Drumbeat: March 12, 2011

Partial meltdown likely under way at power plant, Japanese official says

A partial meltdown is likely under way at one nuclear power plant affected by Friday's earthquake, according to Japan's top government official, the Associated Press reports.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said radiation at the plant in Fukushima was briefly above legal limits but has declined significantly.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of two heavily damaged nuclear power complexes near the center of Friday's earthquake, told Japanese regulators earlier Sunday that it faced a new emergency at one of its 10 reactors, even as it struggled to bring several others under control.

Official: 'We see the possibility of a meltdown'

Tokyo (CNN) -- A meltdown may be under way at one of Fukushima Daiichi's nuclear power reactors in northern Japan, an official with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told CNN Sunday.

"There is a possibility, we see the possibility of a meltdown," said Toshihiro Bannai, director of the agency's international affairs office, in a telephone interview from the agency's headquarters in Tokyo. "At this point, we have still not confirmed that there is an actual meltdown, but there is a possibility."

Though he said engineers have been unable to get close enough to the core to know what's going on, he based his conclusion on the fact that they measured radioactive cesium and radioactive iodine in the air Saturday night.

Meltdown Caused Nuke Plant Explosion: Safety Body

TOKYO (Nikkei)--The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said Saturday afternoon the explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core.

The same day, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), which runs the plant, began to flood the damaged reactor with seawater to cool it down, resorting to measures that could rust the reactor and force the utility to scrap it.

Cesium and iodine, by-products of nuclear fission, were detected around the plant, which would make the explosion the worst accident in the roughly 50-year history of Japanese nuclear power generation.

In Japan plant, frantic efforts to avoid meltdown

TOKYO (AP) — Inside the troubled nuclear power plant, officials knew the risks were high when they decided to vent radioactive steam from a severely overheated reactor vessel. They knew a hydrogen explosion could occur, and it did. The decision still trumped the worst-case alternative — total nuclear meltdown.

At least for the time being.

Emergency at second nuclear reactor in Japan; meltdown threat looms

TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear safety agency is reporting an emergency at a second reactor in the same complex where an explosion had occurred earlier.

Japan quake: Exodus from around Fukushima nuclear plant

An estimated 170,000 people have been evacuated from the area around a quake-damaged nuclear power station in north-east Japan that was hit by an explosion, the UN atomic watchdog says.

Japan Fukushima nuclear plant faces new reactor problem

(Reuters) - A quake-hit Japanese nuclear plant reeling from an explosion at one of its reactors has also lost its emergency cooling system at another reactor, Japan's nuclear power safety agency said on Sunday.

The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the No.3 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, requiring the facility to urgently secure a means to supply water to the reactor, an official of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference.

Q&A: What caused the blast at nuclear plant in Japan, and why do officials fear a meltdown?

The cause of the explosion isn't yet clear, but the nuclear plant has lost the ability to cool its hot uranium fuel. The containment vessel hasn't been breached but officials fear a core meltdown. An untested method to cool the core before that happens is planned.

Q&A: What has quake done to Japanese nuclear reactors?

(CNN) -- What kind of nuclear reactor is involved?

The reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are boiling water reactors. The reactor which saw the explosion is Fukushima Daiichi 1. It was connected to the grid in November 1970, making it about 40 years old. There are six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site, of which unit 1 is the oldest, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Russia to boost energy supplies to Japan

Earthquake-stricken Japan asked Russia on Saturday to increase energy supplies and Moscow is ready to deliver up to 150,000 tons of liquefied natural gas and increase gas supplies, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said.

Sechin said Russia's Suek and Mechel companies would meet next week to consider the possibility of boosting coal supplies by 3-4 million tons.

Additional electricity could also be supplied via the existing underwater cable, he said.

Japan nuclear plant, Libya show challenge of 'energy security'

One year in the 1970s saw the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and a revolution in Iran that raised fresh worries about energy policy. Now, news events of 2011 are stirring similar questions about energy supplies for the US and the world.

Much has changed in those 30-plus years since 1979, but one constant is that "energy security" remains a vitally important but difficult goal.

In recent weeks, it's been events in oil-producing Arab nations – notably fighting in Libya – that have brought this point home on Main Street America and elsewhere. But Friday's destructive earthquake in Japan could be a setback for one major oil alternative: nuclear power.

Japan nuclear mishap 'among worst ever'

AFP - A US nuclear expert says the accident at a Japanese nuclear reactor is one of the three worst in history, and could become a "complete disaster" if it goes to a full meltdown.

"This is going to go down in history as one of the three greatest nuclear incidents if it stops now," Joseph Cirincione, the head of the Ploughsares Fund, said in an interview on CNN on Saturday.

"If it continues, if they don't get control of this and ... we go from a partial meltdown of the core to a full meltdown, this will be a complete disaster," he said.

Japan rates quake less serious than 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl

(Reuters) - A nuclear accident in Japan on Saturday rates as less serious than both the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Japan's nuclear safety agency said.

Japan Nuclear Closures Could Have Oil, Gas Price Fallout

The Japan earthquake has shut an estimated 6,800 megawatts of nuclear power generation, or 15%-20% of Japan's capacity, and while it isn't clear how long outages will last, there could be considerable fuel substitution, which in turn could drive up prices of alternative fuels, according to a Barclay Capital analysis published Saturday.

If the shuttered nuclear capacity was replaced only by additional fuel oil consumption, it would require an additional 238,000 barrels a day, it said.

On the Brink of Meltdown: The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

The devastating Japanese quake and its outcome could generate a political tsunami here in the United States.

Japan's Nuclear Crisis May Resonate in the U.S.

The crisis at the Fukushima and Daini nuclear plants in Japan comes at a sensitive time for an industry that’s been looking for new life in the United States. There’s been renewed interest in building nuclear plants – including from the Obama administration – given both oil prices and concerns about the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels. But public safety concerns remain a strong element of the discussion.

Anti-nuclear group in Japan says emergency was predicted

An anti-nuclear group in Japan said Saturday that it had warned of just the kind of emergency occurring at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

"This could and should have been predicted," said a statement from spokesman Philip White of the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center.

Legal restraints curb IAEA's role in Japan's reactor drama

Vienna - The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) response to the Japanese nuclear plant explosion on Saturday exposed the limited role that the Vienna-based body can play in the face of such accidents.

For more than four hours, the IAEA was unable to confirm the blast at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which was damaged in Friday's earthquake. When the confirmation came, the organization still had no details on the status of the reactor core or possible leaks of radiation.

Nuclear agency posting updates on Japan plants on Facebook

The International Atomic Energy Agency is providing updates on the damaged Japanese nuclear plants, Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini, on its Facebook page.

Mexico Closes Cabo San Lucas Pacific Coast Port Amid Tsunami

Mexico closed the port of San Lucas on the Pacific Coast because of the widespread tsunami warning after Japan was hit by its strongest earthquake on record.

Two other ports -- Salina Cruz and Chiapas -- were shut for bad weather unrelated to the temblor, the Merchant Marine said today in a bulletin on its website.

Fuel shortage looms for oil-rich Libya

A lack of refined gasoline could affect the outcome of fighting between rebels and Moammar Kadafi's forces. The opposition control the oil-rich east, but the government has cash for imports.

Yemen disputes claims of live ammunition fire

(CNN) -- Security forces in restive Yemen fired live ammunition during protests Saturday in Change Square outside Sanaa University, witnesses claimed.

But a government source knocked down these accounts, asserting that the police used only water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds and third-party provocateurs fired at the people.

Food Not Facebook

Two facts are often overlooked by pundits attributing North African social unrest to a social media campaign. First, according to the CIA World Fact Book, less than 10% of the combined populations of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia have internet access. Second, the literacy rate across these four countries averages approximately 68% of the adult population. Collectively, these penetration rates across the populations mentioned do not translate into the levels of protest seen in the streets of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Something more was at work. Both weather and the proceeding global financial crisis left these nations with a shortage of fundamental public resources. Unstable and sky-rocketing food prices were, in our opinion, the spark to a powder-keg situation already brewing in the region.

Lifting Administration's De Facto Moratorium on Gulf Oil Exploration Would Ease President's Self-imposed Energy Crisis

"President Obama's rhetoric will not bring down the price of gas, will not make us less reliant on unstable regimes and will not generate new jobs in the energy sector. The only immediate solution to the administration's self-imposed energy crisis is to lift the de facto moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico," said Jim Adams, president and CEO of the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA).

Long-term guidelines to ensure US energy security

The Obama Administration and numerous Congressional Democrats are pondering the idea of releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to combat current rising energy prices. While the Administration enters a legal battle to defend its self-imposed deepwater drilling moratorium, the idea of tapping our strategic petroleum reserve is just another shortsighted measure that will continue and exacerbate our nation’s looming energy crisis.

Population explosion, main cause of socio-economic problems

LAHORE (APP): Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Saturday that population explosion and lack of long-term planning were the major causes of all socio-economic challenges being faced by the country.Addressing a seminar on ‘Energy Crisis and Role of Media’ at Hameed Nizami Press Institute of Pakistan, she said, “Unfortunately no attention was given towards checking fast growing population during the last 63 years which led to multiplication of problems and squeezing of resources.”

On Obama's trip to Chile, he should bring "la buena energía"

President Obama has a scheduled trip to Chile later this month. And in the agenda, clean energy should be a top priority. Chile is a small country, another world away, but it is on the precipice of an energy policy disaster and its success—or failure—in confronting its energy challenges will likely set a course for South America.

Underground coal gasification: An option indeed

With the increase in population, demand for energy will also grow sharply besides the present gap between demand and supply. The most eminent challenge is that expected demand for electricity during the coming decades would require doubling the power generation capacity in the country. Most of the countries are heavily dependent on coal while Bangladesh, totally dependent on natural gas, is an exception to the case. Unutilised coal and underground coal gasification could be an open option to resolve the country's not only the present short fall but also to fulfill future demand.

Censored scientists, dirty politics and the nuclear distraction

My first impression is to wonder why someone as smart as Jim Hansen would fall for something that so clearly sounds too good to be true. Thousands of years of nearly free energy that's also clean and perfectly safe? Isn't that essentially the promise of zero-point energy, or cold fusion, or the hydrogen economy or any number of perpetual-motion schemes you can find online that seem much closer to magic than science?

Japanese official says pumping system caused nuclear plant blast

(CNN) -- An explosion at an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant was not caused by damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as crews tried to bring the reactor's temperature down, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Saturday.

The next step for workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will be to flood the reactor containment structure with sea water to bring the reactor's temperature down to safe levels, he said. The effort is expected to take two days.

Oil Caps Its First Weekly Decline in a Month as Japan Quake Shuts Plants

Crude oil fell in New York, capping the first weekly drop in a month, after Japan’s strongest earthquake on record shut refineries and dissidents in Saudi Arabia failed to stage planned protests.

Saudi King Counters Dissent With $36 Billion as Clerics Scold Protesters

As unrest escalated across the Middle East, activists in Saudi Arabia demanded a political voice as well. Rather than promises of democracy, they got a $36 billion handout and a slap down from Islamic clerics.

Saudi Activists Fail to Gather Amid Heavy Police Presence

Protesters in Saudi Arabia stayed away from a so-called Day of Rage after police were deployed in force to deter political activists.

Qaddafi's Warplane, Firepower Advantages Put Libyan Rebels on Defensive

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi strengthened his control in and around the capital, Tripoli, as his forces fought rebels reported to be still dug in at oil installations in Ras Lanuf.

Pro-Qaddafi supporters were shown on state television celebrating in the main square of Zawiyah, a coastal city 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli where rebels yielded this week after attacks by Qaddafi’s forces. The government brought foreign journalists to the city yesterday to discredit rebel claims that fighting was continuing.

Libyan rebels lose oil port, but vow to regroup

AJDABIYA, Libya — Rebels fighting to oust Moammar Gadhafi conceded Saturday that the regime had retaken a key oil port city and refinery and pushed the front line farther east, but they defiantly vowed to fight back as government forces gain strength.

BHP Billiton Wins Second Deep-Water Drilling Permit in U.S. Since BP Spill

BHP Billiton Ltd. won the second U.S. deep-water permit to drill in the Gulf of Mexico since BP Plc’s oil spill last year, after lawmakers criticized the Obama administration for delaying domestic exploration.

S.Korea set to win major UAE oil field deal -sources

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - South Korea is likely to secure a major oil field development contract in the United Arab Emirates as the Asian state pushes to meet its long-term energy needs, sources familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

Sinopec to Shut Luoyang Plant in September for Maintenance, Reducing Sales

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (600028), the nation’s biggest fuel supplier, plans to shut its 160,000- barrel-a-day refinery in Luoyang city in central China in September for maintenance, said the head of the plant.

Heating oil use falls as prices, irritation rise

PORTLAND, Maine -- No longer are Tom Wright’s heating costs tied to events a world away over which he has no control. Faced with a $10,000 heating bill, he got rid of his oil furnace and brought in a wood pellet stove to heat his home and office.

Oil and gasoline prices are sky-high, and heating oil use is tumbling as people find alternative ways to stay warm -- evidence that Americans’ efforts to wean themselves off oil can bear fruit.

Murkowski: 5 ways to open the U.S. oil spigot

Despite tremendous oil reserves — offshore, in Alaska and in the Rocky Mountain West — many of our lands have been locked up, and many of our most promising opportunities have been put out of reach.

This is a clear failure of government. The American people expect their representatives to take an honest look at where increased production is possible; how it can protect against higher prices and supply disruptions; and what it will do to increase our security, restore our trade balance, generate government revenues and create jobs. When we import oil, we export those benefits.

Solar Stocks Fall as Analysts Predict Oversupply, Lower Prices for Panels

Solar energy stocks fell today as analysts said that cuts to incentive programs in Europe may drive down prices and demand for panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

Greek Solar Power Capacity May Double After Permit Process Streamlined

Greek solar-power developers will double the pace of installations this year after a new law streamlined procedures to get permits, the industry’s lobby group said.

Zero-emission cars get the green light

If the predictions are right, the next few years will see a revolution in the motoring industry as tens of thousands of zero-emission electric vehicles hit the roads.

Top 10 list of most fuel-efficient cars: What's the best buy?

Gas prices rose again this week, the summer driving season is around the corner and they are demonstrating today in Saudi Arabia.

So before gas hits $5 a gallon, we thought it would be a good day to look at the Top 10 most fuel-efficient rides you can buy -- based on EPA combined mileage ratings that better reflect what you'll average per year -- and the cost to drive them.

Uncertainty over food supply is hard to swallow

The near-daily toppling of governments in the Arab world is rendering moot all arguments about whether peak oil is 10, 30 or 50 years away. Gas prices are up and still rising, and there is no guarantee they will come back down. More certain is that the governments that supplant the regimes that the West supported all those years to ensure a steady supply of cheap oil will not be nearly as easygoing as their predecessors.

Fuel is a big part of the cost of growing and transporting food and a major input into fertilizer manufacturing.

Democrats Cry Foul Over GOP's Attempts to Tie Fuel Prices to EPA

House Republicans' move to join the two most politically volatile threads in the Washington, D.C., energy debate -- gas prices and U.S. EPA rules -- sparked Democratic charges of deception yesterday and silence so far from the Obama administration.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) amplified the GOP gambit as he laid out a new project, dubbed the American Energy Initiative, calling for more domestic fossil-fuel production, new nuclear power plants and an end to EPA's authority over greenhouse gases. While the Republican message had percolated all week, Boehner's decision to spotlight the anti-EPA bill now sailing through the House Energy and Commerce Committee gave the gas-price charge a far broader platform.

China Will Hold Local Governments More Responsible in Reducing Pollution

China wants local governments to be more responsible for environmental protection as the world’s fastest-growing major economy seeks to reduce pollution, said Zhang Lijun, vice minister for environmental protection.

Northeast Carbon Dioxide Permits Auctioned for $1.89 Each, Minimum Bid

Carbon-dioxide permits in the U.S. Northeast sold at auction this week for $1.89 each, the minimum allowable bid, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative said on its website.

Hearing Is Set in Climate Fraud Case

A nearly yearlong effort by Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II of Virginia to force the University of Virginia to turn over the documents of a prominent climatologist is headed to the state’s Supreme Court.

N plant crisis: Japanese warned of widespread blackouts

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) warned on Saturday of blackouts and power shortage in a wide area of Japan, not just in quake-hit areas, as electricity is in short supply after its power facilities were damaged by Friday’s powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake.

I guess oil problems and electricity shortages are now coming together as Mother Nature crashes our party.

If the shuttered nuclear capacity was replaced only by additional fuel oil consumption, it would require an additional 238,000 barrels a day, it said.

That reinforces one of my second thoughts about fallout from the quake-tsunami, there will be less pressure brought to bear on Gaddafi in the near term. I do tend to think on those track though. While the streets of New Orleans were still under water and only the Coast Guard had arrived I figured it would be time to buy land there real soon.

We won't be building everything to handle 8.9 quakes but a few more redundancies for cooling nuke plants will likely now find there way into design.

One other point-simple versus complex societies. A disaster of this scope will be absorbed by a large complex centralized society more easily than it would be by a more fragmented more local centered one, that is the flip side of the interconnected systems going down and affecting more people at once. More resources will be brought to bear more quickly and, in a place like Japan, probably more effectively than would be in a lower tech less interconnected society.

I can't even imagine what the people are going through, my heart is with them. There are a lot of workers putting themselves in harms way trying to keep those reactors from going critical to think about too. Someone more familiar with what might be going on might address the rad levels individuals would be exposed to--I haven't seen any actual numbers on the radiation leakage.

You make some connections that I don't think are as interdependent as you suggest..

"A disaster of this scope will be absorbed by a large complex centralized society more easily than it would be by a more fragmented more local centered one, that is the flip side of the interconnected systems going down and affecting more people at once. More resources will be brought to bear more quickly and, in a place like Japan, probably more effectively than would be in a lower tech less interconnected society."

We are looking at broad areas of Japan with power interruptions or insecurity now, precisely BECAUSE they have a more centralized approach. This would be one example of how much less resilient that makes the neighbors closest at hand, such that they can help their soaked friends, instead of having to deal with the complications of blackouts, perhaps Gas supply problems, food storage..

I'm not sure that a lower-tech society that we would be heading towards would necessarily be less connected. Just because we have more locally centered basics doesn't mean people won't still trade and travel and migrate. That's the history of the species..

Also, I don't think phones and radios are going away anytime soon. Their technical complexity and their power demands are extremely reasonable considering the advantages they can provide in situations like this, or just in daily activity. The loss of live satellite feeds and GPS would have an effect I imagine, but in terms of getting broad response to a big disaster, the most critical connection is simply calling out the alarm, and being able to detail needs and locations. Even with our global network of seismo-gear and specialized personnel, Warning Systems, etc.., it doesn't seem like all that gave people all that much warning to get out of the way. You need transp and comm's. Radar and Sonar don't hurt, either.

As much as we hear about collapse, I think it's a fool's errand to try to guess at the interconnections between communities, regions or Political Entities in the coming decades, or in the ability or willingness of various regions to support one another through crisis.

Always in Motion is the Future.

A disaster of this scope will be absorbed by a large complex centralized society more easily than it would be by a more fragmented more local centered one, that is the flip side of the interconnected systems going down and affecting more people at once. More resources will be brought to bear more quickly and, in a place like Japan, probably more effectively than would be in a lower tech less interconnected society. from Luke

We are looking at broad areas of Japan with power interruptions or insecurity now, precisely BECAUSE they have a more centralized approach. from Jo

What part of more people at once doesn't mean broad areas...now--Look at the situation in two weeks and then a month, then see how much is being done in Japan and compare that to Haiti or Indonesia two weeks or a month after they got hit. Get back to me then.

Japan will be able to bring in massive amounts of home grown technical expertise, skilled labor, and available resources to bear on a huge swath of devastation. Japan will also be able to absorb far more aid from others far more quickly than a fragmented low tech society every could. Japan will reconfigure its systems quickly. Japan has shown how hard a densely pact high tech society can get slammed by a HUGE BLOW, they will also show how resilient that complex society is when enough of it is left intact to respond to the hit.

Sure when Alaska got hit by a 9.2 and the ensuing tsunamis in 1964 there was not near the damage or loss of life Japan has suffered, so if you mean a less populated lower tech world won't get hit as hard there is no argument. But Alaska was able to rebuild quickly because it received immediate aid from other unaffected parts of the complex system it was a part of--the other sectors could spare the aid without cutting deeply into their reserves.

Only large complex societies have ever managed to maintain large reserves and distribute them over large areas when the need was there. No past complex society ever approached our capacity and capability to do this. If all the rains and crops don't fail at once you might be amazed by the resilience this convoluted system is capable of.

Gov't eyeing deployment of 100,000 SDF members to quake-hit areas

TOKYO, March 13, Kyodo

Prime Minister Naoto Kan is planning to double to 100,000 the number of Self-Defense Forces personnel sent to areas hit by a devastating quake, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Sunday.
The move would see about half of the SDF's total personnel on the frontline, constituting one of the SDF's biggest deployments in history, according to ministry officials.

Blast did not involve reactor: Japan spokesman

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese authorities have confirmed there was an explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant Saturday afternoon but it did not occur at its troubled No. 1 reactor, top government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

The chief Cabinet secretary also told an urgent press conference that the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has confirmed there is no damage to the steel container housing the reactor.

Home page of Kyodo News in English

Yes, he said that there was nothing to worry about and the explosion was just the walls falling down. So everything fine then. :-(

Nothing to worry about - yes, we get the obvious absurdity of such a statement, which reminded me of how many times the mantra 'nuclear power is perfectly safe' has been repeated. Too many times to count, yet here we are wondering if this will be another Chernobyl.

Fukushima 1 is a boiling water reactor of US design with a containment vessel.
Nuclear Power in Japan

Chernobyl was a completely different type of reactor, which used a graphite moderator. The graphite burned, carrying radiation out of the plant.

Fukushima is much more similar to Three Mile Island, although that was a pressurized water reactor.

We wouldn't even be having this discussion if the plant were of a CANDU design....


"The large thermal mass of the moderator provides a significant heat sink that acts as an additional safety feature. If a fuel assembly were to overheat and deform within its fuel channel, the resulting change of geometry permits high heat transfer to the cool moderator, thus preventing the breach of the fuel channel, and the possibility of a meltdown. Furthermore, because of the use of natural uranium as fuel, this reactor cannot sustain a chain reaction if its original fuel channel geometry is altered in any significant manner."

"We wouldn't even be having this discussion..."

And yet we are.

Funnily enough, I popped in 'Bridge on the River Kwai' last night to Get Away from all this, and now I can't help tie them inextricably together.

and there's this line that William Holden keeps getting fed as he's drawn into the demolition team that is to blow up the bridge,

"There's always the unexpected, isn't there?"

(I trust at least a hundred people around the planet are whistling 'Colonel Bogey' now.. thank me later.)

The CANDU design didn't even exist when the plant in question was built, and there is still no evaluation of the extent of the damage.

And yet the anti-nuclear folks are already out in force saying "SEE?! IT'S TOO DANGEROUS!"

I suspect a bias that has been not thoroughly considered by said anti-nuclear advocates, perhaps some self examination is in order by all parties.

Safety is binary. It's either 100% safe, or a deathtrap. Since this nuclear reactor can't even take a paltry eight-point-niner on the Richter scale, it's clear nukes are a dead end... OF DEATH.

What? That is utter nonsense. oh it was meant to be. Paltry 8.9 indeed! Of course one thing I have always wondered about--excluding crust trauma caused by massive impacts from other objects orbiting the sun--just how high on the Richter scale is the once in a million or in a hundred million year quake? Is there some mechanical limit somewhere in or at least near the 9s or is that only the worst its been lately?

I don't know if there is a limiting factor. Here are a few of the worst:

May 22, 1960: Magnitude 9.5 in southern Chile; ensuing tsunami killed at least 1,716, including 61 in Hilo.

March 27, 1964: Magnitude 9.2 in Prince William Sound, Alaska; ensuing tsunami killed 128.

Dec. 26, 2004: Magnitude 9.1 off the Indonesian island of Sumatra; triggered a tsunami that killed 226,000 in 12 countries, including 165,700 in Indonesia and 35,400 in Sri Lanka.

Aug. 13, 1868: Magnitude 9.0 in Arica, Peru (now Chile) generated catastrophic tsunamis; more than 25,000 people were killed in South America.

Jan. 26, 1700: Magnitude 9.0 shakes Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia; triggered tsunami that damaged villages in Japan.

Nov. 4, 1952: Magnitude 9.0 in Kamchatka caused damage but no reported deaths despite setting off 30-foot waves in Hawaii.

Jan. 31, 1906: Magnitude 8.8 off coast of Ecuador and Colombia; generated a tsunami that killed at least 500.

Feb. 27, 2010: Magnitude 8.8 off the coast of Chile killed a still-undetermined number of people and sent a tsunami across the Pacific.

Nov. 1, 1755: Magnitude 8.7 in Lisbon, Portugal; ensuing tsunami killed an estimated 60,000 and destroyed much of Lisbon.

July 8, 1730: Magnitude 8.7 in Valparaiso, Chile, killed at least 3,000 people.

Aug. 15, 1950: Magnitude 8.6 in Assam, Tibet, killed at least 780 people.

March 28, 2005: Magnitude 8.6 in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, killed about 1,300 people.

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and WHO's International Disaster Database

These are the most recent, and the ones that can be assessed from written records. Some, like the New Madrid quakes (est, mag. 7.7, 7.5 and another 7.7) are documented but difficult to quantify.

The Richter scale used to measure them is logarithmic, and each number represents a tenfold increase from the last whole number. 8.9 is 10 times a 7.9, and 100 times a 6.9, 1000 times 5.9, etc. From my experience with a few 5.4 and 5.6 quakes, I do not want to ever be involved in a 6.9 or above!

Considering that one consequence of an impact event would be earthquakes, I would guess that 10 is small as compared to, say, the one 65 mya. Otherwise, the limit would be the episodic release of pressure as tectonic plates move, and how long they might remain locked. From our experience, and from written records, somewhere in the mid 9s is about has high as they seem to go.


One guy's answer:


Theoretically the Richter scale has no upper limit, but the yield point
of the Earth's rocks imposes an effective limit between 9.0 and 9.5.



I saw a show on TV recently on which the people were discussing the theoretical upper bound of earthquake magnitudes...IIRC they said that this was related to fault length and rock strength...I think they said ~ 10 was the top end...perhaps getting smacked by a biosphere-wiper asteroid (mile-wide-ish) would top that I think...

Interesting, I think yield point as stated is only a relative value. You can have a huge fault that runs for a long distance so the strain is spread out. Upon release however the total energy can be larger.

That first link shows the Moment Magnitude scale which is more realistic in capturing the energy release than Richter and is what I used in fitting a power law (energy relates to moment). I think the top end relates more to the time span involved in which the fault can increase in size.

This is similar to the way that super-giant oil reservoirs develop. The upper-end size is essentially set by how long they have collected oil in a geological time-frame.

The energy of an earthquake is transmitted by vibrations in the earth's crust. The more rigid the crust, the more energy can be transmitted, up to a limit imposed by its yield point. After that, the crust starts breaking up, or flying off in liquid gobs if the original event is energetic enough (i.e. meteorite impact).

So to phrase is slightly differently, how high on the moment magnitude scale (which apparently gets melded with the Richter to keep from confusing the masses) can an earthquake get, not counting impact generated quakes? How good are the guesses about just how hard a portion of crust of specified hardness can shake?

How about a super-volcano like Yellowstone going off? Would that beat a 10 on the Richter?

Who knows. But for traditional earthquakes the following is from USGS:

The idea of a “Mega-Quake” – an earthquake of magnitude 10 or larger – while theoretically possible—is very highly unlikely. Earthquake magnitude is based in part on the length of faults -- the longer the fault, the larger the earthquake. The simple truth is that there are no known faults capable of generating a magnitude 10 or larger “mega-quake.”


Very similar to the search for a mega-super-giant oil reservoir. We have looked just about everywhere, haven't found anything but theoretically possible. The fat-tails of earthquake magnitudes and reservoir sizes have the same power-law fall-off.

and in both cases there would seem to have to be a discrete, though possibly not easily assessable, upper limit due to the physical construction properties of the earth's crust.

The Yucatán impact was estimated to be a 12.5. You couldn't get much higher than that without destroying the planet I wouldn't have thought.

Starquakes are larger - the highest recorded was 23 on the magnetar SGR 1806-20.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richter_magnitude_scale#Richter_magnitudes_...

This is not an issue of whether nuclear power is too dangerous in general, but whether you should continue to operate a plant that was designed 50 or more years ago near a highly active and dangerous earthquake fault. As we have seen with the shuttle disasters, the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the Brown's Ferry Reactor fire and other industrial accidents, supposedly very low probability accidents keep happening at vastly higher rates (many powers of 10 more) than our equations are predicting. It seems now a good rule of thumb is whatever the maximum accident is, there is a good chance of it occurring during the lifetime of whatever it is you have built. Thus, be prepared to pay the price, either up front in prevention, or on the back-end in damage, destruction and death. If this plant melts down, it could easily poison food production in Japan and much of the pacific rim. It (and its sister plants) have the very real potential for creating a disaster of unparallel dimensions in human history.

Most people seems to forget that low probability does not mean never happen, it means more seldom. Small probabilities may also be very hard to calculate and correlation may also be forgotten.

Assume that there are three safety barriers that are assumed to have independent probabilities of failure. If the test of all safety barriers are carried out by exactly the same organization/people and the they fail to detect a problem with the first safety barrier I assume they are more likely to fail the test for the other safety barriers and the risk increase dramatically.

An earthquake is almost certain to trigger problems in several safety systems at the same time and this correlation increase risks dramatically.

Is Chernobyl the only nuclear accident you can think of where people died? It was a very old plant in a bankrupt country, which is hardly a fair reflection of the industry safety record.

Three mile island caused such panic, yet nobody died.


If you want to look at the dangers of power production the first place to start would be coal mining.


Then oil and gas production.


Nuclear industry is safe compared to these.

The dreadful tsunami has killed more people than the nuclear plant will.

I agree with this - it's likely blown out of proportion. The tsunami will kill orders of magnitude more than even a worst case nuclear meltdown.

And, to be brutally honest, most of the people in the immediate vicinity that might have been acutely affected by a radiation leak have probably already been killed by the tsunami or have fled the area.

The news media have film of the explosion too which distorts their coverage. I switched on the BBC earlier today and they were showing a continuous loop of the explosion.

The news media have film of the explosion too which distorts their coverage.

I worked in the nuclear industry several decades ago. The explosion is really an Oh Sh**! moment. The "official" explanations don't pass muster. Somehow they couldn't vent excess steam and at least one layer of containment has been breached. I'll bet this turns out about like Three Mile Island. Probably no deaths unless someone was killed in the explosion, but figure on some workers getting excess radiation and a big mess to clean up.

John Large was on the BBC later saying pretty much exactly that.

Actually, I just read a couple other places that some think it was a hydrogen explosion due to an accumulation of hydrogen in the building, which is quite plausible. It is good news if that was not a steam containment explosion. It still means there has been a partial meltdown, but maybe not as bad as Three Mile Island.

Well, it's not over yet either. With TMI the problems were self-inflicted and they were able to deal with it using the support of a fully functional infrastructure (electrical grid, communications, transportation). And only one reactor to worry about. This crisis is occurring in the aftermath of an earthquake and flood with damaged roads, power outage, and multiple reactors that need attending simultaneously.

Good points Walt.

The "official" explanations don't pass muster. ... I'll bet this turns out about like Three Mile Island.

That "the officials" have lied?

When have officials ever lied, they might have been a little economical with the truth, but plain lieing never.

I wonder if the fact that the reactor that was damaged was to be shut down for good on 26 March 2011 is of import here? Is it possible that the reactor's age or any decommissioning procedures had anything to do with this? Or was there "deferred maintenance"? In any event it is really ironic timing that this reactor was to be decommissioned within a few weeks, and now it has had a major event.

I wonder if the future expansion of Fukushima I - 7 and Fukushima I - 8 will now be canceled?

As there are internationally declared nuclear emergencies currently at five other reactors, I don't think age is the most important factor.

I'll repeat again: There are currently emergency situations at six reactors.

Six reactors at how many plants? I know that there may be an issue at Onagawa.

That's just at Fukushima 1 and 2 (about 12km apart). No official nuclear emergency has been declared at Onagawa as far as I can see although that plant is shutdown.

Fukushima Daiichi (1), and Fukushima Daini (2) are a few meters apart. There are four reactors close together, and they are clearly numbered on the outside, ichi, ni, san and shi...

Anyway, 1 and 2 are the worst at present. Three others, and I have not been able to make out exactly where those are, are in trouble. It may be 3 and 4 at Fukushima, plus 1 other, or there may be a number of other locations.

Interesting to to note the remark on CNN that the Japanese language, like English, is full of weasel words that are so good at creating spin?


Reactor        Type  Net capacity  Utility  Commercial Operation 
Fukushima I-1  BWR    439 MWe      TEPCO    March 1971 
Fukushima I-2  BWR    760 MWe      TEPCO    July 1974 
Fukushima I-3  BWR    760 MWe      TEPCO    March 1976 
Fukushima I-4  BWR    760 MWe      TEPCO    October 1978 
Fukushima I-5  BWR    760 MWe      TEPCO    April 1978 
Fukushima I-6  BWR   1067 MWe      TEPCO    October 1979 
Fukushima II-1 BWR   1067 MWe      TEPCO    April 1982 
Fukushima II-2 BWR   1067 MWe      TEPCO    February 1984 
Fukushima II-3 BWR   1067 MWe      TEPCO    June 1985 
Fukushima II-4 BWR   1067 MWe      TEPCO    August 1987 

Fukushima I is also known as Fukushima Daiichi.
Fukushima II is also known as Fukushima Daini.

Fukushima I-1, 2 and 3 are the ones in trouble.

So that technically the first explosion was at Fukushima Daiichi - 1>

From news reports, it sounds like there is another plant in trouble, some distance from F-Daiichi. Are all of the F-I plants in the same location? Newscasts only show 4, and your info shows 6. Where is Daini?

Also, are there any other plants involved? Japanese officials report 5 reactors in trouble.


Yes, the explosion was at Fukushima Daiichi-1, and that is the reactor with some core melting, as evidenced by Cesium 137 being detected there.
Meltdown possible at Japan nuclear plant, official says

The government declared a state of emergency at the Daiichi unit — the first at a nuclear plant in Japan's history. But hours later, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the six-reactor Daiichi site, announced that it had lost cooling ability at a second reactor there and three units at its nearby Fukushima Daini site.

There are more aerial photos and a map at the article. Daini appears to be several miles south of Daiichi. The Onagawa reactors appear to be closest to the epicenter. The Onagawa reactors began operation in '84, '95, and '02, so they are at least a decade newer.

And of course, we don't hear of any real problems with them!

So, to me the good news is that newer generation nuclear plants are much safer than the old ones.

You seem very well informed in the area. Any comments on reuse of spent fuels? My admittedly sparce reading in the genre would seem to show that rather than needing to bury all that fuel, we can reuse it, recycle it as they say, and attain something like 95% efficiency. Is that correct?


p.s.: This is a very good debate, brought about by an extremely serious situation. I hope it will continue. [edit] The debate, not the situation!

I'm not that well informed. I just try to actively search out reliable news outlets close to the events, read stories directly from the several global wire services, and look for engineering and scientific information. I try to avoid watching the television "news channels" and their associated web sites too much, although they occasionally provide leads to be verified and followed up.

Japan formerly processed fuel rods using the Purex process developed in the US. Currently, Japanese fuel rods are sent to the UK and France for reprocessing. A new Japanese plant using the same process as Areva has been built and is in final testing. Commercial fuel rod reprocessing is done by France, India, Japan, Russia, and the UK.

Obviously, the US, China, Israel, North Korea, and probably Pakistan have the capability, although I'm not sure whether the latter only used U235 in its weapons, rather than plutonium.

Fukushima Daiichi (1), and Fukushima Daini (2) are a few meters apart.

That's not correct. Daini is about 12km to the south of the other. There are two separate facilities each with multiple reactors on-site.

Reactors 1,2 and 3 at site 1 (Daiichi) and 1, 2, 3 and 4 at site 2 (Daini) were operational at the time of the quake. A nuclear emergency has been declared at 6 of these reactors on both sites.

The only reactor of these seven to achieve a successful cold shutdown (as reported by TEPCO) was Daini reactor 3.

might have been acutely affected by a radiation leak

The non cute effects are a concern.

Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl disaster, low-dose radiation has proved to have significant effects on normal brain development, shown by the birds' brain size.

Injecting the radiation into the biosphere is not a net good thing. Broke out your KI yet?
(Took some drops of it this morn)

Broke out your KI yet?

Lol, I'm already sick enough. I'll chance it... ;-)

It is too late for KI.

Radioactive Fallout From Nuclear Testing and the Rise of Thyroid Cancer in the U.S.

According to the National Cancer Institute in 1992, about 150 million curies of radioactive iodine was released in open air from nuclear testing in Nevada, causing heavy contamination of the nation's milk supplies from the early 1950's to the early 1960's. This is more than 20 times the amount estimated to have been released by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. At the time of open air testing, millions of children were drinking this contaminated milk. In the early 1950's when radioactive fallout was over-exposing film in cardboard made with contaminated straw, the Eastman Kodak company secretly complained and was given routine warnings by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The public was never warned by the U.S. government about the dangers of consuming milk it was contaminating in its quest to amass a nuclear arsenal.

Far more radioactivity has been released by the US and USSR weapons programs while developing weapons which couldn't actually be used without committing suicide due to nuclear winter.

Yeah, and the guy down the street pointed out that when he shot me a few years ago, that was much worse than the knifing he was administering to me last night, so I shouldn't make such a big deal about it.

Really, the logical thinking skills around here are really going down the toilet.

Do you have a point you want to make? If so, make it.

Because iodine-131 has a half-life of about 8 days. Thus - what is the point of your post?

I studied life sciences at university in the seventies and we had a lecture at one point from someone in the nuclear engineering department. He mentioned the Windscale accident of the fifties and how the milk from a wide area was poured away because of the risk of iodine-131 contamination. He said they could just have made it into cheese.

Does he have any explanation for the increased rate of nose cancer in sheep dogs in Cumberland and area after the accident.

Try this

Let's say for illustration purposes 1 picogram of I131 was released in an accident and spread evenly over 100 square kilometers. That's ((1 X 10^-12)/131)moles X 6 X 10^23 atoms/mole = 4.6 X 10^9 atoms in an area of 100 square kilometers ie 46 atoms per square metre of soil that dogs just can't resist sniffing. Every one of them capable of causing a cell mutation.

4.6 X 10^9 atoms at half life 8 days means it will be 33 half lives or 9 months before it's all gone.

Now cesium 137 has a half life of thiirty years so 1 picogram of that will not completely dissapear for 1000 years.

Always remember there is NO safe level of carcinogen exposure really, so DUCK and COVER.

Caesium 137 will show 1350 times less activity, by your numbers. Neither will completely disappear.


Take any number X and keep dividing it by two and you eventually get a result less than 1 (atom). I took that as "completely dissapeared", sure, theoretically exponential decay is infinite for "real" numbers but atoms are "integers"

Yes, Cesium decays much more slowly, the point being it only takes one decaying atom to mutate a cell, forget the statistics, I don't want to be in the same space as that atom when it goes belly up, safety first.

I was be very "rule of thumb" and qualitative about the number thing, you are the people with PhD's after all.


Surely you exaggerate with this statement:

I don't want to be in the same space as that atom when it goes belly up, safety first.


Background radiation is radiation that is constantly present in the environment and is emitted from a variety of natural and artificial sources. Primary contributions come from:

Sources in the earth. These include sources in food and water, which are incorporated in the body, and in building materials and other products that incorporate those radioactive sources;
Sources from space, in the form of cosmic rays;
Sources in the atmosphere. One significant contribution comes from the radon gas that is released from the Earth's crust and subsequently decays into radioactive atoms that become attached to airborne dust and particulates. Another contribution arises from the radioactive atoms produced in the bombardment of atoms in the upper atmosphere by high-energy cosmic rays.

Naturally occurring sources are responsible for the vast majority of radiation exposure. However, not including direct exposure from radiological imaging or therapy, about 3%[1][2] of background radiation comes from man-made sources such as:

Self-luminous dials and signs
Global radioactive contamination due to historical nuclear weapons testing
Nuclear power station or nuclear fuel reprocessing accidents
Normal operation of facilities used for nuclear power and scientific research
Emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as coal fired power plants
Emissions from nuclear medicine facilities and patients

Please note: Emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as coal fired power plants

Some foods, notably bananas (those icons of healthy eating), naturally contain elevated levels of radioactive isotopes.


The average radioactivity is 130 Bq/kg (3 520 pCi/kg), or roughly 19,2 Bq (520 pCi) per 150 g banana.[3] The equivalent dose for 365 bananas (one per day for a year) is 36 μSv (3.6 mrems).

Bananas are radioactive enough to regularly cause false alarms on radiation sensors used to detect possible illegal smuggling of nuclear material at US ports

Now, all this is not my attempt at saying that radiation is good for you (no more 'sunshine units'), or that folks should trivialize unnecessary radiation exposures. If you have a basement, or even if you live on a slab in an area with high Radon-producing geology, I would still recommend getting a Radon check!

Any data on granite countertops and bottled spring water?

Saratoga Springs has been measured at 350 pCi/L, and there are signs there warning against drinking the water.

Masonry and brick houses can also have higer than normal radiation levels.

Iodine 129 has a half life of about 15.7 million years.

Whatever the outcome, it is probable that there will be fewer fatalities than resulted from the last nuclear explosions in Japan.


Well, there seems to be very few people in the World who gave half a rat's rear-end about the many devices in existence, and the potential outcomes ranging from from 'best case' to worst case scenarios of their usage.

And then there is the potential for day-to-day accidents and incidents.

The recent treaty does not compel either signatory to dismantle even one device.

The published treaty numbers are only for 'accountable' units...

But everyone seems to have jettisoned their concerns about these matters after the Wall fell.

And as much as folks are concerned about our civilian power sites...well, there is a whole other side to the coin that people don't worry about...

Out of sight, out of mind.

True -- besides the weapons, there are at least 250 or so nuclear reactors aboard ships currently. More have been decommissioned due to old age or various treaties.


It probably means that I am a bad person but I think that was the best comment of the whole thread.

+1000 for a very true statement of the facts!

Half life of 8 days is great eh! Only half will be left by the time the dust cloud makes it to the Noth American west coast:)

CNN now reporting that iodine tablets are being distributed in the affected area.

There is one good bit of good news out of Chernobyl:
They've found that mice from that area are more tolerant of chemotherapy than mice that haven't had low levels of radiation exposure. It's suggesting better ways to handle chemo.

The issue to me is that nuclear proponents, on the Oil Drum, and elsewhere label anyone with legitimate concerns about safety in nuclear plant operations, fuel production, and waste disposal as "hysterical" and "paranoid". Yet clearly the safety issues with nuclear are real, or the notoriously conflict-averse Japanese government would not be evacuating 20 Km radii, and mobilizing the armed forces for flying in emergency equipment.

No one who questions the safety of the nuclear fuel cycle, and the national security state which it seems to require, is proposing coal as a replacement (at least anywhere I have seen). Rather the proposal is that investing the same capital in energy efficiency, renewables, and inherently low-energy urban design would generate better economic and societal returns than a massive nuclear build-out.

Their continued denial that nuclear safety issues even exist, just makes nuclear proponents look silly and out of touch with reality. Arguing that your preferred technology compares favorably with an earthquake and tsunami is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

For the record I'm not particularly much of a nuclear proponent and I certainly wouldn't say it's my 'preferred techology'.

But I would maintain a preference for a large scale expansion of nuclear over a large scale expansion of FF plants. There's no comparison in my mind.

Of course a risk-free, emission-free source of energy would always be preferable and I'm hoping that perhaps something such as e-Solar's thermal turbines could prove very interesting.

It's always good to be aware of the risks but it should definitely be put in context.

Negawatts from conservation are essentially "risk-free", except for some lung irritation from fiberglass in the attic, but somehow the discussion is always about the "source" and not about the consumption side of the equation. Something to do with capitalism, materialism, and marketing I am guessing.

Yes, apparently even energy efficiency is controversial as the Republicans want to cut programs to do same. So, given their perspective, megawatts are preferable to negawatts even if negawatts are demonstrably cheaper. And, of course, one can use things like recycled denim insulation which doesn't have any harmful effects. I guess their fear is that successful efforts at efficiency might make people want to leave a few acres of America undrilled.

I was reasonably certain we were doomed before but now I am positive.

At the least, maybe we all could agree that nuclear plants should not be built in Tsunami/Earthquake zones. But probably not.

The Hansen story in Energy Bulletin was ringing a bell for me today.

Look at the chain of dependency for this set of reactors today. You need Cooling Water, power to pump it, and functional pumps and backups of functional generators, WITH fuel.

Do you believe in Climate Change? That should be enough right there to see the dead-end Fission is pointed towards. How many plants depend on rivers or other water supplies, just for Basic Safety? Then,

Do you believe in Peak Oil? It's hardly even very complex, seeing how quickly the chain of events has brought us to a critical juncture with several affected plants. Is gennie fuel available, is there a spare part needed to fix a gennie or a custom pipe/junction blah, blah, etc.., that must come in by truck or Helo.. in a big hurry to avoid going critical?

Do you even moderately expect BOTH PO and CC effects to be part of our coming days? Multiply that likelihood times number of Reactors and their vulnerability to Overheating. (and other things)

Economic Crisis. Getting Better? Going to? What are the pressures on Reactor Owners to cut corners, sweep things under rugs? Paint Rosy Pix?

This isn't about being relationally 'Risk-Free'.. this is High Risk, and those risks are rising.

Yeah, this thought really hit home for me as I was reading A World Without Us last year. There are going to be many more of these catastrophes as we lose complexity.

There are always going to be disasters. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and of course hurricanes. These are not a consequence of complexity, and you are reading far too much into them. When we begin to see catastrophes from complexity, they will involve other factors.

Of course, complexity does create additional problems. For instance, in N. Japan, today, food and water are in short supply, largely due to the JIT food supply system endemic in the 'civilized world.' A sudden reduction in oil delivery could cause a true complexity disaster, made up from the failure of complex systems to react to new conditions.

Or, and I personally believe this to be the most likely one, a huge solar flare could shut down communications and transportation worldwide, creating conditions that few are prepared to face.

Anyway, we will hopefully have a few years before we begin the breakdown. Make the most of the interim, and try not to be too gloomy and doomy. Something I have to keep telling myself, I might add!


The earthquake and the Tsunami were natural disasters.. the fact that we built Power Plants that can now go critical and start spreading a lot of radioactive products was a HUMAN FAILURE. WE KNEW what can happen if this technology was able to get out of our control.. and we were given assurances, and we've had some close calls, even outright messes before.. this cannot be waved off because Nature is 'Unpredictable' ... and NOW, as we see the approach of Climate Change AND Peak Oil, hand in hand.. let's do the additional math of just how Unpredictable the coming events have the capacity to be.

As I said to PaulS about Windmills.. they might Fall over. They could even land on a scout troop, a flock of Pelicans, or blow a transformer and darken the grid. Solar Panels might shatter and cut someone's finger (off, even). They don't cause genetic damage, they aren't able to place persistent toxins across wide swaths of Human and Natural habitats.

We have seen from Russia, Pakistan, Australia and now Japan just how terrible the forces of Nature can be over the course of just one year. This leaves US with the responsibility of what we should build in the path of that kind of force, and how great and for how long afterwards we can expect the damages and dangers from our creations to persist.

This has been an arrogant and irresponsible adventure, and we should acknowledge that we should stop it, since we see how quickly it can escape our Control.

Again, from Crichton.. Jurassic Park

"John Hammond": We're over-dependent on automation, I can see that now. Now, the next time everything's correctable. Creation is an act of sheer 'will.' Next time it'll be flawless.

"Ellie Sattler": It's still the flea circus. It's all an illusion.

"John Hammond": When we have control again..

"Ellie Sattler": You never 'had' control! That's the illusion! I was overwhelmed by the power of this place. But I made a mistake, too. I didn't have enough respect for that power and it's out now...

We have always built in disaster's paths--often the good soil or good harbor was created by just the type of disaster that knocks us down after we build there. Guess what, just like a bunch of ants we are going dig out and build there again.

I live in a primary nuke target area and my house was shaken by a 7.9 in 2002. Funny the place you can end up. Now I'm supporting a 700-900 foot tall hydro project about 40 miles south of where that quake was centered. Is that arrogant? Maybe, but we've been doing pretty good with dam design lately so for the returns it looks worth the risk.

We can build nuke designed as safe as that dam will be--cloudy islands aren't going to be building solar thermal. Then again if you would prefer

..and you skipped over my point.
If your bridge fails, or your city is laid flat, it's a bunch of sticks or bricks.

We can now poison a place for longer than humans have had written speech.

HAMMOND: "Look at Disney World, it was full of problems when they opened in 1953.."

MALCOLM: "Yes, but John, when Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the Pirates don't EAT the guests."

So you think abandoning nuke altogether would fix that--If we actually go after the nuke tech tooth and nail we will get a better handle on plant design and waste handling than will ever be gleaned by discarding the technology.

If the LFTR becomes viable we then have a disposal system for a huge portion of the radioactive waste and weapons materials we now have on hand. The LFTR waste stream has the potential to be manageable both volume wise and time wise. We can't get it to that point unless we keep at it

No its not time to run in fear from Nuke Power its time to dig down and work on the type/s with the greatest upside. The radiation coal power spews out isn't as concentrated but its ever more constant and wide spread than the radiation the nuke power industry dumps. We truly have to quit using the best nuke plant designs of the Eisenhower era though--they have been out there too long. Dragging our feet on the issue has just made replacing them with far better systems that much farther away.

I love Jokuhl's approach -- if it hasn't been done in a movie then it's been covered in a song. My kinda guy :)

Can't keep my eyes
From the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted
Just an earthbound misfit, I

I don't oppose research on variants, but fission seems to be a hole we've dug ourselves, and yes, I believe we must stop digging.. or to follow Earthbound's lead, with a 'Little Wille'..

"You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold'em;
Know when to walk away, and know when to run."

The problem is research isn't going to do it on its own-it is only the first step of the process Robert decribes in "Doing Due Diligence". And of course the more actively nuke tech is pursued the better likelyhood of good outcomes in the process. I don't expect you to agree--but this genie is long out of the bottle and it ain't going back in.

Few people deny there are big issues with nuclear power. The problem is that in most countries less nuclear will mean more coal, as appears to be happening in Germany, and that has very big consequences and issues of its own.

Renewables just do not fit well into the infrastructure we have at the moment. Maybe in the future.

As they say, "This is not a problem, but a predicament".

We seem to be facing more and more dilemas that are of the Morton's fork variety, perhaps with the further complication that if there is a least bad choice, it is usually the one that is politically impossible.


The least bad choice will be the one that nature will impose upon us, namely that we will learn to live within our energy means. There will be much less activity, because that takes energy. No more chasing about commuting this way and that way, etc. Priorities will change overnight. Since we are so intrenched in BAU, this new lifestyle will come as quite a shock to most. Many of us will likely not survive in the new paradygm. Not the best news, to be sure.

I always thought Morton's Fork when there were only two or three options available, and they all led to the same bad result, while a dilemma involves two possibilities and two different consequences (with ethical impact in either the possible action or the ultimate effect, or both).

NO matter... when TSHTF, we will probably be faced more with a Hobson's Choice, and we'll be screwed any way we turn.


Renewables just do not fit well into the infrastructure we have at the moment. Maybe in the future.

This is just BAU, "Can't Do" attitude.

I built my first passive solar house in 1976, it is still functioning fine (not the "future" but the now distant past). There is no reason that all new construction and remodel in the US could not be a reasonable PassivHaus standard, except for political will and inertia. Much higher energy performance standards for houses have better life-cycle economics than the currently-constructed crap does, but the split incentive between builder first cost and occupant operating costs obscures this.

Given that capital is always limited, using any capital to build nuclear plants while buildings are poorly insulated and lighting/heating systems are not efficient is a mis-allocation of that capital to an investment with lower economic and societal returns than the energy efficiency alternative. (Building nukes is still probably better than buying SUVs and big TVs, which seems to be where most of US capital goes..).

A new generation of coal fired power stations is being mooted for Germany at the moment. That's a consequence of a halt being put on nuclear power and the reality in the country of the PassivHaus where ordinary building standards of much of the housing stock is much higher than here in the UK. I don't disagree with the rest of what you say. I think it would be much better to invest in vastly improved insulation of housing etc. but it's going to need an awful lot of people to change the way they think.

Renewables just don't work except where they do work.

How about that nuclear program in Japan right this very minute. How much electric power is offline in a single stroke of Mother Nature?

Now remind me how Mother nature takes out 100,000,000 small installations of benign solar or wind power?

I didn't say they don't work, but they don't fit well with the grid supplied electricity we use at the moment. Research I have seen suggests you can have up to 10% renewable electricity in a grid mix without infrastructure needing to change. Above that and you need increasing amounts of ff or other backup. Yes, perhaps we should all move to off grid power but that will require a pretty big change in lifestyles which most people are likely only to contemplate when they have to.

Actually, Spain has already about 20% wind and solar in the grid and no problem with it. Even though it has much less hydro pumping power than smaller countries like Switzerland and it also trades comparatively little electricity with its neighboring countries (as opposed to France).

People always forget the fact that demand fluctuations are much higher and more unpredictable than power fluctuations from interconnected wind and solar farms.

And I expect they have backup for that. They will need increasingly more as they increase renewable capacity. See this from the introductory summary in the book "Renewable Electricity and the Grid", ed. G. Boyle:

"As a consequence of the variable output, it is seen that wind power – and, by implication, the outputs of other renewable sources as well – can replace energy supplied from conventional sources, but not the need for most of their capacity. This will be a central problem for future studies and research."

Also from Boyle:

"The immediate conclusion is that until new solutions emerge that will add substantially to the overall capacity credit of a more varied combination of variable energy sources, perhaps including very substantial energy storage capacities, much otherwise uneconomic conventional plant will need to be retained or replaced, either running on low or minimum output, or to be replaced by plant capable of frequent rapid start and ramping of output, such as (aero-derivative) OCGT generators."

And I expect they have backup for that.

No they don't. As I said, they already had and needed flexible power plants like gas and hydro in order to deal with the fluctuating power demand. People always forget the fact that demand fluctuations are much higher and more unpredictable than power fluctuations from interconnected wind and solar farms.

Here convince yourself: https://demanda.ree.es/generacion_acumulada.html

More wind and solar in Spain has reduced the capacity factor of their gas power plants, reduced the need of coal power and shifted the power generation of the hydro power plants. That's it.

Besides the fact interconnected wind farms provide baseload: http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jamc.pdf
Wind power in Spain actually saves hydro reservoirs in droughts: http://reut.rs/aeoAwH
Also, there is always more wind in the winter when there's generally less precipitation (less hydro) and less solar insolation.

Wind power generation in Germany:

can replace energy supplied from conventional sources, but not the need for most of their capacity.

So? Are you suggesting to get rid of the existing gas and hydro power plant capacity in Europe in order to not be able to deal with the fluctuating demand anymore?


It's good that Spain has been able to build wind and solar but it has large amounts of hydro to use as a storage. Also the gas and coal power stations are there as further flexible sources.

If you go to your own link the wind power is still small, if you closed down a few coal stations then you would have to use hydro to fill the gap.

You would then run the risk of running out of water when you need it to irrigate crops and for people to drink.

Spain is twice the size of the UK with 2/3 of the population, do you think we could do the same here.
After spending hundreds of millions on wind farms in UK, how many coal fired power stations have all of these wind farms substituted? By the way a substitution is where you do not need something at all, not just 20% of the time.

Again, Spain gets close to 20% electricity from wind and solar and can obviously handle more given the fact that neither their gas power nor their coal power is ever at 0% capacity factor.

It just shows that is simply not true, that a country cannot handle more than 10% renewable power sources easily. No-one mentioned 100% substitution. Please read what I responded to.

And again: Wind power in Spain actually saves water in hydro reservoirs during droughts: http://reut.rs/aeoAwH

But given the fact that the UK households require over 5 times (!) more heat energy than electric energy and heat energy can be stored cheaply, the UK will be able to handle much more than 20% from renewable sources, if it replaces the fossil fuel heating systems with heat pumps.

And no, of course, I do not believe that a 50% renewable grid does make any sense as long as heating and hot water systems are still mostly fossil fuel powered.

By the way, over the life time of a wind turbine the UK spends at least £923,000 Million on its military. http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/Organisation/KeyFactsAbou...
If it were to invest only 5% of it's military budget on renewable power that's already £46,125 Million.
Don't worry: If you only use 5% of your military budget to reduce the entire UK's dependence on fuel imports, you still have 95% left to protect the sheep on the Falklands or what ever.
Keep in mind wind farms also create jobs and these jobs pay taxes and wind farms lower electricity prices: In fact wind farms in Germany reduced the electricity prices more than what they indirectly received in feed-in tariffs:

PS: This house stores summer heat energy to provide hot water and heat over an entire winter:

But if you get your heat energy from wind you don't need to store wind energy over 6 months, because you already get more wind energy in the winter.


Since you are referencing the Spanish Electricity industry's report, why don;t you actually use their data before making your statements.
From their 2010 report (http://www.ree.es/ingles/sistema_electrico/pdf/infosis/Avance_REE_2010_i...), the pie chart of Page 10 shows that wind covered 16% of demand (they actually mean Gwh for this graph) and solar 2%, for a total of 18%, not 20. Natural Gas, which I'll come to shortly, averaged 23% of GWh produced.

As I said, they already had and needed flexible power plants like gas and hydro in order to deal with the fluctuating power demand.

Yet you you will also note from this report that in 2010, they commissioned 1094MW of wind, 540 of solar and 2154MW of natural gas. So they are building gas plants faster than they are building renewables. So they certainly did not "already have enough renewable plants to meet demand".

From the second pie chart on p 10, which shows what happened on the peak demand day for the year, you can see that wind supplied 11% of the energy, and gas ramped up to 36%. So the more wind capacity you have, the more flexible capacity you need to fill the gap when wind isn;t there.

You have also said, several times that;
People always forget the fact that demand fluctuations are much higher and more unpredictable than power fluctuations from interconnected wind and solar farms.

But this simply isn't true

From the report's introduction;
Nevertheless, the variability which is characteristic of this energy {wind} has led to extreme
situations such as that produced again on 9 November when 54 % of the demand was
covered by this energy at 3:35 am, whereas on 26 June, at 10:32 am, it barely covered
1 %.

The daily electrical demand never goes to 1 %. In fact, system demand is one of the most predictable patterns there is - most systems have distinct daily maxima and minima, and you can take a rough guess that the maxima is about twice the minima - it is never less than 50% and never more than 4x. In other words, the variability goes from peak to about 25% of peak.

You simply cannot say the same about wind, where the production from the wind sector can vary by more than an order of magnitude, and you cannot predict long in advance when those fluctuations will be. Now, you can predict, fairly accurately, the annual production from wind, but that is not the same.

The standard line from electric utilities seems to be that wind + solar up to 10% is no problem, and as you get near 20%, you have to have more backup from dispatchable sources - the Spanish grid is following this pattern exactly.

The "flow" renewables - wind, solar and run-of-river hydro can save fuel, but they can;t displace capacity. There is not yet, a single large electricity system in the world that gets more than 20% of its annual electricity from wind, so we can't say, with certainty, that any system can handle more than 20%. Places that have lots of wind, like Denmark, do it by cross connecting with Norway/Sweden Hydro, and when you look at that system as a whole, winds proportion is way less than 20%.

I don;t dispute that we need more renewable energy ( I am a small hydro and bioamss developer myself) but we can't escape the facts that, wind and solar especially, are unpredictable and need backup, if we are to maintain reliable electricity supply. If we displace fossil heating with heat pumps (something I am a big fan of) then we increase our electrical peaks even further, and thus our dependence on dispatchable backup.

The trick is to get the dispatchable backup away from fossil sources - something that,to date, only hydro power has achieved at any significant scale.

If we displace fossil heating with heat pumps (something I am a big fan of) then we increase our electrical peaks even further, and thus our dependence on dispatchable backup.

That is an important point--and a selling point for our local hydro project I have pushed.

But solar thermal storage is not quite the same thing. If it is pursued in areas where domestic hot water consumes a lot of electricity the pumping costs might average close to a one to one trade with the resistance heat no longer needed for hot tap water.
The tech is beginning to prove itself even in the subarctic.

That story headed today's local front page, under it were stories on Japan's nuclear crisis and the North Slope oil production decline--not all that backward up here in the backwoods <?- )

That Susitna project is a of a size that doesn't seem "local" ! But, yes stored hydro is a wonderful thing, (except for the river valley that gets flooded), and certainly enables many other less dispatchable sources of generation. The expected capacity factor there of 43% shows that its primary purpose is indeed peak power rather than baseload. The run of river projects beign built here in BC are primarily baseload, but that is Ok since BC has so much stored hydro already. I was surprised to find out how little hydro Alaska has - I would have thought the whole state could be done on hydro, but that hasn't happened.

Solar thermal storage is indeed a great thing, especially in inland climates (hot summer/cold winter). I did hear of a guy who built the storage medium under his house (sand) just spends all summer circulating solar hot water into it, and designed the floor "insulation" such that the heat diffuses through the floor all winter long, and is running out in the spring.

This can also be done at a community level, like this 52 house project near Calgary that I was personally involved in;

That house looks like something that could have been designed by the cold climate housing research centre in Fairbanks - had the chance to visit there last August - interesting facility, and a great town and people, though i don;t know if I could handle the winters there.

Well Alaska used to have lots of gas and oil flowing. Now the Cook Inlet gas fields are badly beat up tne the oil pipeline flow is down to a third of what it was. The dam looks a whole lot more important than when the legislature bailed on it in the mid 80s

The dam is local as its on the railbelt and all railbelt communities are intertied together after a fashion. It is only about 140 miles away. The configuration they are shooting for now is certainly for peak load, the low Wanatah--just 600MW with fairly low Nov output. But it will be expandable...The added 600MW would make the state electrical mix more than 50% renewable but I feel we should go for 70-75% Still it will be a good start if we get it to happen this time.

As far as flooding valleys, this project has relatively low impact because Devil's Canyon stops virtually all salmon migration already. My only real concern is that the hydrology studies to date indicate 13% of the rivers flow comes from non-replenished glacial sources. Glaciers cover 5% of the drainage above the dam. I haven't heard just how many years water they will supply assuming they continue to melt faster than they are replaced.

Alaska is not like BC, most of it is fairly arid. No one really wants dams on our huge wild interior rivers. Talk of damming the Yukon went away almost as long ago as the Firercracker Boys big plans to excavate an acrtic harbor with nuclear explosions--that project was just supposed to be the pilot to prove the feasibility of blasted a sea level Panama Canal. There is some hydro in Southeast and on Kodiak Island.

Right now the Alaska Energy Authority is charged with moving the dam toward FERC licensing-but their performance in front of legislative committees seems oddly listless--which is strange because the committees support the project.

Well first, we can reduce energy consumption in buildings by 50 to 70%. Technical issues are largely solved, and have been for 30 years. Economics look good too.

I imagine we can also get average light vehicle consumption rates up to 50 mpg pretty quickly too.

Doubling energy rates at the consumer level would work wonders on daily habits and lifestyle choices. Everyone would get on board.

Let's start with that as the baseline load before we even think about replacing our production capacity.

I like your thinking.

If only!

However, in the U.S., I do not see it feasible for the government to mandate all or most new vehicles sold to be diesel Fiestas, Priuses, Volts, Leafs, and other high-efficiency/high-mileage vehicles.

I don't see the people coming to a mass grass-roots epiphany either and doing this on their own accord through personal enlightenment and altruism and a spirit of shared sacrifice and logic.

No matter how logical/rational, we can't do the smart thing if it interferes with our personal freedoms.

You are 100% on target, emdeef! And the question we have to ask is, why are we spending stimulus money on roads and bridges, and not on the new power systems we need?! Who is in charge, anyway? And what, if anything, are they thinking!


Now remind me - if wind, especially, is so "benign", why we can't seem to push the NIMBYs and BANANAs, the "say no to everything" clique, out of the way in order to get enough of it installed to to make a real difference...

BTW does anyone know whether there were any significant wind installations in the earthquake zone (on land or offshore) and if so, how they fared?

Well, as it seems there's little attention on falling windmills, I would assume that people just aren't too worried about them.

Personally, I wouldn't stand anywhere near one of those things during or after an Earthquake, even if it looked fine.. even if it was still spinning, and providing my house with power, I could pretty much see just how far I should stay from it so that, in falling down, it wouldn't hit me.

Cause you can see them, right?

as the old saying goes, "It isn't about falling down.. it's about getting back up."

PS, there are sometimes very good reasons to say No to a given Wind Installation, and I'm glad people are voicing their concerns. MANY are valid. Nevertheless, the 'No's and NIMBY's' aren't actually a flaw in Wind-power functioning, are they? It's a pretty good bet that there are working Wind Turbines all over the planet that are spinning right this very second, and not creating waste, and not polluting the Air that YOU and I are breathing.

Isn't that comforting?

Now remind me how Mother nature takes out 100,000,000 small installations of benign solar or wind power?

Oct, you know perfectly well that solar and wind don't work because they won't guarantee power 24/7. Life without 24/7 power just isn't worth living...

Not to mention that nuclear is sooo much cheaper to implement! Anyways there is no way that we can afford to divert scarce fossil fuel resources and invest in systems that can't support BAU.

AS one of the folks on TOD who actually endorses Nuclear power as a short to mid term necessity, I would like to comment.

First of all, building where there are frequent high intensity earthquakes is not part of any sane plan.

Second, using old technology is not a part of any plan. Newer plants have fewer negatives, but are not foolproof. Remember Fail Safe? It doesn't work.

Third, even gas and coal plants have a few safety issues. The main problem, however, is that we need to use them as a stopgap as we husband our resources so that we can utilize the remaining FFs as feed stock for Photoelectric, wind, and other high tech renewables. Oh, and for fertilizer as we begin to shift to sustainable high intensity organic agriculture.

Getting through the mid term future is going to be difficult. We cannot afford to use past political correctness issues as a measure of necessary future planning.


Compare apples to apples....

Most of us in the U.S., Except the Pacific Northwest, do not have to worry about megathrust faults....


Have you seen a seismic map of California?

Have you seen the paths of hurricanes in the Southeast?

Where exactly does everyone live then? Please specify.

And of course pro-nukers always seem to forget that we are in an eternal war against terrorists who can strike anywhere and everywhere.

The further irony is that they are usually from the same right-wing side of the political spectrum that made up that war in the first place.

You can't have it both ways, folks.

Either we are in an eternal war with unpredictable terrorists that could strike at our most vital and damaging infrastructures at any minute in ways that we cannot anticipate or imagine, including and especially nuclear power plants;

or there is no possibility of any such threat from any such source ever posing any threat to any nuclear facility ever.

Which one is it?

This seems like false logic.

We have lots of critical infrastructure which is theoretically vulnerable to sabotage from terrorist actions.

Perhaps we should close all of or refineries and shut down all of our pipelines, and close all of our Air Route Traffic Control Centers and close all of our chemical manufacturing plants etc etc.

Maybe we could all retreat to living in caves and sod huts etc.

It is entirely feasible to provide adequate security for our nuclear power plants.

Many people are employed in this arena and it receives much attention.

If we don't think current security is sufficient, we can levy a 1 cent tax on electricity and buy more/better/better trained and equipped security forces.

Again, please propose your solution. Is it 'pulling the plug' on our 100+ nuclear power plants next month?

And how much money does all that added security cost? How about that high level nuclear waste? No one wants it and it is not safe really.

Why not just go with the sun as your source of nuclear power? You either go solar PV or solar as wind power or solar thermal or solar as biomass or solar as hydropower. Maybe go with the earth, which is plenty radioactive -- and go geothermal.

We just will have to go with much less power. That is the reality of the situation. Current American lifestyle choices are not realistic.

Thermal nuclear is poorly engineered and rookie management and rookie decision makers cut the same corners we see all over our amazing industrial society -- like deep water drilling -- too big to fail -- but it always fails. The bean counters just need to be profitable for a little while to succeed so that bankers can make their bank.

I can't picture wind and solar running heavy industry..

What would handle baseload electricity...?

I know..., nuclear would be good for that....

Nuclear would be great for (fill in the blank) if ...

Some of the smartest people in the world work on nuclear and yet they have no idea how to prevent a meltdown and release of radioactivity.

The back-up systems failed. Operator error. Soviet-style. A bunch of excuses.

How's that all possible? Either these folks aren't smart, or the problem is too hard to solve.

Try to convince a room full of 100 people why you should put a nuclear reactor next to their property.

I mean if the industry tried even to do it safely they would have a leg to stand on. Currently, they have no leg to stand on.

They built reactors on the beach of the Ring of Fire.

Some of the smartest people in the world work on nuclear and yet they have no idea how to prevent a meltdown and release of radioactivity.

Come on. This was a 1960s design reactor hit by the largest earthquake and tsunami ever to hit Japan (or practically anywhere for that matter). As far as safety goes, we didn't even have seat belts in some cars in the 1960s. If nobody gets killed or seriously sickened in this nuclear event, it is actually a testament to the reactor design at that time. Current reactor designs are vastly better in terms of inherent safety.

They built reactors on the beach of the Ring of Fire.

I think this is the crux of the problem. They didn't anticipate the tsunami that wiped out their backup systems.

This was a 1960s design reactor hit by the largest earthquake and tsunami ever to hit Japan (or practically anywhere for that matter). As far as safety goes, we didn't even have seat belts in some cars in the 1960s. If nobody gets killed or seriously sickened in this nuclear event, it is actually a testament to the reactor design at that time. Current reactor designs are vastly better in terms of inherent safety.

if the modern reactors are so much better (and they are), then the question becomes - why is it tha fleet of such inferior reactors, that are know to be les intrinsically safe, are still operating. If the nuke industry was truly looking otu for us as much as it says, surely they would have gotten these nukes off the road, or retrofitted, where possible, to meet current standards.

The airlines aren;t flying 1960's era planes, bus companies are not using 1960's buses. You can choose to drive your 1960's car without a the seatbelt, but you are the one who is at risk from that, not the public.

I'll repeat, if the new nukes are so much better, why are the worse ones still operating, especially in earthquake central?

Delta flew DC9-30 and DC9-40s until quite recently (in fact they may still). The models were certificated by '68 and manufactured until '82. Undoubtedly there are still some early '70s airframes flying with some airline somewhere. You might want to glance at the plate on the door jamb when next you board some elderly aircraft.

Uhhh...the current fleet of B-52H models were built in 1960-1962.

Look at the numbers on the tails: 60-xxxx and 61-xxxx (some 61 models were finished in '62 I think).

KC-135s are as old or older.

Some C-130 models (are there any E-models still flying?) are long in the tooth as well.

Fun fact: The B-52H may be structurally sound and be able to keep flying until the early 2040s.

At which point they would be ~ 80 years old.

Many US Navy ship classes are being designed for 40-50 year lifespans.

Then there are the Space Shuttle orbiters...I am glad we are retiring them soon...another hull/crew loss would be very sad and unnecessary.

If something is built well and taken care of well by competent people, it can last a surprisingly long time.

I have a patch: B-52: Something over 40 you can trust.

Sure there are lots of old planes flying around, but they have to meet all the modern safety standards, and many have been retrofitted to do so.
But point taken, and I should have clarified that statement. My personal record for an old plane is from a local float plane company here on the BC coast that flies Beavers (as do most floatplane operations). I always check the name plate and oldest I have seen is 1957!

But I will maintain the theme, if new designs are "fail safe", why continue to operate "non fail safe" ones - doesn't that seem like asking for trouble?

Because they are paid for, and replacement cost far exceeds the originals?

I've heard that in China, they actually prefer older planes. Or used to, anyway. They were viewed as tested and reliable, while new ones...well, they're like beta versions.

They reassured people by saying, "Don't worry, this plane is 30 years old." Which Americans don't find very reassuring. But then, we're a culture that values youth, while they have traditionally valued age.

Yes. The exact same reason why the are flying those Beavers in BC!

The reason the B-52 "BUFFs" are still in service is because the US has no heavy strategic bombers with such a frame life, and because McNamara, in his infinite wisdom, destroyed all the plans for the BUFF, meaning when a major issue DOES arrive, nothing can be done about it.

The KC-135s, like Canada's Sea King fleet or the USMC Sea Knights, is down to lack of any real movement in getting a replacement ready. Each is basically a very close knit formation of flying parts. In Battle: LA, I'd worry more about flying in those Sea Knights than being shot down by the aliens.

Every part of the old dog can be re-manufactured. I have been involved in projects where our team was asked to reverse engineer our own stuff in order to build new, even with only partial blueprints, materials lists, etc.

Everything can be re-manufactured...just depends how much moolah you can throw at the problem.

It's not as is it is equipped with some alien warp drive we can't reverse engineer...I have great experience with das BUFF.

Dealing with significant airframe stress would mean essentially redoing the whole B-52 programme all over again. It'd be like the plane had never been developed from the start, and of course you have to factor in today's costs on top of that and other issues (those turbines produce more smoke than a small country sometimes).

It just wouldn't be very cost effective ifthe USAF was looking at new designs for the future, which they are doing give the retirement of the B-1B and the tiny number of delicate B-2s. A transorbital bomber may take shape by the time the trusty BUFF falls out of the sky. That is, assuming strategic bombers are cost effective and pass Congress without becoming pork as is often the case these days.

Japan imported its first commercial nuclear power reactor from the UK. Tokai-1 - a 160 MWe gas-cooled (Magnox) reactor built by GEC. It began operating in July 1966 and continued until March 1998.

After this unit was completed, only light water reactors (LWRs) utilising enriched uranium Ð either boiling water reactors (BWRs) or pressurised water reactors (PWRs) have been constructed. In 1970, the first three such reactors were completed and began commercial operation. There followed a period in which Japanese utilities purchased designs from US vendors and built them with the co-operation of Japanese companies, who would then receive a licence to build similar plants in Japan. Companies such as Hitachi Co Ltd, Toshiba Co Ltd and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry Co Ltd developed the capacity to design and construct LWRs by themselves. By the end of the 1970s the Japanese industry had largely established its own domestic nuclear power production capacity and today it exports to other east Asian countries and is involved in the development of new reactor designs likely to be used in Europe.

Due to reliability problems with the earliest reactors they required long maintenance outages, with the average capacity factor averaging 46% over 1975-77 (by 2001, the average capacity factor had reached 79%). In 1975, the LWR Improvement & Standardisation Program was launched by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the nuclear power industry. This aimed, by 1985, to standardise LWR designs in three phases. In phases 1 and 2, the existing BWR and PWR designs were to be modified to improve their operation and maintenance. The third phase of the program involved increasing the reactor size to 1300-1400 MWe and making fundamental changes to the designs. These were to be the Advanced BWR (ABWR) and the Advanced PWR (APWR).


It is unclear whether any of the later improvements were retrofitted to the original GE design.

These are the kind of deals arrived at via high level trade missions involving key government ministers and business executives from the allied countries.

These are the kind of deals arrived at via high level trade missions involving key government ministers and business executives from the allied countries.

Just the type of meeting where the safety and health of average people on the street, whose taxes actually pay for everything - is top of the priority list - NOT!!!

My personal record for an old plane is from a local float plane company here on the BC coast that flies Beavers (as do most floatplane operations).

Ah yes, the Beaver! Probably the all time classic greatest bush plane ever built. One of those things that was built right the first time.

On my first ever bush flying trip (back before the FAA cracked down on bush flight services), my 3 companians and I kept cramming more and more gear into the back of a Beaver....camping gear, cans of blazo, inflatable boat, outboard, fuel, cases of beer, etc etc. We weren't yet very experienced at traveling light. Finally one of us asked the pilot if perhaps we were overloading it. The pilot just grinned and said "If it will float....it will fly!"

I've always wondered what percentage of Beaver's still flying are in either in Canada or here in Alaska?


One of those things that was built right the first time.

Quite so - a flying pickup truck!

From http://www.bush-planes.com/ ;

The deHavilland Beaver was designed as a serious, no-nonsense bush plane and this philosophy is well reflected in its functional, though rugged cockpit. The Beaver is not a dainty little airplane that appeals to nair-do-wells. It is a large barrel-chested plane that looks quite capable of eating Cessnas and Super Cubs as mere snacks. As further evidence of the rugged functionality of the Beaver, its oil filler spout and dipstick are located in the cockpit itself. It is possible to add oil to the engine with one hand while flying the Beaver with the other (though not particularly recommended).

Totally agree that they look like they'll eat a Cessna for breakfast. My local company has both, and everyone wants to fly in the Beaver.

Don;t know what the % operating are, but I do know that every floatplane company on the BC coast has them, and for many, they are the majority of their fleet. They are worth about $0.5 to- 1m these days!

When I fly on these to Vancouver airport, I often get to sit in the co-pilots seat - you feel like a chauffeur driven big shot in a flying '57 Chevy!
The experience is worth the $80 fare (and saving a 2 1/2 hr car-ferry-car trip through Vancouver traffic)

I can also say that these commercial planes get inspected like you would not believe.

My problem is not with old things per se, it is with things that do not meet current acceptable standards - that is my definition of obsolete, not strictly the age of them. I'm sure all the military planes mentioned above meet the military's standards, and the types that didn't have been retired long ago.

An example where they don;t - the Canadian Navy still has 1960's era Sea King helicopters on its ships. They need 30hrs maintenance for each flying hour and there have been several fatal crashes in the last decade when they have suddenly lost power. The Navy calls them "flying coffins", but the Cdn gov has dragged its feet for over 15yrs about replacements, so they have no choice but to fly, and die, in the old ones. Not all bad decisions are made by profit seeking companies.

They built reactors on the beach

That is the core issue - WHY? Japan has a history of tsunami and typhoons, tsunami is a Japanese name for goodness sake. So why on earth were these built directly in the firing line and why was inundation not included in the failure scenarios? Seismos are trivial compared.


Written by LesIsMore:
What would handle baseload electricity...?

Solar thermal with a big insulated tank for trough collectors or lots of thermal mass for a heliostat.

Solar thermal with a big insulated tank

Solar thermal is losing out to PV. Partly that is because of the resistance of environmentalists, but the cost curves for PV are coming down fast enough to threaten thermal. None of the currently planed plants get any credits for load following ability (which doesn't exist unless they build them with thermal storage), so the one important selling feature doesn't even figure in. I think that is a shame, because load following solar will be a really good thing to have.

Solana, 280 MWe, parabolic trough solar concentrator with molten salt storage near Gila Bend, AZ. Although the storage tank needs to be larger to provide load following, it is a start.


I like a challenge.

We need someone with the analytical/critical thinking skills of WebHubbleTelescope to facilitate a decision process to create possible Courses of Action, debate them on their attributes and our values of these attributes, and choose the most logical path according to our group consensus.

I have no experience with civilian nuclear plant management...but, a colleague of mine recounted a story to a Federal Advisory commission I was once on. He has military safety officer experience, and he related how he and some other safety officers toured an American civilian nuclear plant once.

The plant manager was guiding the tour and he noticed a very small spot of fluid (water, cleaning fluid, I forget what) spilled on the otherwise spotless floor.

He stopped the tour, called in the on-duty safety manger and some of his underlings, and not only ordered the fluid to be removed and the floor to be made spotless again, but ordered the fluid analysis and ordered a detailed investigation as to how the fluid cam e to be there, to include a root cause analysis and an out-brief to him in oral and written report format detailing recommended mitigations to keep such a thing from happening again.

The visiting folks asked if this was SOP or perhaps was this a dog and pony show for their behalf.

The manager told them that this was how things were run...the nuke power industry could not afford any more screw-ups...for public safety's sake and for their continued livelihood.

THe U.S. Navy has a solid nuclear reactor program...I was told that when a NR (Naval Reactors) inspector was on a ship, the fear of God is in the Captain's heart.


Since its inception in 1948, the U.S. Navy nuclear program has developed 27 different plant designs, installed them in 210 nuclear powered ships, taken 500 reactor cores into operation, and accumulated over 5,400 reactor years of operation and 128,000,000 miles safely steamed. Additionally, 98 nuclear submarines and six nuclear cruisers have been recycled. The U.S. Navy has never experienced a reactor accident.

However, the U.S.S Thresher and U.S.S. Scorpion (both US nuclear attack submarines) were lost at sea (1960s) , although it is thought that neither incident was the result of a reactor issue (for the Thresher, at least not a problem within the reactor per se.

My point is that your assertion of poor engineering and rookie management may be a little broad-brush and over-the-top. Keep in mind, I am NOT saying that all is hunky dory and that no improvements can be made...obviously that is not the case.

The nuclear powered navies of the world have not fought in a world war. If we have WW III, I expect many nuclear accidents as ships and submarines are destroyed in battle. I also expect the environmental damage of such nuclear incidents to be whitewashed because the first casualty of was is the truth.

Look I am a scientist and I am frustrated as heck that the best physics cannot contain nuclear energy.

It makes me wonder why.

Is nuclear power too hard to contain? Or did they make bad choices? I hope bad choices, but these things are highly unstable when things go wrong.

But were the choices made by the scientists or the bean counters and politicians?


added security cost? How about that high level nuclear waste

Meh, just leave it sitting out in the open. If anyone pinches it they won't get far and they will be easy to find.


I was wondering how long it would take for the "living in caves" line to appear. Contact me to collect your prize. Bryan

Yea, it's about as good as all the throw-away lines of 'we are just going to have to live with a lot less power'.

How much less power?

And by when?


I would like to see a rational implementation plan for closing down the U.S.'s 100+ nuclear power plants in an expeditious manner and using substantially less electricity.

I'm not saying it couldn't be done...I just want to see at least a high-level plan on how go get from 'here' to 'there'.

If you can lead us to craft some credible Alternatives/Courses of Action to reduce our power consumption in the U.S. substantially, while decommissioning the nuke plants, you would indeed be worthy to receive a prize.

I am not being snarky, just pointing out that typing lots of emotional words in a blog after a disaster event is one thing; coming up with feasible ideas on how to change our situation for the better is another.

What would our electricity supply look like after we decommission the 100+ nuke plants?

How much from coal and for how long?

How much from solar and wind?

How much from NG (and for how long) and from Hydro?

We need to address the wind and solar detractors who post here...do their arguments have any merit?

There are folks out there who would love to see many of the big hydro dams dismantled so the great rivers and their ecosystems can return to natural health.

Do we invite the detractors of coal due to climate change and heavy metals pollution to the debate?

Help address even part of this and you won't have to contact anyone to receive your prize...you will be the planetary hero!

Hello Heisenberg,

re: "I'm not saying it couldn't be done...I just want to see at least a high-level plan on how go get from 'here' to 'there'."

Me, too.


I think I signed that petition before...

Best wishes for this to be acted on...


Hi H,


In theory, it should be easy (in a - dare I say "theoretical"? - democracy) for the NAS to take this up, ASAP.

1) Congress can simply add it as a rider to a bill, for example, to an energy bill - or just about anything, since anything relates, IMVHO.
Studies require funding, but not much for this, relatively speaking.

If only a few people went in to their Congressperson's office, having gathered, say, 100 signatures - that would probably do it. (A template for a printed version is up on the blogsite.)

Congress has the excuse right now that they never hear from their constituents. Nobody calls up and simply says "What's this about 'peak oil'? Don't we need an investigation?"

2) The President can request it, along w. the funding.

The NAS recently completed a four-year energy study and did US supplies, but for some strange reason - not global supplies. Hence, the topic of "peak oil" AKA "shortfall" or whatever one wishes to call it, was a glaring omission.

3) Perhaps easiest route of all: *Any* State legislature can request a study of the NAS.

(North Dakota, where are you?) (I'm thinking relatively low populations. And certainly they would/will be impacted by shortfalls.)

If a sizable chunk of citizens in ANY State become concerned, they can make it happen via their State governor.

Best hopes for effort via the democratic process.

"Maybe we could all retreat to living in caves and sod huts etc."

Those huts would be safer.....

Name the last time a solar panel was under the threat of a terrorist strike.
Or when a terrorist was trying to obtain a solar panel to release radioactivity all over a populated area.
Name the last time a solar panel was going to be assaulted by mother nature and threatened an area as large as a 6km radium.

We are doomed to hear this pro-nuclear drone, when really nuclear engineers should be angry instead that they were duped into installing bad designs that will fail like clockwork when the time is right.

About every 10 years or so another one will fail. It is just about probability. We have the data for failures.

So talk about the new safe designs then I guess. But why should we buy into it? The track record is kind of not so stunning for nuclear power.

I understand your point.

I still wonder about what is the total number of people killed by all the nuclear power plant accidents that have occurred to-date:


But, I will reprise Chief Joseph on this issue on TOD.

So, let us adopt the premise that nuclear power plants: risks outweigh their benefits.

Let us then guide the discussion to crafting a plan with a timeline to closing down all of our nuclear power plants and replacing them with other forms of electric power generation.

Reducing U.S. electrical demand through efficiency gains and doing less with less (lifestyle changes) are certainly part of any such plan.

IIRC, Nuke power currently contributes ~ 19% of our electric power in the U.S.

From previous discussions I remember assertions that, on a power-production basis, we could perhaps obtain up to 20% of our electric demand from wind and another 20% from solar (PV and CSP). Albeit with sweeping and very expensive changes/upgrades to our electric distribution infrastructure to add power storage and supply/demand control systems to balance the loads with more inherently intermittent supply sources.

Is it within engineering feasibility to get to a power supply paradigm such as:

10% reduction in demand from current through better efficiency and doing less with less

0% nuclear
20% solar
20% wind
40% coal
10% NG
10% combo of hydro, geothermal, biomass, other cats & dogs

We are talking electric power here, not transportation using oil-derived fuels.

Oil-based transportation:

Do less with less
- carpool, bus, train, bundle trips, telecommute, move closer to work, bike, fewer frivolous trips

triple gas mileage in our fleet

EVs (but then we need to know how to generate the extra electricity...perhaps there are unused watts being dumped at night which can go to charging EVs.

Getting rid of nukes in the U.S. seems feasible, as long as we make our peace with ole King Coal (mountaintop removal mining, pollution, GHG, etc), and then try to figure out what happens when we hit Peak Coal and its flows decline.

If we jettison all use of nuke power, it will be very hard to recreate the experience base.

But, if there is no possibility of improving our designs and making them better (safer and more reliable and efficient), then why bother I guess?

We can jettison nukes and embrace coal as base load, but for how long?

Until IBGYBG I suppose.

What about liquid sodium cooled?

Also what about reprocessing spent fuel?

Why in God's green earth are we creating high level waste when we could be making lower level waste in better designed systems?


Are you advocating new nuclear reactor designs?

That ship has apparently sailed.

The majority report thinking here seems to be to decommission the existing nuclear plants as fast as practicable and to either use ~ 19% less electricity or make up the difference with more coal power plants, or some combination thereof. (U.S.-centric talk here...the ROW can follow suite or do something different).

This is within the realm of the possible (no breakthrough physics required)...we just need to formulate some alternative courses and action and decide on the best possible implementation plan, to include a communications and political plan to make it happen.

Excuse my hysteria (I admit). I am a little shaken by the idea of multiple core exposures. I also am a little annoyed because we should know better about how things with happen in the real world.

I agree the physics are known. Now are liquid sodium the right design or not?

Why are we making nasty radioactive waste when we could do things differently?

Those are my questions.


Well, to my knowledge there are numerous modern nuclear plant designs.

Some have been experimented with on various smaller scales, and some are unfielded ideas.

Sodium-cooled, Lead-Bismuth Eutectic mixture cooled, gas-cooled, pebble bed designs, and so forth.

If we were serious about honing in on the best designs, we would have a national lab system dedicated to partnering with industry to design, model, and build experimental designs and test them out.

Wikipedia does an OK basic job of enumerating the various types of reactors and rector technologies:


Be sure to click on the links, esp in the current technologies and 'classification by generation' sections. Actually, if you have the time, click on all the links, including the internal and external links in the end notes section.

Then you can have the basic foundational lexicon and knowledge framework to start to make up your own mind on your assessment of the viability of nuclear power.

I guess due to my background I am somewhat more comfortable with nuclear power etc. issues: I respect the power of the atom; I can certainly have appropriate fear when called for. Unwarranted fear is mitigated by knowledge.

I am not confident that the body politic and the citizenry is amenable to further nuclear power development.

If we could replace all nuclear (and some coal) with wind and solar etc. and conservation/efficiency/downshifting demand (less with less) then that would be swell.


Why not 50% reduction in demand?

Yair...as I have mentioned before (in a benign climate such as here in Australia) a family can live comfortably with a twenty amp/two forty volt supply.

The only proviso (shock! horror!) is that they will have to actualy manage their consumption. That is to say the aircon in the lounge room may have to be switched off before the small ones in the bedrooms can go on...don't do it and the power drops out altogether for five minutes the first time and then for ten untill people get the message.

This is just the same as living with a gen. set on a remote homestead or boat.The concept of almost unlimited supply to a dwelling is absolute bull.

I have also mentioned that intermittant power is not a problem... particularly if you know when it would happen. Power is NOT neccessary continuously for domestic refrigeration.

I'm a Democrat who tends to be a flexible liberal in general....

But you do have a point about what happens if a nuclear power plant is attack....

But it's more likely to be attack by a nation than by terrorists.......

The geology in California, at least where most people live, is nothing like that in Japan, so that kind of energetic earthquake isn't really possible. The pacific Northwest (and southern Alaska) are much more like Japan, geologically speaking.

It's all about plate tectonics and subduction and transform faults.

We have a nuclear reactor in southern California...,

It's called San Onofre...

Not all that close to San Andreas at all...

But, close to some minor fault zones capable of earthquake sin the 6 to 7 range......

The seismic issue does not appear to be the problem. That the reactors are built right in front of the sea where they are in direct line of tsunamis and typhoons is.

This whole discussion is getting like the holes in the sea floor, well heads flying miles and the south coast of the USA being wiped out by a giant methane explosion that we we hearing during the Deepwater Horizon disaster.


So far, no one has proposed attaching a giant screw to the nose of a 747, diving straight down on the reactor, and screwing it deep into the earth rendering it harmless.

Actually, 747 would disintegrate into something resembling wet toilet paper. This stuff is build to withstand direct airplane hit:
http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/ppfinal.html looks for "A concrete wall hit by an F-4 fighter jet at 500 MPH:"

Let's remember, too, that Japan is a very disciplined country. They are really well-prepared for natural disaster.

I'm not sure I'd like there to be a lot of nuclear reactors in a country where the population alternates between complacency and crisis, especially in the scenario of reduced access to fossil fuels.

Yes, that's my takeaway from this. Japan is probably the best prepared country in the world for a problem like this. Other countries would not handle it as well...including ours.

And especially in a political environment where regulation is seen as a bad thing, along with science in general.

"Radioactivity ? pish posh... ain't no such thing as radioactivity..."

"Well, there is -SOME- Radioactivity... but if yall come across some of it, just turn the radio off. And that'll stop the activity..."

Water Vendor on Trike: What's a little fallout, heh? Have a nice day!

From Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Exactly, and a global nuclear economy means nukes in Libya, North Korea, Brazil, Somalia, Haiti, Cuba, and so many other countries with less effective regulation and emergency response than Japan.

No intelligent person denies that there are potential safety issues with nuclear power plants.

There are safety issues with most everything we do.

However, hasty statements in the early hours of this situation such as 'Well, nuclear power is toast now' and so forth are premature and very likely incorrect.

I wonder how many human deaths are attributable to nuclear power plant accidents and incidents? We could also include uranium mining and spent fuel/waste storage.


I also wonder how many deaths have been caused by coal extraction, burning in power plants, and the disposal of the resultant waste ash.

How many people have been harmed by the accumulation of heavy metals in the food chain directly resultant from coal power plant operations?

How many people have been harmed by the witches brew of industrial and agricultural chemicals...huge amounts used and dispersed into the environment every year?

Then there are events such as this:


and this:


How many people have prematurely died or have suffered diseases due to cigarette smoking?

The WHO estimates 100M deaths in the 20th century.


Has there been any real groundswell to halt all offshore oil production after the BP Deep-water Horizon incident?

How many people have died in the Iraq war (all people not just Americans) in order to keep the oil flowing?

As has been stated previously here, we and the Ruskies and the French and the Chinese have detonated hundred of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere:



Somehow humanity has continues to balloon unimpeded to approach some 7B people today..

Do not misunderstand me point: I am excusing lapses in nuclear power safety procedures or dismissing nuclear power safety issues, but I think people should step back, take a deep breath, and put things in perspective.

Who among you would be willing to throw the kill switch on the 100+ U.S. nuclear power plants tomorrow?

How many people will end up dying from this Japanese rector incident? Several? Tens? None?

The human mind has difficulty focusing on and integrating the effects to/from all these dispersed, lower-level, but continuous threats, but can focus very easily on point events to the exclusion of all else.

On a different vein, I too am impressed by how well the Japanese building etc have held up from this huge quake..it seems so far that many or most of the deaths may be from the tsunami not from collapsed buildings, fires, etc.

My wife and I have a friend who lives in Japan and was working South of Tokyo in an office building...he told us the building swayed quite a lot, but held.

He sung the praises of government regulations, particularity building codes.

I wonder how well buildings and infrastructure in San Fran, the LA Area, and the area around New Madrid would fare?

I am all for providing as much power as possible from wind, solar PV, etc.

I will refer you back to my DB post yesterday with CNBC's Kudlow and guest wack-job Stephen Moore carping about 'That alternative energy garbage' and also refer you to the idiot politicians attempting to pass laws to ensure good freedom-loving 'mercuns can buy their incandescent bulbs and high-flow toilets in perpetuity.

It's rather ironic that if this had happened in the US, the regulators would be the subject of no end of criticism, regardless of whether they had done everything they could or had been prevented from doing their jobs. In fact, regulation would be blamed and there would be loud calls for (further) deregulation.


When I said nuclear power was toast, I meant politically. (And financially.) I think this will be another Three Mile Island.

It doesn't matter if driving without a seatbelt is more dangerous than a nuclear meltdown. That's just not how people think.

I agree with Leanan here. Politically, nuclear is toast. Not in my backyard will win the day.

I am all for nuclear, but capitalism is strange. It wants to compromise safety and the risk of radiation leaks by cutting corners with poor engineering design. Yippie! we saved $1.50 in the design -- Now lets hope that 30 year event does not happen.

Can the smart nuclear people please regain control of their industry and stop this madness, like positioning 20+ reactors within striking distance of a Tsunami?

It is also toast for very, very good reason.

It is just a very bad idea to build something that will become lethal to thousands or even millions of people, and that will render an entire area uninhabitable essentially for ever, if a black swan event occurs.

Black Swan events occur.

Why this isn't obvious to everybody is mostly due to the incessant propagandizing by the nuclear industry and their lackeys, many of whom seem to populate this forum.

As one post by leanan points out, if this size earthquake had occurred under the CA nukes, the whole contiguous US could have been covered in radioactive fallout.

This is a risk pro-nukers seem to be completely comfortable taking with all of our, and our childrens', lives.

But let's all be loving and kiss and hug the next pro-nuker you see or read--they are obviously motivated themselves by a deep love for humanity.

Black Swan events occur.

One in a million events have a funny way of happening nine out of ten times.

I was in the quake (although not in worst affected areas.) Now the government and media are asking everyone to limit electricity usage. I hope that people can see the connection between their lifestyles and the environment now more easily.

I am opposed to nuclear power for several reasons. I hope there will be a sea-change in attitudes towards it here in Japan. And also that people will embrace more sustainable lifestyles in general.

Glad to hear you are safe. Hoping for the very best for you and your friends!

Glad to hear you are ok.

I note that there are several coal fired stations in the same area. Do you know if these have been affected? It looks, from the satellite, that the coal yards could have been inundated at the least.


It is just a very bad idea to build something that will become lethal to thousands or even millions of people, and that will render an entire area uninhabitable essentially for ever, if a black swan event occurs.

Some things need repeating.

Coal plants are all black swans, that may well render the planet uninhabitable, essentially forever.

In my view, we can choose a short to mid term use of nukes while we get sustainable grids up and running, and power using solar, wind, geo, tidal, and the ever popular hydro, while stopping increasing co2 levels before they reach 450, or we can go all out, use coal, and burn us all up in the process.

Sorry Eric, I do not subscribe to the idea that Nukes are all and always black swan event producers. Maybe some day one will be; if so, it will be in a limited area. Coal is all dirty, always, everywhere. It is killing our Planet! Use of nukes in the short to mid term is very important to sustaining. Of course, we could kill nukes AND all FF plants, shut down the economy and see where we wind up. Might be the same place as my proposal, I don't know. OTOH, my way is not certain death.


"..we could kill nukes AND all FF plants, .... and see where we wind up. Might be the same place as my proposal, I don't know. "

Perhaps we should. But to imply that to perhaps satisfy the opponents, you're supposed to do this all 'Right Away' is unhelpful hyperbole. We 'should' set that course and make sober and careful steps to get to it WITHOUT simply turning off the switch and letting it all fall apart.

It is just a very bad idea to build something that will become lethal to thousands or even millions of people, and that will render entire areas uninhabitable essentially for ever, under business as usual.

Coal fired power plants and oil-burning vehicles, in case you don't get it.

There are no faults in California is not geologically capable of generating an earthquake above an 8.0 or 8.1........

San Andreas itself would max out at 8.0

There are no megathrust faults here anymore....

Must go to Pacific Northwest to find a megathrust.....San Diego may be a good location for a nuclear reactor.......

Um, there are reports that the Japanese quake comfortably exceeded maximum expectations.


Hi LesIsMore,

re: "There are no faults in California is not geologically capable of generating an earthquake above an 8.0 or 8.1........"

Here are two references that call this number into question, and also relate to the implications of a lower number resulting in less damange.



Is there a maximum magnitude for an earthquake?

Though theoretically there is no mathematical limit with the magnitude calculation, physically there is a limit. The magnitude is related to the surface area of the blocks of rock which rub together and in doing so give rise to seismic waves. Since the tectonic plates have finite dimensions, the magnitude must therefore also reach a maximum. It is believed that the greatest earthquakes can reach magnitude 9.5, which corresponds to the magnitude of the Chilean earthquake described below.

If the shaking of a magnitude 7 is 10 times greater than a magnitude 6 and 100 times greater than a magnitude 5, is the shaking from a magnitude 9 100 times greater than a magnitude 7?

No. Earthquake shaking, in the frequencies that damage buildings, increases to a maximum between a magnitude 7 and 8 earthquake, then the shaking simply involves a bigger area. However, the duration of shaking for a megathrust earthquake is much longer. It can be several minutes. This long duration can result in damage to some types of buildings that might not be damaged at the same strength of shaking produced by a smaller earthquake.

Are megathrust earthquakes our biggest earthquake hazard?

No. Inland earthquakes, which are not as big but can be much closer to our urban areas and occur much more frequently, are our biggest earthquake hazard.

Quote from Abstract (with re-typing, since it’s a PDF file): “The three estimates for m (sub max) for Southern California, obtained by the three procedures mentioned above are respectively 8.32 plus/minus .43, 8.31 plus/minus 4.2 and 8.34 plus/minus .45.”

Also, note the following: “Although a knowledge of the value of the maximum possible eaerthquate magnitude m (sub max) is requird in many engineering applications, it is surprising how little has been done in developing appropriate techniques for an estimate of this parameter. “

I agree nuclear is politically toast.

But I just don't think it makes any sense.

People are being to emotional about this....

As long as the reactor isn't designed like Chernobyl....

No graphite.....

"Emotional" is not a decisive factor in this, Les.

You can get emotional when the kids are playing in the street, and even if none of them has been hit, your impassioned AND well-reasoned objection to this clear 'theoretical' danger is in NO way less valid.

People get angry pushing points they have pushed for years, and their frustration doesn't invalidate their arguments either.. on whatever side of the debate.

Maybe in the US, but not globally. Russia, which should be the most sensitive about nuclear accidents, has restarted its nuclear program. It's halt was due both to Chernobyl and to the economic disruption of the collapse of the USSR.


First the US hasn't built a nuclear reactor since when? Its been toast here for decades. Do you really think this will slow down the Chinese? Wrong. They'll go full steam ahead. Good luck on your call. If anything they'll add a few more measures of safety so this doesn't happen again.

One good sign was that hordes of people in Japan were buying bicycles. Hopefully they hang on to them once the trains start running again.

Exactly. At the moment, the US and Europe are still rich enough (or at least feel rich enough) to have it both ways. In many other places, not so much - folks elsewhere may realize, often from recent hard experience, that just as almost any physical activity carries some risk, dogmatically saying "no" to everything also carries risk. Utopia is just not on the table.

Reminds me of the picket signs on Madison's Capitol Square today, in particular the ones complaining, with some measure of justice, of the destruction of the middle class. Of course, the signs didn't just materialize there from fairy dust, and the people didn't just magically beam in, nor, despite the thaw, did more than a handful bicycle in - there's rack space open fairly close by. No, the people and the signs got there by way of heavy traffic, plenty of it orbiting aimlessly in search of parking, well worthy of a big football Saturday.

Just one more demonstration that the middle class lifestyle is not entirely a state of mind; it does rely on very considerable quantities of materials and energy. But out of some crackpot neurosis, we can't abide that. For example, the legislature, in its infinite and more or less bi-ignorant wisdom (the bill was in the works for some time), not long ago made it much harder, nigh unto impossible in some parts of the state, to site wind farms.

Don't ever build anything, and especially not anywhere near anything else, because everyone, and even everything down to the last sea-worm, bat, or mosquito, is "morally" "entitled" to the absolute zero of risk. Meanwhile everyone is still "entitled" to no-holds-barred "middle class" lifestyle, including limitless medical "care" without the slightest regard for whether it is beneficial or futile, Olympic pools and other luxury "sports" facilities at local high schools, limitless make-believe "education" of the ineducable, limitless highway expansion, limitless profitability from hoarding real estate, and limitless God only knows what all else.

This-all can't come to a good end, can it?

Maybe I am a Pollyanna, but I can at least imagine the "muddling to frugality" option, where citizens eventually make some distinction between wants and needs, and accept the inevitable risks associated with meeting needs, while recognizing that many of the wants that marketing and programming works so hard to stimulate have so many unintended consequences, that the costs actually outweigh the benefits.

Kind of like Europe deciding that 6 weeks of vacation is worth more than a McMansion and an SUV, at least at the moment. Any country or locality choosing any path other than the globalized "race to the bottom" will have plenty of implementation/integration problems. But there are all kinds of societal equilibrium states at lower consumption levels than the US currently operates on which can offer very high quality of life(cf. the rest of the planet).

I just added to my carbon debt with a few weeks in Costa Rica, where I see more smiles per capita, longer life expectancy, etc., at much lower GDP or KWh or Btu per capita than the US. No one can predict the future evolution of Costa Rica, but they are aiming for a carbon-free economy and they do have the renewable resources to achieve it if they choose (great geothermal resource.).

Leanan, I do not think nuclear power is toast because the political environment in the U.S. and China are different than 30 years ago. In both of these countries the people are ignored and corporate interests rule. Even if all 5 troubled Japanese reactors undergo complete core meltdowns and their containment systems completely fail, nuclear power will continue. The article I posted in yesterday's Drumbeat, the bailout bill of 2008 and the U.S. response to the BP-Macondo oil disaster demonstrate how BAU will continue. Yeast rule.

Even if all 5 troubled Japanese reactors undergo complete core meltdowns and their containment systems completely fail, nuclear power will continue. The article I posted in yesterday's Drumbeat, the bailout bill of 2008 and the U.S. response to the BP-Macondo oil disaster demonstrate how BAU will continue.

Quiz: Do you think Levy County nukes will be built?


Who wants to bet?

Better be able to withstand a CAT 5 cane in terms of both wind and severe flooding else it is a disaster waiting to happen.

Perhaps the back up systems should be placed in a flood proof structure.

Hope the bean counters did not shortchange the Levy reactor design.

What was it that one of the Mercury astronauts was thinking while he waited for them to light his ride?
"Everything behind, below me has been built by the lowest bidder"


Written by dechert:
Do you think Levy County nukes will be built?

Yes, because construction has already been approved, there is an existing nuclear power plant nearby and President Obama supports them. You underestimate the power of propaganda, and the iron fist of corporate control.

Yes, because construction has already been approved, there is an existing nuclear power plant nearby and President Obama supports them. You underestimate the power of propaganda, and the iron fist of corporate control.

Well, actually, I did not say one way or the other. I just asked the question.

My answer is (like with many other things), "it depends." We have to see the outcome of this disaster.

If Fukushima is more like Chernobyl, then there is no doubt these new plants will not be built in FL. If Japan gets away with merely an expensive clean up with no real public health damages, then the FL plant(s) will be built -- maybe for a little more $$$ ... already pretty high-priced. IMHO, of course.

Who wants to bet?

Well, I have a bunch of cash on the line already and no plans to reduce it. Not on that particular project of course.

Looking at a couple of funds, interestingly nuclear is down less than the eco energy fund. That may change come monday though.

Looking at a couple of funds, interestingly nuclear is down less than the eco energy fund. That may change come monday though.



I doubt nuclear power will be toast either, partially for the reasons you mention but also because when push comes to shove people will do anything to preserve their access to energy. As evidence I offer the fact that we are discussing failures at nuclear power plants in Japan - and they are old ones at that, which means that a nation that suffered the worlds only nuclear attack fully embraced nuclear power only a few decades later.

I realy hope investments in nuclear power will continue since every MWh will be desperately needed as oil runs out.

I'm not such a fan of "sh*t happens" reasoning. To the extent that we learn from our mistakes, we might endeavor not to repeat them. So just for example, we're trying really hard to get fewer people to smoke.

As far as building codes go, California's not bad -- they learn from past mistakes, and the standards have been steadily improving. New Madrid, I don't think is as good. Near where I live, the Back Bay of Boston, if there were ever a quake, would be in a very bad way -- lots of brick, and built on fill. And there have been a few quakes here in the past few hundred years.

I am amazed at how few casualties there have been due to this earthquake. In U.S., we would have a lot more casualties because of our aversion to regulation and government intervention.

Yes, the situation here vis a vis nuclear is the difference between a plane crash and 50,000 plus deaths a year from autos. Many people will conclude, anyway, that driving is safer than flying. I wish there were a silver bullet permitting us to just forget nuclear. But I do not see it on the horizon.

Sadly, your litany of some of the many ills of our society that have not been addressed just shows you that our society does not really care all that much about all the deaths and illness that result from our way of life and our attitude to things like the thousands of chemicals that go unregulated. We are a sick society.

In any event, it is too early to even assess the full extent of what has happened to the nuclear faciities in Japan.

I am amazed at how few casualties there have been due to this earthquake.

If you're talking about the current reported estimates at around 1000 then this is likely to rise very significantly in the coming days. In one coastal town alone they're reporting 10,000 people missing.

Since this is The Oil Drum after all, note that casualty estimates increase in the same manner as reserve growth estimates increase. The early numbers are very conservative because the region has not been scoped out completely, but then as more area is swept out the estimates reach an asymptotic level. If the increase in knowledge is dispersive linear but the uncertainty in scope is random, the result is a hyperbolically growing estimate.

1/E = 1 + k/Time

Not to make too big a deal out of it, but we go through this with every catastrophe, in that the initial estimates are on the low side and then it follows the same trending growth. The early estimates were only a few dozen, but this was understandable in that no one had any real knowledge of the extent. Pretty much the same thing happens with conservative reserve growth estimates.

For the commenter named "X" elsewhere in this DrumBeat. This is an example of an abstract concept where I apply the math analysis from a different domain to the present domain. See how this works?

We've had some estimates that started too high. For the first several days after 9-11 I remember they were saying 6800 dead, but it ended up being less than half that. Any disaster that scatters people, and leaves victims in a state where they are not likely to be found will be subject to lots of mysteries, "person X is missing, but we haven't found a body". Did he use this as an opportunity to "vanish" and take on a new identity? I don't think we will ever have a precise number for this earthquake, too many bodies were washed out to sea.

Maybe the death toll model needs to include a stochastic noise component -- where the error is greatest initially and it approaches the best guess exponentially with time.

9-11 was a case where the numbers of people inside the buildings were statistically known very well. I remember that and authorities were concerned that they would run out of body bags.

Over a dispersed area where the scope is not well known, the estimate creeps up.

Earthquake vs Tsunami? The figures from the earthquake appear to be low, the tsunami on the other hand.....

My rule of thumb, on disasters, is to take the first reported figures (not the first speculations before figures start to get compiled) then multiply by 10. This is normally close but I fear that it may be very low here.


Not surprisingly but that is roughly the multiplication factor (10) that shows up in USA reserve growth estimates.

I wonder how many human deaths are attributable to nuclear power plant accidents and incidents?

When wants to play this game - do you mean 'right now deaths' or 'shorter lifespan deaths'? How about the people who get to play in the heavy metal aftermath of the fission energy extraction business - examples on the far end would be parts of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Where is one willing to draw a line in attribution?

Well Eric, just a few posts downstream, you seem to be arguing against another poster and lambasting him for talking about 'ancillary deaths' from coal mining.

to wit:

See, here is an example of goal post moving. Going from 'right away deaths' to 'early deaths'.

I was talking about 'prompt casualties' ...let us say within a month of a power plant incident.

Where does on draw the line in attribution? Where, indeed. This reminds me about the passionate discussions about EROEI and embedded energy...

So, let's just stop this tit-for-tat about the fats and emotions regarding nuclear power generation and craft a TOD-consensus plan on how to implement a society that exists without nuclear power.

With a timeline and a break-out of how much electrical energy we think we need, and how much of that will come from which sources, and so forth.

I would be all for getting power from wind and solar and geothermal and hydro...let us describe a plan to make that happen.

Let us also describe how much less power we will budget for our civilization, and a step-down plan from our current consumption to our new, lower level of consumption.

As H said, "Let us also describe how much less power we will budget for our civilization, and a step-down plan from our current consumption to our new, lower level of consumption." It gets to a point where, in order to proceed, one needs more than just wishful hand-waving rooted in mere glandular secretions.

But that's only the appetizer. As I said elsewhere, there have been a lot of folks up on Madison, Wisconsin's Capitol Square demonstrating against, among other things, and if their picket-signs are to be believed, the 'demise of the middle class' or even 'the war against the middle class'. So let us also describe what our grandiose top-down step-down plan will do to their middle-class standard of living, and provide a truly convincing argument as to why they ought to just go home, or to what would be left of home, and quietly accept it.

Vehicular accidents kill about 900,000 people each year globally. This would be a direct consequence of the oil industry.

13 killed in tour bus accident in NY: report

"The bus flipped over, slid on its side, hit a light pole," the newspaper quoted a city fire department spokesman as saying.

"The light pole stood intact and sheared the whole top of the bus off," the spokesman said. "It went through the whole bus from front to rear."

According to pictures in other media, it was not a light pole but rather the vertical support for signage that took the roof of the bus off. A light pole possibly would have broken away, but the poles for signs must be much stronger.

This would be a direct consequence of the oil industry.

Not so sure about that. It's a consequence of the car industry, not oil. If they were electric vehicles then would you say it's a direct consequence of hydro or solar PV?

Without oil, it is very unlikely that the auto industry would have reached anything like its present dimensions. The electric automobiles of around 1910 were quite ponderous affairs with very limited range and performance. Most electrically powered transportation was then on rails and it is likely to have stayed on rails. Obviously, there would still be streetcar and train fatalities, so I suppose that they would have to be blamed on the hydro or solar PV industries.

I'd also be interested in the use of asphalt for paving. The chemical composition of asphalt is probably a lot of long chain and multi-ring hydrocarbons and other odd stuff that can't be refined into something more useful. So this "toxic waste" is sold by the refineries to construction companies, who mix it with sand and roll it down on our streets and highways. What part of the cancer epidemic is due to the widespread introduction of asphalt into the environment? Has the EPA looked?

What part of the cancer epidemic is due to the widespread introduction of asphalt into the environment? Has the EPA looked?

Good point.

And if one looks, one might find something. And if one finds something then there might have to be change.

As I recall the USGS conducted a study maybe a decade or so ago looking at PAH contamination due to storm drainage from asphalt parking lots (the big ones - like at a mall) and found that there was rather significant contamination carried into surface waters and groundwater.

I think they found that the problem was mostly related to relatively freshly paved surfaces - as one would suspect.

Edit: found a link for this


What part of the cancer epidemic is due to the widespread introduction of asphalt into the environment? Has the EPA looked?

Related to that, brake dust powder, and fine black powder worn off tires blown off roads is known to be a significant health hazard.

"What part of the cancer epidemic"

What cancer epidemic?

how about where it belongs? A gambling industry that subsidizes pick ups at 5.45PM and a return journey at 2.15 provided by the bus line with the lowest cost using drivers probably working two jobs to make ends meet.

Might not be the driver's fault.

Media is reporting that the bus was hit by a truck, and that's why it went into the pole.

Terrible crash. Regular signs have "breakaway" bases so they'll give way when hit. But of course you can't do that with those big overhead signs. They do try to put protection around the poles, but it's mostly for cars. Something like a bus will go right over it.

This would be a direct consequence of the oil industry.

Well about 80,000,000 million people are added to the world's population each year. This would be a direct consequence of the oil industry. Well, most of it anyway. The rest would be a direct consequence of other fossil fuels. And about 6 billion of the earth's 7 billion people are a direct consequence to the fossil fuel industry.

I know, making such statements is really absurd, just like the statement about accident deaths. But you cannot lay the blame oil, coal or anything else. The fossil fuels were just there and it was a natural human reaction to take advantage of them and multiply our population to the limits that this new found energy allowed it to grow.

It is just human nature to place blame. Blame this, blame that, blame the Americans, blame the Arabs or blame some other nationality or ethnic group. But by all means place the blame somewhere. Nothing is to blame and no one is to blame. It was just in our nature to do exactly what we did. We did it because our evolutionary success enabled us to do so. We evolved very extensive brain power because that was our one advantage over all other species. What happened was bound to happen... sooner or later. And you know what else must happen... sooner or later.

Ron P.

"And you know what else must happen... sooner or later."

Yup, I do.

Re. our "extensive brain power.."
"Our one advantage over all other species."

Rationalization + compartmentalization = denial.

Hi Ron,

re: "It was just in our nature to do exactly what we did. We did it because our evolutionary success enabled us to do so."

The next question is:

WRT "We evolved very extensive brain power because that was our one advantage over all other species."

Is our brain power capable of helping us avoid some of the suffering?

Implied in
"...you know what else must happen..." i.e., Can we use brain power to avoid suffering as the species population numbers come into alignment with availability of resources...?

fair reflection of the industry safety record.

The fair reflection is when the memebers of the industry BEG Congress to extend Government fiat "insurance" because of the lack of safety.

The fair reflection is when the industry can't even operate plants within safety rules. (this is reflected in the fines the industry pays for failing to operate safely.

Citing the numbers of dead is one of the last goalposts the fission pimpers have - Shortened lifespans or lifespans with mutations, they've lost that goalpost years ago.

No industry operates completely within rules, because they are staffed by people.

A better safety comparison would be by deaths per gigawatt-hour generated. How does coal fare, with the mine safety record, and the daily release of radio-isotopes when burning coal?

All things involve trade-offs. If we choose to have less power, we will likely have less food as well as less luxury and less waste. Society has to determine the trade-off, buy press hyperbole does not incite an unbiased review of the choices and clear making of decisions.

China has made their decisions, and so has EU and Japan. We have the risks -- may as well enjoy the rewards.

No industry operates completely within rules, because they are staffed by people.

Thus supporting my position about the failure modes and why it should not be sold to the public as a viable solution.

The Peaceful Atom model didn't work.

If we choose to have less power, we will likely have less food

Interesting position - given here on TOD we've had the 'save the oil for the farm' post and how electricity is a poor way to run a tractor.

I say "likely" because I think it will be used for other than food, not that it had to be that way. I fully suspect to eat steak and watch my kids eat half their fries while people starve in Africa. That's the ugly side of a complex economy and entropic dispersion of income and resources.

Or maybe I'll starve while somebody else's kids throw away seconds. Whichever...it'll happen.

Look at Brown's Ferry 1 - in 1975, after doing some modifications, a technician was checking for air leaks. He was supposed to use a smoke generator, but they didn't have any available, so he used a candle. The foam insulation caught fire, and the control cables got fried. It took several hours to bring the reactor back under control - this is ranked as the second most serious accident in the US after Three Mile Island.

You would think the nuke industry and our regulators would think and learn "Hmmm...we better have some pretty hefty fire suppression systems wherever the control cables run". Right?

Well, a virtually identical accident happened in Japan in the 1990's - guy checking for air leaks, didn't have the smoke generator he was supposed to use, so he took a candle... you get the picture.

And Brown's Ferry 1 itself was re-opened after a $1.8 billion rehab stint - but with waivers for some of the very rules instituted after the original fire!!

As I've always said, we humans and our human institutions (be they governmental or private corporations) are not smart enough or disciplined enough to handle the potential dangers of nuclear power.

I will take it one step further, humans are not cable of managing industrial civilization. Overpopulation, nuclear war, ecosystem collapse, and global warming all seem to me to point to the fact that we are in way over our heads. A good hard peak oil collapse is probably the best hope for humanity in the long run.

humans are not cable of managing industrial civilization

Metal processing, tool making ... there are parts of 'industrial civilisation' that I'm willing to posit Man *CAN* manage. Some industrial businesses sure seem to be able to manage FAR betters than others.

Ritter Chocolate may be a good example. That carpet factory in movies like The Corporation may be another.

People who actually are skilled at what they do.

But a meritocracy is hard to manage also.

Does someone have merit if they can do their job but are a drunkard? How is the merit chosen - testing? I'm guessing TOD won't solve the issue this week, but not for trying.

Eric, Ray Anderson is a breath of fresh air in the corporate world, but I don’t think his message is catching on. If a person gains wealth and power, they pass it to their children merit be damned. The Corporation is a excellent movie by the way.

Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology,
by Robert Pool, is a fascinating book that details a lot of nuclear technology successes and failures. He looks at the kind of management structures that seem to work best in running a nuclear power plant. He looks too at how aircraft carriers are managed, as another successful system with a similar problem. Kind of like baseball, I suppose. 99% standing around doing very little, 1% time-critical crisis where every move is crucial.

Browns Ferry was a very near miss, and the reaction was swift in a number of areas. I was working for an instrumentation manufacturer at the time and the requirement for cable insulation changed from PVC to Teflon practically overnight. The idea being that the cable would have to get considerably hotter before the insulation would melt or fail and conductors would start shorting to each other.

Then too, the reason for the Browns Ferry fire was the sloppy maintenance. As I recall the story, there was a crew checking for air leaks between the control room and the reactor, sealing them when found. They were stuffing foam insulation into the spaces where the control cables ran thru the wall. To test for leakage, they used an open flame. They accidentally ignited some of the foam, which then burned thru the opening where the cables passed. The process was amplified by the fact that the control room was under positive pressure relative to the reactor room, which pushed air thru the hole and turned the fire into a blow torch and the fire went to the other side of the wall. The cables were placed together in trays, so that the fire burned many cables at the same time. And, while the fire was burning, the reactor was running, so they soon lost control...

E. Swanson

Shortened lifespans or lifespans with mutations, they've lost that goalpost years ago.

Yeah. The future is bright:


Oh so dead people don't matter, when it comes to losing an argument any reargarde action will do.
How about the millions of miners who have died early deaths due to lung disease another statistic to dismiss I suppose.


when it comes to losing an argument

Like you have?

Face it. Fission power is a failure. It doesn't meet its promises.

How about the millions of miners who have died early deaths due to lung disease another statistic to dismiss I suppose.

See, here is an example of goal post moving. Going from 'right away deaths' to 'early deaths'.

And thank you for showing the goal post moving done in attempting to justify the failed policies of The Peaceful Atom.

I get a bit pissed off with these argument about the millions of miners deaths blah blah blah. In 1913 when Britain was producing nearly 300 million tons of coal we had approximately 2,000 death. This is the price of coal Blah Blah Blah. Nobody seems to understand that if by some miracle they were displaced by super new energy source the 2,000,000 miners would have to find jobs in other industries. The accident rate might have been lower but at least 1,000 would have died through industrial accidents, but if they had been employed in the fishing industry the death rate might have been higher. This sort of crap is irrelevant.

I recall that there was a small experimental reactor in the US that went out of control and killed the three people operating it - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1.

There question as to what are the best ways of meeting future energy needs is a thorny one. In a way, much of this seems to involve population issues. It is hard to find solutions that don't have at least some adverse impacts and a growing population means that we will inevitably be making more and more choices that adversely affect the environment.


World annual energy consumption is about 400 quadrillion btu = 1.17228428 × 10^14 kilowatt hours. Anything capable of producing that much energy will be hazardous.

Yup. That's why we should keep it exactly where it is, 93 million miles away.

This is about 3.2 * 10^11 KW-hr/day. At 0.5 kw-hr/day-m^2 energy production from solar cells, you need to manufacture and install 6.4 * 10^11 meters squared of solar cells.

This is a square area 800 kilometers on a side.

How many people do you think wil die in the process?

Hi Merrill,

re: "manufacture" and "install"

What are the intersections with oil for this manufacture, installation, maintenance and replacement?

Example: Grid maintenance, requires road maintenance, requires diesel...

Or, what?

Yes, a lot of oil would be needed for purposes ranging from mining the metals needed for the panels to refining the chemicals for the solar cell, fabricating the panels and mounting the cells, shipping the materials and finished products, producing the frames and mounting hardware, etc.

And then there is all of the maintenance and operations activities.

Not to mention the deaths of all the uranium miners.

"Nuclear industry is safe compared to these.
The dreadful tsunami has killed more people than the nuclear plant will."

Only if you don't add the hundreds or thousands of black Uranium miners dying in Niger and other countries, from cancer.
In Spain they had to stop mining Uranium years ago, because of the great number of tumors among the miners, who sued the companies. The Social Security was swamped with sick workers from this dreadful industry.
I reckon the African miners die in silence and far away from the Nuclear Power stations in la France nuclear.
groundhogsteve, you beat me to that !


I am not saying nuclear is great, but better than coal, if you consider than mining deaths, lung disease suffered by hundreds of thousands of miners globally. Also the pollution from coal, heavy metals etc.

Your comment about Spain may be a little premature, Salamanca Uranium mine tests being carried out.


Is Chernobyl the only nuclear accident you can think of where people died? It was a very old plant in a bankrupt country, which is hardly a fair reflection of the industry safety record.

Has it occurred to you how many countries are pretty much on the verge of bankruptcy right now? And things are not looking like they are going to get any better. To me Tainter's inevitable collapse of complex societies is the number one reason why nuclear should no longer even be on the table, it's simply no longer an an option. There is no way we can guarantee what will happen 10 years down the road, let alone a half century or so. 8.9 magnitude black swans are just some of the things that might happen.

There have been other nuclear-power related incidents with fatalities.

That said, it's still safer than coal and less polluting than natural gas. Probably safer than natural gas, too.

"It was a very old plant in a bankrupt country..."

Um, that describes Japan quite well...debt over 200% GDP...1971 reactor...

Wait a minute....

I would have thought an earthquake on a megathrust in the range of 8.9 would have caused meltdowns in nuclear reactors for sure....

I could be speaking too soon..., maybe there will be a meltdown...,

but short of that..., what amazes me, is how well these nuclear power plants held up....

The only region in the U.S. with a the potential for a similar sized quake is the Pacific Northwest.

I don't think there should be any nuclear power plants in the Pacific Northwest, and keep them away from the failed rift in New Madrid, but, other than that......

We'll see how things unfold at these plants, but so far, I'm impressed.....

don't think there should be any nuclear power plants in the Pacific Northwest, and keep them away from the failed rift in New Madrid, but, other than that......

A PNW megathrust would be far offshore, the major hazard is the tsunami threat. Mostly the coastal topography is fairly steep, so not too much stuff is in the way. So if plants are located well above any conceivable strandline (say 25M to have a ridiculous safety factor), and are designed so they don't need active cooling during a shutdown, they ought to be safe. The key is a rational evaluation of risk/benefits, not blanket approval or restrictions.

Re: PNW megathrust hazards...

Don't forget about the potential for re-awakening Mt. Rainier et al from their slumber...

A PNW megathrust would be far offshore, the major hazard is the tsunami threat.

Completely, totally, utterly incorrect. A subduction zone earthquake will cause massive damage to inland urban areas here, where so much of the infrastructure is built on loose Quarternary soils that will amplify and prolong shaking, as well as being liquified. Estimates of the base intensity of such a quake are very high as well. The resulting tsunami will be of minor consequence to the majority of the population here.

Reducing Earthquake Hazards in the Pacific Northwest

A series of fault lines running close to the Trojan nuclear plant north of Portland was discovered three years after first criticality. These local faults cause occasional medium strength (ca. 5-6 richter) quakes as well. This 1981 issue of the Ore Bin / Oregon Geology magazine / journal (pdf) has an article laying out the hazards posed to Trojan from tectonic/volcanic activity, for those interested. Many of these hazards weren't apparent when the plant was commissioned. As the plant was recently decommissioned the hazards are fewer, but spent fuel is still being stored on site.

Enemy of State: A PNW megathrust would be far offshore, the major hazard is the tsunami threat.

KLR: Completely, totally, utterly incorrect. A subduction zone earthquake will cause massive damage to inland urban areas here, where so much of the infrastructure is built on loose Quarternary soils that will amplify and prolong shaking, as well as being liquified. Estimates of the base intensity of such a quake are very high as well. The resulting tsunami will be of minor consequence to the majority of the population here.

KLR has it correct, while Enemy of State is out to lunch. The 1964 Alaska Earthquake was a subduction megathrust very similar (in general) to what might occur in the PNW. The '64 quake is now thought to have been a 9.2, and is considered to the the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded by instruments. Such a quake would be catastrophic to Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Eugene, etc.

Also consider that the subduction megathrust dips landward, which is why the Cascade volcanoes exist. Hence the epicenter of such a quake would be well landward of where the megathrust comes to the seafloor. I don't recall offhand the dip on the zone, but the epicenter would likely inboard of the coast.

Such a quake would also generate a large tsunami which would be bad news for parts of Astoria, Long Beach, and other small coastal towns. Wouldn't be good for Hawaii or coastal Alaska either.

I find it curious that your litany of potential victims ignores an 1100 km stretch of coastline that is home to a lot of people, including 3 million surrounding a pacific coast gem called Vanvouver. Perhaps you may have heard of it, or do you have one of those maps that has a big white space north of the 49th parallel?

Americentrism is alive and well.

I find it curious that your litany of potential victims ignores an 1100 km stretch of coastline that is home to a lot of people....Americentrism is alive and well.

Pragma, sorry, no slight intended!

Thank you,



The only region in the U.S. with a the potential for a similar sized quake is the Pacific Northwest.

Have you never heard of the San Andreas fault in California? (and the Diablo Canyon nuke which was built very near the intersection of the San Andreas and Hosgri faults??)

The entire US has potential for seismic events, our ability to predict them is very limited.

The New Madrid fault could be devastating. With the more solid bedrock in the eastern part of the country, the vibrations travel further. The quakes were felt as far away as Boston and Toronto, and knocked chimneys down in Maine.

It's estimated there's about a 10% chance of another quake like the ones that happened 200 years ago happening again at New Madrid in the next 50 years.

Fault Hazards Increase Seismic Threat for St. Louis Area

The English Hills faults are located on the southeast flank of the Benton Hills in Scott County, Missouri. Originally described by geologists in the 1930s, the faults had been ignored for decades: their very existence had even been challenged. The faults have been located in a series of trenches dug in the spring of 1995 by geologists Dave Hoffman, Jim Palmer, and Jim Vaughn from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Land Survey and by Richard Harrison and others from the U.S. Geological Survey. The trenches are located about 15 miles south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri and about 115 miles south-southeast of St. Louis. This "rediscovery" of the English Hills faults is especially significant for several reasons.

First the material displaced by faulting in the trenches is quite young geologically. It appears that, while 8 to 12 feet of vertical displacement has occurred at the trench site, most of the displacement is horizontal---how much horizontal displacement is not yet known. Modern soil profiles, which are usually less than 10,000 years old, have apparently been displaced by large earthquakes along the English Hills faults. Faulting within the past 10,000 years is considered "active." It must be assumed that active faulting will continue in the future.

- Records have not been kept in most of North America for more than perhaps 250 years, so we have little history about what earthquake risks exist, and
- Much of the country is covered in a deep layer of soil which hides faults that have not ruptured recently.

St Louis has building codes that consider earthquake risks, but older buildings being rehabbed are not brought up to code. According to a report a few years old, Illinois and Kentucky leave it up to local codes.

San Andreous is a strike-slip fault, not a thrust fault. The plate boundary becomes a thrust fault further north. (But he should have said type of quake rather than just size). Strike Slip doesn't produce tsunami's, but megathrust often do, because of vertical motion of the seabed. Strike slip moves the seabed horizontally, which doesn't displace water.

Strike Slip doesn't produce tsunami's, but megathrust often do, because of vertical motion of the seabed. Strike slip moves the seabed horizontally, which doesn't displace water.

Depending on the configuration of the strike slip fault, they can indeed dispace sea water. Restraining bends on strike slip faults produce local oblique thrusting and uplift. Releasing bends produce basins. Either can cause tsunamis. In addition, strike slip faults can trigger shelf edge collapes (an underwater landslide) which can also cause large tsunamis. Active faults are very dangerous, irrespective of their type.

At least we don't have reactors in our state. What part of AK are you at? I'm in Palmer.

Hi AKbound. I'm in Anchorage. I always try to get my caffeine fix at Vagabond Blues when I'm going through Palmer. Good spot! You have probably already visited the Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer. If by chance you haven't, it is well worth it. They do a very nice tour and explanation of how they do their thing.

Heh, I've asked before if any TOD members were Alaskans, but that was awhile ago. Couple years ago thought about trying to get a peakster group together up here but gave up. I don't go to anc much but I'd drive that way for some coffee and conversation if you're ever interested. Don't visit TOD much anymore since Simmons died and all my messages were systematically deleted without reason. That irked me!


re: "all my messages were systematically deleted without reason"

Just wondering if you wrote the editors and, if so, did they reply?

I don't recall his messages in particular being deleted, but during the BP thing, hundreds of messages were deleted every day. (Not sure if staff members did it, or they were voted out.) Basically, when a message is removed, all its replies are removed as well. (At least that's how it's supposed to work. Sometimes it's glitchy.)

So your comment might be perfectly fine, but if it's in reply to one that's removed, it goes, too.

The messages that were removed were almost all political rants/flamewars. Ugh.

It can be interesting what gets deleted--especially if it challenges some deeply held absolute beliefs, like theism or atheism or better both at once...but then that's not what these pages are all about. When threads go out that far its not surprising they get chopped off.

Palmer...from original settler stock? I've family the next town over. I'm a Yukon-Tanana uplander myself.

Religious rants are absolutely, positively out. It's not so much that it's off-topic as that it's tedious.

Though you must admit an engineer's idea of tedious might not quite be mainstream<?- )

Not in this case.

A lot of forums have "no politics, no religion" rules, and for a reason. We can't really ban politics, but we are trying to cut back on the rants. Just no benefit to them. Not to mention, lots of other places to discuss it if you want to.

Generally, the topics we discourage here are topics that have already been beaten to death in the past, not things we dare not discuss.

Well to the ranter there may be benefit in the venting but to as its benefit to these boards...your policy is the right one.

Of course its hard to say how much benefit there is to discussing anything if we are 'merely' part of the holographic world of an 'inside out black hole' but we do it anyway--I do find it amusing that some of us think we have a clue as to what any of this really is.

Compared to us each blind man had a perfect 'view' of the elephant, they all at least were grasping something real--or were they <?- )

Leanan, really appreciate the monitoring.

My grandfather imposed a "no politics, no religion" rule on family gatherings. That was seventy or more years ago. Still holds today.

In many ways it's very helpful. I don't have to talk about work (ordained ministry) to my relatives. Puts me in the same category as my father who was an engineer. He never talked about work at family functions either - for different reasons, of course.

Religion ought to bring out people's better angels. If it doesn't, it's time to move on to a topic that causes fewer divisions.

Good to know we have some Alaskans here. I work in the petroleum industry, and don't know much about nuclear. I am, however, VERY thankful that we are on hydro power here.

Our hearts here in Southeast (Haines) go out to all of the people of Japan.

Different scale of quake size.
PNW is subduction, down as far as the north quarter of California, meaninging deep and large quakes.
The rest of California has transform faults, which don't have the same kind of energy buildup - not that it's safe, but 8.9 isn't possible, according to the experts.
Build plants in most of California for 8.6 earthquakes and they should hold up fine. (Although I'd make sure that backup generators weren't where they'd be washed out or covered by a landslide.)

I wouldn't build a nuclear reactor near the San Andreas but....,

It is not in the same class as a megatrhust....


So it was just a great idea to build all these toxic time bombs in one of the most tectonically active parts of the globe so that we could pat ourselves on the back when, after the completely predictable huge earthquake event happened, they didn't all go to sh!t emediately!!

Great thinking, Sherlock.

I don't live in Chile, Alaska or Japan....

Officials said even before the explosion that they had detected cesium, an indication that some of the nuclear fuel was already damaged.

In the form found in reactors, radioactive cesium is a fragment of a uranium atom that has been split. In normal operations, some radioactivity in the cooling water is inevitable, because neutrons, the sub-atomic particles that carry on the chain reaction, hit hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the water and make those radioactive. But cesium, which persists far longer in the environment, comes from the fuel itself.


When the Chevy volt was announced, posters here on TOD felt the concern over millions of lines of software was 'overstated'.


But their most interesting attack focused on the car stereo. By adding extra code to a digital music file, they were able to turn a song burned to CD into a Trojan horse. When played on the car's stereo, this song could alter the firmware of the car's stereo system, giving attackers an entry point to change other components on the car. This type of attack could be spread on file-sharing networks without arousing suspicion, they believe. "It's hard to think of something more innocuous than a song," said Stefan Savage, a professor at the University of California.

Insert observations about complex systems and effects below. *wry smile*

Sometimes I wish I had one of those old Toyota land cruisers. You could take it apart with a screw driver. No CPU control systems/IC chips or sensors involved with the operation of the vehicle (as far as I know). Very simple, rugged, and durable.


Yeah, Windy. Great vehicle, terrible fuel mileage. Been there ...

86 Toyota PU with 4 cyl r 22 is the best option out there. Kids in the know pick them up as fast as they see them. Mine is pretty much trouble free, goes anywhere and is beyond useful

Ghung - me too. The two happiest days: when I bought it and when I sold it. Really great when I had country property. Told folks it really wasn't an SUV...really a tractor disguised as one. LOL

I'd had an 84. I agree in some ways it was pretty primitive. I remember being alarmed when I could change a headlight, the screw was placed in sheet metal in such a way that after one turn of the screw it snaped back. It was very schitzoid in snow: the best vehicle for moving through the stuff, but its brakes were notorious for locking up. Compared to my older Suburu which had great user feedback (somehow my brakefoot always knew what the wheels were doing) I could never skid the Suburu because of that. But the Landcruiser, you didn't know the brakes had locked until you saw the vehicle skidding out of control.

get a toyota hilux or heliux or how ever it's spelled. the people at top gear threw everything they could at it and it would still run! yes even putting it on top of a building and then imploding the building.

Re. Japanese reactor debacle:

A few thoughts on how this situation came about; my hypothetical timeline gleaned from many reports:

1. Earthquake occurs.

2. Reactor senses earthquake; goes into automatic shutdown.

3. Loss of gridpower results in diesel backup generators starting to supply power to cooling system, control systems, etc.

4. Tsunami comes in.

5. Tsunami swamps diesel generators causing loss of emergency power.

6. Battery backup comes online, restoring control systems and limited pumping for emergency cooling.

7. Debris filled water fouls the pump intakes, valves, etc., reducing flow of cooling water.

8. Water (core coolant) temperature is rising, beginning to boil. Plant personnel are trying to restore/increase coolant flow.

9. As the core coolant begins to boil, pressure in the containment vessel increases (think pressure cooker).

10. Plant personnel attempt to vent pressure. Venting is inadequate or fails due to lack of power/damage. Note: venting is a touchy operation: Too slow, pressure exceeds containment design capacity; containment vessel fails. Vent too fast, superheated coolant flashes to steam, exposing the core.

11. Makeup coolant is inadequate/unavailable. Top of core exposed.

12. Overheated/melted? core and control rod materials begin to react, producing hydrogen.

13. Fuel rods begin to melt/burn, increasing pressure and hydrogen production.

14. Explosion (hydrogen and/or steam) of containment vessel occurs.

15. Remaining superheated coolant flashes to steam.

16. Plant personnel desperately/heroically begin to pump raw seawater onto the reactor core, attempting to cool it.

This seems to be where the situation is now. I pray I'm wrong because if the core is baddly damaged, meltdown is virtually unavoidable, IMO.

The reactor core and most of the rest is trashed if they are pumping in seawater. Hot seawater does not agree well with austenitic stainless steels, (like 304) which is what they usually use for systems in contact with the reactor coolant.

Sometimes they use stainless steel tubes to hold the fuel pellets, sometimes they are zirconium. The zirconium does better in seawater exposure, but if it gets hot enough it reacts to make hydrogen. I'm not sure which they have in that plant.

So even if they successfully cool the core, the reactor plant is scrap metal.

That is a given---

Read somewhere boric acid was being added. Not sure how that helps.

Boron has a high neutron absorption cross-section.

Boric acid is a neutron poison. Injecting it into a reactor core kills the nuclear fission process. It is generally used only if the control rods fail.

Sounds like a Hail Mary.

It is engineering (application of science knowledge) in action, not chicken bones and incense.

The reference is to football, not religion.

Jumpin Jehosephat, Leanan, I know what a Hail Mary pass is!

Applying a neutron poison to slow or stop a nuclear reaction is applied engineering, not gunning your arm and firing a football in a hope that it might get caught!

And the football pass's name is derived from Catholicism...praying for divine intervention to get something good to happen...

Okay, it wasn't clear from your response.

The name may be derived from Catholicism, but the meaning really doesn't have anything to do with religion. It means doing something as a last resort - because you have nothing to left to lose. That can in fact be a very rational and scientific thing to do.

I would just add that football is a religion to a great many people. Appeasement for the masses and all that jazz.

But, H, wait a second. One does not need to use Boric acid if the normal controls to sink the excess neutron are working. Correct?

One does not throw a Hail Mary pass when the game is in the bag.

Hope you see my point. Sorry it was a little remark.

I still think it is like the low probability football pass more than like a controlled ground game.

Talking about misconceptions, when I saw the reference to Boric Acid, my first thought was that they were having ant infestation problems.

Borate is good for flame retardant and for anti-fungal and anti-mammal and anti-insect measures in cellulose-based insulation.

They used to use it to clean clothes. We use it to buffer solutions around pH 9.

On the BBC site just now . . . Reuters: The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the Fukushima No. 3 reactor, an official from Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has told journalists.

But, H, wait a second. One does not need to use Boric acid if the normal controls to sink the excess neutron are working. Correct?

At last, somebody is starting to think instead of pouring on the rhetoric.

The rods are driven in from the bottom, in this reactor design, electric motor stuff. Now what was that about power failures? The big question is not whether this will cause the rise of Godzilla but were the control rods driven into the reactor far enough to shut it down? the amount of overheating suggests that they were not.

The sea water and Boric acid will wreck the reactor core but there are reports that it was due to be shut down in a couple of weeks anyway.


The sea water and Boric acid will wreck the reactor core but there are reports that it was due to be shut down in a couple of weeks anyway.

Yes, the reactor was due to be shut down in the near future anyway.

The sea water and boric acid will wreck the reactor core, but the Japanese said they were "beyond caring" about that. In other words, they intend to scrap the reactor rather than attempt to repair it.

It does bring up the issue of what they intend to do to generate electricity in future, though.


I don't think Japan has much in local oil/NG/coal resources. IIRC that fact may have had something to do with the Japanese aggression/invasive expansion in WWII.

I have heard it is not very sunny there...but neither is it in Germany, and Germany has been charging ahead with PV I guess.

They should have some geothermal resources, FWIW.

I would hope they have at least some offshore wind resources.

Perhaps they will replace their old nuke plants with modern nuke plants which are sited on higher ground?


Looking at the area on Google Earth I found 2 large coal fired plants near by, there may be more. How did these fair? From the look of their layout the tsunami may well have washed away or at least damped the coal stocks. If the wave entered the boilers then they may be out of service for some time. This could hit coal replacement plans.


Japan is thoroughly lacking in energy resources of all types. I don't think the Japanese have any choice but to import energy from other countries. Part of the reason for their entry into WW2 was their attempts to get control over the oil reserves of Indonesia and other countries, and part of the reason for their defeat was that the US was able to cut off all their energy imports.

Yes, building their nuclear plants on higher ground would have been a very good idea. Designing them so they were intrinsically safe and went to a cold shutdown state, without human intervention, in an earthquake would also have been wise.

Well you can call it engineering.. but I'm sure there are more than a few prayers being chanted as they do it, just the same.

My guess is it is just one more potentially lose end to cover. Unless the control rods aren't doing their thing, there should be little fission going one. Its probably just prudent just in case.

But, yes the hail Mary pass, is very similar to throwing a basketball at the opponents net from 3/4rds across the flor just as the game clock runs out, very low chance of success, but nothin left to lose so why not?

If fuel rods are melting they drop the fuel pellets to the bottom of the vessel where there are no control rods. Boron is probably just one step past "standard operating procedure". The would probably inject boron any time there is even a remote potential for control rod malfunction. (Says the 1975 vintage control rod engineer)

As I recall BWR type reactors circulate a small amount of boron in the cooling water routinely.

Boron is also used in the water in spent fuel rod cooling pools to capture neutrons and reduce reaction rates.

Someone else out there feels the same way I do:

"The use of sea water and boron was described as a "Hail Mary pass" by Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies focused on energy policies and a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. secretary of energy."


That is what I was talking about. That kind of usage.

Reactivity adjustment to maintain 100% power as the fuel is burned up in most commercial PWRs is normally achieved by varying the concentration of boric acid dissolved in the primary reactor coolant. Boron readily absorbs neutrons and increasing or decreasing its concentration in the reactor coolant will therefore affect the neutron activity correspondingly.


Once the core assembly is damaged, especially the control rods, the chain reaction will continue for years because the moderating effects of the control rods and coolant are diminished. This is why meltdown occurs; control of the reaction is lost. In essence, it can't be "cooled down". Further, any seawater used for cooling will become highly contaminated. It all depends on the condition of the core.

One TV source indicated that zirconium was used in the reactor constuction. I'll look for confirmation.

The reactor is a very old General Electric Mark I. Zirconium is usually used in the cladding of the fuel rods.

The light water reactors make use of water in two ways:

1. to produce steam for power generation;
2 as a moderator to slow the neutrons released in the fission of U235 to make them more likely to be absorbed by U235 nuclei, thereby resulting in the fission of the resulting unstable nuclei.

If the water that directly cools the fuel rods boils, reducing its density, or is lost, the moderating effect is reduced and the fission activity should decline i.e., these reactors do have some negative feedback mechanisms.

I would expect that the reactor operators would have taken steps to shut down the chain reaction while they still had some control. The previously posted reference to tha addition of boric acid, a neutron "poison" is indicative of a further precaution to make sure that any likelihood of a large scale chain reaction resuming is avoided.

Probably, the main issue is that there is still considerable heat being produced by the fission decay products. Nuclear fission involves the breakup of very heavy nuclei, such as those of certain uranium and plutonium isotopes, into a larger number of nuclei of lighter elements. Some of these nuclei will be of unstable isotopes and these will decay at a rate determined by their concentration and half-life. This results in heat that must be removed if the temperature of the fuel is to be controlled and a meltdown avoided or at least limited. Consequently, there is a time lag in the response of the reactor thermal output power to actiosn that the operators can carry out.

The issue with the backup diesel generators is a good example of Murphy's Law. In carrying out any kind of failure analysis, there is the risk that failure modes are treated as uncorrelated events so that the probability of several types of failures happening at the same time is the product of the individual (and usually very small) probabilities. However, if thre is a single event that can cause several failure modes at the same time, what looked like a vanishingly small risk in the analysis suddenly becomes one that is all too real.

W, is that for Will? It needs to be pointed out that light water is just ordinary water. It is treated to give it a neutral ph to prevent corrosion of the pipes and turbines but otherwise it is just water. This water is recirculated and does not go through cooling towers. Only the outside condenser cooling water is cooled in cooling towers.

The water that goes over the rods in some nuclear power plants goes through a heat exchanger that actually heats the water that turns to steam to power the turbines as shown in this gif:

Pressurized Water Reactor

As you can see there is no cooling tower in this gif. The open lines to the right, circulating water to the condenser goes to the cooling tower.

This gif shows a boiling water reactor and the water that goes over the rods also goes through the turbine. I have always heard that the water that goes over the rods is contaminated but I really would not know. Anyway Merrill points out that Fukushima 1 is a boiling water reactor of US design with a containment vessel. That means the water that goes over the rods also goes through the turbine. That would scare me.

Boiling Water Reactor

Ron P.

In similar reactors used on Navy ships, the primary coolant in the reactor is circulated through a steam generator (heat exchanger), which produces the steam for the turbines. This 'secondary circuit' is then cooled by the condenser. This adds a layer of protection. I believe that the GE reactor was of this design (see your link, "Other versions", lower down).

The GE reactors of that vintage were all boiling water reactors.

The w is for Winston from the name of the principle figure in 1984.

Robert is the actual first name.


re: Murphy's Law
Also known as “common mode errors”. I think it was Merrill that yesterday pointed out that the 5 at-risk reactors are situated in only two local regions.
So the spatial common mode error is that if one goes, another one is more likely to go due to proximity of underlying cause or due to a possible chain-reaction.

Oh... for a moment there I thought you were going to give us a graph showing the statistical occurrence of Murphy's Law.

It's in the book, no doubt. ;<)

I told you I would get the book out by January :)
I try not to let people astray.

I tend to use this place as a sounding board for ideas, but always mindful of not leading people astray.

I'm guessing the diesel gen set wasn't considered critical enough to be protected against a tsunami. The assumption must have been that another form of power -even locally stored generators would be available long before the batteries would run out. Then whamo, all local gensets are swamped, and local roads impassable....

If they are adding sea water then this will contain heavy water that will upset the reactor balance. The Boric acid will also help counteract this. Over the longer term the Boron concentration can be increased and other salts such as Cadmium can be added. My theory is that the rods didn't go in far enough before power was lost.


It was the building containing the core, not the core that blew, they claim the pump? So I think the core is still intact. IMO pumping in seawater is an admission that that reactor is forever ruined, but presumably it will keep the core cool.

No, its not scrap metal. It is high level rad waste. The former has positive value, the later not.

A good sub-bullet might be that the battery backup has only a very limited number of hours before depletion. I read that they were trying to get spare batteries brought in at one point. Don't know if that ever occurred.

"Plant personnel desperately/heroically begin to pump raw seawater onto the reactor core, attempting to cool it."

It begs the question: If there were a near-critical accident at the largest nuclear power plant in the U.S. -- the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located in the middle of the Sonoran desert, 50 miles west of downtown Phoenix, Arizona -- where will the emergency coolant be found?

There is water in the reservoirs above the city, but how long would it take to deliver it in quantity? What quantity of water might be needed?

If power was unavailable for pumps, could the water be delivered?

If it could be delivered and used to cool a core, where would the waste be spilled?

How many cores (of the three) could be cooled?

Let's go see:

The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located in Wintersburg, Arizona,[1] about 45 miles (80 km) west of central Phoenix. It is the largest nuclear generation facility in the United States, averaging over 3.2 gigawatts (GW) of electrical power production in 2003[2] to serve approximately 4 million people......

....Due to its location in the Arizona desert, Palo Verde is the only nuclear generating facility in the world that is not located adjacent to a large body of above-ground water. The facility evaporates water from the treated sewage of several nearby municipalities to meet its cooling needs. 20 billion US gallons (76,000,000 m³) of treated water are evaporated each year.[8][9] This water represents about 25% of the annual overdraft of the Arizona Department of Water Resources Phoenix Active Management Area.[10] At the nuclear plant site, the wastewater is further treated and stored in an 80 acre (324,000 m²) reservoir for use in the plant's cooling towers.

There you have it; they'll dump sewage on it. Everyone must doo their part ;-)

I saw a display in the ABQ science museum once that said ABQ gets ~ 20% of its trons from Palo Verde.

I also note that the U.S., writ large, gets ~ 19% of its trons from nuke plants.

So: ABQ could serve as a test bed to see how to go without nuke plant trons.

With all the wind East of the Sandia/Manzano mountains (Eastern NM, Tx, Kansas, etc) and all the endless sunshine we get, and with some geothermal resources in the State (hot springs in the Gila Wilderness, Truth or Consequnces was originally named Hot Springs for a reason, hot springs in the Jemez mountains NW of ABQ...and with NM havin significant NG reserves and proximity to coal power (Four Corners et al)...if Albuquerque can't replace its ~20% of nuke trons, maybe it can't be done!

Of course, negawatts need to be part of the picture as well. I wonder how many trons ABQ could save if every incandescent bulb were replaced with a CFL or LED, and if all our appliances were replaced with the most energy efficient models (recalling the info about high-efficiency fridges/freezers posted on TOD earlier). Turn off ~ 3/4 of the streetlights at night as well: I could see the stars and we could use the waste load to power EVs.

Maybe Dr. Chu should read this post here on TOD and get his rear in gear.

After all, we have Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs and Air Force Research Labs (previously Phillips Labs), and significant University and Industry (lots of defense contractor) presence. There is a DOE PV research station on Kirtland AFB.

Dr. Chu, are you listening?

White cool roofs and PV on every roof, with 2-way net metering...

I doubt our new Gov Suzanna Martinez would go for it though...her party tends to be hostile to all that 'Alternative Energy Garbage' (quote from Stephen Moore, former Club of Growth director on that wacky Kudlow show on CNBC a few daze ago).

Here's the rub....

It supplies electricity at an operating cost (including fuel and maintenance) of 1.33 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour.[6] This is cheaper than coal (2.26 cents/kW·h) or natural gas (4.54 cents/kW·h) in the region at the same time (2002), but more expensive than hydro (0.63 cents/kW·h). Assuming a 60-year plant life and 5% long-term cost of capital, the depreciation and capital costs not included in the previous marginal cost for Palo Verde are approximately another 1.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.[citation needed] In 2002, the wholesale value of the electricity produced was 2.5 cents/kW·h. By 2007, the wholesale value of electricity at the Palo Verde hub was 6.33 cents/kW·h.[7]

....which is what your Guv will look at, and the reality that Dr. Chu is dealing with.

Dr. Chu is dealing with the "reality" of numbers provided by a dead link from the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry lobbying group?! Oh, sh*t!


Kinda like the soldiers peeing on mortar tubes to cool them in We Were Soldiers!

Scenario sounds about right up to #13. It was reported that the hydrogen explosion was not the containment vessel, but the building housing the cooling system. It actually sounds like they have already had partial meltdown, just like Three Mile Island. So far I guess the seawater cooling is working to keep it from melting even more.

My big question - what are they doing with the seawater after running it through the reactor?? Putting it back in the ocean would not be a good thing.

I expect much of the seawater is boiling off as the reactor cools (if it is in fact cooling) which will increase the concentration of salt and stuff (not good over time). One report said they are still filling the reactor, increasing the water level. There are cooling water canals that, under normal operation, send hot water back to the bay. It would be an environmental issue if they are having to use those......but it has to go somewhere; the atmosphere or the bay. The genie is out of the bottle.

If it's a high-pressure pass through the reactor, probably the radiation level picked up is not that great and they simply discharge it? It's a good question.

Written by drwater:
It was reported that the hydrogen explosion was not the containment vessel, but the building housing the cooling system.

After carefully studying the video of the explosion and before & after photos, it looks like the top of the outer containment structure of the Fukushima 1 reactor exploded. The lower portion of the walls is still intact. The data is consistant with high temperature in the reactor core splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, the hydrogen leaking out of a damaged reactor core, hydrogen accumulating in the upper area of the outer containment building and then exploding.

Ghung's #14 is probably wrong about the reactor vessel exploding. If it had exploded, I do not think they could pump water into it. It would be more like spraying a fire hose on it while the firemen are killed from a lethal dose of radiation. The Japanese media is saying the reactor vessel is still intact, although, I think, likely damaged by the explosion.

Yeah, it didn't occur to me that they would allow hydrogen to accumulate for long in the secondary containment building, eventually blowing the lid off. Silly me them.

NHK reports that tests at hospital near to reactor indicate radioactive contamination present but not said to be at danger level However they then added that at least three people being treated for exposure to radioactive material at hospital.

Edit: They just added that there is "no clear evidence" that the source of the radiation exposure the hospital is treating patients for was the nuclear reactor. Guess they were told to say that. Nothing to see here.

Japanese earthquake deals serious blow to globalization as auto plants and suppliers next to them operating using the just in time principle shut down due to lack of power from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

This is likely to disrupt the auto industry around the world:


Meanwhile the head of China's state owned parts supplier expects Chinese car sales to rise 32 percent in 2011:


Along the lines of more disruptions to JIT deliveries...parts for computers, cars, planes, etc.

Quake Disrupts Key Supply Chains


Plants don't appear to have suffered widespread, catastrophic damage, but production delays could be enough to affect some tightly calibrated industries.

The earthquake affected operations at dozens of semiconductor factories, raising fears of shortages or price increases for a number of widely used components—particularly the chips known as flash memory that store data in hit products like smartphones and tablet PCs.


"This could have a pretty substantial impact for the next quarter on the whole supply chain," said Len Jelinek, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, a market-research firm that focuses on the electronics industry.


"They will have enough components for a day or so, but the big question is how badly the supply chain has been affected,"

Update: Japan quake could hit semiconductor production, prices
The article has a map of semiconductor manufacturing locations in Japan. Mostly they are in the Tokyo vicinity and south.

Semiconductor manufacturing itself may not be too badly affected because there is a lot of production capacity in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China and elsewhere. However, the manufacturing of specific materials, chemicals, and supplies may be more serious.

Some years back there was a disaster in Japan that shut down a plant making fine ceramics for IC packaging that caused a shortage in ICs using ceramic packages. Such are used, for example, in military electronics that need wide environmental tolerances.

Oh my god - so you mean we might have to wait a couple extra months for the 300th upgrade to an iPhone...?

I'd rather be swept away in a tsunami than not be able to wait in line for the next iPad.

Quite frankly that whole industry pretty much exists due to artificially created "need" for these products.

The only entity this impact to the "whole supply chain" really hurts are those who manufacture this "need" and now might stand to lose gobs of money over a few months - out of the mega-gobs they're used to making of course (and will continue to make once back on their feet).

Anger not directed at you Dragonfly - I can just imagine the clowns on CNBC... "the real tragedy in this is the damage to our precious supply chain for electronic trinkets... nevermind the millions of people's lives destroyed... this might delay the release of Apple's new iPad."

Seriously, do we need more electric sh-t that is worthless in another years time?
People died here and the media cares about transistors.
Typical. Exactly how a billionaire thinks -- they worry about their money and not about the humanity they exploit on a daily basis.

I think it is time to walk away from this thing. Clearly the reporting is terrible.
I'd rather work in my garden.

Oct Out. LOL.

Oh, I agree totally. We do not need more gadgets. What the article shows is how building our system for JIT delivery is precarious when important parts of the supply chain are interrupted. I have a feeling we will have many more supply chain interruptions in the near future for more important products we take for granted on a daily basis. When this happens, companies may start looking for more local sources to their supplies. Reverse globalization in action.

Also, I don't think it is only luxury gadgets that will be impacted by the situation in Japan..think battery production, airplane parts, solar panel production, complex military circuitry, etc.

"Also, I don't think it is only luxury gadgets that will be impacted by the situation in Japan..think battery production, airplane parts, solar panel production, complex military circuitry, etc."

Nothing critical there either. Probably more important to the Japanese will be the loss of food production. Apart from the damage to farms, much of the topsoil will have been washed out to sea and what's left saturated with salt in the affected areas.

The BOJ is planning on flooding (no pun intended) the markets with trillions of yen on Monday. No doubt the Fed will do likewise (any excuse will do) to keep global finance happy, so the production of trivia for consumers can continue. Every disaster has now become a "god send" for the financial oligarchs as their coffers are again filled to overflowing as the victims loss becomes their gain. Billions are lost in real wealth in the disaster which is then printed up as liquidity by the Central Banks and fed into the financial system.

No doubt at some point the reduction in real wealth (productive assets) and its replacement with faux wealth (fiat money) will lead to hyper-inflation. The attempt by the elite to convert their accumulated faux wealth into real wealth will lead to too much fiat money chasing too little essential products and assets leading to massive price inflation.

ZH has video of the explosion ...


There is a clear, focused shockwave coming straight out of the top of the building if you watch closely. That doesn't fit so well with the "gas build up" being proffered as fact as a gas explosion should expand in all directions roughly equally.

Any nukes on here that can comment?


Zero Hedge is reporting a core meltdown. Viewing your link, especially the before and after photos of the reactor building, it is clear that this reactor is toast. To say that officials are minimizing the situation is an understatement at least, perhaps criminal at this point. Three Mile Island was a cakewalk in comparison, IMO.

The core at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant's No. 1 reactor may be partially melting, the nuclear safety agency said Saturday.

Radioactive substance cesium was detected around the reactor, it said.

Wikipedia is receiving regular updates on the reactor.

Unit 1 was damaged during the 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami. It was a 439 MW boiling water reactor (BWR3). Construction of unit 1 commenced in July 1967, commercial electrical production began March 26, 1971, and it was scheduled for shutdown on March 26, 2011.....

...To reduce mounting pressure potentially radioactive steam has been released from the primary circuit, into the secondary containment.[24] On March 12, 2011 at 6:40 JST, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stated that the amount of potential radiation would be small and that the prevailing winds are blowing out to sea.[25] Radiation levels recorded by the plant control room were reported to be approximately 70 microsieverts (i.e., 7 millirem) per hour.[26] Radiation levels measured at a monitoring post near the plant's main gate were reported to be more than eight times above normal.[27][28] In a press release at 7 am (local) March 12, TEPCO stated "Measurement of radioactive material (Iodine, etc.) by monitoring car indicates increasing value compared to normal level. One of the monitoring posts is also indicating higher than normal level."[18] At 13:30 local time, radioactive caesium was detected near reactor 1.[29][30] TEPCO reported that at 15:29 JST (06:43 GMT) radiation levels at the site boundary exceeded the regulatory limits.[31] Fuel rods may have been exposed to the air.

Fate has not been kind. If the earthquake had happened a few weeks later, the situation would have been much more manageable as the reactor would have already been shut down as planned and, the problems of cooling the fuel rods would have been much easier, particularly if more than a few days had elapsed after the shutdown.

Yeah, w, it occured to me upon reading the article how surreal the situation is. The Gods must be angry.

Two things that concern me the most: The reactor is now an open system and they are using seawater to cool it. Also, the winds are forecast to turn onshore late Monday into Tuesday. Alot depends on how damaged the core assembly is.

My guess is that the evacuation patterns will reveal much. With transportation infrastrucure so baddly damaged, getting folks out of there will be difficult.

Journalists are reporting that road blocks have been set up 60km from plant, preventing them from getting nearer, even though official evacuation radius is 20km.

Yeah I just asked the question whether or some trustworthy independent scientific agency will determine the actual level of radioactivity coming from the site.

Atmospheric chemists should be able to see if atmospheric radiation levels creep above background.

You had multiple fall-backs:
1) Normal operations
2) Auto-shutdown
3) Backup gens
4) Backup batteries
5) Controlled venting
6) Uncontrolled venting
7) Sea water flush
8) Overheating of rods
9) Meltdown

1 - went away with earthquake
2 - apparently worked as designed
3 - apparently went away with tsunami
4 - worked as designed -- only no other power was restored in time
5 - apparently did not work, perhaps due to lack of control power
6 - appeared to work spectacularly
7 - probably working as designed
8 - probably happened?
9 - too soon to tell -- hopefully not even close

Of all the mechanisms, it seems to me that most worked just fine. Insufficient power for the coolant pump and the controls may have been the critical fault, but from I can see there was never danger of a reactive meltdown -- just a residual heat partial melt. Not good, but not a Chernobyl.

As with the oil spill, though, it'll be months before the full story is out.

Fuel rods *** starting to melt ***
It appears it is NOT yet to meltdown through the reactor container

See: Japan Reactor Fuel Rods May Have Begun to Melt, Atomic Safety Agency Says
“If the fuel rods are melting and this continues, a reactor meltdown is possible,” Kakizaki said. A meltdown refers to a heat buildup in the core of such an intensity it melts the floor of the reactor containment housing. "

I’m not at all versed on the operation of nuclear power plants, so apologies in advance if my ignorance of the topic has caused me to overlook something obvious. But if the immediate problem causing a potential meltdown is the lack of power for pumps and control systems, might it not have been better to turn the reactor back on, so its own output power could drive the needed cooling systems?

I wondered if maybe the automatic shutdown wasn't a good idea.

But apparently, part of the problem was the tsunami, which flooded the plant and clogged the pipes. That would have been a problem even if they had electricity.

Well maybe you’d want to keep the automatic shutdown, but retain the option to reactivate the reactor if/when the backup systems fail. But I can see how clogged plumbing would be a huge problem. It seems ironic that a tsunami would result in a lack of water!

Water, Water Everywhere... and not a drop to drink!

The reactors are shut down automatically by seismic sensors. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scram for emergency shutdown.

Since these reactors are close to the earthquake, it is not clear whether the control rods were fully inserted prior to the start of shaking.

Some reactors circulate the cooling water using pumps driven by steam from the reactor. In these designs, the heat from the cooling reactor would provide the power for the pumps. Electrical power would still be need for the control systems and the motor drives that operate valves. However, electrical power would not be used for the main coolant pumps. I haven't been able to confirm whether this reactor uses steam powered pumps, although it was stated in a NY Times article yesterday.

Since these reactors are close to the earthquake, it is not clear whether the control rods were fully inserted prior to the start of shaking.

Control rods confirmed locked in place at all reactors by TEPCO. There was an alarm at one reactor showing rods not fully inserted but this said to be a false alarm.

So could something like this happen to a newer reactor?

It sounds like everything that could go wrong, went wrong in this case.

At 21:00 JST (12:00 GMT) TEPCO announced that they planned to cool the leaking reactor with sea water (started at 8:30pm local time), then using boric acid to act as a neutron poison to prevent a criticality accident.[46] The sea water would take five to ten hours to fill the reactor core, after which it would require seawater cooling for around ten days.[40] At 23:00 JST (14:00 GMT) TEPCO announced that due to the quake at 22:15 the filling of the reactor with sea water and boric acid had been stopped.[47]

Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant

That quake at 22:15 local was a 6.4 centred just 12 miles from the reactor (and only 8 miles from plant 2) according to the USGS. Ouch.

There was also a 5.1 recorded 3 miles from the reactor earlier.

That was a huge explsion. I watched enough Mythbusters to believe the shattered core of that reactor now sits amoung the mangled equipment and pipes that used to keep it cool

You vastly underestimate the mass of that reactor vessel. Even with an explosion like that the vessel integrity is probably just fine. The real problem is removing the residual heat that's being generated inside the vessel.

I do not know if they have one installed, but it sort of looks like what I'd expect to see if they had an emergency relief valve installed http://www.grothcorp.com/components/products?task=view&id=27 - If they did have one, right in the middle of the roof is the most likely location for it.

I did see an emergency relief valve open at the oil refinery in Tokyo on video on a Fox News live steaming video yesterday at about 9 AM CST. Initially the fire was next to the pressure vessels and about their height. Once the relief valves opened the vapors caught fire and the plume towered many, many times higher than the vessels. It's either let the vapors spew out and flame vertically, or turn the vessels into bombs that explode, hurling metal shrapnel horizontally. Relieving the pressure is the lesser of two evils.

Would the valve venting blow the building apart? I mean, that thing just ... exploded ... and there weren't any flames that I saw. Did see some comments that hydrogen burning wouldn't give off much/any light, so that might be part of it.

I have no idea, just reading as much as I can like everyone else.


The secondary containment building blew up; it's totally gone (along with any relief valves that may have been installed).

Before and after photos here.

Theoretically, given that it is called a "containment building", then it must have been a very stout building. To be completely destroyed like that I can't see how anyone could possibly argue that they have any kind of control over (or even ability to monitor) what is going on there now...

A building like that has to be subjected to something totally catastrophic to be completely wiped out like that since essentially its whole purpose in life is to NOT allow what just happened to it...

What appears to have blown off is the weather cover over the fueling deck.

If you check the before/after pictures at the link above you'll see that the whole building is gone. Poof! Perhaps blowing the roof off collapsed the walls.


(edit)Here's the image: http://www.youtube.com/tbsnewsi#main-channel-content

I've been following coverage directly from Japan.
During a press conference, still images were shown where the bottom 2/3 of the building appears intact, with the upper part an open frame.
I've seen he same on videos.

Here's a great list of world news streaming sites:


If you're into twitter, search for the #nuclear hashtag.

No, the whole building is not gone. The frame is intact as far as can be seen from the images and video. What blew off was the panelling. If the containment structure went I would not expect the frame to be there. Watch the video then scour YouTube for some FAE blasts. A FAE with Hydrogen in the building seems a reasonable explanation.


I noticed that too. A shock wave went nearly vertical from the building, but not along the ground. If the explosion was a point source, it would have been emitted in a continuous dome. My guess is that the blast originated above the building, and a reflection off the ground caused interference waves that nulled out in the horizontal direction and enhanced in the vertical direction. That would be consistent with an explosion happening above the building.

Then again, if it was a hydrogen explosion, there must have been a lot of air mixing prior to ignition. Usually hydrogen clouds would burn like the Hindenburg, as its progress would be limited by the amount of oxygen.

probably not a true blast wave. If the roof was missing -and the walls lasted a second longer, the only place for the blast energy to go is up. More likely it was some sort of combustable gas -probably hydrogen.

As a chemist, it looks like Hydrogen. It burns with an invisible flame (like in the video). There would be no visible orange flame front.

My vague memories from my college ROTC course on nuclear blasts is this: The shock wave is actually made up of two components, the first is the supersonic wave from the expanding blast sphere and the second is the reflection of the first from the ground. As the first wave passes a point, the air is heated and as the second wave moves thru the resulting warmed air, it travels faster and catches the first. The result from an airburst has the effect of a vertical "wall" moving away at ground level. In this instance, the relatively flat top of the containment structure, which is the floor of the structure above, would produce a reflection of the first blast wave, which could have resulted in that nearly horizontal shock wave seen in the videos. Just a WAG...

E. Swanson

Just read that Japan asked Russia to provide additional coal and condensed natural gas supplies.

Russia to boost liquefied gas supplies to Japan if asked

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Saturday liquefied natural gas supplies to earthquake-stricken Japan should be stepped up if requested.

Even in the best case scenario, these nuclear plants are going to be down for years. It took over three years to get Kashiwazaki-Kariwa back online, and that was with a much smaller quake and much less damage.

Last I heard, 17% of nuclear energy had been shut down; nuclear is 30% of electricity generation in Japan. So it's a significant chunk that will have to be replaced with coal, gas, or oil.

E.U. running out of road on Libya

There is an old joke told by an American comedian poking fun at British police because they don’t carry guns. ‘So he’s chasing the suspect and he shouts ‘Stop……or I’ll shout stop again’.

It brings a smile – but it also sums up the European Union’s position to Libya at the moment, which is no laughing matter...


...While David Cameron and others believe the international community has acted promptly to deal with the crisis in Libya, critics simply see talks and more talks while the fighting goes on and people are dying.

The European Union is running out of road. There is little more it can do diplomatically to bring about the change so clearly articulated in the Gaddafi must go statement. It cannot shout ‘stop’ and then ‘stop’ again. There is clearly a concern about taking military action – but if the leaders are serious when they talk about changing the government in Tripoli, they may come to realise that it is fast becoming the only option left.

Have heard rumours that the Arab League are backing a NFZ, though can't find a confirming source yet.

Ras Lanuf has fallen to Gadaffi. Misurata is under attack. Gadaffi is hoping to advance on Benghazi.

I really hope the rebels hold on.

Latest from AJE:

The Arab League has called on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone on Libya, Egyptian state television reported, a decision that would give a regional seal of approval that NATO has said is needed for any military action.

The state television also said the Arab League had decided to open channels of communication with a Libyan rebel council
based in Benghazi. The League said the council represented the Libyan people, the channel reported.

League officials say the body has already been in touch with the rebels about the situation on the ground in Libya.


Al Jazeera is hearing reports that despite earlier rumours the Arab League will not call for a no-fly zone but instead will ask the UN Security Council to discuss the issue.

According to reports, the League could not get a unanimous vote which is required under article six of the Arab League constitution which states that when a member country is threatened by an Arab League proposal - the vote must be unanimous.

I think I saw that at least Yemen had voted against the NFZ.

Well, all about-face again:

"The Arab League has officially requested the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone against any military action against the Libyan people," Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, said after a meeting of the group.


Although there's now further discussion since the Arab League also "rejects any "foreign military" intervention against the Libyan people." and hence how exactly will it be possible to implement said NFZ..

As far as the Arab League is concerned, this is not a contradiction or a problem. They passed the whole shebang to the U.N. Security Council so that Russia or China can veto.

They talk tough and hamstring action. Typical.

The Westphalian system of international relations and the need for consensus is worse than useless... it grants immunity to war criminals. The people of Rwanda found that one out. The U.N. is getting pretty good at monitoring butchery.

Nor is the Arab League the only fools in this game. Internationalists and governments known for their multilateral cooperation are implicated as well.

Libya and the Impotent Internationalists

As the commentary suggests, the "responsibility to protect is little more than a perfumed phrase."

I really hope Britain and France have the gonads to force the issue.

Me too. I have to say this is one of the very, very rare moments that I've felt the slightest twinge of patriotism. Fair play to Sarkozy and Cameron, at least it's a step in the right direction. Like you say, I hope they follow it up..

Al Jazeera cameraman shot dead in Libya:

Al Jazeera cameraman Ali Hassan Al-Jaber has been killed in an ambush near Benghazi reportedly by Gaddafi forces...Ali Hassan Al Jaber was hit by three shots, and was wounded through the heart. Ali then died in hospital.

The rebels have retaken Brega according to AJE:

Pro-Gaddafi forces are besieging the western Libyan towns of Misurata and Az-Zawiyah and heavily bombarding the eastern city of Brega after rebels entered it.

Sources tell Al Jazeera that rebels have taken over Brega and arrested tens of pro-Gaddafi forces in a trap set by them.

Yesterday the Arab League was a claque of valetudinarian ruthless despots.
Today they are all for helping the freedom fighters of Lybia?

I rather like the idea put forward by George Galloway of an International Brigade to help the freedom fighters of Lybia overthrow Gaddafi.
It will be made up Islamists sure, but then you can't have it all.
Should we intervene in Libya?

The conversation: With talk of intervention in Libya growing, George Galloway argues against British involvement, while Conservative MP Mark Pritchard says inaction is not an option. Susanna Rustin adjudicates

What's with these Brits? Still haven't gotten over the Empire?

When will they learn that the people of the world don't want them meddling in their affairs? The same could be said about Americans, of course.

I like the Brits, as long as they stay on their little island, where they are mostly harmless.

BTW I'm not making an argument in favor of or against the rebels. It just tickles my fancy that the Brits still think they have control over these things.

No you have got it wrong there, the normal Brit has got it, its our politician who haven't but then disillusion of grandeur are quiet common on both sides of the pond.

as long as they stay on their little island, where they are mostly harmless.

Nice summary of isolationism... a good old fashioned (read pre-WW2) American approach to world problems.

The Westphalian international system is one of anarchy among nation states. Such fracturing & carving of the world into self-contained sovereign units does not always run as smoothly as the theory suggests. Sometimes the big boys on the block have to pounce on the smaller boys to keep them from bullying others. School yard justice writ large.

Wimpish behaviour in the global jungle tends to come back to bite you in the rear. If the eagle is too busy or too high to keep the other animals in check, let's have the old lion roar again.

Tinpot dictators are a dime a dozen. Leopoldo Galtieri was brought down to size. Gaddafi is worth at least firing a missile or two.

Man, you just never miss and opportunity to beat that war drum, do you? There is nothing we can do with guns or bombs or missiles that is going to make things better for the people of Libya, and if we do use those tools then it will not be for their benefit anyway. It never is.

There is nothing we can do with guns or bombs or missiles that is going to make things better for the people of Libya, and if we do use those tools then it will not be for their benefit anyway. It never is.

I'm not so sure that there is nothing that can be done to make things better - taking out Gadhaffi's air power would be a good start. Since all the action is along the coast, landing a a bunch of troops at benghazi wouldn't hurt either - they should fly them in while the government they have just recognised, still controls the airport.

What really grates me here, is that most countries are trying to have it both ways -saying things like "thew world is watching and if there is genocide than those who do it will be held accountable" , yet, if , as looks likely, Ghaddafi prevails, just how will they hold him accountable, and what use is that to all those that died?

They should make a decision - either say they will intervene, or that they won;t - don;t hold out a carrot that they might. All that is doing is encouraging Ghaddafi to get the job done as fast as possible, before the "international community" gets their act together. By the time a no fly zone is in place, it won;t matter, as Ghaddafi will have re-taken the whole country, and can park his planes while the thugs on the ground do the mopping up.

He has played the game for 41 years, and is still playing it - he will try to avoid doing anything too brutal that would trigger intervention.

If countries like Britain and France can't take on a third rate tinpot dictator like Ghaddafi, they might as well get rid of their whole military.

I don't have to beat the war drum. There is already a war going on.

It's a question of who we want to see win and how best to achieve it.

As Churchill said, "if you going through hell, keep going." I would like the ones on the ground to have the support they need to keep going.

I hope the rebels hang on, too. In fact, I want to see every US/Western backed Authoritarian dictatorship come to an end in North Africa and the Middle East, Saudi Arabia included.

I feel the same way. Sometimes my rational side gets the better of me and asks the old 'But what if it made things worse / what if it set an unwanted precedent..' etc. etc. Especially regarding things such as why the UN hasn't yet stepped in (after all, if it can't step in in a situation like this then when can it??), why the other countries aren't listening to the peoples' pleads.

And then I listen to my heart and the picture seems so much clearer.

A more rational hope would be for a smooth peaceful transition. Libya is an example of how it can go badly wrong. Hopefully the example will concentrate minds, inducing leaders to create a credible path towards more open government.

Of course, that's always the ultimate hope. But when you hear Saif Al-Islam Gadaffi saying to those in Benghazi: "Listen to me, and I want those armed groups to listen to me real well, and I want our people in the east to hear this as well: We're coming." then the possibility of them staying in power really makes your heart sink.

Gaddafi was hardly what you would call American backed--Reagan bombed Tripoli. Bush II restarted diplomatic relations with Libya--we don't cut diplomatic relations with dictators we back by the way--after that sly fox used perfect timing to give up a nuclear weapons program that was mostly just a bargaining chip in the first place. He got out of the dog house, but I'd hardly say the US backed him.

What kind of a country is Libya going to be if Qaddaffi remains in power? The people (he's not paying to fight his war) hate him, but he's staying anyway? Qaddaffi will just end up a paranoid dictator having people killed and tortured. That's going to be a sad commentary on the world's complacency regarding this situation.

Yeah and I bet all the oil worker staff from foreign countries will want to move back and resume their jobs in that happy place. Libya is now off line/sub-optimal for many years.

OPEC raises oil output

Saudi Arabia had already increased its output by 700,000 barrels per day, and now the other countries will increase theirs by as much as 300,000 b/d. The production increase is expected to almost replace Libyan supplies. The International Energy Agency, oil watchdog to Western countries, estimated that Libyan oil production has fallen by around 1 million b/d to a third of its level before the present conflict.

Well no, that comes to about 1 million bp/d and that won't quite do it.

Libya's oil output cut by 1.4 million b/d; loyalists press eastward

“Oil production in Libya must have fallen to between 200,000-300,000 b/d maximum,” said Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie, adding that there are “about 1.4 million b/d less" than normal.

And much of that increase was on line well before the Libyan conflict. Now it's just a waiting game to see how much extra OPEC oil will come on after the conflict started. I am betting it will not be anywhere near 1.4 mb/d.

Ron P.

The media is doing their best to confuse the issues of output and exports. There is strong evidence that KSA increased output before Libya, but did not increase exports. In fact, they decreased exports in the same period. Even I am a bit uncertain as to why that happened.

However it does now appear that KSA will increase exports about 300,000 bpd starting about March 15, and other Persian Gulf OPEC members and West Africa (Nigeria + Angola) will increase exports about 300,000 bpd or so on April 1. This is part of a new country to country agreement (see my post: The New Line of Demarcation: East & West split OPEC oil supplies: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7634/774927 ).

That's a total of 600,000 bpd or so vs. a loss of at least 1.4 mbpd from Libya. In the short term, Japan probably will even turn back some oil imports, so for a few months, these present shipping & export arrangements may just barely get everyone enough oil.

Is 1.4 mbpd Libya's production or Libya's exports?

That was the drop in production. According to the EIA Libya's crude oil exports and production were, in thousands of barrels per day crude + condensate:

            2005    2006    2007    2008    2009
Exports	   1,351   1,451   1,396   1,420   1,220
Production 1,633   1,681   1,702   1,736   1,650

And the monthly data shows Libya's production was 1,650 kb/d in November of 2010. It had held steady at that point all year. So if Libya is consuming anywhere near where they were then their exports are almost nil.

Ron P.

Here's what BP shows for recent net oil exports (total petroleum liquids) from Libya:

2005: 1.48 mbpd
2006: 1.55
2007: 1.55
2008: 1.54
2009: 1.37

Maybe the Saudis are building inventories so that they can do a 30 day to 60 day surge in exports.

That seems like the most rational explanation. If so, then they really have almost no practical spare capacity - except for the types of oil generally unwanted due to refining limitations.

Japanese disaster makes PO more sever. My analysis. Not really but just listened to an analysis that made good sense. In the short term prices will be driven whatever way they go. But long term the conclusion was that the apparent worsening nuclear pollution threat in Japan will greatly depress nuclear power expansion around the world. Thus whatever future demand for FF might be it will be even greater now.

And investors are already voting with their capital. The Saudi stock market was the only one open and it boomed. Up 3% at last count. An early report that a lot of capital is drifting to coal stocks options in closed markets. Also some speculation that China will push to take over markets (computer chips, autos, etc) that Japan won’t be able to maintain. And this will allow China to justify bidding up oil prices to guarantee energy supplies.

I thought the Chinese announced they would still go ahead with their nuclear program?

China today said it was keeping a close watch on radiation leaks from a nuclear power plant in northern Japan, but it ruled out changes to its plans for massive expansion of atomic power projects, claiming its advanced reactors have built in features to avert such problems.


Also I can't see them stopping looking into the thorium reactors, seeing as they lack a lot of the safety concerns of the uranium ones:


Rock, I figured that Rockman Inc and China would both be beneficiaries of the situation. Hopefully the industrial parts of Japan fared better than the farming and coastal areas on the videos.

I figure the JIT school of mgmt just got knocked down another rung.

Paleo - Yep...just about anything bad that happens (except a recession) generally benefits Rockman Inc. Easy to enjoy as long as I keep the blinders on. Somedays easier than others. Visions of children in a war zone and shiny metal boxes arriving in Dover always a stunbling block.

Aside from being a PR nightmare for the nuclear industry, there is the further implication that it will impact the economics of new reactor construction by leading to more stringent construction and safety standards.

Well, you certainly want to build new reactors using a better design than a General Electric Mark I from the late 1960's.



However, as early as 1972, Dr. Stephen Hanuaer, an Atomic Energy Commission safety official, recommended that the pressure suppression system be discontinued and any further designs not be accepted for construction permits. Shortly thereafter, three General Electric nuclear engineers publicly resigned their prestigious positions citing dangerous shortcomings in the GE design.

An NRC analysis of the potential failure of the Mark I under accident conditions concluded in a 1985 report that Mark I failure within the first few hours following core melt would appear rather likely."

In 1986, Harold Denton, then the NRC's top safety official, told an industry trade group that the "Mark I containment, especially being smaller with lower design pressure, in spite of the suppression pool, if you look at the WASH 1400 safety study, you'll find something like a 90% probability of that containment failing." In order to protect the Mark I containment from a total rupture it was determined necessary to vent any high pressure buildup. As a result, an industry workgroup designed and installed the "direct torus vent system" at all Mark I reactors. Operated from the control room, the vent is a reinforced pipe installed in the torus and designed to release radioactive high pressure steam generated in a severe accident by allowing the unfiltered release directly to the atmosphere through the 300 foot vent stack. Reactor operators now have the option by direct action to expose the public and the environment to unknown amounts of harmful radiation in order to "save containment." As a result of GE's design deficiency, the original idea for a passive containment system has been dangerously compromised and given over to human control with all its associated risks of error and technical failure.

Possibly the Japanese have improved the plant during the last 4 decades, but designed-in flaws are hard to fix.

Three Mile Island was a PWR.
While it's true that Chernobyl was a BWR, there are a lot of operating BWRs around the world and it took the strongest earthquake in 150 years to wreck the small 460 MW Fukushima II reactor, the other 5 BWR are still considered operational.

There have been emergencies declared for other reactors and there's a 10km evacuation zone around Fukushima 2 as well as the 20km evacuation around Fukushima 1. There is no way the other reactors are considered operational and they are all offline. Fortunately they haven't blown up (yet).

In other words, there is nothing known as of now to suggest that the other 5 reactors are seriously damaged and cannot be brought back online (two were down for maintenance).
Perhaps you think that whenever an earthquake occurs a reactor should be considered non-operation but in Japan small earthquakes happen all the time.

I am probably the biggest skeptic of nukes at TOD but even I don't think that conventional light water nukes are inherently dangerous.
Other reactor types like breeder reactors are inherently dangerous.
I don't support and expansion of conventional nuclear power because I believe uranium will only last 75 years at current consumption rates but we cannot afford to abandon current reactors for the 20% of electricity baseload they supply.

BTW, the first major nuclear reactor failure was the Chalk River heavy water reactor(CANDU type) in 1952.

Cooling failed for reactors 2 and 3 at Fukushima 1 as well as unit 1 which had the explosion. A nuclear emergency has been declared and is still in effect for units 2 and 3. There is therefore every reason to consider they are damaged. It will probably be years if ever before they are back online.

Meanwhile at Fukushima 2 a few miles down the road


Tokyo Electric on March 12 reported that the cooling system for three reactors (nrs 1, 2 and 4) at the plant had topped 100 °C between 5:30 and 6:10 JST, less than one hour after the start of additional cooling with condensate water,[4][5][6] and that the "pressure suppression function was lost".[5] According to a Reuters report, officials are "prepar[ing] for release of pressure" from the plant[7]

An evacuation order was issued to people living within 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) of the plant[4], which was subsequently expanded to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the power plant.[8] Air traffic was restricted in a ten kilometer radius around the plant, according to a NOTAM.[9]

Again it will likely be years, if ever, before these reactors are back online.

I am pro-nuclear power in general but I certainly wouldn't have built any there.

Perhaps you think that whenever an earthquake occurs a reactor should be considered non-operation but in Japan small earthquakes happen all the time.

Yes, of course I think that's what should happen with a quake of this magnitude and it is in fact exactly what does happen in Japan. Even if everything had gone by the book with the shutdown of these reactors it would be a long time before any were back online. All sorts of analysis is done before the plants can return to operation. They are considered unsafe to operate until proved otherwise.

Plant Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (as of 8PM March 12th)

Press Release (Mar 12,2011)

All 6 units of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have been shut down.

Unit 1(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down. However, the unit is under inspection due
to the explosive sound and white smoke that was confirmed after the big
quake occurred at 3:36PM. 4 workers were injured due to this incident
and they were transported to the hospital.

Unit 2(Shut down)
- Reactor and Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System have been shut down.
Current reactor water level is lower than normal level, but the water
level is steady. After fully securing safety, we are preparing to
implement a measure to reduce the pressure of the reactor containment
vessels under the instruction of the national government.

Unit 3(Shut down)
- Reactor has been shut down and we continue injecting water by High
Pressure Core Injection System. After fully securing safety, we are
preparing to implement a measure to reduce the pressure of the reactor
containment vessels under the instruction of the national government.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage
inside the reactor containment vessel.

Unit 4 (shut down due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and sufficient level of reactor coolant to
ensure safety is maintained.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage
inside the reactor containment vessel.

Unit 5 (outage due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and sufficient level of reactor coolant to
ensure safety is maintained.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage
inside the reactor containment vessel.

Unit 6 (outage due to regular inspection)
- Reactor has been shut down and sufficient level of reactor coolant to
ensure safety is maintained.
- Currently, we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage
inside the reactor containment vessel.

Currently, we are implementing a measure to reduce the pressure of
the reactor containment vessels of Unit 1. We have confirmed that
the radiation exposure of 1 TEPCO employee, who was working inside
the reactor building, exceeded 100mSv (106.3mSv). Because of the absence
of industrial physician, we were scheduling diagnosis later. However,
we have transported him to the hospital because of the deconditioning.

We measured radioactive materials inside of the nuclear power station
area (outdoor) by monitoring car and confirmed that radioactive materials
level is higher than ordinary level. Also, the level at monitoring post
is higher than ordinary level.

We will continue to monitor in detail the possibility of radioactive
material being discharged from exhaust stack or discharge canal.

The national government has instructed evacuation for those local
residents within 20km radius of the periphery because it's possible that
radioactive materials are discharged.

Two workers of a cooperative firm were injured in the nuclear power
station premise. One with a broken bone was transported to the hospital
by an ambulance and the other by a company car.
Further, there are 2 TEPCO employees whose presence has not been
In addition, one subcontract worker standing near important earth
quake-proof buidling was unconscious and transported to the hospital by
an ambulance.

We will continue to take all measures to restore the security of the site
and to monitor the environment of the site periphery.

Reuters: FLASH: Japan's nuclear safety agency says Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant No. 3 reactor's emergency cooling system not functioning

Edit: Link now


The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the No.3 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, requiring the facility to urgently secure a means to supply water to the reactor, an official of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference.

Reports Claim Meltdown At Japanese Reactor

Japan’s Nikkei.com is reporting that the explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 reactor was due to a meltdown of nuclear fuel rods in its insufficiently cooled core. This was consistent with reports of radioactive cesium and iodine outside the plant. As well as the suggestion that it was a build up of hydrogen gas inside the reactor that led to the explosion earlier in the day. (You can see video of that explosion here.) Others think the declaration of meltdown is premature. Regardless, this is a very bad nuclear accident. Far worse that Three Mile Island, but not yet in the Chernobyl league.

In a statement this afternoon, former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Peter Bradford said, “An early tipoff that Japanese authorities felt that events at Fukushima were very serious was the ordering of an evacuation within a couple of hours of the earthquake. Though the area was small and the evacuation was called ‘precautionary,’ the fact is that ordering several thousand more people into motion during the immediate aftermath of a major earthquake and tsunami is something that no government would do if it could possibly help it.”

What about Onagawa? The area around it has been evacuated as well. It was hit by a quake in 2005. If it is shut down for good Japan will be needing even more fossil fuels.

Fukushima #3 reactor was refueled recently with an 'experimental' fuel containing plutonium (recycled weapons?) which would be much worse if a leak occured. This according to an interview on CNN. The guest speculated that available cooling resources were concentrated on #3 for this reason. Looking for confirmation.

If true, then perhaps they are using MOX (mixed Oxide Fuel).


Mixed oxide, or MOX fuel, is nuclear fuel containing more than one oxide of fissile or fertile materials. Specifically, it usually refers to a blend of oxides of plutonium and natural uranium, reprocessed uranium, or depleted uranium which behaves similarly (though not identically) to the low-enriched uranium oxide fuel for which most nuclear reactors were designed. MOX fuel is an alternative to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel used in the light water reactors that predominate nuclear power generation.

It is not a new idea, MOX is currently in use in some reactors around the world...but MOX may be newly introduced to this particular reactor.

Greenpeace guy reported that they have plutonium in some reactors there.

Here's a brief report confirming that a plutonium-uranium mox fuel was loaded last summer.


As another poster noted, they are keeping reporters back 60 km from the site, so we don't really have any idea what is happening in there now.

But I'm sure it is nothing very important. I'm sure that nothing possibly bad could be happening in an area of hundreds of square kms that are being sealed off from all press. I'm sure it is just routine and that we can completely trust everything from now on that that the official authorities say is happening in there, which I am sure will all be soothing 'nothing-going-on-here' bromides--listen to the bromides; go back to sleep; nothing to worry about...


The nuclear industry has always been the most secretive industry in the world. We are about to see that secrecy and mis-information machine go into overdrive.

The full reality will likely never be known, except perhaps by some who died from it.

11,304 sq km exclusion zone.

No biggie. 4,415 sq. mi.

At 14% photovoltaic module efficiency this would produce 2375 TWh (1500 sunhours) per year.
Or almost 3 times the electricity demand in Japan.

I was just half joking with my wife that west coast diesel will be $5/gallon in a week or two. Looks like Japan's refineries are going to decrease the demand for crude, but I assume everything diesel (power and construction ) will be running 24/7. Anyone have thoughts on what their fuel import infrastructure is like?

Hmmmm....cesium, strontium and iodine heading this way....great. (my wife was wondering if we should get some of the "KI" stuff, and was mildly surprised that we already have plenty [actually I2, from before that all got banned].....lol, I'm crazy)

I was just half joking with my wife that west coast diesel will be $5/gallon in a week or two. Looks like Japan's refineries are going to decrease the demand for crude, but I assume everything diesel (power and construction ) will be running 24/7.

The Japanese refineries are going to be down, and so are their nuclear power plants, but the Japanese are going to need to import large supplies of diesel fuel to keep their backup generators running - which is to say that West Coast diesel fuel prices may indeed go over $5/gallon in the near future.

The Pacific is a large ocean, but it is relatively easy to ship diesel fuel from one side to the other, and the Japanese will do that if they need to.

IIRC Libyan oil was particularly good for diesel production. So I'd assume there is already some pressure on diesel production in Europe. Also Japan may need less crude for their refineries, but will likely need to import more refined products putting a squeeze on global supplies as you say.

Generally agree. The Saudi stock market was probably a reaction to the apparently fizzled day of rage, so I wouldn't count it as evidence. Short term it probably decreases oil demand, as Japan is basically shut down, and will be running at less then full capacity for a while. Longer, term you may well be right. Although closing Nukes doesn't directly lead to oil consumption (unless fuel oil is used as emergency backup), but rather coal/gas. It isn't a step in the right direction.

Japan Will Need to Boost Energy Imports

BEIJING—Friday's closures of nuclear reactors will raise Japan's need to import oil and natural gas, but it remains unclear how much industrial output has been affected by the earthquake and tsunami and how long nuclear- and thermal-power plants will stay shut.


Ten nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 8.6 gigawatts have been taken off line in Japan. Seven are operated by Tokyo Electric, two by Tohoku Electric Power Co. and one by Japan Atomic Energy Power Co. Tepco said it has suspended operations at five thermal power plants as well.

Japan isn't a big fuel-oil buyer, but it may need to ramp up imports of the refined product, which is used in thermal power stations, and also buy more crude oil to process into fuel oil in domestic refiners or for direct burning in its power stations.

See: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870483880457619627028256521...


Right...I expect the crude price pull-back on Friday was very, very short-lived phenomena in light of the above situation.

LOL. We are getting our superspike even faster than we thought in November. Now with all the oil energy needed to run Japan.

How amazing is this peak oil phenomena? Mother Nature is going to take us down a rung all the faster.

She is angry it seems. I do not blame her either. We are arrogant little apes.

It's mother nature vs. money in the biggest catfight of all time.

My bet is on mother nature, but it's an easy call, isn't it?

OS - I've been matching wits with Mother for over 36 years. And when I've won it was because she allowed me to win. Unfortnately some folks think they force can Mother to accept their ways. So every now and then she offers a lesson in humility. Unfortunately for the folks in Japan it's their turn to go to school.

Over my life I've learned a few lessons: don't turn your back on the sea, don't go down the trail and don't think you're ever in complete control of Mother.

While in the short run, Japan may actually turn back some oil tankers arriving at its ports, I believe in the longer term that demand for oil products - especially fuel oil - will increase. Actually their oil demand will probably increase significantly once ports reopen and transportation returns to normal - as building plus utility demand increases.

I expect that the net balance of US product imports/exports will soon tilt towards making the US a net exporter of oil products.

For now all the ports in Japan are closed to assess damages. The ports nearest the quake event will have presumably suffered the most damage. Japan imported an average 3.7 million barrels a day of crude oil in 2010 I wonder if they will have the capacity to import even that amount not to mention the extra energy they will need?

Re: Democrats Cry Foul Over GOP's Attempts to Tie Fuel Prices to EPA

The Republicans have again demonstrated their absolute contempt for the sciences. Linking high fuel prices to CO2 regulations from the EPA is is a total distortion, as the EPA does not presently regulate emissions from CO2 or the other gases on their list. To support their case, the Repugs repeated old claims which have again totally discredited and brought witnesses to testify who have made careers out of denying the science. It appears that their plan is to blame government for the fact that oil is finite and that production must inevitably peak and decline. It's a truly sad situation, as we are seeing the politician's addiction to money and power slowly destroy any hope for a future based on reason. One can only imagine what things might be like if these intellectual criminals had to pay the price for their misdeeds. Instead, the idiocracy grows ever closer...

E. Swanson

I have a corollary to Murphy's Law:

"The more important the decision, the less information will be used to make it."

However, it seems that this needs to be modified to take into account the proliferation and use of negative information (e.g., nonsense or outright lies).


So before gas hits $5 a gallon, we thought it would be a good day to look at the Top 10 most fuel-efficient rides you can buy -- based on EPA combined mileage ratings that better reflect what you'll average per year -- and the cost to drive them.

I wish they would do another couple of lists: The Top 10 most fuel-efficient rides you can buy - In Europe - In the World.

I'd like to send all three lists to our common-sense challenged Congress personnel and ask them why they continue to keep all the really fuel efficient vehicles out of the USA?

I wouldn't mind buying a new Ford Fiesta - if I could get the really fuel efficient European version that gets almost twice the fuel economy that the government crippled USA version gets. But knowing what is coming down the turnpike in the near future in energy prices I certainly am not going to waste my money buying the low mileage crippled USA version.
In another 3-5 years I believe the gasoline prices are going to get high enough that the Government will be forced into letting the really fuel efficient vehicles be imported into the USA.

With the US auto industry selling gas guzzling PU's and SUV's like hotcakes lately, it would seem strange that FORD want to import those high mileage Fiestas. Until a few months ago, the sales of the Toyota Prius were very slow and they do produce mileage upwards of 50 mpg. I noticed that FORD only began to manufacture those high mileage Focus with the EcoBoost engines in February, so it's likely that there won't be any available to import from Europe for a while. With those thoughts in mind, I must ask you again, where's the evidence to support your claim that the US Government kept those high mileage cars out of the US market?

E. Swanson

If the U.S had a logical national energy policy, we could all roll in higher-mileage vehicles such as the euro-only diesel Ford Fiesta at 65 mpg.



Even in the throes of the recent recession and current malaise, we still sell some 10M vehicles per year in the U.S. After 10 years some 100M new 50-60 mpg vehicles could be fielded.

Gee, kind of like finding another Saudi Arabia right here in the U.S. ... by becoming more efficient.

If we could triple our fleet's fuel efficiency, we could tax gas to have a pump price of $12/gallon, and all things being equal, people wouldn't be spending any more money to drive the same amount of miles per year, and we would have enough tax money to pay for the continuation of GWB's tax cuts for the well-off! We could also feed back some of these taxes to subsidize folks buying the more efficient cars to get us over the early adopter hump and achieve economies of scale.

This plan makes so much sense that I am sure the current Congress will pass laws preventing these Euro-socialist ideas and technologies from diminishing our blessed non-negotiable way of life and diminishing our freedoms to be wasteful, selfish, and illogical.

I wonder what would happen if we combine that diesel power plant with some clever batteries and regenerative braking and lightweight structural materials and make a little diesel hybrid car?

No warp drive or cold fusion required...just some smart engineering and logical policies and mindsets...

We are more likely to invent warp drive and cold fusion by the end of the year!

Written by Heisenberg:
If the U.S had a logical national energy policy, we could all roll in higher-mileage vehicles such as the euro-only diesel Ford Fiesta at 65 mpg.

If the entire global personal automobile fleet was converted to diesel, even at 65 miles/gallon, could refiners produce enough diesel? Keep in mind that only a fraction of a barrel of crude oil can be converted into diesel. The yield of diesel from light sweet crude oil is higher than from heavy crude oil while the ratio of LSCO to HCO is declining due to peak oil. During the oil price shock of 2008, diesel cost more than gasoline. I'll stick with a gasoline/ethanol powered PHEV while you believers in abundant diesel supplies can pay the premium price and deal with shortages.

The yield of diesel from light sweet crude oil is higher than from heavy crude oil while the ratio of LSCO to HCO is declining due to peak oil. During the oil price shock of 2008, diesel cost more than gasoline.

I have been pondering this for the last few weeks. I am sure that enough data exists so that a plot of diesel cost over gasoline cost can be plotted for decades. The important part of this is that the price is dimensionally factored away (eliminating inflation and the proxy effects of price) leaving only a potentially more sensitive indication of the light to heavy production fractions.

Any thoughts on this as a project?

Are saying diesel price ratio to say gasoline may reflect the changing ratio of light to heavy crude?

Yes, that is the idea. Diesel corresponds to lighter crude (less need to refine) and gasoline to heavier.

I think the price ratio should normalize away the money inflation term, assuming the same inflation constant is applied to the price of gasoline as is applied to diesel.

Sounds like a nice fun chart to make.

As a kid I seem to remember diesel being cheaper than gasoline.

Diesel fuel is a heavier fraction of crude oil than gasoline. Gasoline is the lightest portion of the liquids fractionated.


What is the difference between diesel fuel and gasoline?
Diesel fuel differs from gasoline in several ways. Diesel fuel is heavier and "oilier" than gasoline. It evaporates much more slowly because it is composed of larger hydrocarbon molecules, which have higher boiling points, typically 150 °C to 370 °C.

Oil refinery

More sophisticated refineries use crackers and reformers to change the product mix. Some US refineries can get an 80% cut of gasoline, whereas the straight-run fraction from West Texas Intermediate would be more like 8%.

The diesel fuel cut from WTI would be about 16%, which would work for European refineries but not American ones. This is why replacing Libyan oil will be a problem for the Italian refineries - they are not very sophisticated and can't change the refinery processes to compensate for changing from Libyan oil to Saudi Arabia's less desirable grades of crude oil.

On the flip side, the Alberta government is subsidizing the construction of an "upgrader" to convert bitumen from the oil sands directly to diesel fuel. This solves two problems, what to do with bitumen, which is mostly asphalt, and a chronic shortage of diesel fuel in Alberta. It's a rather aggressive interpretation of what an "upgrader" does (usually it upgrades bitumen to synthetic crude oil), but when you have a big problem sometimes the solution is a bigger hammer.

Are what we call #1 fuel oil, #1 diesel, jet fuel and kerosene pretty much different names for the same cut?

The local refinery manages this mix:
Gasoline & Naphtha 19%
Jet Fuel 57%
Diesel 19%
Gas Oil 4%
Asphalt 1%

I'm guessing that is an unusual mix--but the below arrangement sheds light on how they manage the trick.

The North Pole refinery was expanded in 1998 and has a throughput of 220,000 barrels per day of ANS shipped to the refinery via TAPS. The Williams refinery consumes about 64,000 barrels of crude per day to manufacture petroleum products. After removing the lighter components used to make petroleum products, the remaining 146,000 barrels per day of residual oil is returned to the TAPS. Williams pays a quality bank charge for returning the degraded oil to the TAPS stream.
from this 2003 pdf

Yes, #1 fuel oil, #1 diesel, jet fuel and kerosene are pretty much from the same cut of the crude oil barrel. The North Pole refinery you cite is heavily optimized for jet fuel production (57% of production) and of course is optimized for processing Alaska crude oil.

Alaska crude oil is heavier and higher in sulfur than the Libyan crude, but turning 76% of it into jet fuel and diesel seems to be no problem for that refinery. It costs a lot of money to build a refinery that sophisticated.

The Italian refiners could have designed their refineries to do the same thing with Saudi oil, but they would have spent the money to do that only if they had known that it would be necessary.

Well the fact that they can take fractions they want to work with from 220,000 barrels a day from the crude and put 146,000 barrel of the residual oil back into the pipeline certainly makes their situation different than an end of a pipeline refinery. They really aren't turning 76% of any one barrel into the diesel and jet fuel but rather using the lighter fractions of 30% of their total crude throughput to produce that mix.

I didn't see how long they have to work the oil to get their 64000 barrels of lighter fractions segregated. I do know that the part of the refinery that handles the crude first did have mercury show up during the turn a round last spring so the work on that section was abbreviated. I had a feeling this was done as much for an excuse to get the restart back on schedule as for other reasons.

Written by WebHubbleTelescope:
Any thoughts on this as a project?

Because the taxes on diesel and gasoline are not identical percentages, the ratio would not eliminate the price effect of taxation. I am uncertain whether the ethanol blending subsidy of 4.5 cents / gallon has reduced the retail price of gasoline. Gasoline has changed during the last decade into E10.

I will look into it using EIA data.

I'm not really keeping up with this issue any more, as lack of time has forced me to mostly give up my gearhead hobby.

But as things stood a little while back, European design engines wouldn't pass Armrican pollution standards, and the crash standards were also a problem-you couldn't even go over to Europe and buy one of the really efficient cars and bring it over personally- no way to get it thru customs, and no way to register it if smuggled in.

We can't buy European industrial diesel engines designed to run on 5 percent diesel and 95 percent ethanol for the same reason-but the air would be cleaner, taken all the way around probably, if we could.

It's mostly diesels which the US doesn't allow due to SOx, NOx and particulates. In most cases petrol hybrids can get similar or better fuel economy (especially in cities when diesels are bad news) so the US is more likely to move in that direction IMO.

Also since a lot of Americans drive automatics some sort of electrified drive system fits well with this.

Food, not Facebook

I'll just review this in case someone believes the revolts in North Africa are caused by internet access. Only 10% of the people in these countries have internet access, but 100% of them eat food. The population growth rate in North Africa has been ridiculously high in recent decades, and the countries there now have to import most of their grain supplies.

A 40% increase in food prices in countries where people can barely afford to eat at the best of times is bound to cause social problems. At this point in time the United States is turning 1/6 of the world's corn crop - enough to feed 350 million people - into fuel ethanol so American drivers can continue driving. I would suggest that it is not a smart thing to do. If the major oil producers (and major food consumers) in the Middle East blow up, American drivers are not going to be doing much driving regardless of how much corn the US manages to turn into motor fuel.

Food is another abstraction like energy, grain and metal. Lumping all food together and failing to differentiate between human food and animal food is wrong.

Corn is mostly animal food. Were the corn that is going to ethanol fed to hogs, its other main use, the result would be a large energy loss. The U.S. needs liquid fuel for transport and not more pork.

Not only that the main grain eaten in the Middle East is wheat. There have been several weather disasters lately which have affected wheat. I'm thinking of the Russian drought and Pakistan/Australian floods.

The Middle East does not import much corn. Grains are not interchangeable. Corn exports mostly go to China and Japan to feed hogs, chickens and cattle. Muslims do not eat pork. They eat baked goods made from wheat which is mostly not used for ethanol.

American farmers are not responsible for feeding a world that chooses bad food and population policy which inevitably will lead to disaster.

High population growth rates coupled with food consumption subsidies given to the poor have resulted in this mess. Farmers in foreign countries that subsidize urban food consumption can not compete with the cheap imported grain. Instead they stop producing food and move to the city to join in the orgy of consumption based on imported grain from places like the U.S..

This has devastated poor rural economies. Those who think Americans should continue to support this are wrong. Americans must keep their grain at home unless it is sold at market prices in the consuming countries. This protects local farmers.

In any case those who complain about the starving in foreign countries should be willing have their taxes raised if they want this system to continue. I doubt they want that. What they want is for American farmers to pay for infinite population increases based on cheap American grain imports which are then subsidized by local governments to shut up the population and keep the status quo in power.

Foreign countries have to face limited resources just as Americans do. We can not have American agriculture subsidizing uncontrolled population and government subsidized consumption abroad.

Those who want this bad policy should be willing to have their taxes raised so that the cost is spread across the whole American economy and not just put on the backs of farmers.

If food is so valuable, it should be priced higher than its energy value so that production is encouraged. With rising oil prices which are an agricultural input, this means that food prices must also rise.

It is a no brainer that cheap food, rising populations and rising oil prices can not coexist. Those who think they can are delusional.

I almost never respond to you, x, because your statements often seem so absurd. But it strikes me that the root of the problem I have with your statements may be your imprecise use of certain words. So please take what follows as a friendly suggestion to help make what you say more understandable and perhaps persuasive to those whom you are presumably trying to persuade.

Can you please, please, do us all a big favor and get yourself a good English dictionary (or at least look words up on line before you use them)?

I am guessing that what you are trying to say is that 'food' is a generalization, not an abstraction.

"Abstract" (as opposed to "concrete") means something not able to be seen, felt, touched...except as they are enacted in particular circumstances--'love,' 'freedom,' 'happiness,' are typical examples of abstract nouns. 'Food' is not characterized (by any linguists or lexicographers I know of) to be an abstract noun. But it certainly IS a generalization (as are all non-proper, common nouns).

The point you are trying to make, as far as I can figure, is that 'food' is a generalization that glosses over the very different specific kinds of food that can have different values for different people...

This may be a valid point, but it gets obscured by your unclear use of words.

I would kindly advise that you avoid the use of the word 'abstract' as it confuses and infuriates those trying to understand what you are trying to say. I know these may seem like nit-picking, semantic distinctions, but semantics (the study of linguistic meaning) is important if you want to articulate clearly subtle concepts and distinctions.

Let me try an exercise.

So you would like to separate "cattle corn" from "sweet corn" and others. So you tabulate these separately and note the amount and kind of energy used and the amount of yearly production. Nothing wrong with that.

You would also like to separate refined sources of energy like "ethanol" and "gasoline" and others. So you do the same kind of tabulation and store it away. Same logic applies and again nothing wrong with that.

Some of us also want to separate the non-refined sources of energy such as "crude oil" and "bitumen". I try to find tables of the historical production from the various sources to make sense of where we have been and where we are going.

Once we have good data for each of the categories, one can then start concretely reasoning about current and future scenarios. Suddenly things don't sound so abstract any longer. We are now elaborating on the abstractions so that we can begin to solve problems.

Sometimes I get the feeling that you didn't take any classes that involved word problems, and you can only rationalize this gap in your schooling by referring to everything as an "abstraction". The issue is that you don't seem to understand that abstractions are powerful ways to break down more complex problems.

The issue is that you don't seem to understand that abstractions are powerful ways to break down more complex problems.

Abstractions do not break down, they aggregate. Concrete terms break down. Only with concrete terms do both sides of the argument know what is being talked about.

Complex problems will only get more complex if they are analyzed using abstractions since abstractions themselves are complex. So solutions to complex problems will be not be found in the abstract but in the concrete.

Complex problems can only be solved with concrete solutions. Abstractions tend to get in the way. For example the main energy problem is liquid fuel for transport and Peak Oil. Talking about energy does nothing to solve that problem unless concrete forms related to liquid fuel for transport are part of the argument.

Abstractions like energy, grain, metal and food tend to confuse since they lump together things that are different making analysis difficult to impossible.

Clear thinking requires precise definition of terms. Abstractions tend to do the opposite as reasoning is befuddled by ambiguous terminology.

Abstractions are frequently used by demagogues to justify the unreasonable. "War on terror" comes to mind. Clear thinking is almost impossible when talking in abstractions.

Also religion is full of abstractions such as good and evil, heaven and hell. Abstractions defy reason. They enable confusion and obfuscation.

This week's Market to Market analyst thinks oil prices headed higher:


The concept of algebra is also an abstraction used to describe a more general and amazingly useful form of arithmetic. No one complains that algebra has limited use.

If a number of unknowns exist in solving the problem of what kind of fuel is used to power what kind of vehicle, then you can potentially use algebra to solve the problem.

Algebra is abstract because you have to instantiate it with a number of variables before you can solve the problem! The only problem with abstraction is that these concepts are often difficult to accept, and you need some mathematical skill to work it out.

Complex problems can only be solved with concrete solutions. Abstractions tend to get in the way. For example the main energy problem is liquid fuel for transport and Peak Oil. Talking about energy does nothing to solve that problem unless concrete forms related to liquid fuel for transport are part of the argument.

LiquidFuelUsedForTransport = f * TotalLiquidFuel

you can imagine stringing together lots of these expressions together with underlying constraints and you will have an abstract representation of the problem, expressed as algebra.

Granted that a few people can do this in their head but algebra is an abstraction that helps to reduce complexity and provides a methodical way of approaching a solution. So I have no idea what you mean when you say "Complex problems will only get more complex if they are analyzed using abstractions since abstractions themselves are complex."

Here is an abstraction for you. You are digging yourself a deep hole and the recommendation is to stop digging.
HoleDepth = CurrentHoleDepth + DiggingRate*Time
TimeRequiredToClimbOut = HoleDepth/ClimbingRate

The solution to this problem using basic algebra is:
TimeRequiredToClimbOut = (CurrentHoleDepth + DiggingRate*Time)/ClimbingRate

X – I had no trouble whatsoever understanding the points you were making, and your points are both valid and pertinent to the discussion.

I used to get that feeling all the time. I would call it false edification; you only think you understand it, until you put pencil to paper and actually try to work out the problem. Then you realize it doesn't hold together.

Notwithstanding all the side discussion about abstractions and complexity, I understand the points X was making about American corn producers, ethanol production, and the ever-expanding human population in areas of the world that are poor and dependent upon subsidized food imports. At the end of the day, irresponsible family sizes can’t continue indefinitely. Criticizing food producers for not facilitating continued overpopulation is off the mark. That’s the main point X was making, and I happen to agree with him/her on that issue.

As a species we’re going to reach an upper limit to the size of our population whether we like it or not. As Dr. Bartlett has famously said many times, we can proactively choose the manner in which this will happen or we can let nature do it for (to?) us, but it’ll happen either way.

Good for you that you can read that much into it. All I see is a very strained and transparent argument supporting ethanol at whatever cost. The abstraction defense is there to create a moat around ethanol, with X thinking that will make it impervious to criticisms. Corn and ethanol are apparently orthogonal to anything that exists in the world, occupying a niche all of its own.

IMO, the Abstraction defense is approaching the level of absurdity of the Chewbacca defense.

Certainly a waste of bandwidth....

This is wrong in many ways, but almost right in one.

Lumping all food together and failing to differentiate between human food and animal food is wrong.

Different grains do substitute for each other. If corn prices rise, so does meat; people eat less meat and more pasta and rice, causing the price of these grains to rise also. Meanwhile, growers are growing more corn and less wheat, causing further price rises.

food consumption subsidies

It is production subsidies to American and European growers that have caused this problem. They caused overproduction, and the excess is dumped as "aid" on poor countries. This prevented farmers in those countries being able to sell their produce profitably. This means they could not invest to increase productivity -- or even afford the food they don't grow themselves.

It is a no brainer that subsidies to corn growers are partly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

We can not have American agriculture subsidizing ... consumption abroad.

Almost right. It'd be better as:

In justice we can not have subsidies to American grain growers.

It's a fact of economics that whether subsidies are given to consumers or to producers, producers get the benefit.

It is a further fact of economics that those who have the money get the goods: the market supplies demand, not need. The unequal distribution of money, though, is mostly down to politics. American grain subsidies, food import restrictions, and aggressive trade policies are a huge part of that.

It's a chemical fact that if we fermented the entire world's food supply, that would provide less than a sixth of the energy in the transport fuel we are now using.

Corn ethanol is not quite as futile as trying to drain the ocean with a teaspoon, but it is causing a lot more deaths and misery.

I agree with you that 1st world subsidies have driven food producers in much of the 3rd world out of business. This happens via prices that are too low for 3rd world producers to compete with, so some of the benefit does indeed go to the consumer. I had a friend whose father was fairly high up in the US State Dept., and he claimed that one of the unspoken goals of farm subsidies was to keep foreign competitors out of the game by driving down prices while allowing US producers to stay in business.

Paradoxically, what will benefit local production in the 3rd world are higher prices, and that’s partially what’s happening with ethanol production – it’s driving up food prices, which may eventually make 3rd world food producers competitive at the margins, just as OPEC driving up oil prices allows increased production from formerly uneconomic sources outside of OPEC. But there are at least three big problems: (1) The resumption of local production will have a lag associated with it, and people go hungry in the meantime, (2) Higher prices may help 3rd world producers to be competitive, but it doesn’t help 3rd world consumers who simply can’t bear any increase in prices, and (3) In some of these desert areas where people are rioting over food prices, the land simply doesn’t have the productive capacity needed to support the already large and rapidly growing population, no matter what the price of food. The 3rd point could be mitigated somewhat by increased production from other, nearby 3rd world producers with better climate and soil.

It’s hard to argue against policies that reduce immediate suffering, but the reality is that most of those measures will simply enable a continuation of the ongoing population expansion in areas that can least afford it. Most people who read this forum are smart enough to know that can’t go on indefinitely no matter what clever new strategies we pursue, and the longer it does, the more tragic it’ll be when nature finally imposes her own limits on our species.

The Middle East does not import much corn. Grains are not interchangeable. Corn exports mostly go to China and Japan to feed hogs, chickens and cattle. Muslims do not eat pork. They eat baked goods made from wheat which is mostly not used for ethanol.

You're wrong there. Egypt, for instance, imports about 10 million tons of wheat and 6 million tons of corn per year. The corn primarily goes to feed for chicken, goats, sheep, cattle, and buffalo, but large amounts are used for human consumption as well. They put corn into the subsidized bread they distribute to people. The vast majority of the corn comes from the US, unlike wheat which they get from a variety of countries.

You have to realize that increasing the price of corn results in an increase in the cost of poultry, eggs, and diary products, which is something they consume a lot of. They have to get their protein from somewhere.

Converting American corn into fuel for American drivers has consequences that most Americans don't understand. If the price of a Big Mac goes up a bit they hardly notice because it is a minor expense for them. In countries where most people are very poor, food prices make a major difference to their living standard.

The real problem in North Africa is that food costs have gone up more than 80% in the past decade. A lot of people can't afford to eat any more.

Many of the posts on nuclear reactor problems in Japan are very useful and informative. I would add, in reference to the meltdown issue and the supposed small area of impact (6 mile radius) stated by Japanese officials, that a meltdown that reaches groundwater would be a much bigger event. Phreatic explosions would be violent.

A knowledgeable friend also remarked that no mention has been made of the spent fuel pool, which contains much more radioactivity-did the cooling circuit stop and decay heat not removed?

Many of the posts on nuclear reactor problems in Japan are very useful and informative

Agree strongly with this - TOD was the go-to site for clear, reasoned information on the BP/Macondo disaster, it has become the same for me on this issue. The depth of technical knowledge and analysis here is outstanding.

Perhaps the developing Japanese Nuclear situation warrants separate posts outside of Drumbeat to cover developments, just as there was for the BP spill.

We are considering it. There will probably be a dedicated Fukushima thread tomorrow.

But I'm not going to let it turn into a pro-nuke/anti-nuke flamewar. If that's what happens, forget it.

We can just start calling it TUD "The Uranium Drum"

Just don't call it "The Uranium Reaction Drum"! ;<)

New method could improve economics of sweetening natural gas

Natural gas extracted from the nation's coal beds and methane-rich geologic features must first be purged of hydrogen sulfide before it can be used as fuel. Until now, processing methods have often proved to be inefficient, requiring large amounts of heat.

But a team of Battelle researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has discovered a method that could dramatically cut the amount of heat needed during processing, reducing the amount of energy needed during a key processing step by at least 10 percent. The research team believes the discovery could ultimately lead to a more cost-effective way of tapping into extremely "sour" natural gas reserves – those reserves that contain significant amounts of hydrogen sulfide and that may not have been economically viable to tap up to this point.

Treasuries Slip on Japan Fears

Treasuries Decline on Bets Insurers May Sell to Pay Quake Claims

Treasuries fell, paring weekly gains, on speculation insurers in Japan may sell U.S. government debt to pay claims on damage caused by the nation’s strongest earthquake on record.

Nuclear energy is like grilling in the garden over a pile of hot lava. Works great, that is if you don't mind how difficult and expensive hot lava is, or the occasional explosion that takes out the entire neighborhood, or the fact that what's tipped into the dust bin will be lethal for thousands of years. Otherwise, enjoy your steak!


Yes - reminds me of two things. First, I wonder how much of the public (Americans in particular) realize that nuclear is but a dangerous way of boiling water, as opposed to some space-age method of getting electrons directly from radioactive material. 2nd, I believe Amory Lovins referred to nuclear as 'like cutting butter with a chainsaw'.

I live in Holland right next too the German boarder. From my house I can look over Germany and see about 17 large windmills. I do most of my shopping in Germany because the supermarkets are nearer than in Holland. I was driving past the windmills to go and get my obligatory crate of good German beer, when a thought suddenly a cured too me. I had just been watching the Tsunami sweep in over farm lands in Japan driving everything that had not been nailed down before it. The only things that seemed to be standing were the concrete buildings, I tried to imagine what would happen if the same thing happened here would these windmills still be standing and came too the conclusion that they would. All have good foundations anchored well into the ground. All the electrical gear which here is housed in a small building outside the windmill could easily be housed in the tower. The entrance too the towers could be built 30 foot from the ground. climbing a 30 foot steel ladder can't be that difficult. A concrete retaining wall in the shape of an arrow facing the sea to protect the windmill can't be that expensive. They are designed to withstand bending moments so a 8.9 on the Richter scale should be no problem, they may oscillate a bit, bend from side too side, so what. It seems to me that windmills and Tsunamis are a match made in heaven. The other thing that did occur too me was that if one of them are all of them did fall down. I would not be glowing in the dark and cleaning up would be merely a expensive bucket a broom job and I would not be landed with a bill which I would have too pass on too my grandchildren just too keep the place safe. Instead of writing off a billion dollar investment, I might even be able to earn a little money with the scrap. I can't find any flaws in my agruement, but then what do I know I am just a old fashioned tunnel rat.

You can have a thousand of the best flashlights in the world, but not one of them will do you any good if you only have one battery.


Hi Jerry,

Was this quote intended as a general illustration of the supply chain issue?

Or, are you by any chance familiar with the global battery manufacturing and supply chain picture?

I became curious about this after finding out about this project:


"Cute." Requires a "single NIMH battery" though.

Diamond shaped not arrow shaped, out flowing water as well ;)


End operations in Afghanistan, Karzai tells NATO

Karzai's comments came after a week in which a relative of his was killed in a raid by foreign forces and he rejected an apology by the US commander of troops General David Petraeus for the deaths of nine children in a NATO strike.

"I would like to ask NATO and the US with honour and humbleness and not with arrogance to stop their operations in our land," Karzai said in Pashto as he visited the dead children's relatives in Kunar province, eastern Afghanistan.

And about time to. I am a bit of a history buff and if you have even an inkling about Afghan history you would recommend that the best course for Nato instead of trying to win hearts and minds would have been to build a 20 foot fence round the place and electrify it to 20,000 volt. not only that keep them in there and let them rot. Don't get me wrong, I like Afghans I had a few Afghans working for me when I worked in Qatar, but getting some of them to see sense is to use a good Yorkshire expression about as useful as trying to piss into the wind. I had a water cooler installed outside my office so the lads could get a cold drink of water during the summer. Worked brilliantly until Ramadan which by the way fell in August that year 45 degrees average. Almost had world war lll when a couple of the more Afghan religious lunatics, wanted it switched off. Couldn't really do that as I had a couple dozen Indian Christians working on the same site. F**king bone headed bastards. I wont go into the details concerning the three wars we Brits fought against them in 1842 1876 and 1919 basically dismal failures although General Dyer in 1919 was a little more successful his copious use of Mustard gas and staffing did have a salutary effect.

Why were the Brits fighting the Afghans back then?

Mustard gas?

Heisenberg, I think you have to understand that under normal circumstances the Brits would have left the Afghans to stew in there own juice but the Khyber pass is the only real route to India from the West it has been used by every invading Army since Alexanders time. All our wars with Afghan were mainly about making sure that there was a firm lock on the back door gate, if you get my meaning. India was a veritable Gold mine for the British Empire and we didn't mind paying the Afghans a fee for making sure it was nicely locked, most of the disputes were over how big the fee was going to be. The first war was a f**king disaster to put it bluntly. A British Army was in Kabul to discuss the price when the General a General Cotton who had shown exceptional military promise as a young lad, by blowing up the headmasters study at Rugby school with gunpowder during the riots there in I think 1797, was superseded by a general Elphinstone over 70 and going prematurely senile. The plot thickens British officials murdered by Afghans especially the great famous Secunder Barnes. British Army of about 6,000 along with twice as many camp followers decide to retreat too India during the winter, attacked and ruthlessly murdered by the Afgahans The South Staffords fight too the last man at Gandamack All the ladies captured by the Afghans and held to ransom. Lady Sale writes best selling diary when she is released given pension by Queen Victoria . The brave Doctor Bryson stumbles into the fortress at Jallabad, the only one too get there, warning General Sale and General Broadhurst just in time for them too form there defence where out numbered and out gunned they drive off the dastardly Afghans. Melodrama of the highest quality, and they all lived happily every after, well they would have done if Sale and Broadhurst hadn't got themselves killed a couple of years later in the first Sikh war, and Bryson getting himself butchered during the Indian Mutiny, such is life.

I wont bother you about the 1876 war you can look that up yourself, just as exciting and just as full of derring do.

1919 was a little different as it was the Afghans who were taking advantage of the fact that the Brits had removed many Indian troops to fight in Europe and the Middle East so the British troops were a bit thin in the ground and second rate. Unfortunately for the Afghans the Brits secret weapon was a nasty piece of work a bit of a thug called General Dyer. He used the R.A.F. getting them to straf the Afghan villages and drop mustard gas on them. The R.A.F pilots were issued with what was called a goolie chit, just in case they crashed behind enemy lines. The pilot would then present it too the nearest Afghan official, who would then deliver him too the nearest British base and receive the princely sum of 100 pounds paid our in gold sovereigns with the head of Queen Victoria on. Mind you that was only if the pilots wedding tackle was in situ. Such yarns are great movies made from, and every word is true.

Yorkshire miner,

Many thanks for taking the time to give quite a bit of detail to summarize these events!


And not to forget the Battle of Maiwand, one of the bloodiest defeats in British military history, which was in Helmand. An incredible story, especially of courage.

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was sent to the battlefield of Maiwand after the battle to analyse what happened and what went wrong. It left a lasting impression on him.

CNN reports "Meltdown underway."

"Catastrophic failure."

"Possibility for widespread release of radiation."

The Japanese ambassador is on now, saying there's no meltdown.

The Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency are the ones saying a meltdown may be underway.

And now CNN is saying the current efforts are a "Hail Mary," and explaining what that means to non-Americans. :-)

It sounds like CNN has been lurking on TOD :-/