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Pleasanton teens jump fence at high-security nuclear research facility

Original post made on Jul 12, 2019

Two teens from Pleasanton jumped a fence at a nuclear reactor in Sunol on Wednesday afternoon, an Alameda County Sheriff's Office sergeant said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 12, 2019, 12:20 PM

Comments (53)

26 people like this
Posted by KK
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 12, 2019 at 1:40 pm

Watched too many episodes of Stranger Things?


1 person likes this
Posted by PtownMom
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jul 12, 2019 at 1:45 pm

@KK - Best. Comment. Ever.


16 people like this
Posted by buklau
a resident of Avila
on Jul 12, 2019 at 3:11 pm

They only needed some plutonium for the delorean


16 people like this
Posted by Kb
a resident of Dublin
on Jul 13, 2019 at 9:26 pm

That’s ridiculous, how just the color of someone skin can determine your outcome. I seen the actual video of how they entered, they knew what they hey were doing and very sneaky hiding from camera view once authorities was notified, you clearly see them running away after the fact. Now let’s do the same scenario but let this be 2 African Americans, situation would not have been the same. And I hear the city wants to reward them with a visit of the site. WOW ,really , while on the other hand 2 African Americans vist would of been local county JAIL. SO YEA IM SURE YOU GUESSED BY NOW , I must be an employee at GE. And from my stand point they look like they were trying to fit in the clothes they had on to the badge around there necks. The minors reportedly didn’t no , that it was abandoned, oh yea right that’s why they parked there vehicles next door near the ranch and walked the streets up the roadway in clear sight .. GIVE ME A BREAK. Injustice world


16 people like this
Posted by Grammarian
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 14, 2019 at 1:38 pm

I "seen" from reading a post that someone doesn't "no" how to communicate very well. From my "stand point" people should check "there" grammar before posting. No doubt KB's teachers "was" horrified to see this post.

I say "yea" not nay to KB becoming better informed about a lot of things.


7 people like this
Posted by VB
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 14, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Seriously, there is a nuclear reactor in Sunol?!


10 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 14, 2019 at 10:47 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Kb,
Would it have made you happier if they were beaten and shot?
Maybe if they were here in the country without documentation and found a gun and killed someone without cause and were let go youd be ok with that too?

If you want to be mad at anyone be mad at the kids for doing something dumb, and at ge Hitachi for not pressing charges


2 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2019 at 9:30 am

It's the fence's fault...the kids were just "walking" by.


20 people like this
Posted by CM
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 15, 2019 at 10:02 am

KD - You make assumptions that you can not prove yet you write like it is fact. Unless you are privy to why the management refused to press charges you are just another loosed lip liberal who spreads rumors as if they were facts.


4 people like this
Posted by Claudette McDermott
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2019 at 10:06 am

An old commercial power plant ~ I think there should be tours. A lot of us were unaware that it even existed... and it would help take care of the curiosity that kids may have and want to investigate. Nothing to hide? Show us what you got ~


12 people like this
Posted by Janice & Markus
a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jul 15, 2019 at 10:50 am

Wow...it only took three posts this time until we got the angry liberal/racist comment. Way to go KB, keep fanning those fires & trying to divide this country based on ones melanin content.

MLK Jr. would be SO proud of you...(sigh)


8 people like this
Posted by MG
a resident of Danbury Park
on Jul 15, 2019 at 12:12 pm

I think it is pretty crazy that they have a working privatized nuclear plant situated on an old fault line in a highly populated area. And with one in San Ramon as well, I hope we don't have a Fukushima on our hands during a seismic event.

They are probably trying to keep a low profile by not charging the kiddos so they can slide it back under the rug. I am sure they also don't want to get on the bad side of those Ruby Hill residents that back up to it.

After watching Chernobyl, it makes me wonder how long those cement silos will keep the old stuff contained. How many more hundreds of years do we have left before it is safe again? Yikes...


Like this comment
Posted by The Gardener
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 15, 2019 at 12:39 pm

now it makes sense all the three eyed animals and other strange creatures I have seen walking down town, it was the exposure to the radiation.... wow!


9 people like this
Posted by Wombat
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 15, 2019 at 12:44 pm

@MG

It’s a research reactor, not a large power-generating nuclear reactor. Completely different order of concern and safety. Much less nuclear material in a research reactor than in a large power-generating reactor.


12 people like this
Posted by MG
a resident of Danbury Park
on Jul 15, 2019 at 2:35 pm

@Wombat

I know it won't be a Chernobyl as hopefully that type of an event never happens again... but still, how safe is what they have over there? I have a hard time believing that it would be at the "small chest x-ray" levels they estimate. And I have little trust in big corporations like GE as they are more likely to hide liabilities than to deal with it correctly. They have the political buying power to make things "go away." Just saying... I hope there is a third party keeping them in check.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jul 15, 2019 at 3:49 pm

There is some cool stuff back there. I used to drive by the upside down airplane radar testing site a bit further south. No matter when I went, anytime day or night, a guy would come out from a trailer to give me a good hard stare until I left.


16 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jul 15, 2019 at 3:52 pm

Here come the tinfoil hat folks speaking about the reactor likes it is some crazy government secret. You might try Googling it. It's history and current function are all over the internet It's no big deal.


8 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2019 at 12:58 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@MG,

The facility is of course regulated by federal and state agencies. I don't know where you get the "chest x-ray" idea from, but you won't get anywhere near that amount of radiation exposure (or any at all) from this facility. It sounds like you have no idea at all are just going on fear.


22 people like this
Posted by MikeS
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 17, 2019 at 6:20 am

@Wombat @MG
My uncle has worked at this facility for decades. They do have a nuclear reactor with highly enriched uranium there and they also store plutonium there. What's crazier is that GE uses the reactor to take pictures of explosive materials shipped to them from all over the country. Apparently they are devices that are supposed to blow holes in rockets and they stick them right next to the reactor and shoot radiation at them! I don't care how small the reactor is, that's a bad idea but I'm sure they're focused on their profits. They also have multiple old reactors that they are trying to avoid having to tear down because they've probably leaked nasty material everywhere and it costs a lot of money that GE doesn't have anymore. I can assure you they do some very dangerous things there. And the best part is they have the state and federal nuclear regulator in their pocket that lets them get away with anything!


5 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2019 at 12:45 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@MikeS,

You said "can assure you they do some very dangerous things there" and "regulator in their pocket that lets them get away with anything".

Where's the proof of any of that, or is this just hearsay and general paranoia?


6 people like this
Posted by Wombat
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 17, 2019 at 3:06 pm

MikeS wrote “What's crazier is that GE uses the reactor to take pictures of explosive materials shipped to them from all over the country.”

Sounds like they may have been taking x-ray pictures of the explosive bolts used to decouple rocket stages from each other while in flight to make sure that there weren’t any flaws inside them. That’s important because if an explosive bolt fails in flight by either breaking too soon or not breaking when triggered then that’s a critical failure that can cause the rocket to break up and astronauts to be killed. Don’t think that you’ve shown that the idea of taking x-ray pictures is crazy or unsafe. Taking an x-ray picture of an explosive bolt is not going to initiate the explosive.


14 people like this
Posted by MikeS
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 17, 2019 at 4:27 pm

@BobB
Firsthand descriptions from someone inside the facility isn't enough proof for you? I'm an engineer so I'm not completely oblivious to what he's saying. I've actually done some research over the weekend by looking at their nuclear regulatory commission (federal nuclear regulator) public documentation submittals (Web Link search for 'Vallecitos'). It's actually doesn't seem like a well run facility. The last annual report shows that they had FOUR 'unscheduled shutdowns', had a 'violation' for not properly 'securing the reactor' (reactor operators walking out of the control room) and they're replacing cables and parts that are 'decades old' after they cause issues. Sounds like a real Homer Simpson situation. The reactor has actually been operating since 1957. Do your research and read the material that they have to make public. And you know they only make public the stuff that they really have to. Keep in mind GE Hitachi is the company responsible for the design of the Fukushima nuclear plants that exploded in Japan. And you think they don't know how to cover stuff up? Go do your homework and tell me your not concerned to have this facility in our backyard.


14 people like this
Posted by KZ
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2019 at 5:53 pm

@MikeS I agree with the safety concerns. It's not really profit driven though. It's common knowledge that they don't want to deal with the expense of closing that facility. It was built in the '50s prior to much knowledge about nuclear safety and environmental protection from nuclear spills. I'm sure there are some 'oopsies' that they'd be forced to dig up. Look at what it costs to clean up some of the national lab facilities that are the same vintage like Hanford. Pretty common in the nuclear world to kick the can down the road as far as possible and hope that they can pass the buck to someone else. They also have spent nuclear fuel and cobalt-60 waste sitting in aging structures. That stuff is expensive to find a long term home for. It's a shame because the landscape would be beautiful...if it weren't for those pesky rusting nuclear reactors.


8 people like this
Posted by Wombat
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 17, 2019 at 6:08 pm

MikeS wrote “The last annual report shows that they had FOUR 'unscheduled shutdowns',...”

Your claim lacks context. You seem to be implying that an unscheduled shutdown represents a major safety breakdown but we don’t know that. It’s up to you to explain how significant an “unscheduled shutdown” is. I could see ultra cautious reactor operators calling for an unscheduled shutdown for the slightest abnormality. For all we know, having four unscheduled shutdowns may actually be a good thing because it could be interpreted as evidence that the operators are being ultra careful about safety.


10 people like this
Posted by MikeS
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 18, 2019 at 5:23 am

@Wombat It sounds like you're supporting what @MG said and GE should stop hiding things out there.

You think leaving a NUCLEAR REACTOR UNSECURED with the keys in the control board is a sign of 'diligent' and 'ultra careful' operations?!?! That NRC webpage also shows that the operators were cited for letting their licenses expire a few years ago as well.

The unplanned shutdowns may not be a 'major safety breakdown'. Each event could be 'minor'. But what's 'minor' at a nuclear reactor? I think most neighboring citizens would call those major events. And I'm saying it's good evidence that there are issues. The place has been operating since the 50's and my uncle certainly says it's not well taken care of. And a trend of minor events can certainly lead to major events. I don't think I need to 'imply' that. It's commonly known as 'where there's smoke, there's fire'.


8 people like this
Posted by VS
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 7:25 am

Looks like they're practicing for the planned area 51 takeover


12 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Danville
on Jul 18, 2019 at 5:02 pm

Hopefully this brings a little more attention to what GE is doing out there. Old reactors rusting into the ground looks about right to me.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 18, 2019 at 7:45 pm

LLNL tests explosives on their property southwest of Tracy.
I am curious to know if the alleged X-rayed explosives at the GE plant in Sunol are related to the explosives testing by LLNL.


14 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 8:09 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@MikeS,

"Firsthand descriptions from someone inside the facility isn't enough proof for you?"

Not proof, that is hearsay. I could just as easily say I have an uncle who worked there and said everything was fine.

"I've actually done some research over the weekend by looking at their nuclear regulatory commis..."

I've known about these reactors for decades and have read about them in various publications and news articles. It seems like a well run, small facility, with little nuclear material remaining on the site.

"Go do your homework and tell me your not concerned to have this facility in our backyard. "

I know a lot about this industry, and of the things to worry about "in our backyard", Vallecitos Nuclear Center safety isn't a major concern for me.

" And a trend of minor events can certainly lead to major events."

I wouldn't even be worried about a "major event" with such a small amount of nuclear material. This isn't a power reactor, it is a research reactor.




10 people like this
Posted by MikeS
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 23, 2019 at 6:26 am

@BobB

"I've known about these reactors for decades and have read about them in various publications and news articles. It seems like a well run, small facility, with little nuclear material remaining on the site."

Why don't you provide your context and cite the recent publications and articles that the rest of us can see. I'm citing documents from the Nuclear Regulator that provide direct evidence that the facility does not seem to be run well and seems to be degrading. They are being cited for multiple VIOLATIONS of nuclear regulations.

Seems like you're probably just management at the facility or GE Hitachi trying to suppress any negative points of view so that you can continue to operate in the dark. Guess what? That's why people are trying to break in to your facility.


4 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2019 at 7:48 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@MikeS

You said: "I'm citing documents from the Nuclear Regulator..."

You would see similar minor incidents at any number of facilities -- power plants, airlines, hospitals and the like. That doesn't mean they aren't safe or well run. Try searching any of the other facilities in that database and you'll find similar results. Try searching FAA for any of the best regarded airlines and you'll find minor FAA violations.

Like I said, Vallecitos is a research reactor.

Web Link

"Waste removal from VNC began in September 2009 and
was completed in 2010. Most of the nuclear waste generated
from the decontamination work was transuranic waste (TRU)
that consisted of clothing, tools, rags, debris, and other items
contaminated with small amounts of radioactive TRU elements.
The TRU waste was packaged and then shipped to the
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, for
permanent disposal."

You keep making unsubstantiated claims and assumptions like:

"... that's a bad idea but __I'm sure__ they're focused on their profits..."

How do you know some experiment they're doing is a "bad idea", or exactly what they are doing? What training do you have?

What's worse your posts sound an awful lot like the stuff anti-vaxers say. They say things like "Look at all warnings about the possible side effects of the MMR vaccine", or "I'm sure big pharma just cares about profits and tries to hide all the "vaccine injuries". Or they say "I don't listen to the experts because big pharma has the regulators in their back pockets, so I did my own research" etc. Vaccines don't cause autism. These people insist that they do (and many other things).

You say "Seems like you're probably just management at the facility..."

That's funny. That would be quite a career change for me.

I think you need to seriously lay off making assumptions and seeing all these conspiracies everywhere.

Incidentally, I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in how conspiracies theories take hold and keep people believing:

Web Link

You say: "That's why people are trying to break in to your facility. "

No, that's a high school prank. And it's not my facility. Although I wish they did have a visitor's center. I'd love a tour myself.



8 people like this
Posted by Nuke88
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 23, 2019 at 9:45 pm

@BobB
I've been monitoring this thread and can't stay silent. Not to agree with @MikeS but you've provided precious little context or substantiation for your claims and from what you provided it appears that your position is more reliant on assumptions. You should understand that your attitude simply lies on the opposite side of the spectrum from the 'Flat Earthers'. Instead of a 'conspiracy theorist', you're a 'there's-nothing-to-see-here'. And both are dangerous.

Most concerning is your attempt to mislead by citing a press release as your source of fact. I can't imagine the number of lawyers GE and the DOE had scrubbing that one. Understandable though, sometimes it's a challenge for people to understand the different between corporate press releases, independent journalism, or peer reviewed papers. That press release is meant for GE and DOE to pat themselves on the back for cleaning up part of their mess from half a century ago. It states they cleaned up 'a hot cell' and 'a glove box'. That is an absurdly small amount of cleanup for a facility that has numerous hot cells and waste storage areas housing spent nuclear fuel, irradiated hardware, cobalt 60 and other waste.

As a >30 year nuclear industry veteran I will tell you that nuclear power plants and even these small test and research reactors have serious safety, security, and public health/environmental concerns. There is a reason they are heavily regulated. It is shocking to me to hear that there are still highly enriched uranium reactors operating in commercial company hands.

I worked at nuke plants that were built in the 1970's. We had a hard time finding parts to keep the place running well. Obsolescence is the name of the game in the industry right now. I can't imagine trying to prop up something that's been running since the 1950s.

Leaving a nuclear reactor control panel unsecured is one of the worst things a plant operator can do and is a glaring indication of a poor nuclear safety culture. And just as bad policing needs to be called out and we need to get rid of bad cops; bad nuclear facility operators need to be called out and closed down. In both cases they tarnish the image of the good people trying to do the job right.


2 people like this
Posted by TJ
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 24, 2019 at 6:19 am

It's a nuclear waste dump kids. Not sure what they're jumping a fence to look at. GE's stock price has tanked so they don't have the money to clean up the place and close it. CA taxpayers will be picking up the tab for cleanup soon.


6 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2019 at 9:19 am

BobB is a registered user.

@Nuke88,

You said "...little context or substantiation for your claims..."

I only claim that this is a small research reactor and that I haven't seen any evidence that it is badly run.

You say "...attempt to mislead...". Now you're ascribing ulterior motives to my posting a government document that I found on a Google search? And I'm the one making assumptions? And it wasn't a "corporate press release", it was a government document published by the Department of Energy. Anyone can look this stuff up. There is plenty more of it out there. It was just one document.

You claim to be a "nuclear industry veteran", but you don't say what you did in the industry. Are you a nuclear safety expert? What kind of training do you have?

You said "It is shocking to me to hear that there are still highly enriched uranium reactors operating in commercial company hands."

I have no idea what you mean by this. I hope you know that there are dozens of nuclear reactors operating throughout the US in "commercial company hands".

You said "I can't imagine trying to prop up something that's been running since the 1950s."

But they aren't using the old power plant. That was shut down many decades ago. They are only running a small research reactor.

Again, both you MikeS are just going on assumptions and speculation. Just like the anti-vaxxers. It is corporate and nuclear so it must be dangerous and bad and they must be hiding something.


4 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2019 at 11:21 am

BobB is a registered user.

@Nuke88,

Also meant to say that many research reactors use small amounts of highly enriched uranium. There is nothing shocking about it. The amounts used fully comply with state and federal regulations.

They can be used medical radioisotope production, scientific research, and training.


4 people like this
Posted by Nuke88
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 24, 2019 at 4:15 pm

BobB,

I performed outage services at nuclear plants across the country for about 10 years and then worked in plant maintenance at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station for about 20 years in management roles. Some of that was actually with GE in San Jose so I'm familiar with the company in question. Currently at Lawrence Livermore NL. Would you mind explaining your background which makes you so qualified to comment on nuclear safety and this nuclear facility?

Any management role in the nuclear industry has extensive training on nuclear safety culture and maintaining a safety conscious work environment. For example, being able to track and recognize trends and degrading operating conditions. Trends like increases in minor events or near misses that typically proceed major accidents.

Do me another favor since you seem to be an expert with Google. Can you name one other nuclear reactor in this country with an HEU core (>20% U-235 enrichment) being operated by a commercial company. I'm not referring to National Laboratory reactors, which are owned by the USG. Name one HEU reactor owned and operating by a commercial company.


7 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2019 at 7:48 pm

BobB is a registered user.

Nuke88,

"Would you mind explaining your background which makes you so qualified to comment on nuclear safety and this nuclear facility"

I'm not the one making claims and casting doubt and fear. That was MikeS. My background is in physics and electrical engineering. I have worked in both private and public labs. I'm currently not associated with the industry in any way and don't have any direct investments in GE, and never worked for GE or Hitachi.

I'll leave the Google exercises to you, but last I looked there were many small research reactors throughout the world still using highly enriched uranium. MIT's reactor was one. That's a private university. I'll say again, the amount of highly enriched uranium used at these labs is fully in compliance with regulations.


2 people like this
Posted by Wombat
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 24, 2019 at 8:05 pm

@Nuke88

If you have expertise in nuclear engineering safety and radiation physics then you know that MikeS’s accusations and insinuations are scattershot all over the place. For example, his claim that it’s a “bad idea” and crazy to take radiation pictures of parts containing high explosives because of his insinuation that that cannot be done safely since the radiation from a reactor will initiate the high explosive. (Not so).

You’re trying to draw conclusions about the safety of this reactor based on 2nd-hand testimony from an anonymous poster (MikeS) who claims that his uncle (and not MikeS himself) worked at the facility and who furthermore is obviously not an expert on nuclear engineering safety or radiation physics. This research reactor may or may not have safety issues, but I don’t think that MikeS has established anything with the information that he has posted other than convincing me that he doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 24, 2019 at 8:48 pm

Interesting! Anonymous poster Wombat is calling out another anonymous poster MikeS.
Wombat is a recognized well documented Ding Bat.


8 people like this
Posted by Nuke88
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 24, 2019 at 10:30 pm

Wombat - I haven't really noted any agreement with MikeS. I'm simply saying turning a blind eye like BobB is trying to do is just as irresponsible as fear mongering. I'm not a nuke engineer or physicist. Mechanical engineer that worked in the nuclear industry.

You may be missing a point regarding the explosive items. It don't think a radiation beam would initiate a device. I think you're right there. Sometimes those items do accidentally initiate on their own or due to static electricity. Why take the risk in putting items like that next to a nuclear reactor? It's just like having a nuclear reactor on an active airport runway at McClellan Air Force Base. It's nearly in the middle of Sacramento and a jet skid off that runway a few weeks ago.

I'm not saying this is exactly the same magnitude but the logic I just noted is similar to putting the Fukushima reactors on the coast, in a high seismic area, with backup diesel generators at sea level. That didn't turn out well.

This industry isn't infallible and you need to have a strong questioning attitude. Sometimes things acceptable ages ago need to be re-examined when new data comes along.


8 people like this
Posted by Nuke88
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 24, 2019 at 10:47 pm

Bob -
This facility has the only commercially owned HEU reactor in the United States. Web Link. Hence my shock that GE still had this. The DOE has spent over 10 years closing or converting to reactors around the world to LEU and continues to do so. Would you say that that's evidence that these facilities are safe, secure and there are no issues?

You said you "haven't seen any evidence that it is badly run".

Did you review the Notices of Violation on the NRC website? Do you think a Notice of Violation is evidence of good operations? Those aren't minor incidents by any measure. Some nuke power plants with thousands of employees on site don't have as many NOVs as this site does in the last few years.

You said "But they aren't using the old power plant. That was shut down many decades ago. They are only running a small research reactor."

That specific HEU research reactor was built in 1957.

You said: "I hope you know that there are dozens of nuclear reactors operating throughout the US in "commercial company hands"."

No, there are not. The reactor in question here and Dow Chemical reactor in Michigan are the only operating nuclear reactors in commercial entity ownership. Don't get confused with university reactors, which are very different situations.


8 people like this
Posted by MikeS
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 25, 2019 at 7:29 am

@BobB Ouch looks like @Nuke88 burned you pretty bad there. #factchecked

It wouldn't matter if anyone got a tour of the place. They aren't going to show or even talk about all the dangerous and sketchy stuff. Nice to see someone else doesn't have their head under a rock @Nuke88.

Bob you claim that "It seems like a well run, small facility, with little nuclear material remaining on the site."
"I know a lot about this industry,"

Uh oh, that seems to be a CLAIM so yes you are making CLAIMS and SPECULATING and making IMPLICATIONS using some loosy goosy assumptions from your press releases. You should do some real research and talk to some people that have been on the ground. Maybe you can go cite a Phillips Morris press release about how cigarettes are not a health hazard!


12 people like this
Posted by Wombat
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 25, 2019 at 9:30 am

@Nuke88 wrote “You may be missing a point regarding the explosive items. It don't think a radiation beam would initiate a device. I think you're right there. Sometimes those items do accidentally initiate on their own or due to static electricity. Why take the risk in putting items like that next to a nuclear reactor?“

Nuke88, I’m a retired physicist and worked at LLNL for over 30 years. Explosives aren’t my specialty, but I am aware that X-ray radiation from high-flux sources (reactors?) are used in industry for quality control inspection purposes of items including items containing explosives (oil well detonators, as I recall). And, no, static electricity does not set off commonly used modern explosives. Also, at a place like LLNL at least, you can be assured that full safety reviews involving full documentation and expert peer reviews and clearly stated safety protocols and procedures are written down before anything Iike x-raying parts containing small amounts energetic materials (explosives) is performed. As for risks, life is full of managed risks. There are managed risks when you get into your car to drive to work. There are managed risks when you get on an airplane. There are managed risks when you fire off your backyard BBQ. There are managed risks everywhere in your life. Research at LLNL or any other research institution including medical research institutions would completely stop if programs involving managed risks were not allowed.


2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2019 at 9:51 am

BobB is a registered user.

@Nuke88 and Wombat,

I think this discussion has become unnecessarily hostile. If we met at work, it would probably be more fun, friendly, and productive.

@Nuke88, I was thinking "private" like MIT vs " commercial, like Hitachi, but still nothing illegal or particularly concerning to the general public.

Concerning the "Notice of Violation", I don't think you can directly compare to large power reactors, where the amount of nuclear material and risk is orders of magnitude greater.



9 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2019 at 4:48 pm

BobB is a registered user.

Strange, my last post mysteriously disappeared.


4 people like this
Posted by Nuke88
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 27, 2019 at 11:40 am

BobB - First off, I'm not pushing for any degree of hostility. Open public discussion, information and debate are important though. I wish there were a real open forum to have this discussion.

I think you're dodging some direct questions here though and I'm going to push you do defend your position that it 'looks like a well run facility' and you 'haven't seen evidence that it's run badly'.
Again, did you review the Notices of Violation on the NRC website? Do you think a Notice of Violation is evidence of good operations?

These research and test reactors have very different rules, regulations and oversight than the power reactors. As you've noted, that's due to the orders of magnitude difference in accident consequences. So they have weaker rules and reduced oversight that are appropriate to protect the health and safety of the public from the accidents and credible dangers of their facility. And they are still being cited for multiple violations of those rules. My logic driven mind says that right there is plenty of evidence that there are issues and the facility is not well run.

Again, bad players (cops, teachers, industry, whatever) need to be identified and weeded out of fields that have an impact on others. They make it harder for the good players to do their job. From what I've seen GE needs to close this facility or make some major changes to get their house in order. Those NOVs aren't minor by any means. Even if you want to try to call them minor, trends of minor issues precede major issues.

Are you just refusing to look at the evidence that doesn't agree with the position you want to have? I realize it's hard to be open minded once you've taken a firm stance. But be an adult and admit when you're wrong.


14 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2019 at 3:21 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@Nuke88,

I don't think saying things like "be an adult and admit when you're wrong" really doesn't help move a conversation forward.

I'd be happy to admit I was wrong about something. Is it the age of the research reactor or the number of commercial reactors with HEU (which I took as private like MIT) that you want me to say I'm wrong about? I was wrong to say in "commercial" hands vs "private", but I'm not sure why you think universities make better caretakers of reactors. In graduate school I lived less than 1/4 mile from a research reactor of roughly the same vintage as Vallecitos. That reactor was shutdown by the NRC (I think out of an abundance of caution). At the time I had many conversations with experts in nuclear safety, and the safety issues surrounding research reactors including the use of highly enriched uranium (considered more a weapons proliferation risk than a safety risk).

Web Link

I don't think either of us is qualified to examine the evidence and evaluate the safety of this facility. That's because neither of us is trained to do it. The federal and state agencies that are trained and tasked to do it and have certified it as fit to operate. Those are the people who carefully look at every incident (and they have because they have been cataloged publicly) and decide whether there is some kind of safety trend requiring a site to be shut down. This isn't analogous to watching a rogue cop on YouTube video and deciding that a police force is corrupt. As Wombat points out, this requires context and training. He and I are both trained in nuclear physics, but none of us here are nuclear safety experts.

Like I said to MikeS -- He can say that he has an uncle who says Vallecitos is unsafe, just as easily as I can say I have friends (nuclear experts) still in the field who say it isn't unsafe, but both of us just have hearsay. I can only repeat that the NRC and CA state regulators keep a close eye on this (and Diablo -- an outstanding commercial plant that needs to keep operating and giving us carbon free power). They see all the same incidents you keep asking me to look at. I can also say that small reactors like this really aren't dangerous in any way comparable to large ones. I don't know how you think you are more qualified to say whether the reactor should be shutdown and decommissioned rather than the regulators and experts who are tasked and trained to evaluate it.

I still say that if we met face to face over a beer (or coffee), we would probably each learn something from the other's perspective.


4 people like this
Posted by @Nuke88
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 5, 2019 at 5:21 pm

BobB - what I would like you to take a look at is your statements that it 'looks like a well run facility' and you 'haven't seen evidence that it's run badly'. Are you standing behind those even after being presented evidence of multiple Notices of Violation?

I think over 30 years in the nuclear industry does qualify me, to a certain extent, to a higher weighted opinion on the matter. My colleagues and I dealt with the NRC and CA regulators regularly and I'm quite familiar with the regulations. We also had extensive corporate training regarding nuclear hazards, regulations and on maintaining a strong nuclear safety culture. You are correct that 'Trained in nuclear physics' on it's own doesn't provide credibility on the topic other than the scientific merits.

'I can also say that small reactors like this really aren't dangerous in any way comparable to large ones.'
Would you agree that these small reactors still are dangerous, which is why they are regulated by a Federal agency tasked with 'protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment'? Or are they harmless and we should all have one in our basement? The way you argue you seem to think the latter, which doesn't match the reality of the world.


2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2019 at 6:37 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@Nuke88,

No, you aren't qualified, and neither am I. That's the whole point. Of course there are some dangers with research reactors. The dangers are small.

MikeS has no idea what he is talking about, and was just spouting anti-vaxx style talking points.


2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2019 at 10:04 am

BobB is a registered user.

Yes, I'm standing by my statement "well run facility" notwithstanding the notices of violation.


10 people like this
Posted by Concerned_Citizen
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Aug 9, 2019 at 1:06 am

Hey everyone,

I've been reading this conversation and I really love the educated ideas and intellectual discussion that this simple prank has led to. However, I would agree with user @Kb and say that the action taken by the teens was a severe safety hazard that needs to be fixed. I would like to propse that the author name the article "Pleasanton Teens Break into Secure Nuclear Reactor Site: FBI Called" since it brings a lot more attention to the issue at hand.

I understand the Sheriff's department and the company are trying to downplay this event as much as possible and I believe that our press should be responsible for making sure events in our community are accurately depicted to the public.

If anyone knows how I can ask the author/publisher to change the article title, that'd be really helpful. Thank you!


Like this comment
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2019 at 4:24 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@Concerned_Citizen,

It is good to downplay this event because it isn't any kind of big deal. There is no great danger to the public from that facility and those pranksters exposed no problems with it.

And don't mistake that Chernobyl drama, recently popular on HBO, for a documentary. It is not, and it got many things very wrong.

Web Link

Further the Chernobyl disaster isn't remotely related to this research station. Chernobyl was a huge, horribly designed and run power station. Vallecitos is a small research reactor.

This was only a silly inconsequential prank.


4 people like this
Posted by Jake
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 3, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Wow, so you guys want to 'downplay' the event? Would you prefer if the free press just didn't cover events where the headlines aren't to your liking?

Hmmm, could it be company employees trying to get this all erased from the public record? Have fun trying to get the Reuters and Yahoo to change their article as well. DON'T GIVE IN PLEASANTON WEEKLY! Maintain your journalistic integrity!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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