protection work. Unit #1 had extensive steam generator problems (and has closed down), and units 2 and 3 have had continual problems, and replaced the original generators way before the expected replacement times. This situation may close the units down just because of monetary reasons.

    What has piqued my interest and says a lot about the culture of the plant is the current plant manager. He was a temporary worker at Unit #1, then a glorified nuclear janitor, then supervisor and now plant manager. I have never met a more skilled cut throat political animal in my life. And with no real scientific background or education prior to working there, his political skills are what got him to where he is today. Do we really want corporate lap dogs running these plants? The culture and politics there are symptomatic of a dying plant, and with the current problems this plant should be dead because of strictly monetary reasons if nothing else.

    • James2

      Ok, political animal nuke plant janitor – sounds like just the kind of guy we should have running a nuke plant near some of the largest cities in the country.

      Maybe he’ll have a clue when it needs cleaning up – or not…

    • Mack Mack

      @chrisk9 – thank you for sharing that info.

  • NoNukes NoNukes

    The immediate cause of problems at reactors around the world is not their age, or the incompetent people who run them, although these factors don’t help, but the MOX fuel that is replacing traditional fuel worldwide.

    This MOX fuel has far higher amounts of plutonium than the 3-5% on the MOX brochure.

    The POP, POP, POP you hear around the world is directly related to the vastly increased rates of plutonium they are throwing into these reactors. Watch out, they want to treat each of these problems as discrete, because they don’t want to stop using MOX.

    They have been testing the effect of minute amounts of inhaled and ingested Plutonium in Beagle Dogs for longer that a generation, and you know what always seems to happen? The Beagles die quickly.

  • StillJill StillJill

    Not to mention how edifying of a job that testing (killing) beagles must be!

    • chrisk9

      Those beagles were given lethal radiation doses in Davis California during world war 2 to investigate radiation effects. The area and the dog remains were not cleaned up properly until the 1970’s. What we did to develop the bomb at that time was horrifying in many ways.

      • James2

        The beagle dog study on plutonium was in the early 1990’s as I recall. They all died in less than 5 years, most between 18 months and 3 years – many from multiple cancers.

        • chrisk9

          The study that i know about was in the time and place I listed. I know about the Davis incident because a number of my friends helped with the clean up in the late 70’s. They said the dogs were irradiated with gamma rays as they were tied up to see how much it took to kill them. This experiment was kept very secret for good reasons, and most of the dogs died very quickly.

          If there was another beagle experiment later I know nothing about it. But there really would be little reason to see if plutonium is lethal or how much it would take to kill a dog. We have a lot of information about it’s effect from workers in the early nuclear days when radiation protection was very poor.

          • James2

            Last time I looked it was harder to find the study. They’ve buried it since fukushima

            Seems like it was 159 dogs or something like that – plus some lucky “control” dogs.

            They were testing “inhaled” plutonium powder. 100% of the test dogs died within 5 years – almost all within 3 years of exposure. Many of them died with 3 or more cancers in their body at the time of death – one of them – I think liver seemed to be the most aggressive, and was the actual cause of death most of the time.

            I could never get a feel for the dosage – I couldn’t tell if they really smoked them with plutonium or it was really a reasonable amount (I’m sure none was reasonable from the poor dog’s perspective). Seems like they were trying to be realistic and the seemed somewhat surprised at the speed and ferocity of the cancers that developed.

            I think just a very few of the control dogs died in that test.

  • StillJill StillJill

    Your kind mind and heart could not contemplate the reasons WHY.

    This is a good thing, eh? 🙂