Holtec CEO admits to at least 51 loose or broken bolts in its nuclear waste containers

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Webcast suggests possible collusion between the NRC and Holtec

DATELINE:  January 9th, 2019, San Diego CA

In a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) webcast today,  Holtec, the manufacturer of the nuclear waste containers used at the decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) admitted in an NRC Enforcement Conference that as many as 51 modified bolts, known as Shim Standoffs (SSOs), have broken in the four radioactive waste containers deployed so far.

According to Krishna Singh, the CEO of Holtec, there are  88 bolts, called Shim Stand Offs, or “SSOs”  in each Holtec canister. The bolts were used to improve the cooling process for the hot radioactive nuclear waste inside each can.  Under Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations 72.48, changing the design for a nuclear waste storage system requires prior approval from the NRC.

During Holtec’s attempts to harden the exterior of its cans against corrosion, the company used a peening process where the can was rotated at high speeds under a laser.  Holtec has admitted that this process caused the Shim Standoffs, which support the internal cooling system, to bend and in some cases break.

Holtec has also admitted that damage to the shim standoff bolts also occurred as a result of human error during the installation process.  Both types of damages occurred only with the type of canisters used at SONGS.

“Technical Greed”

“This was a clear violation of Federal nuclear safety law,” says Public Watchdogs advocate Nina Babiarz. “Holtec dodged a mandatory design review by the NRC to save money and avoid a lengthy approval process.”

According to Singh, his company made the unlawful design change out of “technical greed.”

 “Mobile Chernobyls”

The canisters,  which measure about  20 feet high and five feet across, and weigh up to 100,000 pounds, contain 37 spent fuel assemblies and have been called “Mobile Chernobyls by critics who say that each of the cans contains as much deadly Cesium 137 as was released during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  According to Scientific American, the plutonium inside each of the 72 cans is deadly to all human life for at least 250,000 years and contains about as much Cesium 137 as was released into the atmosphere during the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.

The exterior of the canisters, which have exceptionally thin 5/8” walls can reach several hundred degrees from the tremendous heat generated by the red-hot  radioactive waste inside each can. In fact, each can emits so much deadly radiation that getting within a few feet of one will cause death within hours. What’s more, the cans are located just 108 feet from the beach at San Onofre State Beach Park, and are located in the middle of a tsunami inundation zone and on top of an earthquake fault.

Despite these drawbacks, Holtec’s CEO is sanguine. Saying “We make the perverse assumption that even if all of the SSOs fail that it will have no effect on cooling.”

Singh: “Broken Cooling System Bolts are “superfluous”

According to Singh, who spoke for 1 hour and twenty minutes today, the bolts in each of his nuclear waste storage cans are completely unnecessary. On multiple occasions, Singh described the bolts as “superfluous” or “unnecessary,” stating “They do nothing of value. They do nothing.”  Singh later added that the bolts were simply added by Holtec our of what he called “technical greed.”

Unlicensed canister design an “eye-opener”.

Under Federal nuclear safety laws, changes to the design of the nuclear waste containers used at San Onofre required Holtec to request a design review of its questionable shims. Holtec has claimed that it did not know a design review was necessary, stating “we did not forsee this problem. It was definitely an eye-opener.

Evidence Destruction : NRC is colluding with Holtec: 

According to Public Watchdogs’ executive director, Charles Langley,the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is actively engaged in collusion with Holtec to suppress vital evidence from going public about the failure of the shims.

“It is a cover up,” says Langley. “Public Watchdogs asked the NRC to provide us with a copy of Holtec’s Root Cause Analysis in advance of the hearing. The NRC replied that they could not provide it because they had sent the analysis back to Holtec.  By doing this, they destroyed most of the evidence.”

At the beginning of the webcast, Krishna Singh offered to send “everything” to the NRC during the meeting. The NRC moderator refused, saying “Don’t send us anything.”

The reason the NRC commanded Holtec to refrain from sending its reports to the NRC is because of the potential that the documents could be reviewed by the public under the Freedom Of Information Act.  According to Public Watchdogs, the NRC’s refusal to accept, look at, or even store evidence from the manufacturer, shows that at worst, the NRC is engaging in a cover up, and at best, it is destroying or suppressing evidence that it does not want the public to see.

Public Watchdogs has long alleged that the NRC’s investigation into Holtec is a cover up, noting that during a recent NRC “inspection” of the SONGS Nuclear Waste Dump, the so-called “inspectors” never bothered to even look at the canisters for dents, cracks, and scratches that would make them vulnerable to releasing deadly radiation from salt-water induced stress corrosion cracking.

Public Watchdogs has published a report critical of the NRC, titled 13 Red Flags at San Onofre


Charles Langley, Executive Director

Public Watchdogs (858) 384-2139
7867 Convoy Court, Suite 302, San Diego CA 92111

4 thoughts on “Holtec CEO admits to at least 51 loose or broken bolts in its nuclear waste containers

  1. Am I dreaming here? When will this nightmare end? We are talking about nuclear waste. The NRC is impotent and corrupted. We who live in the fallout circle are in grave danger and it is only a matter of time. Thank you PW for exposing this insanity.

  2. The Cesium released during the Chernobyl disaster was due to a “prompt critical” nuclear reaction that essentially caused an explosion and fire. The prompt criticality occurred because the reactor was over-moderated with graphite, and the control rod automatic scram capability was defeated. Once again this was an operating reactor where an explosion, fire, and immediate release to the atmosphere occurred – not containment building either. To compare Chernobyl to any of the canisters at San Onofre or at any of the other many locations where they are stored in the U.S. is to ignore the facts. I don’t support interim waste storage either (bad practice) but there are no real options without a federally licensed repository. So let’s at least stop scaring people with these dramatic articles.

    1. According to research by http://www.sanonofresafety.org each can has a Cesium 137 content equivalent to what was released during the Chernobyl disaster. This is why they have been called “Mobile Chernobyls.” Edison claims that an explosion inside a canister is almost impossible, but it does not rule out the possibility of terrorist attacks. Please read page 17 of our report on the low security requirements at the SONGS nuclear waste dump here: http://bit.ly/2K5lwnn

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