Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rincon Puerto Rico Nuclear Test Site and Surf Spot

I recently went back to Puerto Rico with my Boo and I returned to a town called "Rincon". It was my 3rd or 4th trip to this cozy beach town. A few friends of mine own property and migrate during winter months to escape the NY weather and Surf all winter. I knew of the famous surf spot called "DOMES" and I knew that there was a dome there but I never asked what was in the DOME. I did a little research and I found out it was a Nuclear Reactor in the 60's and I was shocked. I was called a "BONUS" Reactor. It was developed as a prototype nuclear power plant to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of the integral boiling superheating concept. This small scale nuclear reactor produced saturated steam in the central portion of the reactor and then used it in a direct loop to drive a turbine generator. They said they removed all the nuclear material when they decommissioned it in the 1969-70. I have my reservations about things like this. When I realized what it was it made me think of the show "LOST". This odd nuclear reactor sitting in the corner of Puerto Rico in the jungle and seeming like a mysterious experiment gone wrong. I know the US government used P.R. as a testing ground for the Birth Control pill on humans and a weapons target range in Viegues until recently. I remember reading about elevated Cancer levels in Vieques due to spent uranium pellets and other toxins associated with the bombings. Im wondering what the Cancer levels in Rincon are like since the 60's.
I read about a famous surfer Duke Micheal that died 6 months ago of Lung Cancer. He was based in Rincon and coincidentally a much younger surfer from NJ that was a regular to Rincon died this year of Cancer(Brain or Lung im not sure). As Yogi Berra would say "That's too coincidental to be a coincidence."


Rod Adams said...


I came across your post after hearing from a good friend who tweeted that he is surfing near BONUS. It was the first time that I had heard about that project, even though I have been writing about nuclear energy for more than 15 years at Atomic Insights.

It is too bad that you have such a jaundiced view of the only technology that I know with the ability to replace fossil fuel combustion to produce reliable electricity. It does that without producing any emissions and without causing any risk to public health.

Your concern about cancer is misplaced - even if the power system was still in operation.

BTW - If you want to learn more, John Wheeler, the friend who is surfing near BONUS, produces a podcast called This Week in Nuclear. I produce The Atomic Show and publish the Atomic Insights Blog.

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freddiemg said...

It is time for you to see Discovery Channel's The Battle of Chernobyl. The suffering of those people living down there and suffering radiation poisoning since 1986 was, and still is, a nightmare. Like said Sahdi, Puerto Rico has been an experimental ground for USA. Why BONUS was build in Puerto Rico? Like Agent Orange's experiments, it is just another experiment they don't want in USA mainland. Why BONUS was shut down after many million$ and only 3 years? Many technical problems, and because the nuclear plant was buid...over a geological fault!! And the experimental use of Depleted Uranium bullets in a Navy firing range in vieques, PR near the town of Isabel Segunda? They don't say that. Maybe all those expeiments and many more are done in Puerto Rico because we are only "puertorricans", second class USA "citizens", living in an USA colony. You also said to Shadi "It is too bad that you have such a jaundiced view of the only technology that I know with the ability to replace fossil fuel combustion to produce reliable electricity. It does that without producing any emissions and without causing any risk to public health." And eolic energy? Many millions between the federal government and USA people. Time for a field trip to Chernobyl to see new born deformed children in a place that nuclear energy , as you said was not suppose to be "any risk to public health". Maybe you want to live and raise your children near a nuclear plant... Mine not, so maybe we can talk about nuclear safety and absence of radiation risk in about 20 years. Maybe.... if you are still here.

freddiemg said...

The Battle of Chernobyl- part 1/10

Dacay and Deformed

The Chernobyl Disaster:the severe days

Chernobyl 23 Years Later

Chernobyl and Pripyat 2007

Children of Chernobyl (incomplete)

The Children Beyond Chernobyl, Part 1/7

velezcm said...

After seeing all your comments about BONUS I think we should clear some facts. You can check the Department of Energy site for the Long Term Surveillance and Maintenance Program which is in place at the Museum (Old BONUS nuclear power plant).

Some history: It was a demonstration Project for the feasibility of a BOiling Water NUclear Reactor (BWR) with an integrated Superheater (that's where the name BONUS came from), the eight nuclear plant constructed in the US and the first in Latin America. Due to its size, seismic activities were not an issue. Buildup between 1960-1964, operated intermittently between 1964-1968, closed due to high cost operation and maintenance, and decommissioned from 1968-1970. One of its purposes (guess what...cut the energy dependence on oil) was to be used as a prototype for the building of bigger nuclear plants. It had an enclosed domed building were the Reactor, control room, auxiliary systems and supporting personnel was located. An all-inclusive plant (usually these system and supporting personnel are located in different buildings). It was proposed by the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (the name of our electrical utility at that time)and designed (from his Nuclear Engineering Master Thesis), operated, decommissioned and proposed as a museum by Dr. Modesto Iriarte Beauchamp, the first nuclear engineer in the US. That's why the museum got his name by act of law and the reason for its location in PR.

About the cancer issue, in 1975 a study was made by the PR Health Department which showed that for populations near the coastal areas and the same size of Rincón, the risk of getting cancer was the same (most of its population are people with high sun exposure or old; people like to retire to beaches)and not due to the nuclear plant (remember eight in the US monitored by almost 31 countries, our local Department of Health and the Atomic Energy Commission). If you follow some of the National Geographic Programs on nuclear you might see the founder of Green Peace saying that they make a mistake on the ban of nuclear power since up to today in the US there have not being a single dead associated to radiation on a nuclear plant.

About Russian Chernobyl, you could said it was a disaster, yes due to poor quality manufacturing, human errors, but do not compare it to US technology. After more than 50 years in operation, the only incident (and I said incident not accident) that we can mention in the US is Three Miles Island. People have learn and now we have a world nuclear council. The control rooms are built identical from country to country, so that any operator can stand in any of them and would not see a difference to minimize human errors.

So what happened to our nuclear energy program in Puerto Rico? Eight sites were considered for nuclear plants. One of the sites was Aguirre. Two 200 MW nuclear plants were supposed to be built in the town of Aguirre, which was going to be called SOUCO. In 1975, the first stone was put in place. The problem was that, besides the Atomic Energy Commission, the EPA and our Environmental Quality Board (both born in 1970)were enforcing more stringent environmental regulations and one of them was seismic activities. So now Aguirre could not be used for such big plants and several locations were considered. The only one that would comply was Barrio Islote in Arecibo. But due to the fact that it was a political year and the heat was on, both the Governor and its opponent were on the banning issue to use nuclear power for the generation of electricity to get political sympathies. So finally, an Executive Order was created banning nuclear use for electricity up to today. Imagine what would had happened if we had changed to nuclear in this oil crisis? We would have been an example for the World. Hopes these clears some of the issues.

Neil said...

velezcm you said: "Imagine what would had happened if we had changed to nuclear in this oil crisis? We would have been an example for the World. Hopes these clears some of the issues." and "The problem was that,...and one of them was seismic activities."
Look to Japan now after the earthquake you fool!

Montano said...

Thank you for the facts about the Rincon plant. However in debates about nuclear power. facts are almost irrelevant. Nuclear power, just like AGW, is a political issue and has similar characteristics to the meme or deistic religion.
I have been to the Rincon site and also spent some weeks in Gomel, very close to Chernoblyl. I met many people from Chernobyl and confirm that the effects of the Chernobyl disaster have been grossly exaggerated. There have been less than 60 verified deaths. Nuclear power accounts for 14% of the world´s electricity, yet more people die from road accidents around the world in 40 seconds than have died from nuclear power accidents since the beginning of time.

Montano said...

How amazing, one of the biggest earthquakes and tsunamis in history, which destroyed almost everything in it´s path, managed to do some damage at some nuclear power plants. No apocalyptic melt-down, not even one death amongst the 10,000 odd, caused by the earthquake and tsunami. I wonder how many more deaths there would have been had the output capacity of these nuclear plants been replaced by thousands of 120-meter high wind turbines.