Undercover in Nuclear Power Plant
The sun peeked through the oak trees at dusk as the sea gently lapped onto the rocks along the California coast. The setting sun highlighted Tracy's hair as I watched the red orb disappear. I felt at peace just for an instant as I took in Tracy's beauty and the tranquillity around me. My eyes left her as the sound of the sea lapping at the shore made me look towards it. The sun highlighted the domes of the Sunset Nuclear Power Station and I felt outraged at the stupidity of the morons who put it in such a beautiful setting.
My thoughts were echoed by Tracy, ‘Why would they put that monstrosity here, Dan?'
‘It's exactly the wrong place.'
‘Are you ready for your start tomorrow as a security guard?' she asked.
‘They've issued me with a uniform. We draw firearms as we start work, hand them in when we finish.'
‘You accent's okay but it's not quite right. How will you get away with it?'
‘My fake references show I spent time working in Australia. I'll just tell them I've picked up some of the accent.'
‘We'd better start using our fake names,' said Tracy. ‘You're not Dan Brennan anymore but Hank Belmore and I'm your sister Melissa. You want me to mix with the wives and try to pick up information while you work inside the plant as a security guard.'
‘You keep up the communications on the laptop, and the encrypted smart phone while I'm at work.'
‘You mean Elvin Batters. He's trying to get a job on the wharves. The stuff is moved by ship from here we think.'
‘I thought it was by air.'
I sheltered my eyes against the sun with my hand, ‘By air into Australia. It has to be by ship from here.'
We sat in front of the laptop while Tracy had the Sunset Nuclear Power Plant website on the screen. She was pointing and saying, ‘It has two Westinghouse four loop Pressurised water reactors, each rated at a thousand Mega Watts of energy.'
I leaned back on my chair, yawned, and patted my hand over my open mouth, ‘ That's riveting,' I said.
She smiled. ‘Okay, this you need to know. The reactor is fuelled using equipment designed to handle spent fuel under water from the time it leaves the reactor vessel until it is placed in a cask for shipment from the site.' She brought up a diagram of the plant pointing out where I could find the area she was referring to. ‘The radioactive waste is collected, processed, monitored, and eventually sent from the site. The equipment for this is located in the auxiliary building, here.'
‘What do I look for?'
‘This is where it gets interesting,' she said. ‘Everything is transparent and the information is easily obtained except where they send the waste.' She brought up the area that described the waste disposal. ‘It just says it is sent off site. Now about seven years ago this plant stored waste on-site. Something has changed, and I think the Greenpeace report of waste disappearing is correct. Where's it going? That's what we need to know.'
‘We know it's ending up in an old mine in Western Australia.'
‘I suspect it goes to some kind of holding area until they can ship it out.'
‘Get Mac back here. I want him to follow any trucks big enough to carry the stuff that leaves the plant.'
‘Good idea,' said Tracy. ‘I think Mister and Missus Belmore can eat out tonight. Somewhere nice, fish with a nice white wine.'
'What a pity, I was thinking of something else to top the night off.'
The twin containment domes of the plant towered above when I checked in at the main security point at the front gate. The head guard handed me my accreditation and weapon. My first job was to go with another guard, Duncan, and check the perimeter fence. We set out in a four-wheel drive on a dirt road around the eight hundred acre site. ‘First we have to check the site boundary, ‘ said Duncan. ‘It's placed at least half a mile from the plant. The only thing in that area is plant buildings and fences. Then we have to check the low population area. That area is a maximum of seven miles from the plant. There are people living there but not many. They have emergency procedures in case something happens at the plant.'
‘Not since I've been here. The plant is very safe. Sometimes vandals have a go at the fence. Caught a couple once. Heard they got off with a caution.'
While Duncan drove, I had to check the fence for damage. It was hard to keep my eyes on it because of the spectacular scenery. The California coast stretched along the front of the plant and swept down to the sea breaking against the shore. Wild flowers were bursting out making a colourful carpet on the landscape. To the North, brown-topped cliffs were reflecting the sun off their white bases. In one section, the sun was peeking through spectacular oak trees. I glanced over at Duncan, who was giving me a running commentary that showed his pride in the plant.
Next day my duties were inside the plant. I had to accompany a team to provide security to keep other workers away from the primary generator. A big metal tank converted hot water into steam. It was situated in the most radioactive part of the plant. One of the workers was in what looked like a space suit. His job was to go into the tank. Because of the radiation, the limit in the tank was four minutes. The worker in the space suit crawled into the tank. Other workers were being dressed in suits while he was in the tank. His job was to try to find a broken pipe.
Some of the workers spent most of the four minutes in the tank. I couldn't help thinking I was glad I wasn't doing it.
The operation took most of the day but I was able to approach the auxiliary building when it was finished. A security guard was on the door, ‘The boss asked me to look around, because he's thinking of sending me here,' I said.
‘Try to get out of,' said the guard. ‘It's boring. They handle real hot shit here.' He stepped aside to let me pass. There were other guards inside who were sitting watching with some walking along the stainless steel vessels. The spent rods were under a huge pool of water and there seemed to be some sort of procedure that extracted the rods into the stainless steel containers without taking them from the water.
One of the guards nodded to me. ‘You new here?'
‘Yeah,' I smiled. ‘Does it show?'
He grinned. ‘Kinda. You sure as hell haven't seen this before,' he said sweeping his hand at the plant.
‘What happens here?' I asked.
‘That pool is forty feet deep. In the bottom fourteen feet, are storage racks designed to hold fuel assemblies removed from the reactor. After being in the reactor for five years, they are removed and stored under water for fifteen years. The water acts as a shield to protect people working above like us. It also cools the rods.'
‘Do they put the rods in those containers,' I said pointing to the stainless steel canisters.
‘Yeah,' said the guard. ‘Radiation can't get through the containers and they have a double metal ring seals and bolted to ensure it can't escape. You could have one of those things in your living room without any problems.'
‘I wouldn't like to try it.'
‘Neither would I,' said the guard.
‘There's a message for you on the smart phone,' said Tracy when I opened the door to our rented house.
The message was from my computer expert in Canberra in Australia. She was trying to find how the waste smugglers contacted each other on the nett.
I think I've found the website the dumpers are using. It's encrypted and password protected so I can't get into it. It would help if you could find out the passwords if you get the opportunity. The mainframe is churning through possible passwords but it could take weeks or months to find them.
We think a company named Guarna might be involved. Their revenues suggest they are onto something making them money. I was able to hack into their bank records. We think the ex president of the USA, William Ellen, might be a part of the organisation. Guarna are trying to look like a legitimate public company. Ellen is listed as a director. For a profile of him go www.presidents.com. The chief thinks he could be worth checking out. His address is 2145 Ocean View Drive, LA. But, of more interest, he has a ranch in a secluded part of Nevada. It's near Mount Emmerton. Phil thinks you should look at it after you've finished at Sunset.
‘I've printed out the stuff she suggested. It's on the table,' said Tracy. I'd barely heard her but I walked over to the table to pick it up. There was a photo of the man I'd seen on television or in the papers hundreds of times when he was the President. It was difficult to get interested so I put it down again.
‘Did you hear from Mac?' I asked.
‘I did. There were no trucks leaving the plant.'
I signalled to her to sit down. ‘There are a lot of containers with waste in them sitting around.'
‘They must be getting ready to shift them,' she said. ‘This is a legitimate part of the moving so they will have to get a licence.' She rummaged in her computer case and brought out a paper. ‘They would have been preparing for it for weeks. This is the time they are most vulnerable. In no time in the life cycle of high-level radioactive material does it come closer to people than during transport to the disposal site. They will be worried that something might go wrong and they'll get bad publicity.' She flicked a report in front of me.
‘How soon will they shift it?' I asked.
‘It depends if all the permissions are in place. They will have been getting licences from the Department of Energy and discussing the move for weeks. They have to file the transportation and emergency response plans. They would have detailed what the containers were made of and satisfied the department that no radio activity can escape.'
‘I've seen the containers. They look strong to me.'
‘This is the requirements. A computer keyboard linking the vehicle with a satellite tracking system; continuous tracking by a central monitoring room at the waste dump site; satellite telephone to allow direct two-way communication, with cellular telephones for backup. Tractors (prime movers) must be replaced at three-year or 300,000 mile intervals; designation of safe parking areas along all routes for use in bad weather; ability to replace or repair tractors, en route, within eight hours.' She pushed the list of requirements into my hand and I glanced at it.
‘It'd take a while to set that up. I didn't see any trucks in the plant.'
‘They'll use contractors. Security will be very tight. I wouldn't be surprised if you're involved.'
We were getting close. I'm sure they haven't worked out that we knew what they were doing. This thing had to have crooks all over the world making money by dumping high-level nuclear waste in Australia without anyone knowing. Two policemen had already been murdered to protect it.