Fukushima Thread: March 19, 2011

As fight to curtail nuclear crisis steps up, radiation found in food

Tokyo (CNN) -- Japanese authorities took new steps Saturday to tackle the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant but new concerns emerged about the impact that already emitted radioactive materials have had on the food supply.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that abnormally high levels of radiation had been detected in some, but not all tested samples of spinach and milk from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima and Ibaraki.

Tokyo Electric Restarted Cooling Pump at Fukushima No.5 Reactor

(Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it restarted the residual-heat removal pump at the No. 5 reactor of its stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, one of the least damaged at the facility.

The utility began cooling the pool in the reactor that contains spent fuel rods, it said in a statement today. Temperatures in the pool had earlier fallen to 67.6 degrees Celsius from 68.8 degrees, Kyodo News reported. Temperatures should be kept below 25 degrees Celsius, according to international guidelines.

Japan Races to Restart Reactors’ Cooling System

TOKYO — Scrambling to corral a widening crisis, engineers linked a power cable to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station early Saturday as they struggled to restart systems designed to prevent overheating and keep radiation from escaping.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, said it hoped to connect the electric cord to the cooling equipment inside the facility later Saturday in an attempt to stabilize the reactors that were damaged by the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan eight days ago.

E.ON Halts Sixth of Seven Oldest German Reactors; RWE’s Biblis to Follow

E.ON AG, Germany’s largest utility, halted the sixth of seven nuclear power plants Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered closed for safety checks, leaving RWE AG due to shut the last of the seven as early as today.

‘Atomic Anne’ Keeps France Spinning

Ms. Lauvergeon, 51, known as Atomic Anne, is one of the most prominent female executives in Europe, and one of the most independent minded — perhaps too much so for France’s male-dominated elite. She is fighting for her job, and as usual here, the battle is as much personal as professional. At the same time, the nuclear industry she represents is facing its largest challenge since the meltdown at Three Mile Island, and how the unfolding tragedy in Japan will affect her future is anyone’s guess.

Japan’s Once-Powerful Nuclear Industry is Under Siege

The disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant has highlighted the importance of nuclear energy to Japan and the power long wielded by the nuclear sector. But that influence now is sure to wane, to the relief of opponents who have fought for years to check nuclear's rapid growth.

After Japan’s disaster, will nuclear energy have a future in America?

The Post asked energy experts, lawmakers and others how the recent events in Japan would affect the “nuclear renaissance” in the United States. Below, responses from Steven F. Hayward, Virginia Gov. Robert Mc­Don­nell (R), Ellen Vancko, Marvin Fertel, Douglas E. Schoen and Frances Beinecke.

Japan Crisis Could Rekindle U.S. Antinuclear Movement

Today, activists who figured prominently in the movement’s teach-ins and protest rallies are hoping that Japan’s nuclear crisis will rekindle a protest movement in the United States. Their aim, they say, is not just to block the Obama administration’s push for new nuclear construction, but to convince Americans that existing plants pose dangers.

Texas town weighs risks, benefits of nuclear plant

Victoria, Texas (CNN) -- This small Texas town is half a world away from the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan.

Nevertheless, the calamity is having a ripple effect.

Is this the end of the nuclear revival?

''This is definitely in the Chernobyl league now. If the reactors go, that's bad, of course. But the real concern at this point is if those … spent-fuel pools catch fire. There are many Chernobyls' worth of radioactive material in there.''

Hiroshima survivors fear new nuclear fallout

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The cities flattened by last week's earthquake look eerily similar to the decimated buildings Shigeko Sasamori saw after an atomic bomb was dropped on her hometown in 1945.

Stark differences in TMI, Japan nuclear crises

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. -- Japan's nuclear crisis has transported residents of central Pennsylvania back 32 years, when the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant raised fears that a massive amount of radiation could be released into the atmosphere or the Susquehanna River.

But there are stark differences between the disasters.

How close is your home to a nuclear power plant?

If a crisis at a nuclear reactor happened in the U.S., could you be living in a danger zone? In a 10-mile radius, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the air could be unsafe to breathe in the event of a major catastrophe. In 50 miles, food and water supplies may be unsafe.


NHK Feed: Best source for the timely news

Japan Radiation by Prefecture (map)

World Nuclear News

All Things Nuclear: Maintained by the Union of Concerned Scientists

JAIF: Japan Atomic Industrial Forum

A Drop of Rain: Archive of useful links

MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub: Information about the incident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plants in Japan, maintained by the students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT

Industries around Fukushima include :-

Agriculture & Fisheries (fourth largest agricultural area in Japan), industry and commerce. Major producers of rice, fruits such as peaches, and vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers.


NHK TV has been broadcasting advice for helping to avoid ingesting radioactive dust on raw vegetables, for example to remove outer leaves from cabbage, and wash everything very carefully. They say root vegetables are safe.

On the link regarding local nuclear plants, Chicago has five within an 80 mile radius. Pretty sobering. Although we are on the far end of the New Madrid fault zone.

It was interesting watching the weather report where they are now concerned that the winds have shifted, and radioactive material is no longer being blown out to sea. Of course, there is no "away" on a finite planet.

This will pressure food prices. Japan will have to import even more food. Plants see Cs-137 as Potassium and take it up.

Is it possible to check all food for radiation in those areas affected by fallout?

Put in a garden if you haven't already.

Are there any significant cesium releases? I thought it was some noble gases and some iodine. That's not a long-term problem.

Not sure about significant, but they have found Cs137.

Edano said spinach and milk were only products found with abnormally high levels of radioactive material but the government was considering comprehensive tests at farms away from the plant. Food safety inspectors said the amount of iodine-131 found in the tested milk was five times the level deemed safe. In spinach it was more than seven times higher. The spinach also contained slightly higher amounts of cesium-137. Iodine-131 can accumulate in thyroid and cause cancer. Cesium-137 damages cells and leads to an increased risk of cancer.


This is yet another crisis du jour and it appears to have peaked. I would say forget new nuclear if we could take the freed up billions and invest in renewables, conservation, efficiency, and the restructuring of our transporation and housing system. That would be a silver lining. But congress hates anything that smacks of any of the above. Much better to use up our remaining fossil fuels as quickly as humanly possible.

The fossil fuel industry is loving all this and we will see even more commercials about how clean and safe natural gas, oil, and coal are.

This is a crisis that will pass. The emergency of peak oil and global warming will not pass and will be ignored.

I wish we had some real political leadership that had the guts to launch a Manhattan/Apollo Project scale photovoltaics effort to the point Moore's law kicks in. Of course we'd need a 21st grid to go with it -- one that's modeled on the Internet.
A robust and redundant power system sure would be nice.

There's a common misconception that Moore's Law applies to PV as it has for microprocessors. The sad fact is that Moore's Law is an artifact of the rapid advance in the number of transistors which could be placed on a silicon chip, based on the ability to produce ever smaller transistors and the wiring to connect them together. Photovoltaic cells do not depend on the ability to create such small features, instead being dependent on the ability to efficiently capture sunlight with a large area of material being exposed to the sunlight. As a result, there's no Moore's Law for PV...

E. Swanson

Yep, I don't understand why someone would throw Moore's Law at PV.. I mean there is room for improvement, but let's say you make PV that are 100% efficient.. They still can only harvest so much energy from sunlight. So it's all about area.

The only thing that really matters for PV is if the cost per sq ft of panels could be brought down rapidly. I guess that would be the Moore's doubling.

The challenge with PV is that of fighting entropy. The most efficient PV semiconductors have highly uniform lattices free of defects. This allows tailoring the properties to match the solar characteristics. Scientists can also introduce multiple layers to improve the efficiency, but this takes extra processing. On the other hand, PV manufacturers can also create material with less than ideal characteristics much more rapidly, using amorphous semiconductors or material loaded with defects.

This turns into a classical trade-off of quality versus cost. My thesis work was on semiconductors and so I suppose this is the one area that is right down my alley, so I included a chapter on characterizing PV materials including amorphous silicon and organic semiconductors in The Oil ConunDrum.

The key word in all semiconductor research is characterization. Any knowledge gained through characterization has the potential to be applied to better PV efficiencies.

The only thing that really matters for PV is if the cost per sq ft of panels could be brought down rapidly.

Not really. I don't think the panel cost even dominates the total system cost anymore. AFAIK, PV panels wouldn't be a viable alternative even if they are free out the factory door. There is still transport, mounting, installation, and the energy is intermittent and very diffuse.

There is still transport, mounting, installation, and the energy is intermittent and very diffuse.

I believe diffuse thinking is the problem. We don't have a lot of choices here. To twist around a phrase from P-Funk: concentrate your mind and your approach will follow.

You also forget that people still need to keep their time occupied and jobs are required for the masses. From the list " transport, mounting, installation" you can imagine that some cottage industry will get created from this.

But then again, you probably understand all this and you just want to play a devil's advocate to keep our arguments sharp.

I think we do have choices. If we want to go for intermittent sources to extend our natural gas reserves, we could choose wind at a fourth of the cost of PV. If we like to really make a dent in the coal consumption, we could ramp nuclear power.

It is very hard to force investments without crowding out other stuff. It may be possible in some recessions and so on, but generally it can't be done effectively.

we could choose wind at a fourth of the cost of PV

I think you are taking todays, and yesterdays costs as fixed. Both sources should be getting less expensive with time, but solar at a much higher pace than wind. And solar is far less site sensitive.

In most suburbs, solar is possible; however, wind is considered dangerous due to out of control propellers.
I always find this odd since NG explosions which happen do not preclude NG systems.

Sneaky little laws. I wonder who gets them written so favorably.

IN any case small wind is not that useful. Small solar works great.

Solar panels continue to trend downwards, and they are an ideal hot-climate complement, as that sidesteps the need for storage.


Shows some at ~$1/watt/pallet

Falling less quickly, are the inverter prices


and all of this is on an economies of scale curve, with far more added GW than Nuclear in the last few years.
(Nuclear has its own price curve, going the other way...)

A PV GW generates maybe a fifth of the energy of a nuclear GW. This taken into account, I think PV adds less.

The Chinese don't agree about the nuclear price curve. There exists no US price curve.

Both sources should be getting less expensive with time, but solar at a much higher pace than wind.

We don't know that. Wind cost stopped declining fast circa 2005. PV will halt as well at some time, probably far earlier than viability without extreme subsidies. We'll have to wait and see.

Actually PV does not receive any subsidies in Germany.
The feed-in tariffs (paid by the electricity consumers) for PV in Germany were €2 billion while the German PV industry paid €3 billion in taxes (2008):

On the other hand the German nuclear industry has received €204 billion in actual tax-payer subsidies:

Ah, as usual "anyone" dives in late in the discussion and starts his extremely repetitive dishonest claims and link spamming. Welcome, as always.

FITs are subsidies in my world. That the PV industry paid more in taxes is irrelevant - the taxes would have come in anyway, from whatever use of money that the PV investments crowd out. Also, the FIT is a liability and the consumers will keep bleeding even if PV buildout stops, so in that sense it would be a pyramid scheme to use the argument that taxes cover the buildout.

The subsidies to the German nuclear industry is hogwash, of course. I've shown it before.

Acutally, as I opposed to you I present facts and you haven't shown anything - as always.

Facts? You confuse that with spamming with the same links again and again, presenting misleading statistics, bad newspaper articles and outlier reports. I don't even understand how you can live with yourself. Year after year of this pointless deceit... Why?

Instead of complaining, link to a site of your own or one that you whole-heartedly endorse so we can make a judgment.

e.g. Everything I say is backed up with my own online analysis.

If you are honestly concerned about CO2 emissions the more judiciously you should invest to get the most and fastest CO2-reduction per dollar. Nuclear is neither low cost nor fast compared to many other CO2-reduction options:


A study from McKinsey which underestimated new nuclear capital costs by 50% is arriving to a similar conclusion:

By the way, the German wind industry not only generated over 90,000 sustainable, tax-paying jobs and Germany exports over 80% of its wind-turbines with a tax-paying profit, German wind power (which has not been exported) actually does lower electricity prices in Germany:

On the other hand the nuclear power industry is apparently not such a big export-hit despite having benefited from generous subsidies for decades and tax-payer paid promoting agencies (IAEA, Euratom etc.).

As always, you manage to find reports with cost estimate outliers - congratulations. Your other statements I have soundly rejected before. As I have only so much time available, I'd like to spend it on people that aren't dishonest, sorry.

Look, if you want to reject something, you have to come up with facts and not with your personal dreamed-up fantasy world.

You are not worth the effort. I just mention that I don't buy what you say, and that nobody else should either. Now it's up to the readers to think of me as an a**hole and believe you, or not.

He also forgets that any new house requires a roof in any case.

Nowadays roofs protect from wind and rain and more and more they also provide some of the energy and reduce the load on the grid.

In 2009 China installed 29 GW Solar hot water and 0 GW new nuclear.

It is cheaper to heat water on the roof directly than the use nuclear power to do the same like France does.

Once PV modules have reached the costs of solar hot water modules, they will ramp up at a similar pace in developing countries.

PV will become a viable alternative when fossil fuels are exhausted and the choice becomes either renewables or no electricity (assuming nuclear takes a hit after the present mess is cleaned up). Low temperature solar thermal is already cost competitive with nuke electricity. As the cost of fossil fuels can be expected to increase, it's reasonable that the future costs of PV will become competitive as well. The fact that the source is diffuse is a problem only in economic terms, as that is an inherent part of the panel's function. Panels are sold based on watts of output per panel at peak, so the fact that the source is diffuse is already included in the cost per watt. The intermittent nature of the source just means that some sort of storage must be added to smooth the supply over longer time periods. Nukes are priced as base load systems and thus have trouble meeting a variable demand. That means nukes must be matched with another variable source or a storage system, which presents almost the same problem as that of storage for solar PV or wind...

E. Swanson

Low temperature solar thermal is already cost competitive with nuke electricity.

Are you talking of concentrated solar electricity, or simply of heat systems? If concentrated solar were cost competitive with nuclear, I'd expect it to ramp like hell. Is it?

The intermittent nature of the source just means that some sort of storage must be added to smooth the supply

This is THE major hurdle for large wind and solar penetration.

That means nukes must be matched with another variable source or a storage system, , which presents almost the same problem as that of storage for solar PV or wind...

The same type of problem, but a whole different magnitude. It seems France has less problems with nuclear at 80% than Denmark has with wind at 20%. The import/export figures are revealing.

Denmark has no flexible hydro, hardly any electric heating (for load balancing) and is a small country.

The hydro capacity in France is 40% of their nuclear capacity:

Wind energy would actually benefit France, because there's always more wind in the winter when France has to import electricity to deal with the increased electric heating demand.

Wrong again.

Hydro capacity in France is 40% of their nuclear capacity. check
France has lots of electric heating and Denmark. check
Denmark has no hydro. check
Denmark has hardly any electric heating. check
Denmark is a small country. check

Also, industrial electricity prices before tax (2007):
Denmark (20% wind power): 7.06 cents/kWh
Belgium (55% nuclear power): 9.69 cents/kWh

And Belgium with 55.1 % nuclear power emits more CO2 per capita than Denmark with just over 20% wind power.
In addition Denmark exports over 90% of its wind-turbines with a profit.

Again, you cherrypick facts to paint a false picture. Compare the CO2 emissions from electricity only.

I have a hard time with these assertions.

Fixed, large-scale centralized power plants are very expensive, especially nuclear power plants.

This seems to be a mind set issue....spending gobs of money to create these large energy production citadels vs spending smaller amounts of money on more distributed systems.

Admittedly, intermittent power (diurnal, subject to cloudiness) PV power will drive significant, but do-able, life style changes.

Everyone forget Moore's law. Banish it from talk about PV please.

What the OP meant to say was manufacturing economies of scale.


- We know how to manufacture it...no breakthrough physics or engineering is required

- No fuels required (other than sunshine)

- No emissions

- Isn't radioactive

- Flat panels: Easy to pack and ship..uses cubic volume of trucks and trains very well.

- Doesn't kill bats or birds or prevent trout runs etc

- Aren't 200-300' tall and therefore spoil people's views

- Have no moving parts, are rather durable and long-lasting with minimal maintenance.

- Assembly and hook up is easy...no special materials handling, can be assembled with common fasteners and tools which a young teenager could easily master.

- Can be put rather unobtrusively on roofs.

- Rather more immune to natural or man-made terrorist incidents...decentralization provides robustness

- Installation and occasional maintenance provides skilled, at least moest-paying enduring jobs...local jobs, not outsourced.

- I disagree, if PV panels were free, people would pay for the Balance-of-system stuff easily and PV would spread like wildfire.

- Large-scale production of proven (not bleeding edge) designs would lower unit costs.

- PV panels supposedly can last 20-30 years...but who has really done research on this....waht keeps PV panels from lasting longer, perhaps as long as the typical human lifespan? What degrades them? Corrosion of the conductors? Changes in the silicon lattices?

- Silver can be replaced by copper or even more plentiful/cheap/corrosion-resistant aluminum with a small performance penalty.

- Sand is plentiful. Manufacturing can be done here in the U.S. providing people steady, moderately-paying.

PV is obviously too simple and robust and doesn't make the vested interest corporations money so it therefore must be impossible to implement.

It would be better to subsidize the mass economy build-out of PV now, rather than wait until we are in a deeper hole, IMO.

BTW, my list of PV advantages here does not mean that I am dissing wind...wind has a huge part to play as well.

All this goes hand-in-glove with efficiency/and less-with-less lifestyle changes.

No warp drive, no fusion (hot or cold), no zero-point energy required.

PV is obviously too simple and robust and doesn't make the vested interest corporations money so it therefore must be impossible to implement.

Not to mention that it is unthinkable that individuals should be in control of their own power generation and consumption. Oh, the horror!

Perhaps, but nobody's going to be building the solar cells, much less the chips for the controllers and inverters, in the backyard or the basement shop. So the dandy illusion of autarkic "control" will shatter to bits with the very next really bad hailstorm.

Many won't be able to afford, or won't want to maintain and keep inspected, a large basement rack of batteries - nor will they want the food in the fridge to spoil every time there's a cloudy spell. Many, given ever-aging demographics, will be needing fairly or very reliable electricity just to survive, for one medical reason or another. So even if they're out in suburbs uncrowded enough to afford space for good-sized rooftop solar installations, they'll be signing complicated unfavorable contracts with very, very corporate grid operators - and likely they'll be doing without electricity just like anyone else during blackouts.

This fatuous ideological nonsense about "control" is just that - sheer nonsense - for all except, perhaps, a small handful for a short time (i.e. they can keep "control" off-grid for as long as the spare parts and their own good health and fitness hold out, but not much longer.) If an age of autarky ever existed, it's been largely over and done with for millennia, and it's never coming back for as long as the population continues to be measured in billions.

And so the cry goes out into the night.

"We must do something!"

"There MUST be something," they wail, unable to face the horror before them.

Falling now to their knees, trembling with fear, clinging desperately to hope.

"Technology!" they cry, "Technology will save us!"

A wave of fervor sweeps over them. "Yes! Technology!"

Arms stretched to the sky, grief stricken faces turned to heaven, a million voices grow to a roar.

"Technology! Save us!"

Alas, but to no avail.
Their god has forsaken them.
Or was it their own blindness that condemned them all along?


Jerry, your post is meant to convey what message, in non-obtuse terms?

Replacing nuclear and some coal-fired generation with wind and PV is not presented here as some BAU-salvation panacea...major changes in lifestyle and mind sets will be required. A major reduction in power usage, and adaptation to electricity intermittentency. living within the diurnal daylight cycle. Such changes would be seen as very inconvenient to inconceivable by some folks, but people would adapt. What choice will they have?

Seeking to replace rather complex and dangerous nuclear power with much more prosaic and benign PV and wind and efficiency technologies seems to a be a taking a step to simplify, not create higher levels of fragile/catastrophe=prone centralized technology.

Just as growing a garden can put people more in touch with knowing where food comes from and what it takes to grow it, so would having PV on the roof and being able (indeed required) to closely monitor input and load would bring home everyday the idea that generating electricity takes time and effort and doesn't just come over wires from some out of sight, out of mind central plant many miles away.

Just so. Existing on energy from solar panels is pretty simple. I only use my watermaker, two refridgeration systems and Ham radio in daytime. Likewise microwave. Nitetime use of power on radar and autopilot is covered by a $500 battery system. Lights, stereo, computers, video player use trivia amps.
I haven't used shore power in ten years. Just where is the problem in going solar? I suspect losing control over the people is a huge threat to the status quo. Once people have their own power and water source, they start to feel uppity. They might even start to sense, what's the word, oh yeah, freedom. Then maybe they'll start to think that they need govt. a whole lot less.
Solar power has been a blessing for 12 years.

""Just so."

You walk the talk....so many others just whine. I follow that line myself.

The path, Local Generation, Local Distribution, Local Consumption. If it can't be done with Solar, and very limited Hydro, then don't do it.

The path is simple.

The Martian

If you go solar only, you can't compete in the "who has the most outrageous Christmass lights contest". And you can't run the dryer and electric range whenever you darned well please. It requires a definite willingness to make serious lifestyle changes.

How big is ur system?

And where do you live?

In this time period I have done 1 1/2 circumnavigations and spent 3 years in San Rafael, Ca, 2 years in Thailand where I currently anchor. Never used shore power even in No. Cal winter.
My Seimens and Shell panels have a combined rating of 300 watts. I have placed second for two years in the Sausalito Lighted yacht parade with LED lites. Didn't win because they wanted Santas, not political content, LOL
I must thank my buddy who suggested I visit this site. I have prepared to be self sufficient because of TOD. I am prepared to sail anywhere and stay offshore for over one year, and 5 years if food is available { bag of rice]
Many thanks to you all and others who recommended I buy gold and PBT stock.

Dave in Phuket

I guess you have the data on hail storms.

* A PV system is like a clothes dryer. We are not talking about rocket science.

*Cite examples of people who were damaged by their PV system more so than the typical power outages by big electricity that failed to turn on power.

*Most people actually do a grid-tied system anyway.

What is the beef again. A little up front cost. Hate to take money away from people's SUV budget. LOL.

This is the problem a lot of whining about what people might or might not experience. I'd service my PV system 2 times a year if it meant I did not need a nuke next door. How hard is this? Like mowing the grass. Big deal.

"fatuous ideological nonsense"
"nobody's going to be building...controllers and inverters"

Oh, please.

In India, women make such things from discarded television parts.
Their villages have light at night.
"Barefoot university" India:


(Corporate protection got the soundtrack removed,
but one can still see.)


"Many won't be able to afford, or won't want to maintain and keep inspected, a large basement rack of batteries - nor will they want the food in the fridge to spoil every time there's a cloudy spell."

You know that reminds me, if TEPCO had a nice set of PV arrays on those long low buildings in front/seaward of the reactors, they could have recharged those batteries (or even provided power for some water pumps directly?) as soon as the disaster hit.

I mean after all, the power plant *could* afford a few PV panels...


I have to admit, I was thinking along the same lines. Of course PV as backup to the backup doesn't help mitigate the risk much. If the EQ hit, then you had several days of cloudy weather (like the entire week here in (sunny) Califonia (the forcast for the week is basically rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain). So solar backup doesn't even add another zero to the probability of catastrophy. But, durnit, it would have been spectacular marketting, if some PV panels were shown to have saved the day.

Assuming that the solar panels were built to stand up to a tsunami.

Thats the nice thing about being on the roof! (instead of the basement)

I am assuming that the roof wasn't inundated...those look like at least 3 story buildings to me.

Well said. Massive scale PV. Hook us up.

We probably cannot hold out for Maxwell's Demon to defeat the 2nd Law.

Fixed, large-scale centralized power plants are very expensive, especially nuclear power plants.

Centralized power plants are typically cheaper per watt. When it comes to PV, it's not about mindset, it's about costs. The German feed-in-tariff in 2010 was 28 euro cents/kWh. To me, that's madness. It's offensive, even. For the same money, even wind can replace four times as much fossils. Nuclear could replace even more.

- No emissions

Not during operation, but during construction and installation.

- Installation and occasional maintenance provides skilled, at least moest-paying enduring jobs

When an industry (such as energy) requires more jobs for the same result, that is very negative for society. Actually, this insight is at the very core of the Olduvai story that's so popular here at TOD.

PV is obviously too simple and robust and doesn't make the vested interest corporations money so it therefore must be impossible to implement.

If it were economical, even in the sadly sub-optimizing sense of "grid parity", nothing could stop it.

All this goes hand-in-glove with efficiency/and less-with-less lifestyle changes.

I imagine that the more efficient you are, the more important it is that all power is available all the time.

- Centralized plants are cheaper per watt: Are we counting the many and varied subsidies, including liability limits, and the pollution externalities which are not priced in, unless we implement a carbon and pollution tax which truly captures these impacts.

- Emissions during building/mining the raw materials: Red herring, since this applies to anything man builds/manufactures. It would be interesting to compare the embedded energy and environmental impacts of the concrete and steel etc for a nuclear power plan and the materials used for an equivalent amount of PV power. Be sure to include the costs for nuclear power plant spent fuel storage and/or reprocessing, periodic refueling, reactor maintenance, and reactor equipment/building material/site decommissioning.

- 'More workers to do the same job is bad for society': I contest this assertion. The whole 'productivity' drumbeat helps corporations achieve better profits and 'Always Low, Low, prices' at the Walmmos, but it also results in higher unemployment and depressed wages. Worried that other countries will undercut our costs? Go back to trade tariffs.

- 'If it were economical, even in the sadly sub-optimizing sense of "grid parity", nothing could stop it': Nope, can't make this argument unless coal, nuclear, et.c are forced to price in all their externality costs.

- 'I imagine that the more efficient you are, the more important it is that all power is available all the time.': Nope, that doesn't follow. The whole idea is to adopt a different mind set and lifestyle to adapt to the lower-impact, more sustainable energy sources.

Of course, there are whole books of details underlying our discussion points, and we are but scratching the surface.

Centralized plants are cheaper per watt: Are we counting the many and varied subsidies,

I am, yes.

- Emissions during building/mining the raw materials: Red herring, since this applies to anything man builds/manufactures.

That doesn't make it a red herring. Since PV is five to ten times more expensive, you can expect manufacturing to be five to ten times more polluting.

It would be interesting to compare the embedded energy and environmental impacts of the concrete and steel etc for a nuclear power plan and the materials used for an equivalent amount of PV power.

The life cycle analyses are available and shows nuclear to be superior. And yes, PV has improved a bit since this presentation were made, but is still nowhere near nuclear.

The whole 'productivity' drumbeat helps corporations achieve better profits and 'Always Low, Low, prices' at the Walmmos, but it also results in higher unemployment and depressed wages.

Low prices AND depressed wages? Real wages are very tied to prices. Higher unemployment? Not so. Unemployment is a choice we have made as a society. It's an artifact of sticky wages, minimum wages, labor regulation, unemployment benefits and stuff like that. Trade does not create unemployment.

- 'If it were economical, even in the sadly sub-optimizing sense of "grid parity", nothing could stop it': Nope, can't make this argument unless coal, nuclear, et.c are forced to price in all their externality costs.

This argument is sensible, at least in theory. But if you do the actual numbers, PV doesn't come close even with internalization.

Nope, that doesn't follow. The whole idea is to adopt a different mind set and lifestyle to adapt to the lower-impact, more sustainable energy sources.

Intermittently operating industries, medical facilities, refrigeration and so on would introduce unacceptable inefficiencies.

"Since PV is five to ten times more expensive, you can expect manufacturing to be five to ten times more polluting."

PV is not 5x as expensive. PV maybe 2-3 times as expensive as coal/nat gas in cloudy places like Germany, but it also provides peak power.

And anyway quit comparing the cost of PV to the cost of a nuke. They are not equivalent.

I agree. Non-intermittent sources such as nuclear are much better.

Oh, yes. PV does = nuke.

Why just the other day my PV panel was damaged and they had to evacuate people from a 50 mile circle around my house, then they couldn't eat any of the spinach and milk from the area, the local fisheries were all contaminated with sunshine and sand, and now a number of square miles around my house will be uninhabitable for who knows how long. Oh, and I hear that the power source has a runaway nuclear reaction underway.


Another point about PV is that it provides power right when most people want it the most--on hot, sunny days when everyone is dialing up their AC, and there will be plenty of hot days ahead.

PV does = nuke.

Not unless we get the society converted to a change to a lifestyle consistent with intermittency. Thats why I've claimed we need both.

Yes we need both but that will not be an option going forward. Fear will kill it regardless of what seemingly rational and well thought out arguments are brought forward.

The reason fear can kill nuclear is spelled C-O-A-L. People need energy. If we throw out coal and ng, nuclear will have an easy time.

That's a good point.

Those 'Seemingly Rational and Well-thought-out arguments'.. those are the scariest of all!

There was a famous article in Scientific American about transition to renewable energy:

cover page:


and a tongue in cheek but non-trivial comment.

The idea of "sokalization" comes from "Sokal Affair" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair and this article is worth reading on its own merit. Actually very funny

The 'Sokal' rebuttal to the article raises valid points.

I certainly do not think that transitioning to more wind and solar energy will be easy, cheap, painless, hunky-dory...there will be a LOT of costs, adjustment...pain.

I never have advocated abandonment of baseload solar, and NG, and I am not yet sold that we can completely jettison nuclear fission power plants. Personally, I think we need to do some penetrating, quick analysis on our 104 nuke plants and their potential vulnerabilities, failure modes, and probable consequences, and like close a small number fairly soon (within a few years), and modify many or all of the rest and implement greater rigor with oversight, inspections, training, etc.

Maybe the current stock of fission plants buffers us through a transition for the next 20 years...or maybe we engineer some really robust Gen-3+/4 designs which take us further into the future.

I do not see a mass, wholesale deactivation anytime soon.

That does NOT mean that we can't/shouldn't develop much greater PV and wind electrical supply and implement a serious reduction in our electricity (and overall energy) use.

We are on completely the same page here. But then I'm accused of being a pro Nuke shill so I don't count.


I read the slides you linked, many thanks.

However, as an analyst (sorry, I can't get into exactly what I analyze), I have a long history of reading reports and slide sets with top-level numbers, and that's it...no underlying data, methodology, math....

Without all the assumptions, data, etc. ... anyone could produce PP slides that say anything they want!

Intermittently operating industries, medical facilities, refrigeration and so on would introduce unacceptable inefficiencies.

Your erroneous assumption is that ALL power would be intermittent. Clearly there is a role for baseload power. I foresee a significant role for hydro, coal, NG, and even nuclear (likely diminishing over time).

Duplicate deleted

There was a series of posting here in July 2010 about problems and issues with moving towards renewable sources

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6641 under title: "The Fake Fire Brigade - How We Cheat Ourselves about our Energy Future" It was comprehensive, composed of a few separate articles:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6704 Revisiting the 'Fake Fire Brigade' - Part 1 - General Issues
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6758 Revisiting the Fake Fire Brigade Part 2: Biomass - A Panacea?
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6910 The Fake Fire Brigade Revisited #3 - The Biggest Part of Business As Usual - Electricity
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6957 The Fake Fire Brigade Revisited #4 - Delivering Stable Electricity


http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7340 Renewables Won't Keep the Lights On

I agree, you shouldn't take the presentation's word for it, rather use it as a wake-up call and as a starting point for some fact checking.

We have one grid without prioritization. Either aggregate power delivery is intermittent or it is not. Currently, it is not. If it is to stay that way, we need to balance the intermittent sources. This is not economically doable at high penetrations of, for example, wind.

Clearly there is a role for baseload power.

Not really:

That widely heard claim is fallacious. The manifest need for some amount of steady, reliable power (23) is met by generating plants collectively, not individually. That is, reliability is a statistic- al attribute of all the plants on the grid combined. (24) If steady 24/7 operation or operation at any desired moment were instead a required capability of each individual power plant, then the grid couldn’t meet modern needs, because no kind of power plant is perfectly reliable. For example, in the U.S. during 2003–07, coal capacity was shut down an average of 12.3% of the time (4.2% without warning); nuclear, 10.6% (2.5%); gas-fired, 11.8% (2.8%).(25) Worldwide through 2008, nuclear units were unexpectedly unable to produce 6.4% of their energy output.(26) This inherent intermittency of nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants requires many different plants to back each other up through the grid. This has been utility operators’ strategy for reliable supply throughout the industry’s history. Every utility operator knows that power plants provide energy to the grid, which serves load. The simplistic mental model of one plant serving one load is valid only on a very small desert island. The standard remedy for failed plants is other interconnected plants that are working—not “some sort of massive energy storage [not yet] devised.”


Besides wind farms in Texas did prevent a rolling blackout:

That's a straw man. The problem isn't individual plants. The problem is that intermittent sources such as wind and solar can't reach high percentages of delivered energy, because then the grid as a whole can't serve load.

I don't know if you are actually including all the direct and external costs of nuke, including the subsidies provided by the government. If you are, fine, but this nuclear calamity in Japan will mean that new nuclear will be off the table for at least a decade. And then, at some point, warming will kick in to the point where sufficient cooling will be interrupted on an annual basis. I have felt for quite awhile that nuclear is preferable to coal but now nuclear will be off the table because the investors will not be willing to pursue it given the high capital costs and all the flack that they would receive from those opposed.

PV, wind, geothermal, and maybe some biomass are the only alternatives to coal. Whether or not these are or will be cheaper than nuclear is irrelevant.

But of course we will continue to argue, drift, and stumble into the future without having prepared for it in any way.

I'm afraid you may be right. However, none of the alternative energy sources you mention are alternatives to coal. However, the combination of wind and natural gas could make a significant dent in the coal consumption. Unfortunately, that is nowhere near enough, AGW-wise.

That doesn't make it a red herring. Since PV is five to ten times more expensive, you can expect manufacturing to be five to ten times more polluting.

Actually new Nuclear was at $7.4 per Watt: http://www.thestar.com/comment/columnists/article/665644
And is probably getting more expensive after this accident.

While modern photovoltaic modules are at €0.50 per Watt: http://www.oerlikon.com/ecomaXL/index.php?site=OERLIKON_EN_press_release...
If you include inverters (also dropping in prices) and installation costs you are not far away from €1 per Watt: http://www.solarserver.com/solar-magazine/solar-news/current/kw35/photon...

In addition PV doesn't require any high decommissioning costs, no uranium imports, no costly repositories, reduces the load on the grid, is built quickly and does not require any cooling water:

I am, yes.

No you are not.

Taxpayers are forced to pay for organizations such as Euratom and IAEA to promote nuclear power.
In fact Austria without nuclear power pays almost double as much on Euratom than on its wind power:

Consumers are forced to pay for the capital costs of a new nuclear power plant in advance:

Taxpayers are forced to give out loan guarantees for nuclear power:

Taxpayers have paid the major share of energy research on nuclear power:

Taxpayers pay over $100 billions for decommissioning of nuclear power plants:

Taxpayers pay billions on ultimate repositories:

Federal laws dramatically limits the liability of the nuclear power operator:

*sigh* Another set of dishonest claims and spam.

You are comparing installed cost of nuclear against the factory gate price of solar panels. Please compare like with like.


"The German feed-in-tariff in 2010 was 28 euro cents/kWh."

In first half 2011 Germany 28 eurocents/kWh gets you small scale PV, with larger scale PV support ranging down to 21 eurocents/kWh depending on size & location.

High? yes. Offensive? not compared to the 39 eurocents/kWh Germany was paying 18 months ago.

For the OP: Offensive may be having several ruined reactors with sketchy fuel ponds emitting radiation into the environment.

Would it be offensive, in a country powered mainly by indigenous brown coal and Russian natural gas, to build groups of four wind towers and then demolish three in each group with explosives right after completion? Resource-wise, PV is about the same. Sure, it's their money, but we share the CO2 and other emissions.

Actually Japan has higher CO2 emissions per capita than Germany:


And so does Belgium with significantly more nuclear power than Germany.

To muddle the facts, of course, you use CO2 per capita in general instead of just from electricity generation, and cherry-pick the countries (which don't even differ very much in nuclear shares).

Of course, if you compared the wind king, Denmark, with the nuclear king, France, you'd see that Denmark has 9.2 tonnes/capita and France has 6 tonnes/capita. If you only compare emissions from electricity, the gap widens much, much more as France is almost at zero. But you won't do that comparison, because all you're interested in is deception.

But where are your references?

But, nuclear is vulnerable to radiologic panics. As Germany has amply demonstrated this week. We could have the plants online and in working order. But if the psychology turns against it, we may not turn them on!

When it comes to PV, it's not about mindset, it's about costs. The German feed-in-tariff in 2010 was 28 euro cents/kWh. To me, that's madness. It's offensive, even.

And in 2011 it's at 21.5 euro cents/kWh and is still dropping quickly.

Besides the fact, that even the photovoltaic industry in Germany pays more taxes than what they indirectly receive in feed-in tariffs (which are paid by the electricity consumer) - not to mention that they reduced the German costly unemployment rate.

On the other hand taxpayers are forced to pay for organizations such as Euratom and IAEA to promote nuclear power.
In fact Austria without nuclear power pays almost double as much on Euratom than on its wind power:

Consumers are forced to pay for the capital costs of a new nuclear power plant in advance:

Taxpayers are forced to give out loan guarantees for nuclear power:

Taxpayers have paid the major share of energy research on nuclear power:

Taxpayers pay over $100 billions for decommissioning of nuclear power plants:

Taxpayers pay billions on ultimate repositories:

Federal laws dramatically limits the liability of the nuclear power operator:

It's a wonder that the moderators put up with your repetitive spam.

Large energy production plants win because of several factors, chief among them being economies of scale and labor specialization. Growing your own energy sounds attractive until you realize the lifestyle changes that would entail. For anyone with a job the practicality is highly dubious. And for economies of scale, there is a classical engineering rule of thumb known as the seven tenths law. The capital cost for production of a commodity like energy increases by exponent of 0.7.. So if you are producing your own wind power the capital cost of doing so will be far greater than the same production capacity for 100,000 people. By a factor of 30 or so.

1st, everybody who cares about facts needs to read the latest from LBNL, so people are talking from real numbers.

Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009
Barbose, G., N. Darghouth, R. Wiser. LBNL-4121E. December 2010

Has some info on foreign installations:
"average installed cost of 3-5 kW
residential PV installations in 2009 (excluding sales/value-added tax) was significantly
lower in both Germany ($4.7/W) and Japan ($5.9/W) than in the United States ($7.7/W)."

The "presentation" is faster to comprehend.

In the US, due to local permitting costs/different rules, there's a "surcharge" of about $0.50/Wp on installations - getting rid of this is just politics.

2nd - the answer to "PV can/cannot" is NOT a simple yes/no answer.

Panel Cost: still about half of an installed system (see LBNL report).

Not viable even if free: This is patently false as a generality.
There are areas of the world/applications where PV is already cost effective, and has been for years.

Renewables are more site specific than fossil fuel power. For solar this involves insolation levels, for concentrating systems this includes the proportion of direct normal insolation.
Sunny climates obviously have an advantage, but dust/fog can impact things.

The cost of "conventional" power is a factor. Places like Japan and Hawaii that have high electricity costs are already near/at/below "grid parity". For off-grid places, where extension of the powerline is 100's of thousands of dollars per mile, PV have long been cost effective. The "industrial" segment: navigation aids, remote communications, pipeline cathodic protection, etc. have been owned by PV for 15-20 years now, even when panel costs were 4x what they are now.

Peak power costs/peak demand is also a factor. Many commercial installations in California are already cost justified on afternoon peak rates.

Another factor in "true" cost is that user sited PV provides electricity offset at the retail prices the user pays, not wholesale prices the utility pays.

A factor that has been used to cost-justify "subsidies" is to avoid/defer the cost of local grid upgrades due to growth in peak afternoon demand as people installed air-conditioning. With distributed PV, the energy is generated on-site/near-site at the time of need.

PV systems can also provide non-power benefits: resilience (when combined with battery backup) and shade structures (parking, HVAC load reduction, keeping ponds cool) for instance.

check out this presentation from a systems vendor:

It's also a hedge against massive power price increases.

intermittency Off-grid systems with batteries have worked for years. Grid-tied systems trade benefits of peak shaving vs. use of grid power during non-sunny times. Storage is demonstrably possible, it is just a matter of economics.

diffuse virtually any house in middle-temperate or sunnier climes has enough roof area to provide all its electricity needs (i.e. about a 3-5 kWp system), along with solar hot water for domestic use, with space left over. Other types of buildings rooftops can provide large amounts of power.
more on rooftops:
The fly in the ointment here is many large warehouse-type roofs are built to bare minimum codes, and can't support any additional load.

This does depend on the local climate as well as latitude:
Canadian PV resource map:
US maps at:

I think the above map should be purple in area east of lake Ontario where I used to live. We only got 60 sunny days a year, and averaged over 200 inches of snow. I can't imagine PV being 'green' in that location.

Germany ($4.7/W) and Japan ($5.9/W)

To me, that's extreme prices as wind is somewhere around €1.3/W, and wind has a higher capacity factor.

Not viable even if free: This is patently false as a generality.
There are areas of the world/applications where PV is already cost effective, and has been for years.

I'm not talking about niche markets, stone age villages or some peak shaving. I want to get rid of coal!

Storage is demonstrably possible, it is just a matter of economics.

Stop saying "just" about economics! Economics is key.

Another factor in "true" cost is that user sited PV provides electricity offset at the retail prices the user pays, not wholesale prices the utility pays.

That's the opposite of true costs. The grid parity talk is celebrating sub-optimizations and externalization of costs. The owner can often avoid substantial taxes and grid fees, so others have to pay those for him in one way or the other. If a tech such as PV is fundamentally 4-5 times more expensive, the added costs have to be covered by someone.

In a collapse scenario, I would be happy to have an "ice chest" design high insulation freezer that could be run using 1kW or less of PV.

My hope being that perishables, like meat, could be kept safe, during the peak daylight hopefully there would be enough sun to run the freezer and during the night the high insulation of the freezer would keep the food from rising to unsafe temperatures.

The 1kW of PV could be on a pole mount, or even something portable that folded open.

Moores law toped out a few years ago for Microprocesors as can been seen by the lack of any new core processors from Intel/AMD they have just been adding more core's of the same size on single chips, DUAL/QUAD core. The heat produced has become to hard to remove and they cant drop the system voltage any further with out comprimising the accuracy of switching of the transistors between the on/off state as the dead band is getting two small.Hence the reason to try and develop opitical switching.

Perhaps a liquid sodium processor cooling system would work. God, I could see this playing out in Mountainview, CA, over a critical server farm.

hare brained idea

Where'd ya get that x?

But to add to the conversation. Improvements in the tolerance of PV to defects in the silicon and improvements in the ability to manufacture Li+ ion batteries are going to lower costs. Industry just has not forced the issue.

But I agree that Moore's Law will not apply to PV or Batteries. Nonetheless manufacturing advances are very real and applicable to these.

You have it right concerning improvements. Semiconductor performance for PV differs from that for computation and communication electronics. For one, speed as set by carrier mobility is not the prime factor. Since we shouldn't care about latencies in response to signals, we can focus on other aspects of the material. That said, these still all tie together and defects that destroy the mobility of a device by generating scattering sites also can destroy PV efficiencies by creating undesirable recombination centers. As far as really defect-ridden material, there is still a lot of unknown and thus you see references to "anomalous transport" in the literature. Those are the areas that I am looking at.

As to your first question, I think we need X's borrowed from Wikipedia to point out the crazy.

For III-V materials.
All aspects of the photovoltaic system advance:
Wonderful stuff coming out of carbon these days.
Some panels integrate the inverter.
Electric cars are driving the technological development of batteries:
The Zebra battery uses salt, not lithium. G.E. has picked it up.

...Nothing like volume production to drop the price!

Moore's law was partially a product of advances in photo-lithography.
But a limit is being found:
At very small dimensions, bulk material quits acting as one might hope.
Much like 12 inches of wire ceasing to be simple at 10 GigaHertz.
But the cost reduction aspect of advancement did not completely falter:

One can buy a cellphone at Walmart for $9.88!


The biggest advances in PV cost are coming from thiner films. For cSi (crystalline Silicon), the primary cost is solar quality silicon. Current panels are sliced to roughly 150-200 micron thickness by a saw, and half the silicon ingot is converted to saw dust in the process. Several companies are working on high tech methods to make them half to a quarter of the thickness, and reduce wastage at the same time. So the cost of the silicon substrate per unit area should drop several fold in the next few years. The most well known of these is 1366 technologies, but several other startups have even more ambitious goals. The other non silicon thin film manufacturers also use other methods, and can cut costs by making the films thinner.
1366 tech

This thread is very much on topic for me, I'm developing a solar panel design that uses reflectors (inside the panel) to reduce panel cost ~10%. Design works with any type of solar cell.


I'm developing a solar panel design that uses reflectors (inside the panel) to reduce panel cost

Wow, can you really patent using Mirrors to reflect sunlight ?!

Not likely to be even remotely defendable, given the shiploads of prior art and obvious nature.

Reflector systems usually have narrower capture apertures, which lowers their power on cloudy days, plus they add cost and bulk.

I like the approach of pairing Solar Water and Solar PV, and using the PV-cooling, to boost water temperatures before the final tubes.
PV works better cooler and it's all Joules.
Cooling matters even more with concentrator designs, or you can flip that and say good cooling, allows more concentration.

Right now, PV panels are falling and supplies are dynamic, but as this matures, and they start to move to higher kWh from finite fixed roof area, I expect strong growth in Thermal-PV.

"Reflector systems usually have narrower capture apertures",

'Tis true. It can only collect sun from half the sky, luckily the Sun usually doesn't go into the half it can't collect from. While one could put the panels on trackers if desired, it is not necessay with this design. Most concentrating designs require tracking and trackers add cost and complexity.

"which lowers their power on cloudy days,"

Yes, although mostly its the clouds that reduce the the amount of sunlight available, pesky things.

"plus they add cost and bulk."

Actually reflectors are quite cheap, about 10% the cost of cells...that the reason/logic for the design. Since they boost power output per cell by 25%, there is a net savings.

You are right that the panels are ~twice as deep as standard panels. The panel may end up lighter than an equivalent panel since reflectors are also lighter than cells. I bet there are lots of people/companies who would prefer a 10% cheaper solar array than a thinner profile. After all it does go on your roof, not on your desk/table...but obviously the design is not for everyone--few things are really.

"Not likely to be even remotely defendable"

Que sera sera.

"given the shiploads of prior art and obvious nature."

Awww you hurt my feelings, I think it is a fairly clever design.

"Wow, can you really patent using Mirrors to reflect sunlight ?!"

Sure. That prior art you were just talking about has many, many ingeneous examples, but none just like mine.

"which lowers their power on cloudy days,"

Yes, although mostly its the clouds that reduce the the amount of sunlight available, pesky things.

Yup, but energy is an area under the curve thing, not a peak, and being able to keep ahead of drain actually matters a lot to people.

Sure. That prior art you were just talking about has many, many ingeneous examples, but none just like mine.

'... At least, that's what the Patent Attornery said, as he handed me the Bill! ' ? ;)

"Yup, but energy is an area under the curve thing, not a peak, and being able to keep ahead of drain actually matters a lot to people."

Okay, my design produces 25% more power per cell on a clear day. (Direct Normal Irradiance)

Diffuse solar irradiation amounts to ~15%+/- of total global irradiance, so if the panel loses half the light on cloudy days, you lose ~7.5%.
[While you can't "focus" diffuse light, you can reflect it!--the more I think about this the less convinced I am that this design will perform worse.] *bumps cloudy day testing a few notches higher up the list of things to do*

Worst case it takes just over 3 all cloudy days to undue the gain from all 1 sunny day. Assuming maximum performance loss, one should not use these in locations that get fewer than 3 months of sun.

Wow, can you really patent using Mirrors to reflect sunlight ?!

So. Everything that can be invented has been invented?
Shut down the patent office?

He shoveled a pic in, real nasty... ;)

"div class="content">
img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/X_mark_18x18_02.gif" /> hare brained idea"

Where'd ya get that x?


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Here's how he got it to display on this page:

3. How do I include an image in my comment?
For example: <img src="http://my.webserver.com/filename.gif">.

I think Moores law is just seeing a hiccup. new tech is on the way. http://news.cnet.com/2100-1008_3-6142252.html?part=rss&tag=2547-1_3-0-20...

Nothing new, this is all incremental research. InGaAs is a heterogeneous III-V semiconductor that has been made into working devices for the last 25 years.

Moore's law was always about the number of transistors per chip/buck, and is not slowing down. Processor clock rates have pretty much hit a heat dissipation wall, as you state. But in addition to getting many more cores per chip (you can already buy chips with twelve cores), the number of things a core can theorectically do per clock cycle is also going up dramatically. Having been briefed by Intel designers on their plans for the next five years, I am pretty excited about the prospects for continued advances in computing capability.

I did not realize how out of date my reference was, but I have heard other exciting info from chip tech that promises to make my computer obsolete once again in a few years. I think that is the real manifestation of Moores law, gotta go buy a new one, again...My current computer. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=126393787411836&set=a.12639378407...

Its probably more (pun intended!) a claim that PV is high tech and can advance rapidly. That does seem to be happening in some parts of the business, PV panel manufacturing prices are coming down, FirstSolar claims $.75 per watt. I've seen plans targetting $.50/watt. Inverter prices are also coming down quickly. The sunshot initiative that aims to get installed cost down to $1/watt within a few years, envisages $.50 panels, and $.10 inverters. That pretty much means that the optimization game is going to move from the high tech components (panels and inverters), to the low tech arena of mounting, and wiring.

A good side effect of drastically lowering manufacturing costs, is that China's cheap labor advantage is then minimized. If panels cost $.40/watt in China, and $.50/watt in the US, after adding in the cost of shipping and demands for local content, will the Chinese still have an insurmountable advantage. Most of the cost of manufacturing will be accounted for by capital cost (equipment) and not labor, so their intrinsic competitive advantages are minimized.

Wonder when the Republicans will kill this program. Obviously, we need to stop it in its tracks as it conflicts with the fact that fossil fuels and fossil fools are forever. I am so not kidding.

I'm sure they are taking aim at it. Since its highly popular, it they will probably sneek it in some morning at 3AM.

It is my opinion the cost of the PV panels and inverter are not the issue impeding the advancement of home installations.

The problem is there are not many turnkey products that can be delivered, setup and got running quickly.

Currently almost every home PV installation is custom installed, with high labor costs. Even higher cost if it is a grid-tie system due to additional high inspection cost (by the city, and grid electricity provider), and the long wait they entail. I feel all that overhead is what keeps PV installations prohibitively expensive for most people.

You are omitting that the panels are being priced according to what the market will stand not to manufacturing cost. The PV companies recently warned that, with subsidies being reduced, there would be a fall in prices and hence profits. In other words prices are being held artificially high to profit from those subsidies.


Yair...Installation not so much of an issue here. I helped the installer and his offsider fit our 2.2Kw system and three of us had it finished and the grid meter running backwards in about four hours.

The installer said it went well but reckoned most installations were less than twenty hours...probably less than a thousand bucks...depends on how its costed. Seems reasonable to me.


The DOE program is called Sunshot http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/

It is targeting $1 per watt PV installed price or 6 cents per kWh.

This is funded by money from the recovery act, the act which Republicans say has created no jobs.

There's a billboard in my area for a local company that installs alternative energy systems - mostly solar.

The sign says "When we have a spill people just say that it's a nice day out..."

Thought that was a pretty good one.

At the bottom of this article on MSNBC there's an excellent summary table and graphic regarding the various reactors at Fukushima. It is apparently sourced from AP but I couldn't find the graphic as a stand alone - the only place I've seen it is in the linked article.


The sheer amount of material in the spent fuel pools at each of the reactors is staggering...




At a March 19 news conference, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that sea water injection is continuing at reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Preparations were being made to spray water into the used fuel pool at reactor 4, and an unmanned vehicle sprayed more than 1,500 gallons of water over seven hours into the used fuel pool at reactor 3, Edano said. He also said he believed that the situation at the reactor 3 fuel pool is stabilizing.

Some reactor cooling capacity has been restored at reactors 5 and 6 after the installation of generators at those reactors, Edano added.

Edano said that progress had been made on "a fundamental solution" to restore power at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, with electricity expected to be restored at reactors 1 and 2 today and reactor 3 as early as Sunday.

Edano said that additional equipment was being transported to the site and that other means of providing cooling water to the pool is be examined.

Radiation dose at the west gate of the Fukushima Daiichi was 83 millirem per hour on March 18 at 7:10 p.m. EDT and dropped to 36 millirem per hour by 8 p.m. EDT, Edano said. Radiation levels have decreased since March 16. Although they are higher than normal, radiation levels near the reactors are within the range that allows workers to continue onsite recovery measures, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

According to the IAEA, radiation dose rates in Tokyo and other areas outside the 30-kilometer zone remain far below levels which would require any protective action by the public.

All reactors at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant are in cold shutdown(See the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum website).

Keizoku wa chikara nari.
Literally: Perseverance is strength.

I think this sentiment is international.

"Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife...and mercy more than life!"


Looks like the Ninja workers got tired and decided to rest on their laurels. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/us/27well.html?_r=2

Why they are not persevering in using the water cannons on Unit 3 boggles the mind! But did they keep doing what was working? Nooooooooooooo! They had to divert to Unit 4 with the unmanned water cannon and park the fire engine water cannons so they could all pat each other on the back.

Guys, it's Ad astra per aspera.

Didn't you guys read that the day after watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, all of us Grumman workers got our asses out of bed and went back to work????????????

Let us just hope that the more optimistic reports are correct and that the view of Joe Cirincione that it is now almost certainly impossible for them to prevent a far greater disaster, but they at least intend to be recorded by history as keeping trying all the way to the end, is not correct.

From comments elsewhere and on tweets it seems that Cirincione may have access to classified analysis and other experts. Certainly if some countries have reached the same conclusion it fully justifies the instruction to their citizens to stay outside at least 80km and preferably stay away from Japan completely.

I've not followed the news lately, but I've seen little discussion about cooling the cores of Units #1, #2 and #3. Most of the news has been about cooling the spent fuel rods in the external tanks. Is it that the reactor cores are being cooled thru pipes which survived the quakes, after external power generation from various backup generators was established?

EDIT: During the first few days, there were reports of very high pressures in some of the reactors. That pressure likely resulted in the failure of some element of the reactor system, as pipes can sustain pressure only up to the point of failure. If the pressure had been relieved by venting steam, the water in the reactor would surely have been reduced, exposing the fuel rods, resulting in fuel damage and melting. Thus, the core(s) are likely damaged and this would continue as more water is lost from the reactors. Remember that the massive damage to the TMI reactor occurred within a short period of time after the beginning of the loss of coolant.

EDIT 2: HERE's a detailed discussion from the UCS. The pressure inside the reactor(s) would be lower than I thought...

E. Swanson

See above "sea water injection is continuing...Units 1, 2 & 3"

From now on it's give it the old college try, "Ad Astra per Aspera".

The cores have much more sheilding than the spent fuel in the pools. I'm sure they want to get the pools refilled to sheild the workers from gamma. Seems like a critical priority.

I see they got a concrete pump truck in there somehow. It looked like about a 4 in. discharge line, 6 in. at most. I should think they will want more capacity than that.

Does it make sense to bury the cores, soon? Or is it smarter to wait until the thermal output has dropped? Sealing in concrete, means there is no way for the heat to escape. Unless they plan to put cooling pipes into the structure.

Smarter to wait, but not necessarily where they are now! For example, there are GE reactors at Exelon's Dresden 2 & 3 in Illinois and they have huge concrete tanks holding demineralized water standing by. No need to pump sea water when gravity will deliver huge quantites of feedwater quality water from ready storage.

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article suggeting that TEPCO delayed using sea water to cool the reactor cores because they wanted to prevent damage to the reactors. Using sea water turns the reactors into junk...

E. Swanson

TEPCO chose poorly. They are loosing the entire site and surrounding area.

Land or nuclear assets. I guess that will be our choice from here on out.

Let's see how many lives were put in harm's way by this decision as well.

Here's some back-of the envelope numbers..

Duane Arnold Energy center is an approximately 800MW plant in Palo, Iowa.

Within a 50 mile radius of the plant, there are 3.75 million acres of farmland (assuming 75% of the land area is actively in farm production), and this land is worth $18 billion at $5000/acre, and at 150 bushels/acre can produce 420 million bushels of corn per year, at a market value of $2.7 billion dollars per year at $6.50 per bushel. The maximum amount of electricity that could possibly be produced is only worth $420 million at $60 per Megawatt-hour.

Please notice. The corn (or soybean) production within 50 miles of this plant is worth 3 to 10 times as much as the electricity at very generous rates. The reality is the plant has to compete with wind energy that is putting power on the grid at less than $20 per MWH.

My question is: Who will write me a crop insurance policy to cover the 68 acres I'm planting this spring against radiological contamination? I challenge all nuclear supporters to put their money where their mouth is, and offer me policy terms. You'll need $56,000 to cover this year's corn crop. If nuclear is as safe as the supporters claim it is, then $1/acre per year for the policy will be a nice profit. Propose some odds you can back up with cash or an underwritten policy.

The world is waiting. If nukes are safe, insure Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota against crop loss from nuclear accidents, NO MATTER THE CAUSE. If a crop has to be destroyed because of contamination, like it has in Japan, the policy pays out.

Good point. I think this is one of the most intelligent and pertinent comments about nuclear power. If it so safe why cant we get insured?

Cause they have accidents that contaminate farmland as far as the eye can see every now and then, meaning they have tangible odds of destroying large land areas.

Good analysis.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in this field. I work with metrology of physics standards.

If you ever walk into a nuclear power plant, you will see danger signs with either or both of these written on them:



Basically there are two kinds of exposure to radioactivity: the direct exposure to radiation where an external source emits EM energy in the form of particles or energy which hit your body - let us call it external. For example walking alongside the waste pool now exposed and without its blanket of water between you and the rods, would mostly likely give you a lethal dose.

In a nuclear power plant areas marker with DANGER! DOSE RATE are areas where you are close enough or unshielded from the reactor core, waste pool or primary circuit. You need to wear a dosimeter and the time you spend there is monitored and limited. This part of radioactivity is what we can directly measure in units called Sievert with portable counters and indicators and the one currently quoted all over the media.

However it is contamination which is in many ways is a far greater danger. In order to have radiation you need something that radiates - a decaying radioisotope. Normally all these isotopes remain safely in the reactor core - and the extremely pure circulating primary water holds almost no radioactive isotopes (except for some very short lived temporarily created by the intense core radiation). However over time, and if you have abnormalities, especially accidents, core radiation can change the surrounding materials into radioactive isotopes - which is why you choose all materials and fluids very carefully and control their purity - and keep everything absolutely clean around there!

Areas of a nuclear power plant with DANGER CONTAMINATION include areas for fission material handling and areas indirectly exposed to intense radiation - where there is a possibility that some radioactive particles have either escaped or formed around surfaces where you might touch them, carry them with you, even inhale them. In these areas you need to wear a protective suit, and everything you carry with you outside, including yourself, needs to go through decontamination - meaning lots of scrubbing. You don't want to get stuck with even one of these nasty particles because they can enter your body and literally give you "the dose of your life".

So, if you mess up the core or waste containment, have explosions, fire - you are basically releasing much more then just 'radiation' - you are releasing contamination into the environment (Chernobyl radiation map 1996). Radioisotopes escaping outside the plant and blown along the winds as smoke and dust and eventually being deposited by rains. And you cannot really measure that danger until you collect soil samples and take them to a lab for a proper analysis.

For a nuclear emergency crew then, dealing with fallout, sampling a wide area for these particles begins to give a good idea of what kind of safety measures should be implemented: what areas to evacuate, what advice about outdoor activities to give, how foods derived from plants and animals from the area should be treated etc.

So far we have heard a lot of this advice being given - but the actual contamination figures they might have sampled - have been kept off the media - perhaps to avert further panic. It could also be that due to the extensive damage to the infrastructure of the whole area, and the priority of saving lives, there has been little chance to collect enough data.

Now we are starting to see the authorities take samples for iodine in milk for example. But to get a better picture of the isotopes released - and the long term 'destiny' of the surrounding area - even the whole country - will take some time. At a minimum there is a need establish a rough relative distribution of the different isotopes released - and to sample a fairly large area - then compare that to wind and precipitation patters over that area during the whole fallout period - to get a estimate of the total amount of contamination (measured in Curie) and its distribution. Further analysis with spectrometry will tell the types of isotopes so the biological effects can be factored into any response plan and eventual decontamination of the area.

The nuclear tragedy will depend on that: short term contamination of the food chain - and long term contamination of the soil.

Lots of such studies done since Chernobyl can be found from Google.

I love Japan and will always remember the cherry blossoms falling everywhere while attending my friends wedding in Miyajima island near Hiroshima. Visiting the museum of the bomb was a very moving experience and afterwards praying at the monastery overlooking the town gave me time to contemplate how truly strong spirited these people were for having rebuilt their city and moved on with their lives.

Dealing with the effects of the tsunami is one thing. But reawakening the horrors of the atomic age would be very upsetting for the Japanese I can imagine. And it is traditional to take off your shoes while going inside buildings, especially the home, which is considered holy ground: cleanliness is sacred. Upsetting the purity of the environment - with invisible and possibly deadly contamination - will have a very spiritual interpretation for the Japanese. A fallout contaminating their country, perhaps for years to come, rather than causing just fear, would cause deep sadness indeed.

- Ransu

ransu, this is an excellent inside view of the workings of a nuclear power plant, thanks for posting it, I hope you don't mind if I took the liberty of reproducing it here. If you object, of course, I'll remove it, or at least edit it down to the salient points, but you say it better than I ever could. Now and then some comments appear here that I find it a shame to see vanish in the scrolling away churn of the daily updates etc.

Sure, although I was kind of hoping someone would jump with more knowledge to correct me. This is just my understanding based on what I've been told visiting plants. Someone who works in them might know the facts much better. And all I know about fallout was explained to me in the military. But that's why I read TOD, despite the long treads, sometimes you learn something and at least it makes you think.

Perhaps we should start with shutting down Indian Point North of NYC.


How well will NYC do with only 70% of it's usual power supply? Now you could just refuse to renew the licenses which would give you until 2015 to get natural gas plants running to replace the power. Of course that would require natural gas, which requires drilling and fracturing, which the good governor also is whining about.

Windmills in Long Island Sound? The Rich will object to their views being ruined. PV farms? Maybe just on roof tops? NYC gets 9 hours of daylight in the winter, not counting snow, fog, or general cloudiness.

How much hydro can you get out of the Hudson valley? How many small dams could you build in the Catskills and Adirondacks?

Energy supplies in the NE are just not in good shape for that many people.


Here is one link where the issue of how much electricity Indian Point provides is discussed.

I have no basis to vouch for the veracity of this information.


Q: What percentage of the area’s electrical needs was met by Indian Point when it sold all of its power to Con Ed and NYPA?

A: The percentage ranged from about 22% in the winter to 15% in the summer.

Q: What percentage of the area’s electrical needs is met by Indian Point now?

A: The 560 megawatts contracted to Con Ed and NYPA amount to 6.2% in the winter and 4.3% in the summer.

Q: Entergy claims Indian Point provides up to 40% of the electricity used in the New York City/ Westchester County grid. How do they arrive at that figure?

A: Energy use is based on the peak, or maximum load of the day when people are actually using electricity. For Entergy’s 40% claim to be accurate,electricity usage in New York City and Westchester would have to fall to only 5,000 megawatts.
Con Ed reports that the energy load drops to that level between 3 AM and 5 AM, Sunday mornings, about three times in the late spring and three times in the early fall when it is too cool for air conditioning, too warm for electric heaters, and the city sleeps. During those isolated periods the 2,000 megawatts from Indian Point – if it were all used in the region – would comprise 40%.

I heard some guy on Thom Hartman's radio show a day or two ago who claimed that NYC should be getting ~6% of its trons from Indian Point, but that one of the reactors was undergoing refueling right now...


Wikipedia says that Indian Point provides up to 30% of NYC's trons, depending on conditions...

One question would be to ascertain how much energy demand for Indian Point customers could be cut through aggressive but achievable efficiency, conservation, and remote demand modulation measures. Then, one could ask if there is any additional capacity in the system (power purchase agreements) to take up the slack, and how much potential is there for offshore wind, additional hydro power from Canada, etc.

Albuquerque (my 20) receives ~20% of its trons from Palo Verde 15 miles West of Tuscon, AZ. We likely would have an easier time than NYC making up the shortfall from shutting down 'our' nuke plant (PNM is part-owner of Palo Verde). We could very likely get more wind power, more coal power, and we certainly have no shortage of sunshine for PV build-out. There is plenty of flat land around here full of desert plants and lizards etc...I don't think giving them some shade would kill the ecosystems...and we have acres and acres of roof real estate in the metro area.

Albuquerque (my 20) receives ~20% of its trons from Palo Verde 15 miles West of Tuscon, AZ. We likely would have an easier time than NYC making up the shortfall from shutting down 'our' nuke plant (PNM is part-owner of Palo Verde). We could very likely get more wind power, more coal power, and we certainly have no shortage of sunshine for PV build-out. There is plenty of flat land around here full of desert plants and lizards etc...I don't think giving them some shade would kill the ecosystems...and we have acres and acres of roof real estate in the metro area.

Where is "Tuscon" Arizona? All this time I thought Palo Verde was 50 miles west of Phoenix! WTF are "trons"? And to hell with the environment and wildlife! After all Heisenberg needs electricity to make asinine posts on the internet.

"Energy supplies in the NE are just not in good shape for that many people."

The solution then is get rid of 'that many people'. Oh, sorry, I mentioned the unmentionable. /snarc

Uh.... the west bound lane of the Oregon Trail is closed due to repairs, so..... I dont know.

Fell into the Pacific didn't it? 20 feet maybe? Perhaps a pertinent message, I almost used that event in a post about the safety of shoreline nuclear facilities. How you doing? Long time. I see you are teaching me again. Blessings.

edit: sorry that was the PCH but I am sure you are aware.

'Nuclear Ninja' Suicide Mission To Save Japan

A handful of "heroes" working to avert a total meltdown at Japan's crippled nuclear plant have told loved ones not to expect them to return home.

Police officers in protective suits drive vehicles at Minamisoma city in Fukushima prefecture near the nuclear plant on March 12, 2011.

The Japanese media have dubbed the elite squad of 180 technicians the "Samurai Warriors" and even the "Nuclear Ninjas" as they try to save their country.

One man, having already been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, told his wife: "Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while."

While the young daughter of one of the workers wrote on Twitter: "My dad went to the nuclear plant. I have never heard my mother cry so hard."

...Of those who decided to stay, five are known to have already died. A further two are missing and at least 21 others have been injured.

Pardon my scepticism but I have not been able to find any news of deaths at Dai-Ichi. Today's news had a story that 6 workers have received doses of 100 millisieverts, which is the normal limit for nuclear workers and certainly well below any likelihood of acute radiation sickness.

"Pardon my scepticism but I have not been able to find any news of deaths at Dai-Ichi. Today's news had a story that 6 workers have received doses of 100 millisieverts, which is the normal limit for nuclear workers and certainly well below any likelihood of acute radiation sickness."

The max in the the U.S. is 5 rems or 50 microsieverts but the plant I am currently in will cut you loose at 18.

Most of the casualties were caused by the earthquake/tsunami.


There are no deaths listed by TEPCO at the Daiichi plant from the earthquake/tsunami. Sky News (along with other sources) is claiming that TEPCO is not telling the truth about the situation at the plant.

1 death listed at the other plant, a crane operator in his cab but no cause of death. TEPCO should not be the reporting agency for this but I don't know if Japan has the same health and safety organisation as the UK. I am not sure I would treat Murdoch as a reliable source either.


I hate it that these few square miles of Japan are getting all the attention when 7K are dead, another 10K or more missing, and a number of cities and towns on the west coast of Japan have been completely washed away.

It's like the citizens of Earth have zero tolerance to radiation exposure from power plants, but will jump into a jet for a cross country flight without a thought. There's no perspective.

I'm willing to be slapped down if somebody can give me a worse case analysis of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that comes even close to the other damage done by the tsunami.


The worst worst-case scenario is that all three reactors with fuel in their core and all four fuel pools overheat and two or more reactors breach the concrete containment structures, burning through into the broader environment.

In either case, severe amounts of radioactive contamination will spread over tens, hundreds, or even thousands of square miles. In either case, radioactive contamination will spread over land and water, posing serious health hazards to life within 50 miles of the complex.

Then they have to abandon Fukushima Daini and that melts down as well. Repeat.

Which is entirely unlikely and hadn't happened. The thousands dead from one of the worst natural disaster, most assuredly has happened.

The question was about the worst case scenario though.

From twitter and the like it seems that the following is said to be some very good analysis from someone who knows what he is talking about, Dr. Michio Kaku



"Workers overwhelmed - leadership clueless" - Dr. Michio Kaku

Dr. Kaku's a great scientist, and that comment I can only agree with too.

I was not aware of the "Chernobyl solution" he mentioned. Is it basically used to contain the radiation or suffocate any explosion? How would they go about implementing that? Would the sand and concrete be air dropped in? How would the sarcophagus be installed?

Great article in OUTSIDE magazine....about Chernobyl.

""Chernobyl, My Primeval, Teeming, Irradiated Eden""


The Martian.

Given the current status of the reactors his analysis looks more like scaremongering to gain attention in the MSM.

"entirely unlikely"



HACHINOHE, Japan - Lt. Cmdr. Derek Peterson, U.S. 7th Fleet salvage officer, visited Hachinohe, Japan, on March 18, and met with city officials to discuss the salvage capabilities the U.S. Navy can provide in support of Operation Tomodachi....

Along with discussing Safeguard’s capabilities, Peterson, members of the Japan coast guard, and city Port Authority officials looked over surveys and charts that displayed current conditions of the port. He also attended a meeting with city officials to gain a full understanding of city-wide recovery efforts.

“If given the opportunity, we are hoping to combine our resources and do whatever is needed to be done to help get the city back on its feet,” Peterson said to the group.

Peterson said assisting the clean up and reopening of the port would benefit Japan by giving the country a key hub for delivery of humanitarian development assistance in this battered region.

“With this port reopened, humanitarian assistance possibilities from this port are limitless,” he said.

GO NAVY!! Now that's what I'm talkin about!

Earthquakes, tsunamis, meteor strikes, etc. are not controllable. They have always happened to humans, and always will. Want to reduce your risk, don't build near hurricane zones, or on top of fault likes or on the coast with something that can be flooded.

The nuclear meltdown was preventable. The radiation in the environment will be harmful for months, years and decades to come. The damage to the land and agriculture will already be here for decades, and that isn't even worst case yet. There are reports that Unit 4 storage pool has reached criticality.

The increase in risk of cancer and those extra deaths was completely preventable. The deaths from flooding was not. The deaths from earthquake damage was very little relative to the size of the quake, from engineering large urban areas to deal with likelyhood of large earthquakes.

The point is that you are concerned about the unpreventable deaths from tsunami, versus the preventable threat to millions of lives because some idiots built the storage tank for nuclear fuel rods in a swimming pool on top of a live reactor and none of the systems can survive with passive cooling. Also, the diesel generators were built underground, not water proof and at the seawall with diesel tanks just sitting unprotected right at the seawall. Oh and they build 6 reactors next to each other and all of them will meltdown because their only contingency plan is 8 hours of battery operation.

This could have been passively cooled design. They could have had huge tanks of emergency water in the bldgs. The storage pools could have been design to have some form of containment. The obvious production of hydrogen gas and pressure build up and even melting fuel rods could have been designed for. They were not.

What about a simple idea of the bottom of reactors and storage pool had a place that went melted through the stainless steel, would fall into it's own 40 foot thick concrete vault already filled with boron and it's own built in sarcophagus for catastrophic events?

But they don't design for that. Because at that point the corporation is out $40 billion dollars and they aren't in business and no longer give a crap if it ever gets that bad and permanently damaged. There is a reason TEPCO told the Prime Minister on MONDAY they were pulling out all workers because there was nothing left to do. The corporation realized they have no interest in this business anymore and tried to walk away. At least in Russia, the military could get involved. In Japan, the waited three of four days before the PM took over and realized the corporation wasn't going to attempt any fixes.

Remember too, that this is an old design that, were it not for TEPCO and the government trying to save face, wouldn't have had any serious incident at all.

That this is seen as calling time on nuclear is quite bizarre. You mean like how after Windscale, TMI and Chernobyl when we totally abandoned nuclear? Oh, wait...

Irrational people worrying over a disaster that hasn't happened do themselves an injustice, especially when followed with shameless plugging for mass build outs by renewables, as if mining for them/building them is always totally benign to humans and the environment.

Remember THREE, that about a quarter of the Reactors in the US are of the same basic design as these ones, and that these owners and operators are forced to do many of the same backflips in order to save face.

The question is certainly NOT about the current bodycount, but about the thin veneer of safety that is presented by a single line of power that is now available to keep these vast stores of fuel cooled off and safe.

I understand there is still likelihood for more aftershocks in the area as well. How many more straws can that camel take, do you think?

I thought I read, that we were required to have an extra layer of backup power. Also we have a strong containment building (dome). So while the basic reactor design is the same, we (supposedly) didn't skimp as badly on the extras. It was the inadaquacy of the extras that resulted in this mess. [Plus the unwillingness to ask for help, and maybe to make important decisions on time]. We cannot just declare the recator type, dangerous. We gotta look at the common failure modes, and make sure they are covered.

You are probably right, but when I talked about a 'single line of power', I was coming back to the current crisis, where there is still an enormous amount of unprotected fuel sitting in devastated surroundings.

To have Valdemar speak of "Irrational people worrying over a disaster that hasn't happened do themselves an injustice" wilfully ignores that whether this kills or injures great numbers of people, it has already left us hanging by our fingernails over a deep precipice. If we do manage to claw our way out of this one with minimal loss of life, that is good luck, but it isn't victory. We've seen how vulnerable the spent fuel is, and have now also heard how much of it is overloaded at sites all over the world, and how many technicians and whistleblowers have rung their bells to see if they could correct it, and met with intimidation and punishment.

In the Italian 'Commedia del Arte', this was referred to as the setup for a fall. Makeup!

A agree with much of what you say, but a few points: It doesn't seem the radiation in the environment will be harmful for very long, as it's some noble gases and iodine, and the iodine has a half-life of 8 days. For the more long lived cesium to get out in significant amounts, we need some real fires such as with the graphite moderator rods in Chernobyl. Also, how much criticality can you get with spent fuel? If it could go critical, I guess they would have had it to run for a while longer in the reactor?

Reactor 4 pool not only contains its normal spent fuel it also contains the reactor's live non-spent core fuel removed during maintenance.

I think we just need to wait and see what happens here. I sure hope anything that gets incorporated into the ground is short lived. But Chernobyl is still too hot for rehabitation. But C had a fire to disperse the stuff much more widely. Until these things get stabilized to the point, that the odds of some sort of fire/eruption/ sudden release are remote, it will be tough to evaluate those issues.

In the real world, anything that can be hazardous, which is almost anything at all, can always be weighed down with ever more "safety" gear, up to and beyond the point of rendering it physically or economically useless. And yet even amidst incessant histrionic fearmongering over minutes or seconds of life-expectancy among people who never had it so good, the societal 'we' hasn't quite weighed cars or jets down to sheer immobility (though, as we've discussed before, some cars "safe" enough for quivering, fear-ridden Europe are mysteriously not "safe" enough for the good ol' USA.) Undoubtedly, nuclear plants (and much else) will now be weighed down more in the future than in the past, all the more so since lessons learned from an obsolete 50-year-old design will probably be misapplied by ideological berserkers to more modern designs. And yet, after all that, the risk from any physical activity, nuclear or otherwise, will remain non-zero. Things are tough all over.

Oh, and corporate or at least corporate-like entities will go on existing, short of depopulating the world and moving the handful of survivors back into caves (oftentimes subject to tsunami, so not zero-risk.) Even the ancient Athenians bitched and yammered about such entities. Things are really tough all over.

Somehow, almost magically, when it comes to buying/building on a coast or river - or worse still, out on a laughably narrow unstable sandspit 20 miles off the US east coast - people make tradeoffs concerning the risks, without feeling obliged to go ballistic over the existence of large businesses. When it comes to buying houses right in Chemical Alley in New Jersey vs. buying elsewhere in the region, they make tradeoffs concerning the risks vs. perhaps affordability and commute times, with only the occasional flareup of histrionics, and (usually) staying just short of shutting down the plants where they work, in the process of weighing them down with "safety". When it comes to backing the car out of the driveway vs. staying home, they make tradeoffs concerning the risks, or, more precisely, they don't even feel the need because actually the risks are beneath more than minimal worry. They manage to deal with all of this and much more, both individually and corporately/collectively.

But somehow, after routinely taking every sort of risk - again, both individually and corporately - with nary a second thought, they seem to feel an irresistible urge to go ape over anything "nucular". Doesn't even matter if the actual risk is utterly insignificant - as right this very minute with the fruits, nuts, and flakes of California exhausting inventories of potassium iodide pills that probably ought to have been snatched away early on and airfreighted to Japan, where there might be an actual, rather than merely hallucinated, need for them.

In the end it looks and feels like nothing so much as the foolish old Prometheus myth, come back up from the dead past to haunt us - who are we to make use of fire, or, worse still, demoniac "nucules", when we ought rightfully to be leaving such things to the gods, and living, ourselves, as mere know-nothing beasts. Or maybe it's more prosaic - just the latest tiresome version of "why should anyone ever be permitted to fly when God gave us perfectly good railroads".

The risk is real Paul. All their food is sprayed with Cesium now. Maybe when you are in the store imagine you have two choices Cs sprayed food (low level rad waste) or Cs-free.

Which would you eat? What if you did not know which food was sprayed would you eat there or go to the next store? What would your wife do? Your neighbors?

It is not hard to understand really. The nukes are not safe as designed for real world disasters. They never were.

Some of us care more about quality that quantity.

Yes industry likes it the other way around -- and when the insurance is from the public or liability is capped, yes we all yell at them.

As I like to say, Grow Up! LOL.

What I'd eat would depend on price and Cesium concentration.

incessant histrionic fear-mongering
ideological berserkers
fruits, nuts, and flakes of California

There is no rational, adult discussion.
It is the child's tactic of name-calling.
And it works, because human's are not as bright as they aspire to be.

"It's got electrolytes..."

A rather big difference is this:

Quakes and waves are hazards of nature, which we cannot prevent.

Nuclear meltdowns and large radiation releases are wholly avoidable, by not building nuclear and meeting our needs some other way. Its contribution is remarkably trivial; in the UK after 55 years nuclear electricity provides 3% of our delivered energy.

But no, we believed nuclear industry promises like "too cheap to meter" and the nuclear lobby continues to succeed in its special pleading, like these implicit requests to government:

"Please let us operate without any liability insurance. Thanks so much."
"We can't get anyone to sign a contract to dispose of our nuclear waste. Will the government take of it, please. Thanks so much."

So, if we hadn't been so stupid, yes we could forget about nuclear hazards, since there wouldn't be any, and we could focus on cleaning up the devastation from this natural disaster.

Nuclear meltdowns and large radiation releases are wholly avoidable, by not building nuclear and meeting our needs some other way.

What way? Today, the UK has virtually nothing except fossils and nuclear.

The Japanese coast guard released a video on Saturday showing the massive tsunami waves... rising up above the prow of the coastguard ship as it sailed straight towards it...

Kyodo News Service reported that the Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi prefecture has moved 17.3 feet and dropped 3.9 feet since the March 11 earthquake, according to government data.

Miyagi coastal whaling port pulverized, little more than memory
AYUKAWA, Miyagi Pref. (Kyodo) A coastal whaling base in Miyagi Prefecture has been virtually destroyed by the powerful tsunami triggered by last Friday's massive earthquake, which washed away a whale-processing facility.
Yoshiya Endo, 72, a former whaler stoker, said: "Whaling is impossible. Reviving it may take 20 to 30 years." But a source linked to the industry said the whaling culture should be preserved. "As long as there are people who will carry on whaling even in the absence of vessels or facilities, whaling could be revived eventually."

Just heard a report that radioactive iodine is showing up in Tokyo's water supply... I guess that's one of those "I should have seen that one coming."
I hope all those Californians send all the potassium iodide pills they hoarded over to the people who need them.

The levels are very low

Fukushima water tested above safe limit 2 days ago

Radioactive iodine in drinking water was at one point above government safety limits in the prefecture that hosts a radiation-spewing nuclear plant, the Health Ministry said late Saturday after reporting that trace amounts had also been detected in Tokyo and five other prefectures.

Please remember that we are exceptionally good at measuring radioactivity. That something can be detected doesn't mean it's significant. If you travel now and you see geiger gear in airports and so on, please realize that it is a complete waste of time. Politicians use your money and time to give the impression that they are important and responsible.

The detection of iodine shows that Tokyo's municipal water supply is potentially vulnerable if a much larger release of radiation heads toward the capital. Water supplies might have to be cut off for an undetermined period of time, which would throw the metro area of 35 million people into chaos.


Finally; the whales are getting a break.

Maybe there is a god.

A movie for Miyazaki to make.

Is it just me or did the tide turn when the PM turned the show over to the SDF? I remember the spill. It is what brought me here to begin with. Much different place then as most could tell my posts. Sorry, I adapted. I do remember one thing from back then, I wanted Obama to have the military take over. Not to shoot or kill anyone but to bring in a unqualified chain of command responsible to the people via the president. During the Macondo event, I never felt anyone but BP was in charge. What say you all, did you see the same things in the two cases?

Edit: Leadership, perhaps as someone pointed out can be corrupt especially up high, but other than brains and money or equipment, it is what you need.

TEPCO told the PM they were pulling out last Monday and there was nothing they could do and were abandoning the plant..

It did seem like TEPCO had a deer-in-the-headlights kind of reaction to the whole thing. It will be interesting in the months ahead as the stories come out whether this is an accurate portrayal or not.

The problem in these kinds of events is that if you have effective take-charge leadership on-site right from the start, many problems can be prevented. On the other hand, if the people at the plant are paralyzed into inaction, the whole thing quickly can spiral out of control. If the latter is the case, national leaders need to act quickly to get people in there who can try and get the situation under control. I suspect the first lesson here is that in any type of an event like this, the government needs to get qualified people on-site immediately so that they can form their own opinions that aren't filtered by the BS coming from plant management.

You are hearby promoted from Captain Obvious to Major Obvious. How can we figure it out and they can't? They have to be serving many masters or another one other than the people. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$? Thing is, most times when you spite the people for profit, a loss and bankruptcy it shall be, for at some point all your customers are people. Can TEPCO survive or are they backstopped by the treasury? Let them fold to lessen liability? I am ignorant in politics even more so in international litigation. Will Fukushima also be a big legal war? Japan is not a litigious society, right? I remember few attorneys when I lived there. This will be interesting to watch play out in court too, no?

I'll give you some similarities.

1) The problem was addressed by "people with some kind of machinery" not policy wonks.
2) "Lubricate and Bleed" in both cases.
3) Logistics and international cooperation were needed by those people with machines.

BTW - According to the MMS-USCG JIT, the DNV report on the BOP is due tomorrow, March 20, 2011 http://www.deepwaterinvestigation.com/go/doc/3043/1025771/ so things are about to get very interesting down in your neck of the woods.

Somebody in gov't is going to have to explain the relationship between the closed blind shear ram and the ephemeral "missing oil" that they want to fine BP for, but which does not adversely affect the quality of the Gulf sea food. The truth is that the 4.5 million barrel spill is overestimated by an amount comparable to the "missing oil", which therefore isn't missing after all. There is no million barrel pool of oil just sitting on the floor of the Gulf waiting for its chance to visit destruction once again upon the long suffering Cajuns.

Some very embarrassed gov't officials starting tomorrow!!!! Should be quite a show!

GE Loses Billions Over Failing Reactor Design

The unfolding crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has put a harsh spotlight on General Electric, the giant US conglomerate which built parts of the plant and which had been hoping to benefit from a renaissance in nuclear power that now looks to be on hold.

Almost $12bn (£7.4bn) has been wiped from the value of the company since Monday, and a retired nuclear engineer revealed how he and several colleagues resigned from GE in 1975 because of his safety concerns over the design of the Mark 1 containment unit used at the plant.,/blockquote>

GE isn't losing this money. The people who own GE stock are.

The interesting thing is that this is their nuclear business is only a $1 billion dollar in revenue per year business. Clearly even if this business disappears completely the value of the company won't be $12 billion less. Not even close.

This map illustrates satellite-detected standing bodies of water remaining after the tsunami event over the city of Sendai and affected areas south in Miyagi Prefecture.

UN Miyagi Prefecture Tsunami-Related Standing Water Map

Nature at work - changing geography.
The tsunamis has probably reallocated silt, mud and soil along the coast and thus put new natural moats in place establishing new and permanent lakes and ponds.

That's a very to the point comment. I think I would add that this is nature's way of guaranteeing that there are marshes and islands at the coast, just as there always have been. Florida has kept it's barrier islands (though built an afwul lot on them), and every time a hurricane comes through they change their shape.

This is why I say we must find ways to live WITH nature rather than AGAINST nature. She has a tendency to decide to recreate the things we move or eliminate for our convenience. There is a reason they were there in the first place. It's inevitable that in creating a space for our own lives (farmland, housing, etc.) we will be changing the landscape, but we should think about why the landscape is what it is, and how we can build with respect to what is there instead of naively changing things and thinking there won't be repercussions.

Unfortunately, Japan has a massive construction industry and a citified culture - it requires a sea change in thinking in order to get to a wiser mode of thought. Though I don't think it's any easier elsewhere. In Florida, the real estate industry pushes hard for more construction, ever closer to beaches and on usafe areas of barrier islands, despite the fact that it's shooting itself in the foot with that push (build too close, and if the beach moves, you have a building that no longer is on the beach, it's in the water - not good for the resale value, that's for sure!). I worked as a realtor's assistant there, and I found that many of the realtors thought this was stupid, but their voices were not the voice of the industry.

"In Florida, the real estate industry pushes hard for more construction, ever closer to beaches and on usafe areas of barrier islands, despite the fact that it's shooting itself in the foot with that push (build too close, and if the beach moves, you have a building that no longer is on the beach, it's in the water - not good for the resale value, that's for sure!). I worked as a realtor's assistant there, and I found that many of the realtors thought this was stupid, but their voices were not the voice of the industry."

The usual pattern. When you think about it, the construction industry and the real estate agents have diverging interests. Once you build it and sell it, you are done with it, why should you care if the next storm puts it under water? Some real estate outfits can surf the wave for a while, selling the new construction and moving on as available undeveloped property is used up. Many individual agents, however, put down roots in an area and need to have return business, resale business, and a strong local economy. Just like the rest of us sheep, they are left behind when the hot money moves to the next bonanza.

Our society allows sociopaths to run the economy, in the form of corporations allowed to operate solely for the purpose of maximizing short-term cash generation. Then we profess to believe that those very entities are the only ones suited to build and operate these capital intensive, complex and tightly coupled systems which, when they break down, have the potential to cause damage that cannot be mitigated and can cause injury for tens, hundreds, even thousands of years. Finally we let those sociopaths undermine, circumvent and dominate the regulatory apparatus by allowing them unfettered access to influence (buy) legislatures.

Looks like a system designed to fail.

Does anyone know what's keeping it from simply flowing back into the sea - if it flowed in, which only took a few minutes, why can't it flow out again the same way? Are there floodgates that have to be actively opened? Does something like this also happen every time there's a typhoon, which can be several times in a summer?

Subsidence, it dropped, as happened during the 1964 Alaskan quake. It was farmland, now it is swampland. In Alaska, the quake caused "Ghost forests" to appear as the higher seawater (lower land) level killed trees.

I don't know, but they do have sea-walls and dikes (under elevated highways) perhaps creating undrained topographic bowls. Also, the nature of the quake was to uplift the seafloor seaward of the epicenter and lower the elevation landward, so it's possible that there was significant change to the coastal elevations as a result of the quake.

Does anyone know what's keeping it from simply flowing back into the sea -

A few things combined:
* The land itself dropped in the quake, some 1.7m in some areas.
* The debris effect mentioned already
* The sheer weight of the water, will further compress soft soils, and that adds (subtracts?) to push the land level even lower.

Some of the sea-walls images, also looked like they were already in a level-deficit situation.

In Japan they have advisories going out about dangers from the next high tide. NHK says to be alert, it will not be like a tsunami, but the water may rise more then normal.

Another Port-au-Prince in the making

Fault line under Philippine capital

The capital, Manila, sits on a massive fault line, and there are concerns the city's infrastructure would not be able to withstand a quake.

Authorities in the Philippines have been anxiously looking at the vulnerabilities of Manila, a megalopolis of more than 12 million people, following the devastating earthquakes to hit Japan and New Zealand.

I have seen some wild 'Ring of Fire' progressive earthquake theories floating around recently, especially in Asia. The domestic theories state the Juan de Fuca subduction zone is next, as it is 50 years overdue, but that all should be prudent. Of course, that would be the zone that roughly parallels the Pacific Coast Highway from California to Washington and actually into Canada. Maybe we should ask this? Is LA or SF the next Port-Au-Prince? Haitians or us, you get hit hard enough, it will be the same or worse, at least for a while until help can get built up. I learned that from Katrina.

Seattle is really the most likely future Port-au-Prince of the US. Very very unprepared structurally and near a large, past-due fault zone. San Francisco is near the San Andreas but it slipped mightily in 1906 and slipped significantly in 1989. The SF Area's other faults (Hayward, Calaveras) are past due but studies show no potential for megathrust quakes, probably max would be 7.5. Of course this would still be a massive disaster, but not like a 9.0 near Seattle. Los Angeles' section of the San Andreas is also past due but lack of proximity helps L.A., the nearest point is 40 miles from downtown.

I nave been looking at earthquake data from, http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/quakes_all.php Are such continuing aftershocks normal in an event like this? A whole week seems like a long time for 4-5-6 magnitude quakes to continue. I did find this , http://www.newscientist.com/embedded/japan-quake, which says that such continued quakes are unusual.

According to one of the geologists I saw interviewed last week (by Rachel Maddow at MSNBC I think -- they all start to run together after a while) aftershocks go on for a long time, 10 years at least. I believe he was trying to say they taper off logarithmically, so apparently there is disagreement among those who study this kind of thing. Or they are feeling different parts of the elephant.

It's my understanding (from geologists and seismologists) that the quakes in the New Madrid zone are aftershocks from 1811/1812 (four shocks in the 7 to 8.5 range in two months). There are still a lot of aftershocks going on from last Easter's earthquake south of Calexico, which was considerably smaller (7.2).

sharkey - though I'm a geologist I'm not earthquake expert. But here's a simplistic picture. The subduction zones represent areas where one huge plate of rocks slide underneath another. This induces stress across the entire region and impacts the entire rock column. And this is where it gets complicated. Different subareas react differently. And when stresses in a subarea produces a quake the release of that energy shifts the stress distribution. Many aftershocks fall into this classification. Think of it as a very complex array of dominoes. One falls and knocks over the next. And some of those dominoes are timed released. So how do you distinguish an aftershock quake from the brakeage of a different stress field especially when it happens at a much different time? Quakes immediately after might be related to a major fault movement but it might have happened even had not the “big one” hit. And a major shock that hits 6 months after the big one: a separate event or a long delayed event related to the big one? I suspect in many cases it can’t be determined with much confidence.

Geologists have used detailed positions of aftershocks from local area networks to get a 3D estimation of the shape of the fault surface. They are a normal part of any event. I don't know what the expected statistical spectrum of aftershocks is, so I can't say if this is in the normal range.

I have two questions for the scientists: first, is it possible to establish a year in which the four Japanese reactors in question (or any current nuclear sites, really) will cease to need to be artificially cooled and guarded against theft of nuclear material? In other words, if we kept operating our plants but didn't add any nuclear material, when would we be done with this stuff? I think it would be helpful to set a year, or at least a date range.

Second, I'm confused about covering the nuclear materials with concrete. The water table in Japan is so high that it seems like this would not be effective.

Your thoughts appreciated.

I am not a scientist, but 3-5 years (Wiki says at least 1 year, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fuel_cycle#Interim_storage) is the time I have heard that it takes to cool fuel down enough so that it can go into a "cask" and safely be stored out of a pool, off-site. The major concern that is immediate, are radioactive materials getting into the atmosphere where they can spread quickly, groundwater is a secondary concern. They have 18 ft (iirc) of concrete under the reactor which should stop it from contaminating groundwater if the site is sealed.

The one big advantage of being right on the coast, is any groundwater probably drains into the ocean. Probably with pumping out on one side, and injecting water on the other, you could force it to flow where you want it.

Based on the TMI example, I'd guess that defueling will be started and completed in the latter half of this decade. But the Japanese are efficient guys and tech is probably better now, so perhaps they'll be faster.

Not a scientist, but it depends on how much fuel they ultimately recover. Plant decommissioning takes a long time even when there haven't been any major disasters. A decommissioning plan for a US reactor, Oyster Creek, was put together for cost estimates (no link but I can find it again if needed). The date of final release of the property for unrestricted use was 2094. The radioactivity will fall off regardless of where it is, so the biggest difference might be in the amount of security needed to keep the site secure. The time frame might not be much different.

Think about the concerns over the radiation and how incompatible with human life these high levels are. Now think about someone trying to tuck one of those fuel rods under their arm and walking off with it. These things have their own built in security.

Covering these with concrete will not provide any long term security. There is no control or monitoring of the material, the concrete will degradate and you have a set of crumbling concrete blocks that will get attacked by the sea (don't forget rising sea levels). Once cooling is established, repairs can be carried out to ensure longer term cooling is secure. As the fuel cools down it can be removed to safe storage. There are already regrets that Chernobyl was covered with concrete.


Ring of fire: the five non-Japan nuclear sites in quake zone

The circle of seismic activity in the Pacific Ocean, known as the "ring of fire," stretches from Australia to Russia around to Alaska and America's West Coast and down to Chile in South America. It's an area responsible for 90 percent of the world's earthquakes and 75 percent of its volcanoes. So which of the more than 26 nations in the ring has nuclear power? Only three: Japan, of course (more than 50 plants); the United States (eight reactors at four plants); and Mexico (two reactors at one plant). Here's a look at the five non-Japanese plants in the world's most active earthquake zone:

- 1. Veracruz, Mexico
- 2. Wintersburg, Ariz
- 3. San Clemente, Calif
- 4. San Luis Obispo, Calif
- 5. Richland, Wash.


Nuclear safety: Five recent 'near miss' incidents at US nuclear power plants

The following thumbnail is a clickable graphics of one of my previously mentioned theorists about the Juan de Fuca subduction zone being overdue for a major seismic event.
Picture of Ring of Fire Subduction Zones

Veracruz is on the east coast of Mexico while the 'Ring of Fire' fault lies on the west. I am not saying they don't have shakes just that it is not exactly RoF. Your No2 also stretches the point.


Many people posting here on TOD, from time to time will find anecdotal evidence to support the idea that we are doomed. Typically this will involve matters of energy, economy and over population.

It is fairly well known that the 'sheep' will follow anyone that has the ability to sound convincing especially if advertising's recency-effect is employed - that is, if you say something often enough, people will start to accept it as some kind of undeniable reality.

Karl Denninger (from a post on 2011-03-12): We must accept these risks (1) if we are to enjoy our modern way of life. Despite the ongoing challenges in Japan today, I would fully support a nuclear power plant being constructed 10 miles upwind of my home, just as I fully supported offshore drilling out my back window even after the BP well disaster.

1. Denninger, over the course of many posts during the last few weeks, writes extensivly about risks, with far too many instances of "must accept" and "have to" etc. I suspect that Denninger's writing is typical of many conservatives. It is worrying that he has an apparent following and comes down hard on anyone that suggests his position may lack the authority he implies. For example, consider the following reasonable query:

(from PermaBear 2011-03-15): Nicole Foss (aka Stoneleigh) presents herself as an authority on a variety of topics, and she claims multiple advanced degrees. Though your styles couldn't be more different, you also seem to often claim expertise in a multiple fields.

Not sure if I'm going to get a violent reaction from this Karl, but would you care to comment on your background that makes you an authority on this subject? If I recall correctly, you were an IT guy and then subsequently seem to have done well trading. Not meant as an attack, you've frequently demonstrated a deep grasp on a variety of topics. But I frankly find your dismissal of other points of view to be very off-putting.

Like Jeffrey, I also found her post to be even-handed. I'm too far from the facts to judge either her post-scripts or your opinions, for that matter. I'm more than willing to grant, though, that hastily added postscripts, without attribution especially, seem subject to inaccuracy.

Denninger does not like to be challenged in this direct fashion, with absolutely predictable results:

Karl Denninger (Your Banned): ... I wear my bias on my sleeve in this regard, and we all have 'em - anyone who says they don't is lying.

I'm not in the mood after the last 48 hours of hypsterism for any more of it, from anyone, irrespective of how, who or why, and I've made clear my stance on it. As such you just said goodbye.

And with that, another voice of reason was silenced (banned). Note the inane claim to an absolute; anyone that denies "bias" is a "liar", no apparent room for anything else. I might be unaware of my bias, and claim to have none in some regard - this does not make me a liar, it would instead imply ignorance. It is the continual claim to absolutes that makes Denninger a bigot (a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own).

Karl Denninger (Recently): ... First, if you're looking for [ways to profit from Japanese misery and suffering (2)], the obvious ones are food commodities. Japan just got reamed on production. Also, distillate (diesel fuel) might be a decent play. These are needs, not wants. There have already been monster moves in some of the Japanese construction companies, so you may be late, but if you're looking for a trade that's the obvious one.

2. Denninger actually uses the quoted word 'plays' - this being a fairly obvious euphemism. For a man that repeatedly hammers home the need for honesty, accuracy, truth and integrity, this is straight forward rank hypocrisy. He knows what he is writing about is truly disgusting and attempts to hide behind the much softer sounding 'plays'.

The foregoing is yet more anecdotal evidence of why we are doomed.

The theoretical physicists tell us we either will have The Big Freeze, The Big Rip, The Big Crunch, The Big Bounce, a Multiverse with no end, False Vacuum, or they just say we are uncertain. There are many other theories out there too. Point being, when the doomers come around, I introduce them to the world of theoretical physics. That usually takes care of them for a while. I assume we will be fine for if we are truly doomed, what difference are our efforts? So quit talking all that doom and what do we do about it? Cynics never built much, they are necessary to help make sure the 'right' things are built.

You appear to be talking about the "Ultimate fate of the universe".

The context of my reference to 'doomed' is temporally much nearer - I am talking about business-as-usual.

Please do try to stay on topic. Thank you.

As you gracefully explained your tie-in, I shall explain mine. What are the legal, moral, and ethical considerations as they relate to our ultimate fate? A few SETI searches and some particle colliders? Maybe you need a nearer term example as you pointed out. The search for NEO objects that will end it all. So who determines the scale and assigns resources. Who is the ultimate risk manager for Katrina, Fukushima and the nuclear industry. All you folks are concentrating on how. I am concentrating on why. I clearly state that as my agenda. That and I am seeing many of the old stereotypes about culture and race permeate this board. I also am disappointed in the way my responses get deleted and not the original biased statement. I am old and retired now, my agenda is the future generation. Period. Globally.


edit: They are starting the blame game as we speak.
2240American investigative journalist and Japanese crime expert Jake Adelstein writes in his blog that: "the Japanese police are quietly beginning an investigation into TEPCO, the managing entity of the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor for charges of professional negligence resulting in death or injury." He says the investigation is still in its early stages and that nothing is official yet.

I'm really confused...
Are you talking about traffic on this site, TOD?

"The Oil Drum. Discussions about energy and our future".

The posts I have referenced all relate to the situation in Japan and its implications - thus they relate to this discussion.

I am writing about anecdotal evidence we pick up from events, people, and other web sites that have a bearing on the things we should know. People, for example Denninger, that appear to have growing popularity -- in my opinion, amongst the uninformed -- need to be discussed. Especially the tactics they use to stymie meaningful discussion.

I have pointed out that (within the context of the situation in Japan) there are clearly people that have an agenda and are using every tactic in the book to achieve their goals.

If the sheep are going to read technical matters by other people that may not be qualified or use duplicitous techniques then this should be highlighted (everywhere). If you think it would be better to raise these points on Denniger's own site then you obviously do not understand anything that was posted above.

Seriously - does it make any difference if the sources (which all have hyperlinks) are this site or any other?

He's not talking about this site and it's completely OT. Having said that, Denninger is only saying the NIMBY crowd is irrational, and he feels he's knowledgeable enough to make his own informed decisions. I don't see anything wrong with that. You don't have to be an expert to make reasonably informed choices.

Thanks Cryptex

His words made it sound like this Denniger 86ed someone from TOD.
Bit overwrought, as well. But, I too do not like the self-appointed:

"I'm an expert because I say I am!"
quoted from the song "The Garden of Allah" by Don Henley and friends
from the album "Actual miles"


... actually, an important song, right about now.

Thanks for answering for me and apparently knowing what I am 'writing' about, better than I do myself.

You don't have to be an expert to make reasonably informed choices.

How quaint - you cling to that old fashioned notion that you can trust the experts not to take advantage of you.

HoustonB, I stopped paying any attention to Denninger, Mish, or any other 'free market libertarians' years ago.

Since their core philosophy is totally incoherent and unreal, based purely on mythology, and completely self-centered, in an almost absolute sense, I started realizing that even if they saw little things here and there, their overall views would always be so skewed that they would be proven wrong far more often than right. This is a typical outcome of using a false / incorrect model to interpret human events and systems.

Their failures are so consistent that I no longer pay attention to them, and I am somewhat surprised to see anyone reading Denninger any longer to be honest.

Now, having come to my senses in this regard, I started reading more serious types, like Soros, who appears to have an excellent understanding of markets and human social systems, far far superior to Denningers, as is evidenced by the experimental successes Soros had when testing his theories using real world investments, each one of which was a verification of a thesis he had.

I'll tell you this: spend about 3 hours reading the start of The Alchemy of Finance and you will have a huge edge in understanding. Finish it, and you'll really see. Hard reading though. Soros covers the fallacies of the 'free market' in a few sentences, that's really all that it requires, then lays out the more deep level explanations after that.

Guys like Mish and Denninger are one trick ponies, they saw one thing one time, right when the internet started getting more widely used, and that's really about all it was.

H2, I can't argue with anything you've written. I also spotted someone quoting you in the comments to John Michael Greer's latest missive - all good stuff. The Alchemy of Finance would probably be a really good read - if I thought there was going to be much 'finance' in my future.

Those principles apply to human social systems, that was Soros's initial premise before he entered finance. He entered finance to test that premise. His tests were validated, he's quite wealthy because of them. Each of his larger successes was a direct test of a component of his theory. The book is philosophy wrapped in a coat of financial terminology.

It's a good read because it's a good model for how we construct our realities in all areas. His boom/bust cycle logics apply just as well to larger boom/busts, like oil consumption etc.

Greenspan, on the other hand, and all other free market ideologues like him, still cannot figure out why the boom he generated by creating free money for unscrupulous speculators while removing regulations that would prevent such busts and disasters resulted in a series of catastrophic busts, like clockwork. Soros made his fortune off understanding why such behaviors are basically locked in to us in our present social state.

Once this stuff settles down I'll go back to the more interesting material I was working on, but I'll integrate this new information as well.

... Once this stuff settles down ...

Are you referring to Japan and the wider ramifications for nuclear power (present and future), or a broader sense?

I am not optimistic that the future (near term, etc.) holds much promise of settling down.

From a main-stream-media reported sense, yes the situation in Japan is highly likely to be superseded by the next big thing.

It amazes me that Greenspan still gets any airtime especially after his mea culpa.

Japan, and current ramifications, as they ripple outward. Obviously, and as almost nobody here is keeping in mind, as the global financial system is forced to readjust, which it must do, things are not going to be as readily fundable. It's useful to keep in mind that all these emergency operations now are funded by states that are all deeply in debt, and which have not seen a budget surplus in a long time.

I understand that despite wishful thinking that is ignoring core system failures that are being held off by massive long term debt increases, we are going to be seeing more and more volatility, this is precisely what Colin Campbell said, presciently, in the late '90s about how peak oil would look in the real world. Complex systems will fail in increasingly complex ways, the only surprises will be in the specifics, not in the pattern or general trends. In general it's background noise, as Soros notes, but sometimes you hit critical points where what Soros calls 'historic' changes occur. The world is different, and so are people's mindsets and core biases, after such changes. So each change is not a departure from equilibrium, it's an actual change in how we understand our world and social systems. Understanding this lets us understand the macro logic behind these events as they unfold. Good stuff.

I believe the core impressions people form around events like this are fairly accurate re the true risks, and I do not believe industry spin can really fix that damage to those core impressions. In other words, this is a historic event, and things will not return to 'normal' they have in fact changed. I am interested in such events because they matter compared to surface noise. The nuclear industry has to wait a long time before they can try to sell their products again in the way they were poised to do now. Someone here in this thread also speculated if renewables and nuclear are in fact not compatible at all. I believe increasingly this is the case. Simply look at what the corporate right supports and opposes, and I think you see more than we think. What they support is good for them, what they oppose is bad for them.

Greenspan is a tool, he wants closeness to power, fame, typical for that type. He tried to retract that mea culpa anyway recently, he's totally incapable of critical or reflexive thinking, its' far beyond his mental abilities.

Soros, like Moore, is utilizing the market system while, and to some extent by, adopting a somewhat contrary social niche. I don't think you should credit any of them with some deeper understanding outside their very specialized areas of work.

I may agree with some of what he writes, but Denninger is a complete douchebag. The giveaway is his frequent use of bold, caps, and such, as if he knows that he has to scream because he doesn't have much to say.

I'll repeat it once again, for any any and all who want to hear it: pay no attention to idiots, blowhards, and generally disagreeable people.

Life is too short! With peak oil upon us, this is truer now than ever.

However, your point is well taken. I fully expect the worst people in America to be elevated to the most powerful positions in the coming decades.

There's nothing we can do.

Well said, the second half particularly.

And look: You really do something - you can do something against this - you just did. Your words confirm one poster and inspire readers here.
Perhaps not persons in the "most powerful positions", true, but change comes do from what you just did.
Raise your voice when you have observed an error in the system, and when you have something that feels intelligent and "good" to point out.
Keep doing that everyday also to real people around you - can be done!



Up to date, even mentions the food contamination announced today, 19th.
Reactor-by-reactor descriptions.
Clues as to what went wrong with the attempts.

A nice example of how the U.S. secrets are secret only from U.S. public.

In 1957 a Russian underground storage pool exploded.
Radiation began to peel the skin off of faces in the nearest town.

They were told nothing.


But the CIA knew:

"According to Gyorgy,[11] who invoked the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the relevant Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) files, the CIA knew of the 1957 Mayak accident all along..."

But we were told nothing.

" ...but kept it secret to prevent adverse consequences for the fledgling American nuclear industry."

In service to their corporate owners.

WOW. I was one year old. I grew up believing until the lies rotted.

A document from Los Alamos National Labs:

"The Soviets successfully, albeit rather unsensationally,
created a contaminated area near Kyshtym through carelessness and
blatant disregard for their people or their surroundings. The
Kyshtym disaster is just that--a record of the disastrous, long
lasting effects man can wreak on his environment if he fails to
take adequate steps to protect it."

Wikipedia entries on reactor safety features have been throughly updated - clearly by industry. e.g


The republican "machine" is busy rewriting Wikipedia,
I am told.

People may want to do a "Save file as" and save the HTML for anything found to be informative. That will give a funny looking file and a folder. The file is the HTML: Double click on it to open the saved page. The folder has all of the pieces of that page.

Who told you that? Wikipedia, in case you didn't know, retains all previous incarnations of their pages. Anyone can look at the history and find older versions of every article. No need to clutter your hard disk.


A new article, ironically only started a short while before the disaster. The question is the accuracy not who or why it was done. Why should the industry not ensure that an article is accurate? It needs cites added to verify the accuracy though, if it is updated by the industry then they should have no difficulty doing that.


Yeah I like to watch the editing sometimes.
Notice the nytimes says "some" radioactivity has been released.

I notice that word "some" it is deliberate.

Your average joe editor would simply say that radioactivity was released (no qualifier necessary.

Was there a meeting to get the word "some" in there. LOL.

I think about those things when I read these articles.

But Yes, Wikipedia is filled with people putting a new face on their particular item.


I just did a View History and did a compare of revisions from before the accident (28 Feb, when this article was created) to the current one.
Looks like minor style revisions, then adding about the Fukushima accident with more references.

If you would like to listen to the earthquake, the Rachel Maddow blog has posted a fascinating LIDO (Listening to the Deep Ocean) recording of the Japanese earthquake and its aftershocks. You can find it here:

Very cool.

Rachel Maddow is a very intelligent person.

One of the few talking heads I can stand listening to.

Renewables or nuclear: maybe we do have to choose
"Debates over nuclear power in the U.S. tend to follow a certain course. The left says, No Nukes, Just Renewables! The right says, Screw Renewables, A Gajillion Nukes! Then the sensible centrist nods sagely and says, We'll Need Both. Everyone who doesn't want to be branded a (gasp) partisan ends up adopting some form of that both-and conventional wisdom: We need low-carbon power, renewables can't get us all the way there, so we'll need a bunch of nuclear power too.

I'm not criticizing the CW -- I suppose I fall somewhere in that camp too. However, a recent report [PDF] from Heinrich Böll Stiftung, a clean energy think tank, complicates that soothing conclusion. The report claims that the nuclear path and the renewables+efficiency path are not complementary. In fact, they are in substantial tension. In short, the authors claim, we really do have to choose."


Recently, JEA in Jacksonville, FL had to make that choice regarding future plans for expansion. The decision was made to purchase power from two providers rather than build. The current plant uses coal/oil to produce 3000MW. The charge per kilowatt is $.127. PSEG Solar provided 15MW of power at $.158 per kilowatt that began in May, 2010 using PV Panels made from thin-film cadmium telluride. Southern Company will provide 206MW of power at $.083 per kilowatt that is scheduled to begin in 2016 using Plant Vogtle nuclear power. NRC license is projected for Nov 2011. Interestingly, backup water circulation during power outage is designed to use compressed gas.

Q&A regarding impact of Fukushima crisis to Plant Vogtle expansion (PDF)

Note that all the failed reactors had steam driven turbine options too for reactor circulation. Does it have a steam-driven secondary loop as well? If not, where will the heat go?

The little reading I've done says the steam driven turbine you mention is powered with electricity. With loss of power from grid, diesel generators provide power. With loss of generators, batteries provide power. The AP1000 design for Plant Vogtle allows non-electric power via compressed gas for steam driven turbines. The question I'd ask is how long can turbines run from compressed gas before supply is depleted. After a little google-searching, I found the answer to be 3 days. Understandably, 3 days is better than 7 hours. The Fukushima crisis clearly shows 3 days is insufficient.

Disclaimer-I am not in this industry, so if I'm mistaken, please correct...

Debito (a naturalized citizen of Japan living in Hokkaido) has an article on the dangers from this accident. It's an anonymous source within the industry. I think this is relevant to this discussion.


We will have some solid public data as to the scale of the radioactive plume from this accident this Sunday, as the winds shift and blow it towards the urban centers further south rather than out to sea.
That will clarify the nature of the releases and whether the spent fuel has become substantially exposed.
Assuming the results are good, there would doubtless be a great improvement in the public confidence.
However, the inability of anyone senior to do more than express hope is troublesome. It is quite possible that the reality is worse and that large scale contamination is imminent.


Fuel Integrity in the spent fuel pool #4
Water level low,
Water Injection started
Hydrogen from the pool exploded

This is from the latest (10:00 20 Mar) JAIF release.
"Water Injection started, Hydrogen from pool exploded", is an update from the 22:00 19 Mar report.

My question is this a new explosion, or just a report of the older, original fires / explosion. It reads to me that it is a new event, but unfortunately Libya has knocked Japan off the news channels.

Anybody got any more info?

Nikkei just says the JSDF pumped 80 tons of water into building 4, presumably hoping to refill the fuel storage pool a little.
There was no mention of any explosions. Plus, with the roof gone, hydrogen would presumably be dissipated very quickly, which should minimize that risk.
The Tokyo Fire Dept pumped 1000 tons of seawater into building 3 yesterday, same goal.
I have no idea why the JSDF pumped so little, but the Fire Dept had laid a pipe to the pumper by building 3, while the JSDF used individual pumper trucks.
It is possible that the contamination was too great to extent the pipe closer to reactor 4.

Good grief...I don't think there is enough left of building 4 to hold enough H2 to cause an explosion. Hopefully just a re-report...

Thanks for the replies,

My thoughts were cold water hitting very hot / molten fuel rods could cause large energy release whether it was Hydrogen or just steam, but I am sure it would put on an impressive display.

I hope it was just a late update to the report, and #4 pool holds the water that is put into it!

That description was first added in JAIF: Reactor Status and Major Events Update 12 - NPPs in Fukushima as of 16:00 March 18, 2011 (252 kB PDF file) as indicated by the text being underlined.

JAIF: Current Status of Units 1 to 4 at Fukushima Daiichi NPS as of noon, March 17, 2011 indicates the explosion in reactor 4 occurred on March 15, 2011:

In addition to damage by hydrogen explosions at Units 1, 2 and 3, another hydrogen explosion occurred in the morning of March 15 at the reactor building of Unit 4, which had been undergoing a periodic inspection, and damaged the upper part of the building. That was attributed to a spent fuel pool not being cooled sufficiently.[/blockquote]
I do not think there has been a second explosion at Fukushima 1, reactor 4.


Thanks for the reply,

Either I am going nuts or they updated the 22:00 pdf and added the "exploded" line. I have been comparing the new releases against the previous issue, and this was a difference, I had noticed, that did not make sense. It looks as thought it has been taken care of.

Lets hope it all works out with the best case and not the worst case


I can confirm that what your link shows is a table with the current status for the reactors, but also mentioning what has happened in the past.
It is the former known problem of hydrogen production from the fuel pond 4 that is meant in your text copy. NOT a new one.

IAEA has extracts of that table here http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html
scroll down to 19th march 4:30 update.

Let's hope some cooling got going yesterday in Fukushima, and that it stays under control now.

Further I can only say that that link, for an engineering nerd, is the best information until now. I hope their server is good, remember that Japan might need that info more than we.

I am shocked that news outlets dont read that info first before printing any kind of news.

Nuclear crisis forces firms to shift production from quake-hit region

A Who's Who of International companies, their factories trashed and...

"No builders are willing to accept the repair work from us because of shortage of gas and concern about possible radiation exposure," a spokesperson said.

Reconstruction is going to take awhile.

When a natural disaster causes high levels of nuclear radiation to be released from a nuclear power plant, there are no rescue workers, no relief workers, no food, no fuel and no reconstruction in the radiation evacuation zone for a long time. People's homes and businesses are history. They have to find another place to live without the aid of their belongings. Cities damaged by earthquake and flooding are left unrepaired becoming ghost towns overnight.

The SL-1 accident.
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission film:
A fellow unjammed the control rod, but the follow-through yanked it out.
Zero to 20 GigaWatts in 4 milliseconds...
"One operator who had been standing on top of the vessel was killed when flying control rods pinned him to the ceiling."


This is what any nation that uses nuclear power needs to have

French Rapid Robotic Intervention Force

Looks interesting, but might need extra shielding.
A max radiation capacity of 1 Gray/hr is probably not enough to survive long enough inside the reactor building to do useful work.
Not sure how it gets to the fifth floor, be a bit tough to take the stairs.

Got some hard heat #'s. Hope this helps.

Workers must cool 4,546 spent fuel rod bundles.
More than 4,500 spent fuel rod bundles must be cooled in six reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to information released by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
A total of 4,546 bundles of fuel rods are stored in the six reactors, with each bundle containing several dozens of fuel rods, which in turn hold hundreds of fuel pellets...
The amount of heat being emitted from the No. 4 reactor is especially high. A total of 2 million kilocalories per hour is being emitted, about three times the combined heat coming from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors....
...In addition to 783 spent fuel rod bundles, 548 bundles that have not been completely used are stored at the No. 4 reactor. Those unused fuel rods had been removed from the core in order to replace equipment.
The storage pool at the No. 4 reactor has a capacity of about 1,400 cubic meters. Based on the level of heat being emitted from the fuel rods, a simple calculation shows that the water temperature in the pool rises about 2 degrees every hour...
... Moreover, readings of the pressure within the suppression pool under the containment vessel in the No. 2 reactor have stopped since Tuesday. The suppression pool may have been damaged by an explosion Tuesday morning.
While the reason is unknown, readings of the pressure within the suppression pool in the No. 3 reactor have also stopped since Monday night.


Edit: Ruh, roh, shaggy. How can they stop venting? Big hole? What?

Japan backs off venting of leaking Japan reactor
By ERIC TALMADGE and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Eric Talmadge And Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press
4 mins ago

FUKUSHIMA, Japan – The operator of Japan's overheating, leaking nuclear plant backed off a tricky venting of radioactive gas from a troubled reactor Sunday as concerns grew about wider contamination of food and water.

Traces of radiation are turning up well beyond the leaking Fukushima Dai-ichi plant after cooling systems to its six reactors were knocked out by the massive March 11 quake and tsunami on Japan's northeast coast. Radiation has seeped into the food supply, with spinach and milk from as far as 75 miles (120 kilometers) showing levels of iodine in excess of safety limits, although officials said they posed no immediate health hazard.

...The amount of heat being emitted from the No. 4 reactor is especially high. A total of 2 million kilocalories per hour is being emitted,...

That's around 2 MegaWatt , which would compute below the reactor rates for reactors 1-3 from this MIT source :


(Good source though)

4 has no fuel, right? It SHOULD be less than 1-3. That must be fuel pool heat alone?