Daily Archive: 05/23/2011

May 23 2011

Test

Japan Nuclear Watch, May 19: Critical Safety Vent Failures Could Happen Here Too

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Thursday May 19, 2011 7:19 am

As we’ve explained in previous Japan Watch posts, that sequence led inexorably to near total meltdown of the fuel core inside the reactor vessels at Units 1-3. (All of Unit 4’s fuel was in the storage pool, which presents problems.) TEPCO now concedes these meltdowns were likely total.



Although earlier expert analyses and TEPCO announcements suggested only partial meltdowns and varying levels of water covering parts of each reactor’s core, it now appears the cores were completely uncovered for some period early on - within the first hours or days - resulting in near total meltdown at each unit. That means the melted fuel is now puddled at the bottom of each reactor vessel, though it is thought (because of low temperatures) to be covered with whatever cooling water can be injected into each reactor vessel.

Earlier this week, they realized Unit 1’s vessel has one or more holes, leaks, allowing water and possibly melted fuel to leak out of the vessel onto the containment structure floor. The reports vary, but they suggest that tons of water, which they’ve been injecting into the core in desperate efforts to keep the core covered, have now found its way into the reactor building’s basement. Water from other units has leaked from other places, including adjacent turbine buildings and some has reached the ocean.



As we know, there were hydrogen-related explosions in all four units – that is, they waited too long, or, as they’re now discovering, the venting systems failed.



The Times report very helpfully reminds readers that all of the US reactors with the same GE design have essentially the same (new! improved!) venting systems as the ones that failed at Fukushima Daiichi. GE didn’t comment on the story.

So the next time someone tells you that, unlike those careless Japanese utilities and not too diligent regulators, we have much safer systems and our safety measures are “safer,” just remember this story, because it ain’t so.

May 23 2011

Test

Japan Nuclear Watch, May 19: Critical Safety Vent Failures Could Happen Here Too

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Thursday May 19, 2011 7:19 am

As we’ve explained in previous Japan Watch posts, that sequence led inexorably to near total meltdown of the fuel core inside the reactor vessels at Units 1-3. (All of Unit 4’s fuel was in the storage pool, which presents problems.) TEPCO now concedes these meltdowns were likely total.



Although earlier expert analyses and TEPCO announcements suggested only partial meltdowns and varying levels of water covering parts of each reactor’s core, it now appears the cores were completely uncovered for some period early on - within the first hours or days - resulting in near total meltdown at each unit. That means the melted fuel is now puddled at the bottom of each reactor vessel, though it is thought (because of low temperatures) to be covered with whatever cooling water can be injected into each reactor vessel.

May 23 2011

Test

Japan Nuclear Watch, May 19: Critical Safety Vent Failures Could Happen Here Too

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Thursday May 19, 2011 7:19 am

May 23 2011

Dithering and Explosions and Venting- Oh My!

Fukushima Update- Part 1

First of all let’s survey the damage.  Reactors 1, 2, and 3 suffered core meltdowns that breached the steel containment vessels leaving leaks that have been releasing highly radioactive cooling water AND molten nuclear fuel into the concrete basement below the vessel.

This is kind of a containment vessel too and while there are no current indications that nuclear reactions are continuing in the escaped fuel slag that would burn through this floor and into the uncontained earth foundation of the plants, they’re not waterproof and there is no doubt at all that millions of gallons of highly radioactive water and perhaps some fine particulates are leaking into the environment uncontrolled.

This has led to a re-evaluation of cooling and clean-up strategies that continues because there are no really good answers.  Several radiation peaks indicating continued nuclear reactions in the melted and puddled fuel mean you can’t stop pumping water and the leaking makes it difficult to maintain a sufficient amount in the containment vessel to moderate the reaction (that’s why you get the peaks when the level dips too low).

There’s a continued risk of hydrogen explosions too and one of the reasons I mention that is because the one bit of good news is that it does not look as if the large spent fuel pond at the non working (at the time of the accident) Reactor 4 is having uncontrolled reactions.

At the moment.

A lot of the damage was caused by hydrogen explosions which in turn was caused by malfunctioning vents of the same type currently in use at many U.S. Nuclear Power Plants.

(note: There is something wacky going on with my quote from Scarecrow that I am attempting to correct)

The Times report to which Scarecrow refers is this one-

In Japan Reactor Failings, Danger Signs for the U.S.

By HIROKO TABUCHI, KEITH BRADSHER and MATTHEW L. WALD, The New York Times

Published: May 17, 2011

TOKYO – Emergency vents that American officials have said would prevent devastating hydrogen explosions at nuclear plants in the United States were put to the test in Japan – and failed to work, according to experts and officials with the company that operates the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The failure of the vents calls into question the safety of similar nuclear power plants in the United States and Japan. After the venting failed at the Fukushima plant, the hydrogen gas fueled explosions that spewed radioactive materials into the atmosphere, reaching levels about 10 percent of estimated emissions at Chernobyl, according to Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency.



Tokyo Electric in recent days has acknowledged that damage at the plant was worse than previously thought, with fuel rods most likely melting completely at Reactors 1, 2 and 3 in the early hours of the crisis, raising the danger of more catastrophic releases of radioactive materials. The company also said new evidence seemed to confirm that at Reactor No. 1, the pressure vessel, the last layer of protection, was broken and leaking radioactive water.

The improved venting system at the Fukushima plant was first mandated for use in the United States in the late 1980s as part of a “safety enhancement program” for boiling-water reactors that used the Mark I containment system, which had been designed by General Electric in the 1960s. Between 1998 and 2001, Tokyo Electric followed suit at Fukushima Daiichi, where five of six reactors use the Mark I design.

Most the damage at Reactor 4 was cased by an explosion in the vents that it SHARED with Reactor 3.

But there is also this follow up report, also from the Times

NRC Finds Many U.S. Nuclear Plants Ill-Prepared to Handle Simultaneous Threats

By PETER BEHR of ClimateWire, The New York Times

Published: May 19, 2011

Something under one-third of the 104 U.S. reactors were found to have some vulnerabilities to extreme emergencies, according to the NRC, which is preparing a summary of its post-Fukushima findings.



At a time when the NRC and industry leaders are calling for a rigorous safety culture within the U.S. nuclear industry, the inspection findings raise questions about whether some plants were following the letter of requirements but not prepared for “unthinkable” events.



The plant owners’ responses to beyond design basis threats are usually voluntary. “We keep saying, ‘Oh, these are beyond basis events therefore we don’t’ get involved.’ We are happy that the industry responded. We look at it once. That’s it. In the future it’s up to them. I am really bothered by that.”

This piece contains details safety issues at a number of U.S. Nuclear Plants including Indian Point (NYC) and Millstone (Connecticut).

Coming next- The Big TEPCO Bailout.  

May 23 2011

Dithering and Explosions and Venting- Oh My!

Fukushima Update- Part 1

First of all let’s survey the damage.  Reactors 1, 2, and 3 suffered core meltdowns that breached the steel containment vessels leaving leaks that have been releasing highly radioactive cooling water AND molten nuclear fuel into the concrete basement below the vessel.

This is kind of a containment vessel too and while there are no current indications that nuclear reactions are continuing in the escaped fuel slag that would burn through this floor and into the uncontained earth foundation of the plants, they’re not waterproof and there is no doubt at all that millions of gallons of highly radioactive water and perhaps some fine particulates are leaking into the environment uncontrolled.

This has led to a re-evaluation of cooling and clean-up strategies that continues because there are no really good answers.  Several radiation peaks indicating continued nuclear reactions in the melted and puddled fuel mean you can’t stop pumping water and the leaking makes it difficult to maintain a sufficient amount in the containment vessel to moderate the reaction (that’s why you get the peaks when the level dips too low).

There’s a continued risk of hydrogen explosions too and one of the reasons I mention that is because the one bit of good news is that it does not look as if the large spent fuel pond at the non working (at the time of the accident) Reactor 4 is having uncontrolled reactions.

At the moment.

A lot of the damage was caused by hydrogen explosions which in turn was caused by malfunctioning vents of the same type currently in use at many U.S. Nuclear Power Plants.

Japan Nuclear Watch, May 19: Critical Safety Vent Failures Could Happen Here Too

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Thursday May 19, 2011 7:19 am

May 23 2011

Dithering and Explosions and Venting- Oh My!

Fukushima Update- Part 1

First of all let’s survey the damage.  Reactors 1, 2, and 3 suffered core meltdowns that breached the steel containment vessels leaving leaks that have been releasing highly radioactive cooling water AND molten nuclear fuel into the concrete basement below the vessel.

This is kind of a containment vessel too and while there are no current indications that nuclear reactions are continuing in the escaped fuel slag that would burn through this floor and into the uncontained earth foundation of the plants, they’re not waterproof and there is no doubt at all that millions of gallons of highly radioactive water and perhaps some fine particulates are leaking into the environment uncontrolled.

This has led to a re-evaluation of cooling and clean-up strategies that continues because there are no really good answers.  Several radiation peaks indicating continued nuclear reactions in the melted and puddled fuel mean you can’t stop pumping water and the leaking makes it difficult to maintain a sufficient amount in the containment vessel to moderate the reaction (that’s why you get the peaks when the level dips too low).

There’s a continued risk of hydrogen explosions too and one of the reasons I mention that is because the one bit of good news is that it does not look as if the large spent fuel pond at the non working (at the time of the accident) Reactor 4 is having uncontrolled reactions.

At the moment.

A lot of the damage was caused by hydrogen explosions which in turn was caused by malfunctioning vents of the same type currently in use at many U.S. Nuclear Power Plants.

Japan Nuclear Watch, May 19: Critical Safety Vent Failures Could Happen Here Too

By: Scarecrow, Firedog Lake

Thursday May 19, 2011 7:19 am

As we’ve explained in previous Japan Watch posts, that sequence led inexorably to near total meltdown of the fuel core inside the reactor vessels at Units 1-3. (All of Unit 4’s fuel was in the storage pool, which presents problems.) TEPCO now concedes these meltdowns were likely total.



Although earlier expert analyses and TEPCO announcements suggested only partial meltdowns and varying levels of water covering parts of each reactor’s core, it now appears the cores were completely uncovered for some period early on - within the first hours or days - resulting in near total meltdown at each unit. That means the melted fuel is now puddled at the bottom of each reactor vessel, though it is thought (because of low temperatures) to be covered with whatever cooling water can be injected into each reactor vessel.

Earlier this week, they realized Unit 1’s vessel has one or more holes, leaks, allowing water and possibly melted fuel to leak out of the vessel onto the containment structure floor. The reports vary, but they suggest that tons of water, which they’ve been injecting into the core in desperate efforts to keep the core covered, have now found its way into the reactor building’s basement. Water from other units has leaked from other places, including adjacent turbine buildings and some has reached the ocean.



As we know, there were hydrogen-related explosions in all four units – that is, they waited too long, or, as they’re now discovering, the venting systems failed.



The Times report very helpfully reminds readers that all of the US reactors with the same GE design have essentially the same (new! improved!) venting systems as the ones that failed at Fukushima Daiichi. GE didn’t comment on the story.

So the next time someone tells you that, unlike those careless Japanese utilities and not too diligent regulators, we have much safer systems and our safety measures are “safer,” just remember this story, because it ain’t so.

The Times report to which Scarecrow refers is this one-

In Japan Reactor Failings, Danger Signs for the U.S.

By HIROKO TABUCHI, KEITH BRADSHER and MATTHEW L. WALD, The New York Times

Published: May 17, 2011

TOKYO – Emergency vents that American officials have said would prevent devastating hydrogen explosions at nuclear plants in the United States were put to the test in Japan – and failed to work, according to experts and officials with the company that operates the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The failure of the vents calls into question the safety of similar nuclear power plants in the United States and Japan. After the venting failed at the Fukushima plant, the hydrogen gas fueled explosions that spewed radioactive materials into the atmosphere, reaching levels about 10 percent of estimated emissions at Chernobyl, according to Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency.



Tokyo Electric in recent days has acknowledged that damage at the plant was worse than previously thought, with fuel rods most likely melting completely at Reactors 1, 2 and 3 in the early hours of the crisis, raising the danger of more catastrophic releases of radioactive materials. The company also said new evidence seemed to confirm that at Reactor No. 1, the pressure vessel, the last layer of protection, was broken and leaking radioactive water.

The improved venting system at the Fukushima plant was first mandated for use in the United States in the late 1980s as part of a “safety enhancement program” for boiling-water reactors that used the Mark I containment system, which had been designed by General Electric in the 1960s. Between 1998 and 2001, Tokyo Electric followed suit at Fukushima Daiichi, where five of six reactors use the Mark I design.

Most the damage at Reactor 4 was cased by an explosion in the vents that it SHARED with Reactor 3.

But there is also this follow up report, also from the Times

NRC Finds Many U.S. Nuclear Plants Ill-Prepared to Handle Simultaneous Threats

By PETER BEHR of ClimateWire, The New York Times

Published: May 19, 2011

Something under one-third of the 104 U.S. reactors were found to have some vulnerabilities to extreme emergencies, according to the NRC, which is preparing a summary of its post-Fukushima findings.



At a time when the NRC and industry leaders are calling for a rigorous safety culture within the U.S. nuclear industry, the inspection findings raise questions about whether some plants were following the letter of requirements but not prepared for “unthinkable” events.



The plant owners’ responses to beyond design basis threats are usually voluntary. “We keep saying, ‘Oh, these are beyond basis events therefore we don’t’ get involved.’ We are happy that the industry responded. We look at it once. That’s it. In the future it’s up to them. I am really bothered by that.”

This piece contains details safety issues at a number of U.S. Nuclear Plants including Indian Point (NYC) and Millstone (Connecticut).

Coming next- The Big TEPCO Bailout.

May 23 2011

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Juan Cole: Protest Backroom Deal to Extend Un-Patriot Act til 2015

There’s an action alert by a supporter of Rand Paul over at Firedoglake saying that an attempt will be made at 5 pm on Monday in the Senate to extend the misnamed ‘PATRIOT Act’ for four years. There will be an attempt to get unanimous consent for the extension, with just a motion to which there should be no objections.

Rand’s alert says,

   “The surveillance state’s ability to snoop through your business records, pry into your library book checkouts, monitor so-called “lone wolfs,” and spy on your personal communications through roving wiretaps will be extended until 2015, which “coincidentally” is not an election year.”

Here is a similarly urgent ACLU alert.

The vote is part of a deal between majority leader Harry Reid and his Republican colleagues to sidestep debate and rush the legislation through, which is becoming a worrisomely common procedure as the Democrats continue to abdicate their responsibilities to the Constitution, as Glenn Greenwald has elegantly explained.

Robert Kuttner: Beware Greeks Bearing Banks Beware Greeks Bearing Banks

After every financial debacle or war, there is a huge political struggle over whether creditors and financial speculators get to stand in the way of an economic recovery. When the creditors win, ordinary people who had nothing to do with the crisis are typically the victims. Today, the entire political elite is in the austerity camp, and those who argue that creditors should take some losses so that the rest of the economy can grow are mostly ignored.

This is the common theme to the issue of mortgage relief to spare American homeowners millions of foreclosures, the question of whether the US should sacrifice Medicare and Social Security on the altar of deficit reduction, and the punishment being visited upon small European economies such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

Eugene Robinson: Meltdown On the Launch Pad

Washington – “I want to make sure every House Republican is protected from some kind of dishonest Democratic ad. So let me say on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, because I have publicly said those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.”

A grateful nation thanks you, Newt Gingrich. The presidential campaign is just starting, and already you’ve given us a passage that will live in infamy — forever — in the annals of American political speech. Your delightful quotation shall be filed under “fiascos” and flagged with a cross-reference to “utter nonsense.”

Mark Weisbrot: The IMF after DSK

Now that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned from his position as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is worth taking an objective look at his legacy there. Until his arrest last week on charges of attempted rape and sexual assault, he was widely praised as having changed the IMF, increased its influence and moved it away from the policies that – according to the fund’s critics – had caused so many problems for developing countries in the past. How much of this is true?

Strauss-Kahn took the helm of the IMF in November of 2007, when the IMF’s influence was at a low point. Total outstanding loans at that time were just $10bn, down from $91bn just four years earlier. By the time he left this week, that number had bounced back to $84bn, with agreed-upon loans three times larger. The IMF’s total capital had quadrupled, from about $250bn to an unprecedented $1tn. Clearly, the IMF had resources that it had never had before, mostly as a result of the financial crisis and world recession of 2008-2009.

E. J. Dionne, Jr: Lessons for the media, the bishops and John Boehner

It’s likely you didn’t hear much about the controversy over House Speaker John Boehner’s recent commencement speech at Catholic University. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is that Boehner’s critics were civil and respectful. The media, it turns out, don’t cover you much if you are civil and respectful. This would be the same media that regularly disparage incivility and divisiveness in politics.

And the story broke from the stereotypical narrative the media like to impose on Christians in general, and Catholics in particular. If the headline is “Conservative Catholics Denounce Liberal Politician on Abortion,” all the boilerplate is at the ready. But when the headline is “Catholic Progressives Challenge Conservative Politician on Social Justice,” this is something new and complicated. It’s far easier to write the 10th story of the week about Newt Gingrich.

Oh yes, and there is also a problem for those bishops who barely murmur when a Catholic politician departs from the church’s teachings on social justice but think that even the mildest deviation on abortion is enough to keep a public figure off a Catholic campus. As a result, they feed the distorted media narrative about what the church believes.

New York Times Editorial: Chilling Echoes From Sept. 11

As the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania draws near, one of the main recommendations of the 9/11 Commission remains unfulfilled: the creation of a common communications system that lets emergency responders talk to one another across jurisdictions.

The problem was laid bare in the tragic cacophony at the World Trade Center, where scores of firefighters perished as police and fire officials couldn’t communicate on antiquated radio systems before the second tower fell.

Four years later during Hurricane Katrina, emergency workers from across the nation faced the same dangerous problem. They had to resort to running handwritten notes to warn of shifting conditions.

Brian Moench: America Becoming an Idiocracy

In the 2006 satirical science fiction comedy, Idiocracy, the protagonist Joe Bauers, “Mr. Average American”, is selected by the Pentagon for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakens 500 years in the future, to discover a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive and their only hope for survival.

With the Republicans bullying their way through state and federal legislation, the movie has become prophetic to the point where the only thing that isn’t believable is that this devolution will take another 500 years. Idiocracy already has its living, fire-breathing poster child, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking Republican and former chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

May 23 2011

Monday Business Edition

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Business

1 Spain’s Socialists suffer local election thumping

by Daniel Silva, AFP

Sun May 22, 6:01 pm ET

MADRID, Spain (AFP) – Spain’s ruling Socialists reeled from spectacular local election losses Sunday as protesters vented outrage over the highest jobless rate in the industrialized world.

Support for the government collapsed in the face of the beleaguered economy, soaring unemployment and massive street protests, a grim omen for 2012 general elections.

With 98.21 percent of the municipal ballots counted, the Socialists had just 27.81 percent of the total vote compared to 37.58 percent for their conservative Popular Party opponents.

May 23 2011

On This Day In History May 23

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

May 23 is the 143rd day of the year (144th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 222 days remaining until the end of the year.

Click on images to enlarge

On this day in 1873, the Canadian Parliament establishes the North West Mounted Police, the forerunner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

North-West Mounted Police

The RCMP has its beginnings in the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP). The police was established by an act of legislation from the Temporary North-West Council the first territorial government of the Northwest Territories. The Act was approved by the Government of Canada and established on May 23, 1873, by Queen Victoria, on the advice of her Canadian Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, with the intent of bringing law and order to, and asserting sovereignty over, the Northwest Territories. The need was particularly urgent given reports of American whiskey traders, in particular those of Fort Whoop-Up, causing trouble in the region, culminating in the Cypress Hills Massacre. The new force was initially to be called the North West Mounted Rifles, but this proposal was rejected as sounding too militaristic in nature, which Macdonald feared would antagonize both aboriginals and Americans; however, the force was organized along the lines of a cavalry regiment in the British Army, and was to wear red uniforms.

The NWMP was modelled directly on the Royal Irish Constabulary, a civilian paramilitary armed police force with both mounted and foot elements under the authority of what was then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. First NWMP commissioner, Colonel George Arthur French visited Ireland to learn its methods.

The initial force, commanded by Commissioner French, was assembled at Fort Dufferin, Manitoba. They departed on July 8, 1874, on a march to what is now Alberta.

The group comprised 22 officers, 287 men – called constables and sub-constables – 310 horses, 67 wagons, 114 ox-carts, 18 yoke of oxen, 50 cows and 40 calves. A pictorial account of the journey was recorded in the diary of Henri Julien, an artist from the Canadian Illustrated News, who accompanied the expedition.

Their destination was Fort Whoop-Up, a notorious whiskey trading post located at the junction of the Belly and Oldman Rivers. Upon arrival at Whoop-Up and finding it abandoned the troop continued a few miles west and established headquarters on an island in the Oldman, naming it Fort MacLeod.

Historians have theorized that failure of the 1874 March West would not have completely ended the Canadian federal government’s vision of settling the country’s western plains, but could have delayed it for many years. It could also have encouraged the Canadian Pacific Railway to seek a more northerly route for its transcontinental railway that went through the well-mapped and partially settled valley of the North Saskatchewan River, touching on Prince Albert, Battleford and Edmonton, and through the Yellowhead Pass, as originally proposed by Sandford Fleming. This would have offered no economic justification for the existence of cities like Brandon, Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Medicine Hat, and Calgary, which could, in turn, have tempted American expansionists to make a play for the flat, empty southern regions of the Canadian prairies.

The NWMP’s early activities included containing the whiskey trade and enforcing agreements with the First Nations peoples; to that end, the commanding officer of the force arranged to be sworn in as a justice of the peace, which allowed for magisterial authority within the Mounties’ jurisdiction. In the early years, the force’s dedication to enforcing the law on behalf of the First Nations peoples impressed the latter enough to encourage good relations between them and the Crown. In the summer of 1876, Sitting Bull and thousands of Sioux fled from the US Army towards what is now southern Saskatchewan, and James Morrow Walsh of the NWMP was charged with maintaining control in the large Sioux settlement at Wood Mountain. Walsh and Sitting Bull became good friends, and the peace at Wood Mountain was maintained. In 1885, the NWMP helped to quell the North-West Rebellion led by Louis Riel. They suffered particularly heavy losses during the Battle of Duck Lake, but saw little other active combat.

May 23 2011

Six In The Morning

Justice Department, SEC investigations often rely on companies’ internal probes



By David S. Hilzenrath, Monday, May 23

As the U.S. government steps up investigations of companies suspected of paying bribes overseas, law enforcement officials are leaving much of the detective work to the very corporations under suspicion.

The probes are so costly and wide-ranging that the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission often let the companies investigate themselves and then share the results.

The strategy is especially common in cases of foreign corruption but also extends to domestic investigations involving issues as varied as health-care fraud and shady accounting.

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