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Friends Say They Have That Certain Glow

San Diego Reader (1981-07-09) Neal Matthews

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More Info: Shut San Onofre, Stop Nuke Dump

The idlers who guzzle beer
all day and loaf around the
alley beside Sam's Market in
Mission Beach, near Santa
Clara Place, aren't sure
whether they should still hang
out with Max Manning. Since
Manning testified a couple of
weeks ago before the federal
board considering licensing of
units two and three at the San
Onofre nuclear power plant,
the guys in the alley have 
wondered if some sinister hit
man will come looking for their
buddy one of these lazy days.

"I'm scared, sure," said
Manning, 49, as his associates
lounged in teh alley and shot
flies with a plastic fly-swatter
gun. Manning gave testimony 
about his experiences while 
working as a "jumper" 
repairing steam generators last 
May in San Onofre's unit-one 
power plant.  He and two other 
jumpers at the hearing 
disparaged the repair work they 
and more than a thousand other 
jumpers performed on the 
generators, alleging shoddy 
workmanship, widespread drug 
use, and radiation overdoses. 
Their testimony prompted a 
formal investigation into their 
charges by the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission. 
Manning and another worker 
who testified, Dave Pierce, 
stood in an alley last Thursday 
morning and waited for the two 
investigators to arrive and take 
Pierce's statement. (Manning 
had already met with them.)
"We're scared of teh FBI, the
Mafia," said Manning. "Hell,
the guys in the alley don't 
want to get shot."

   Manning and Pierce, who 
sleep in their cars down at 
Mission Beach, both have 
chilling stories to tell about 
their stints at San Onofre. "We 
were all just a bunch of 
derelicts, all street types, 
totally down and out," 
Manning explained.  "There 
were a lot of ex-cons, junkies
 -- and I know junkies 'cause I 
live with 'em." Manning, 
Pierce and others who worked
on the $67 million repair 
project say that the majority of 
the people who answered 
newspaper ads promising $500 
a week with no experience 
necessary were out of work, 
out of luck, and willing to sign 
releases stating that if they 
became sterile due to radiation 
exposure, they wouldn't sue 
the company, Southern 
California Edison. They also 
say that, even though the work 
was simple, the nature of it and 
the conditions in which it had 
to be performed made it 
impossible to do it right. 
Southern California Edison, on 
the other hand, says the work 
was thoroughly inspected 
before the power plant was 
fired up again early in June.

   The plant had been shut
down last April due to
corrosion and sludge
deiscovered in the three
steam-generating units.
These generators are gigantic
plumbing systems, each filled
with about 3500 pipes, through
which runs 600-degree water
that has been in the 
reactor's core. When the plant
is operating, thepipes are
submerged in water, andd the
hot pipes create the team that
turns the electric turbines. The
steam generators, located next
to the reactor core, are thirteen
years old and were never meant
to be serviced, so the 
technicians charged with 
reparing them had no 
precedents to follow.
Evidently, the improvised 
their way as the work 
progressed. "It wasn't a 
cut-and-dried thing," said
Manning. "They were trying
things as they went."

  What the engineers decided
to do was force metal sleeves,
about thirty inches long, up
into the bottoms of the
corroded tubes.  A company 
called Atlantic Nuclear 
Services was contracted to do 
the work, and last fall they 
began placing ads in the _Union_ 
and _Tribune_ calling for people 
to work in a highly radioactive 
environment, inside the steam 
generator, installing the 
sleeves. Hundreds of workers 
were recruited from Orange 
County and San Diego County. 
The office down here was 
originally on Poplar Street 
near Fairmont in East San Diego. 
Manning says he never showed 
anybody identification when he 
applied; he doesn't even have a 
driver's license.  Applicants 
were given basic skills test 
and physicals.  One jumper, 
John, who lives down in 
Mission Beach, said, "I 
couldn't believe they were 
hiring this assortment of 
people. It was like high school, 
they wouldn't let you flunk the 
test. There was this one guy, I 
was standing right next to him.
The nurse was trying to take his
blood pressure and she couldn't 
get him to turn his arm over.
When he finally did, there were
these huge needle tracks going
up his arms. They took him."
Said another jumper, David
Nightingale, "When I went
there, I felt like it was 1931,
I'd lost everything, and I was
standing in a soup line."

   The company took busloads 
of the jumpers to San 
Onofre every day, including 
Sundays, until the job was 
completed. Manning, Pierce, 
Nightingale, and John all say 
dope and booze were consumed 
on the buses. They were given 
a day's training in whatever job 
they were to perform, They 
were also given classes and 
tested on the dangers of 
radioactivity.  Then the 
workers, about 150 at a time, 
were garrisoned in two trailers 
on "Jap Mesa" east of the 
power plant site. As they were 
needed, they were summoned 
by name over an intercom. 
Most spent five and 
ten minutes inside the steam 
generator before they were 
"burned out" by receiving 
their maximum dose of 
radiation, as set by the 
company. The jumpers played 
cards, drank, smoked dope, 
snorted cocaine, and read while 
they waited to be called. At 
least one, David Nightingale, 
says he prolonged his stay (and 
fattened his pay) by bribing a 
supervisor with cocaine, so he 
wouldn't be called down into 
the generator.  He was able to 
stay thirteen days, pocketed 
$1480, and spent a total of 
about thirty minutes inside the 
generator. But he say that 
when he was inside his plastic 
protective suit ripped and he 
was soaked with contaminated, 
radioactive water.
   Special tools had to be
manufactured for the work, and
these were constantly breaking
down, say the jumpers ("I did
the best I could to break
equipment, to prolong my
stay," Nightingale admitted).
They squatted down with the
rows of pipe hanging in a
semicircule above them, and
were instructed through
headphones which pipe to work
on and what to do with it.
Some of the sleeves would not 
go all the way up into the
pipes, making it impossible for
those pipes around it to receive 
sleeves, say the jumpers,
because of the way the 
equipment operated. These
sleeves were eventually cut off
with a hacksaw. Nightingale 
says many of the pipes were 
split after workers got 
through with them, and many 
that were supposed to receive 
sleeves did not. And while
working as an inspector, 
Nightingale says he certified 
work he knew to be inadequate.

   After the sleeves were
inserted and expanded by water
pressure, they were supposed 
to be soldered at the top. Dave
Pierce, who at one time 
charged with inspecting these 
solders, told the NRC 
investigators that fully half of 
them failed the inspection. In
March the engineers
abandoned this procedure and 
began "hard rolling," or
bending over the mouth of the
sleeves in order to attach them
inside the pipes. Nightingale
says that this required the 
jumpers to place a tool 
perfectly straight up inside the
sleeve, and that often this as
not accomplished, resulting in
damage to the pipes. "Nobody 
cared about the work," said 
Pierce, "people were just there 
for the money."

  At the end of the project the
pipes that could not be repaired
or had suffered damage were
simply plugged. A Southern
California Edison spokesman 
says only about ten percent of
the pipes received plugs and
that the generator's
performance won't be affected
by them. The jumpers, 
however, contend that closer to
twenty percent of teh pipes 
were plugged. Max Manning, 
who was trained to insert
plugs was sent down into the 
generator on May 3, at about
one o'clock in the afternoon..
He was told to take a wire 
brush and ream out the inside
of some tubes, but almost as 
soon as he got inside the 
cramped space he passed out. 
He was jerked out of it through 
a small port and his protective 
suit was ripped off his body. 
He says he was laid down right 
there in the highly 
contaminated area and given 
heart massage. Somebody 
thrust his radioactive glove into 
Manning's mouth to keep him 
from swallowing his tongue. 
The guys in the alley look at 
Manning a little funny these 
days, and hesitate to let 
him drink from their bottles. 
          -- N.M.  


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Title Friends Say They Have That Certain Glow
Publisher San Diego Reader
Author Neal Matthews
Pub Date 1981-07-09
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Keywords Shut San Onofre, Stop Nuke Dump
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