Monday, March 28, 2011

Japanese nuclear crisis grows

Of course, the Fukushima Daiichi complex is constantly in the news, with radioactive water in and around the plant, with radiation levels 100,000 times normal.  The prospect of uncontrolled meltdown seems to grow.

An earlier posting that this would not be as catastrophic as Chernobyl by a long shot may have been premature. 

The biggest design mistake seems to have been not locating the secondary power supplies on much higher ground, and not planning for a really large earthquake which can happen in the area. 

Michio Kaku speaks in the video that plays immediately afterward.  He says the Japanese utility is lowballing the numbers and asks “Is Homer Simpson operating this nuclear power plant?”  There could be a breach of containment in units 2 and 3, including radioactive water and plutonium and other radioactive elements (besides iodine) in the soil.  He says people could die from a few hours of exposure at this level.

Some minor increase in radiation has been detected as far as the US East Coast.  No, people don’t need decontamination baths, but I wonder what will be said in the future. It’s a “derivative” process.  And what happens if we do have a major earth quake above NYC some day.

Virginia has two nuclear power plants in the eastern part of the state, each about 50 miles from Richmond, sort of "on the beach". 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Washington Times points out that Canada has third largest proven oil reserves in world -- tar sands?

James A. Bacon has an interesting perspective on Alberta tar sands as an oil source in the Wednesday Times Commentary, link here. The title is “Sandy Alberta, the Saudi Arabia next door”. 

Of course, many have criticized the energy use and environmental destruction (strip mining, although in flat lands above the prairies) of tar sands mining.

Bacon says that, including tar sands, Canada has the third largest proven reserves of oil in the world. So much for OPEC, the theory goes, or the nervousness about the stability of Middle East governments.

Don't "Blame Canada", even if you're "Bug Gay Al"!

Wikipedia attribution link for photo of tar sands mine 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan's meltdown risk is low, but naysayers will jump on it

The practical risk of a Chernobyl style meldown catastrophe at the Fuskushima #1 nuclear reactor, damaged by the earthquake off the Japanese coast, is very low. Media reports today talk about using sea water to cool the reactor components, replacing the water lost. But some release of radioactivity may happen. And some of that includes cesium, not just iodine, that can’t be treated with medication.

I recall back in the 1970s, when I ran an “Understanding” unit in New York City, that one particular activist wanted to devote all of her energy to opposing nuclear power.  Then in 1979, I had moved to Dallas and was on a day trip near Glen Rose when I picked up a newspaper headline that talked of a possible meltdown horror at Three Mile Island. That did not happen. In 1982, while on a Sierra Club trip (ironically), I visited the Glen Rose Nuclear Plant while under construction. In 1988, I interviewed for a computer programming job with a consulting company that would have involved travel to the plant.  
Update: March 14

Michio Kaku warns that Japanese officials are making up their response as the go along, and we are "out of the textbooks."

Later today, the situation seemed to worsen.  There is a theoretical risk of fallout on the US West Coast.  The problem is that the generators didn't have strong enough backup "batteries" to shut down properly.

I hope we won't be waiting "On the Beach" with "Waltzing Matilda" playing. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

US nears approval of no-fly zone in Libya; debate over effect of social media on Middle East gets complicated

The president has announced he has approved the use of US military aircraft to move refugees from Libya. The president has said “Gadhafi must leave”. The president is reported by CNN as having said he will consider a “no fly zone” like that used in Iraq before the fall of Saddam Hussein.

John King interviews Senator Lindsay Graham of S.C., an Air Force Reserve office himself, about the idea of a no fly zone, about which Defense Secretary Gates says, go slowly. Graham says that individual Libyan pilots should be made war of flying missions against the Libyan people (and "sweet crude" oil fields). 

Elsewhere, in Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh blames the US government for spreading unrest against “friendly” dictators (in controlling Al Qaeda), as if government controlled social media, which actually it’s the “Kids” who control it.

Joby Warrick wrote in the Washington Post Thursday morning about Hillary Clinton’s contention that the US is losing a public relations war, even as the State Department invests more resources in using social media in Middle Eastern languages. That is supposed to challenge the use of the Internet by extremists, which has been reported for years as stimulating young people to convert to radicalism. Yet, it is the “young people” running social media and technology companies that seem to have made social media a powerful tool to export democratic values at the grass roots level.  That’s what Obama’s recent meeting with Silicone Valley was about.