News


Pleasanton teens jump fence at high-security nuclear research facility

FBI joins sheriff's office, GE Hitachi in responding to Sunol site after breach

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

The teen boys, both from Pleasanton, jumped a fence at the Vallecitos Nuclear Center at 6705 Vallecitos Road in Sunol at about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, according to sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly.

The sheriff's office responded along with the FBI and security from the facility's operator, GE Hitachi.

"They were just being kids," Kelly said. "They went over the fence, got into the Vallecitos property, they never got near any of the high-security area within the facility."

Kelly told the Weekly the boys were not cited for trespassing as GE Hitachi did not want to pursue a complaint.

"They were admonished not to do it again. We spoke with their parents. They are not bad kids ... It was a teachable moment," the sergeant added. "There was never a threat. I think they got a good learning lesson."

The 1,600-acre facility was the site of a commercial power plant until 1963, when its main reactor was shut down. Since then it has been used as a research facility.

-- Story by Bay City News Service, with Weekly editor Jeremy Walsh contributing.

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Comments

20 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.


14 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


14 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


14 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?!


8 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.


17 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.


2 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 ~


9 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)


Like this comment
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!


7 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.


2 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.


14 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.


6 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.


10 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!


3 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?


4 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.


4 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.


4 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.


6 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.


2 people like this
Posted by MikeS
a resident of Downtown
18 hours ago

@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'.


6 people like this
Posted by VS
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
16 hours ago

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


2 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Danville
6 hours ago

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
3 hours ago

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.


2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
3 hours ago

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.




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