Our cover story this week on legendary anti-nukes activist Ace Hoffman has already generated mucho buzz and kind words. But it was very nice to get a letter from Hoffman himself.
Of course, Hoffman being Hoffman, it wasn't just your usual gracias, but rather a piece of art unto itself, complete with stats, corrections and hilarious observations, so I asked Ace if we could publish it in its entirety. Of course!
One quick note: We initially printed that Ace's real name is Russell. He actually changed it to Ace, so we apologize for that error. He'll have to tell us that story some other time, as it's a goodie!
Behold, the letter below. Any grammatical flourishes are his and his alone and have passed the grudging approval of our copy-editing department. . . .
It's quite something for any activist to get some media attention, to
get any press at all, let alone to find themselves on the cover of a
popular SoCal magazine. And to get there for a battle that's not even
won, not hardly. . . . I don't know what to say! Frightening, humbling and
probably inaccurate. But THANK YOU for the amazing "Tilting at
'NOFRE" article. When a professional cameraman showed up, I knew
something big was happening. I'm amazed. Of course, I had to call my
remaining parent, my stepmom, back East, and promise to send her a copy
right away. The only copy I have, actually. Apparently, it's already
hard to find.
And I've seen about twice as many compliments for the quality of the
writing as I see for anything I ever wrote myself. People are calling
it "excellent," "superb" and so forth, and having read it, I do agree, if
I may say so.
San Onofre is NOT killed — but it sure is thrashing like a dying animal
— and could be dangerous. Restart is impossible without risk — the
latest tube-wear information that's come out about Unit 2 surely
confirms that fact (once again). And it cannot be restarted without
enormous anger from the community — who will be terrified that the
calculations are wrong. The latest actions by the activists, still
gathering in the hundreds whenever there's an important meeting —
prove that the public does NOT want this plant restarted.
Meanwhile, if I am tilting at SanO, San Onofre is tilting back, ignoring
the citizens except for three "open houses" (which were, I must admit,
wonderfully presented, and their top engineers came to speak to anyone
who had a question. In complaining that they should have had more, I
have to ask, then when will the top engineers actually get any work
And while SCE tries to variously ignore/coddle the citizens (meanwhile
running endless Internet ads, which I've blocked (everyone should go
into google and block SCE's ads, IMO), SCE certainly hasn't been
ignoring the politicians. Invitations to "fly" the "simulator" are
being offered to elected officials, along with special "one-on-one"
talks by the utility's public relations' "team" — and they try to show
up whenever the topic comes up for possible agendizing at various city
councils. They bribe union works who want jobs with a free dinner and
Costco gift cards to get them to come to public hearings, bussing them
in from outside the "ingestion zone" (in other words, people who
probably have no idea how dangerous a nuclear power plant can be).
Below are my suggested corrections to the article. All but one are very
minor and off the top of my head. The "major" one is just that my
book, The Code Killers, is a FREE DOWNLOAD from my website (in pdf
format, at three resolutions). People are welcome to print it out, and I
have given away several thousand copies myself, to people who show up
at public hearings and speak eloquently and to city council members and
so forth. I have sold a few copies as well, though since the book is
self-printed and self-bound with a (claimed) hundred-year binding, on
acid-free, 32-pound Hammermill paper, and of course, with how many I end up
giving away, there's no profit in it by any means, but it certainly
would be cool if I could make a living from it, I'll admit that. But
the point is, the book can be downloaded for free or read online or
As to the other errors or possible errors, I haven't looked up any of
these numbers, and haven't counted the number of reactors, let alone
the number of cells in the human body, but I believe these to be accurate
Spent fuel: I believe the 2,000-ton figure for what's on site right now is
approximately correct, but I very much doubt it's 4,000 tons, although a
SCE exective had said that figure (as 8 million pounds), and for a
while I had repeated it, and so had many others. Two thousand tons is enough
nuclear waste to make thousands of nuclear bombs from, if you
reprocessed it to extract the Pu-239 and U-235. Those reactor-core
assemblies have thousands of pounds of plutonium mixed in now, a deadly
element that was created just so you can turn on your lights and run
your iPads. Plutonium! Two hundred thousand times more deadly than Uranium! This
spent fuel also contains tens of thousands of pounds of "fission
products," which are the (usually unevenly) divided halves of the uranium
atoms that were split. And "spent" fuel still contains, as you
mention, something like 99 percent of its original amount of U-235, which is
now contaminated with other elements that are still radioactive, but
can't be so easily fissioned, so the U-235 needs to be removed by
reprocessing, or the whole mess needs to be stored for hundreds of
thousands of years. Reprocessing is filthy and should never be done
anywhere and doesn't get rid of the fission products, it just removes
them from the uranium (chemically), and then they rebuild the ceramic
pellets. They also have to remove various unwanted isotopes of uranium
and plutonium. It's all incredibly dirty, just as Gordon Edwards says
in that perfect quote from him you have in the article.
Number of reactors: 103, not 104, soon to be 102 because a reactor in Wisconsin is scheduled
to be shut down in a few months. Crystal River, a reactor in Florida,
is being decommissioned because it was realized that the hole they cut
in the containment dome cracked the eggshell-like structure. (Sure,
it's 8 feet thick at the bottom and 4 feet thick at the top. But look
how big it is! Compared to a 787 turbine shaft for a javelin, it's an
Yucca Mountain: $10 billion. I would have pegged it at $30 billion, but you hear lots of numbers — it depends on what you include.
Number of cells in the human body: I think most people now put this figure at closer to 10 trillion than
100 trillion (though I think my own
trillion — I should fix that), but surely nobody has claimed to have
accurately counted the different densities and cell sizes of the
different organs and their relative sizes and so on and added it all up
and proclaimed they have the definitive answer — it's just too hard to
do. Lots of people have tried, but obviously they've been disputed. In
any case, nearly every one of those trillions of cells can be damaged
by radiation and turn cancerous (some cells don't and probably can't
replicate anyway). So we ALL need a really, really clean environment to
live in, if we want our own DNA to survive, let alone a thousand
generations of our children. And many cells replicate very frequently,
so that, in a matter of months, you will have had hundred trillion cells
that needed to be "you" (with your DNA) even if, at any one time, you
only have 10 trillion. But who's counting? You need them all!
Age of Ace: 56, not 55. Until August.
Other than that, I didn't find anything wrong with the article except,
of course, the salty language, but fortunately I wasn't being quoted, so
it's not my concern. It just surprised me, but maybe it got the point
across to people in OC that that quiet little pair of nuclear reactors
over there by the coast is really, truly out to kill them (and very
expensive). If that's what shakes 'em up so they'll face reality, I
say: Phuck, yeah!
Feel free to edit this or not, and make or not make any of these
suggested changes Myths will abound about me always — good and bad,
accurate and not. There's certainly no need to correct anything (except
that the book can be downloaded for free (and always could be).
As to the name gaff, it's as much my fault as Ned's, and anyway, it's
because he's known me so long, and I can't hold THAT against him!! Besides, next time I speak at a public hearing, I'm probably going to
say my name is Don Quixote — wouldn't you? From La Mancha, of course.
Maybe I'll change it again, legally. . . .
I must find a hat like that. . . .
And please tell the artist someone said to me that the caricature on the
cover "looks more like you than you do"!! I didn't sit for it, so
he/she must have gone off one of the excellent photographer's photos.
Now, if we can just get that plant shut down for good, decommissioned so
it can't be restarted at 70 percent or any percentage, then this Quixotic
adventure will stop, and I can end my laser-beam focus on that beast o'r
yonder cliffside. . . .