It would be nice if you could put an story updated that invalidates the whole alert at the top of your article. If I would not have read it to the end, I would have alarmed friends unnecessarily, and my own anxiety would not be that high either.
According to the RadiationNetwork.com, there has been a sudden and dramatic spike in Radiation levels near the site of the former Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant just south of Eureka, CA.
Typical radiation readings for that area are around 20-35 "Counts-Per-Minute" (CPM) of Gamma Radiation. Tonight, those levels has skyrocketed to SEVEN HUNDRED (700) CPM.
Step 1 for us as a media outlet was to pin down as best we could, what the source of this could be, given the map above did not idenify a location of the radiation reading. A quick link to the "Detailed Maps" on RadiationNetwork.com got us to a map of the Pacific Northwest, which identified the location as Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant as shown below:
Step 2 for us was to take a look at information about that facility because many nuclear power plants have been Decommissioned. Sure enough, this plant _was_ DeCommissioned and deconstructed. It was replaced by a Gas-fired power plant which is on that same site today.
But a small notation in the Decommissioning information stuck out: Spent Fuel Rods from the old nuclear reactors were to be STORED ON SITE in an "Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility." Ah HA! There is still radioactive fuel there . . .
Here's a photo of the plant as it exists:
On Monday, January 23, 1961, Pacific Gas and Electric held a luncheon to invite the community to observe the start of the major construction of the nuclear unit. Concern about previously undiscovered seismic faults combined with more stringent requirements required after the Three Mile Island accident rendered the small plant unprofitable if restarted. It was shut down for refueling and seismic upgrades in July 1976, which dragged on due to changing requirements. PG&E announced plans to permanently shutter the plant in 1983, and it was then placed in SAFSTOR inactive status in 1988.
In 2004 Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced that three nuclear fuel rods were unaccounted for due to conflicting records of their location. The fuel rods were never accounted for, though PG&E investigators believed at the time that they were still onsite in the spent fuel storage pool. The investigation is believed to have cost one million dollars.
In December 2008, PG&E finished moving the spent nuclear fuel into dry cask storage on site. The dismantlement of the nuclear unit began in 2010 along with the two original fossil-fuel-powered steam-turbine generators on site. The plant's power was replaced by an array of modern, multi-fuel Wärtsilä reciprocating engine-generators in late 2010. The complete dismantlement of Humboldt Bay Power Plant is expected to finish in 2018.
In the 2012 Nuclear Decommissioning Cost Triennial Proceeding (NDCTP) of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), PG&E requested approval to expend additional funds to remove more of the subterranean unit. As of 2009, PG&E planned to leave in place all HBPP3 structures three feet or more below grade (except for the Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) pool), including the concrete caisson surrounding the reactor vessel. In 2012, PG&E concluded that complete removal of the reactor caisson, and containment by a cement slurry wall, is the only appropriate alternative to meet NRC standards for remediating C-14 contamination. Currently, used fuel rods are being stored 44 feet above sea level in containers with very heavy lids. These containers are filled with helium, an inert gas, and will remain onsite so long as Congress and the Department of Energy does not comply with its agreement under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. According to the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), the dry casks are safe for at least 60 years beyond their licensing agreement.
Apparently not. Why did radiation readings skyrocket to 700 CPM?
Next step for us, call the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Emergency Operations Center which is listed on the NRC web site. Spoke to a man there named Howie Crouch, who informed us that "California is an AGREEMENT STATE." OK, what does that mean?
Mr. Crouch explained that Agreement States enter into binding agreements as to how certain nuclear issues will be handled. States who enter such agreements must meet certain minimum NRC guidelines, but may also have stricter guidelines. We asked if that means California would be the "First Responder" for a potential leak situation like this, and Mr. Crouch told us "Yes." Crouch gave us a contact number for the California Department of Public Health - Environmental Emergency Center.
A call to the California Department of Public Health was answered by a man who identified himself as "Blake." We explained what we were seeing, and where he could see it for himself, and asked if his agency would look into this because it appears that radiation levels are 15 times normal coming out of that Nuclear Spent Fuel Area.
Blake indicated he would begin the process of having his Agency respond. He asked for our contact info and contact phone numbers which were provided.
As you can see on the map at the top of this story, most of the country is showing radiation levels dramatically lower than 700 CPM. The typical readings are all well below 100.
Gamma Radiation is ferocious in its ability to penetrate . . . . anything. In fact, if you were to take a 6 foot thick wall of solid lead, and put it between you and a source of Gamma Radiation, that 6 foot thick wall would only cut the radiation level in half! THAT's how strong Gamma Radiation is!
Of course, Gamma radiation is also a naturally-occurring thing. We get hit with it all the time and it's no big deal . . . . but radiation exposure does something to the human body on a CUMULATIVE Basis. A whole lot of little exposures add-up to a big one.
That's why Doctors and Dentists use lead covers when using X-rays on us; to reduce the lifetime CUMULATIVE effects. But medical and dental X-rays are minor compared to this.
When the invisible waves of energy from a radioactive substane pass through our bodies, they sometimes impact the DNA in our cells. And sometimes - not always- they do DAMAGE to that DNA. When a cell has damaged DNA, it usually dies. Usually.
If the cell does not die, when it reproduces, it can mutate because the DNA instructions which govern cellular reproduction and growth, are damaged. And those mutations . . . are what we call cancer.
The chart below from Nuke Professional explains the issues with Radiation at certain CPM levels:
As you can see from the chart above, people exposed to 500 CPM are at "Real Risk of Cancer if exposed for 90 Days."
The readings at the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant Spent Fuel site are 700 CPM.
If readings of 500 get you cancer in 90 days, it seems logical that higher readings would have the same effect in a shorter time period.
That is why the Hal Turner Radio Show routinely monitors radiation levels throughout the country, and other oddities like earthquakes, Data Buoys in the ocean, Space Weather and whatnot.
We keep an eye on things because that is one of the jobs of a responsible media outlet! A job that apparently ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, AP, UPI, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and such, simply didn't seem to do in this case. (COMMENT: All the "big shots" dropped the ball . . . probably because they're too busy trying to make life tough for a certain President they don't like, and their obsession with him is now resulting in their deficient coverage of actual news!)
Prior to our calls to the NRC and to the California Environmental agencies, neither of them had been aware of this 700 CPM radiation issue in California. Now, they know.
So do you.
Called the Media Contact line for Pacific Gas & Electric (which operates the site) seeking comment on this story. California is three hours behind us here on the east coast so it's very early out there. Spoke to a company customer service rep named "Mike" in Sacramento. He said he would page a media relations person and have someone call us back. We are awaiting a callback and will update this story with any remarks provided by the Company.
9:23 AM EDT -- Got a call back from "JD" at PG&E. They're looking into this and will get back to me within a few hours. He asked we send an email with specific info and specific questions, which has been done and they will get back in touch with answers. (NOTE: A 23 minute response time from PG&E is an excellent thing! These folks are clearly "on the ball" and we suspect, given the millions of dollars they've spent to safely deal with spent nuclear fuel at the Humboldt Site, they will get right on this. We will keep you appraised)
Just received a call from Brett Alexander at the California Governor's Office of Emergency Management. They have spoken with two contacts at the Humboldt site. The Nuclear fuel is stored underground and is heavily encased. It is surrounded by monitors, sensors and alarms. THERE IS NO INDICATION OF ANY LEAK at the site. The are NO ALARMS and NO WARNINGS from all the sensitive equipment at the site itself. All is well at the site itself.
MORE . . . We reached out to RadiationNetwork.com to inquire about this and received the following reply:
False Alert - Station operator reported having just undergone a PET scan, and forget to disconnect the system until the radioactive body condition was dissipated.
Sorry for that, operator says.