Saturday, April 20, 2013

Former US NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko: "All 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed"

From New York Times (4/8/2013), right after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission effectively shelved the idea of filtered vent:

Ex-Regulator Says Reactors Are Flawed

WASHINGTON — All 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday. Shutting them all down at once is not practical, he said, but he supports phasing them out rather than trying to extend their lives.

The position of the former chairman, Gregory B. Jaczko, is not unusual in that various anti-nuclear groups take the same stance. But it is highly unusual for a former head of the nuclear commission to so bluntly criticize an industry whose safety he was previously in charge of ensuring.

Asked why he did not make these points when he was chairman, Dr. Jaczko said in an interview after his remarks, “I didn’t really come to it until recently.”

“I was just thinking about the issues more, and watching as the industry and the regulators and the whole nuclear safety community continues to try to figure out how to address these very, very difficult problems,” which were made more evident by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, he said. “Continuing to put Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the problem.”

Dr. Jaczko made his remarks at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington in a session about the Fukushima accident. Dr. Jaczko said that many American reactors that had received permission from the nuclear commission to operate for 20 years beyond their initial 40-year licenses probably would not last that long. He also rejected as unfeasible changes proposed by the commission that would allow reactor owners to apply for a second 20-year extension, meaning that some reactors would run for a total of 80 years.

Dr. Jaczko cited a well-known characteristic of nuclear reactor fuel to continue to generate copious amounts of heat after a chain reaction is shut down. That “decay heat” is what led to the Fukushima meltdowns. The solution, he said, was probably smaller reactors in which the heat could not push the temperature to the fuel’s melting point.

The nuclear industry disagreed with Dr. Jaczko’s assessment. “U.S. nuclear energy facilities are operating safely,” said Marvin S. Fertel, the president and chief executive of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade association. “That was the case prior to Greg Jaczko’s tenure as Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman. It was the case during his tenure as N.R.C. chairman, as acknowledged by the N.R.C.’s special Fukushima response task force and evidenced by a multitude of safety and performance indicators. It is still the case today.”

Dr. Jaczko resigned as chairman last summer after months of conflict with his four colleagues on the commission. He often voted in the minority on various safety questions, advocated more vigorous safety improvements, and was regarded with deep suspicion by the nuclear industry. A former aide to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, he was appointed at Mr. Reid’s instigation and was instrumental in slowing progress on a proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles from Las Vegas.

Dr. Jaczko visited Fukushima last summer. Maybe it was that visit that influenced him. If you haven't seen the NHK documentary of that visit, see my post from December 30, 2012. In the documentary, he seemed to be genuinely touched by the devastation in Namie-machi, and by the people's lives destroyed by the nuclear accident.

Friday, April 19, 2013

(OT) Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Caught, Feds to Go Without Miranda Rights for Now

From ABC News (4/19/2013; part):

Now that authorities have captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old believed to be the second suspect in the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, federal law enforcement officials are invoking the public safety exception regarding his Miranda rights, a senior Justice Department official told ABC News.

The exception, according to the FBI‘s website, “permits law enforcement to engage in a limited and focused unwarned interrogation and allows the government to introduce the statement as direct evidence.”

The ABC News link goes to a page with a obnoxious video autostart. Don't be complaining to me.

The ABC news tells us to expect the suspect to be interrogated by "High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG)":

The group, set up in 2009, is made up of agents from the FBI, CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. They have been on standby waiting for the moment the suspect was taken in."

The winner looks like the police and American flag. See Boston Globe's photos.

Boston Globe also reports that Dunkin Donut Shops in Boston remained open during the lockdown at the request of the police, but not Starbucks.

#Radioactive Japan: One of the Most Contaminated Villages and Towns in #Fukushima Lures Children Back with $100 Book Coupons

Meanwhile in one of the most contaminated towns and villages in Fukushima after the nuclear accident more than two years ago, officials have just launched a new program to encourage children to receive annual health checkups.

If a child undergoes one annual health checkup, he/she will receive 10,000 yen (these days it's close to US$100) worth of book coupons (gift certificates for books).

If a child happens to have evacuated from the village and does not go to the village schools (temporarily re-located to Fukushima City and Kawamata-machi, both contaminated to lesser degrees than this particular village), oh well that's too bad, his/her coupon value will be only 5,000 yen.

The officials openly admit the scheme is to incentivize people with children to come back to the village.

What's the name of the village?

Iitate-mura, with extremely high levels of iodine-131 and several thousand becquerels/kg of neptunium right after the March 2011 accident, and which, thanks to the very politically savvy mayor, has managed to keep the businesses and factories inside the village operating despite the village having been designated as "planned evacuation zone".

From Fukushima Minpo reporting as if it's a good thing (4/18/2013; part):

スタンプで受診率向上へ 飯舘村 内部被ばく、甲状腺検査 中学生以下図書カードに交換

Collect the stamps: Iitate-mura to give book coupons to children in middle schools and younger to boost the participation rate for internal radiation exposure [WBC] tests and thyroid tests


Iitate-mura, whose residents have evacuated from the village because of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, started a new program on April 17 to urge children in the village from kindergarteners to middle schoolers to get tested for internal radiation exposure and thyroid every year. If children get tested, they will be given a stamp, which will be exchanged with book coupons. The project is in response to the lower participation rate, and [the village officials] want these children to make it a habit to be tested.


The program will give one stamp to a child if the child receives both internal radiation check and thyroid test once a year at Azuma Neurosurgical Hospital in Fukushima City. One stamp can be exchanged for book coupons worth 10,000 yen, and at graduation from kindergartens and schools children will be given the book coupons depending on the number of stamps they will have accumulated. [The village] kindergarten and schools will plan the tests at the hospital as school events.


The program also covers children who have transferred to other schools after they evacuated from the village. However, for them, one stamp is exchangeable for book coupons worth 5,000 yen. One of the program's aims is to have them come back to the village kindergarten and middle school in Iino-machi in Fukushima City, and the village elementary school in Kawamata-machi.


The village officials want children to undergo annual internal radiation testing and thyroid testing, but an increasing number of children have stopped taking these tests after the initial tests. The officials believe that since the initial test results for most children were not in the range that would cause alarm they haven't led to regular checkups.

Testing at a neurosurgical hospital? I checked the website of Azuma Neurosurgical Hospital. They do have pediatrics as one of their specialties but the doctor in charge of the pediatrics section is a surgeon specialized in cardiology. There is no thyroid specialist, or for that matter, radiation specialist.

The hospital has Fastscan by Camberra.

From Camberra's website about Fastscan:

The Fastscan whole body counter is designed to quickly and accurately monitor people for internal contamination of radionuclides with energies between 300 keV to 1.8 MeV. The FASTSCAN system uses large area sodium iodide detectors and CANBERRA's Apex-InVivo™ and Genie™ software to achieve low minimum detectable activities with count times as fast as one minute. It is intended for use in power plants and other facilities where the possible contamination spectra are well known and uncomplicated.

That doesn't seem to fit the situation in Fukushima and Tohoku/Kanto regions affected by the nuclear accident.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bostom Marathon Bombing "Suspects" Photos Released by FBI

Photos from a Zero Hedge post (4/18/2013):

2 suspects in the same shot:

Somewhat clearer photo of the 2nd suspect with a white cap:

So they were wearing black jackets and had backpacks, walking in generally the same direction at several steps apart. (Like many others?)

There seem to be several other people captured by videos or photos who also wear black jackets and heavy backpacks, but FBI says "other photos will not be deemed credible", as Infowars reports:

Photos from Infowars, men with big backpacks, talking to someone:

and the peculiar logo mark on their hats:

The government denies there was any training operation at the Boston Marathon.

The Case of Disappearing 600 Tonnes of Extremely Radioactive Waste Water at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

From the beginning of the news of this leak, scientifically-minded people that I follow on Twitter have been talking about the difference in the amount of waste water that is supposed to be in each pond and the amount the same water in each pond as measured by TEPCO every day since the first news of the leak, with spreadsheets and charts. Now the MSM is finally getting wiser.

TEPCO's reassurance is that it is within the tolerance of the measuring equipment.

From Kyodo News (4/18/2013):

福島原発、汚染水6百トン消える 東電は大量漏えいを否定

600 tonnes of contaminated water disappeared from Fukushima I Nuke Plant, but TEPCO denies massive leak


Waste water highly contaminated with radioactive materials has leaked from the in-the-ground water storage ponds at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. TEPCO currently puts the total amount of waste water that was stored in the ponds at 23,000 tonnes. However, the amount was 23,600 tonnes when TEPCO announced the first leak. 600 tonnes of water seems to be missing, but TEPCO says "It is within the tolerance of the measuring equipment."


Isn't there a possibility that a large amount of water leaked from one of the ponds? TEPCO says "There is no clear sign of water having leaked outside", and denies there has been a massive leak.

One of the people I follow (Kontan_Bigcat) on Twitter has been saying the leak may be as much as 460 tonnes as of April 9, with 130 terabequerels of all beta. From his tweet on April 9, 2013:

The top brown line is the total of the Ponds 1, 2 and 6, which was 13,093 tonnes on April 6 but 12,629 on April 9.

Massive Explosion at a Fertilizer Factory in Texas, 70 Feared Dead

Monday was the Boston Marathon bombing. On Wednesday, it was a massive explosion at a fertilizer factory in West, Texas.

What is the world coming to?

USGS says the explosion was equivalent of Magnitude 2.1 earthquake, and adds "Explosion at fertilizer factory at West, TX. The magnitude measures only the ground motion, not the air wave, so is substantially less than the true size of the event."

So far, up to 70 people dead, over 200 injured (40 critically), 100 houses and buildings completely destroyed.

From The Blaze (4/17/2013), a video taken by a witness, a dad with his little daughter. A disaster watch gone wrong. Explosion after 25 seconds:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Pond Leak of April 2013: TEPCO Started Transfering 900 Tonnes of Post-RO Waste Water from Pond No.2 to a Steel Tank, Will Take 6 Days

OK, so it will be 150 tonnes per day, using temporary pipes and a temporary tank between the Pond No.2 and the final destination which is about 550 meters away.

The Reverse Osmosis apparatus is currently operated intermittently, according to TEPCO (handout for the press in Japanese, 4/16/2013).

From the 58-page handout for the press conference given by the TEPCO president Hirose (4/17/2013):

In-the-ground water storage ponds and where the RO waste water is going. Green line in the map is where the waste water from the Pond 2 is traveling:

The physical setup to transfer the waste water in the Pond No.2 to a steel tank in H2 area. (I seems to be hallucinating the leak already...):

In the handout, I don't find any reference to any effort to make any of the temporary contraptions since March 11, 2011 into a permanent, stable one.

Here's page 26, showing photographs of electrical panel for the Reactor 2 Spent Fuel Pool cooling system, which was rigged up after the accident. "Look what we found! A small animal (rat) can get inside!" So what did TEPCO do? Cover the lines with plastic sheets:

From my experience in living in a countryside, rats and mice can easily chew through plastic sheets.

I hear that Mr. Naomi Hirose, TEPCO's president, is a very smart guy, with MBA from Yale University. He's from sales and marketing, and not an engineer. He was in charge of TEPCO's highly successful push for "all-electric" homes, which significantly boosted the electricity consumption in large cities, which in turn was used to justify building more nuclear power plants. Yale MBA Program apparently wrote it up as a case study. I'd love to see it.

I can see that he is indeed an MBA, as he sets up a new "communication" department to better communicate with the press, the government, and citizens as if communication is what's wrong with TEPCO and Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Update on Boston Marathon Bombing: Experts Speculate It Was a "Domestic Terrorists" Job

The Saudi national who was reported as "suspect" in the initial reporting is in fact a "witness", says Washington Post.

In the place of a foreign terrorist, therefore, we now have a possibility of the bombing carried out by "domestic terrorists", as in Boston Globe. The reasons? One, the explosive devices were too crude to be the work of Al Qaeda; two, Boston Marathon was accessible to everyone.

Definition of domestic extremists under the current administration is not what you may think.

And this from (4/16/2013; part, emphasis is mine):

UM Coach: Bomb Sniffing Dogs, Spotters on Roofs Before Explosions

University of Mobile’s Cross Country Coach, who was near the finish line of the Boston Marathon when a series of explosions went off, said he thought it was odd there were bomb sniffing dogs at the start and finish lines.
"They kept making announcements to the participants do not worry, it's just a training exercise," Coach Ali Stevenson told Local 15.

Stevenson said he saw law enforcement spotters on the roofs at the start of the race. He's been in plenty of marathons in Chicago, D.C., Chicago, London and other major metropolitan areas but has never seen that level of security before.
"Evidently, I don't believe they were just having a training exercise," Stevenson said. "I think they must have had some sort of threat or suspicion called in."

CNN reports a state government official said there were no credible threats before the race.

Monday, April 15, 2013

(UPDATED) 2 Explosions at Boston Marathon, At Least 2 Dead, Dozen Injured, Saudi Suspect in Hospital

(UPDATE 4) Boston Globe: 3 killed, at least 140 injured.

(UPDATE 3) Obama's statement to the press (or reading the text off his teleprompters) just started. So far, there is no new information about the explosions that Obama can disclose. "We will get to the bottom of this." And now it's already over. He didn't take any question.

(UPDATE 2) Obama to make a statement to the press at 6:10PM EST.

(UPDATE) Cellphone service is shut down in Boston to prevent remote detonation of explosives.

Here's the link to visit the Boston Globe video that autostarts:

Feel free to complain to Boston Globe.

NY Post reports the suspect is Saudi, but the article's headline screams "12 dead, 50 more injured", which may or may not be true. But then, area hospitals are treating injured people, and the number looks easily surpassing 50.

There was also an explosion at the JFK Library. Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis says this is an ongoing event, "“Stay home ... don’t congregate in large crowds."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

IAEA Team in Japan to Discuss Progress on Decommissioning of #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

(Huh? That plant needs to stop leaking first.)

From Jiji Tsushin (4/15/2013):


IAEA has started examining the decommissioning work of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant


Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant has been having problems recently such as disruption in cooling Spent Fuel Pools due to power outage and leaks of contaminated water. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has arrived in Japan, and started the examination [of the plant] on April 15.


Juan Carlos Lentijo, Director of Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology at IAEA and the head of the team visiting Japan, said in the press conference, "The purpose of the visit this time is to evaluate the overall strategy and plan for decommissioning, but we will also examine the problems of contaminated water leaks and power outages." As to their understanding of the current situation, he only said that they had preliminary information but it was too early to state their opinion.

Extreme Gold Sell-Off Caused by Extreme Volatility of Japanese Government Bonds?

Gold and silver crashed on no apparent reason whatsoever on Friday, and it continues in Asia on Monday.

After reading the article at Zero Hedge (4/12/2013), at least now it all makes sense to me. Instead of unwinding the JGB positions in the new-normal extreme volatility because of the Bank of Japan meddling, financial institutions are selling other assets to raise cash for margin calls for their JGB holdings. And those assets of choice seem to be gold and silver.

Gold investors can thank Haruhiko Kuroda, the ex-Finance-Ministry-bureaucrat Governor of Bank of Japan, for doing everything he can to create inflation which he calls "price stability" (1984, anyone?) for the opportunity to add to their positions at an extremely low price considering the money printing that has been going on for the past 4 years by the central banks in the US and Europe.

Japanese financial media like Nikkei Shinbun is all excited with Kuroda's regime, calling it "different dimension (異次元)", as in Twilight Zone. Indeed.

From Zero Hedge, emphasis is original:

Japanese Bonds vs Gold: Is This Why Commodities Are Selling Off?

Japanese bond volatility appears to have crossed the Rubicon. As we noted here, the Japanese Ministry of Finance warned that a rise in JGB volatility could cause a significant sell-off in JGBs (since banks will be hampered by their VaR models-driven risk limits, which have literally gone off the charts in recent days, and be forced to reduce holdings to meet those risk limits). It seems however, that since the BoJ is set to buy more JGBs than will be issued in the next several years as noted yesterday, that financial institutions are chosing to live with the record vol noted previously, opting to raise cash buffers and liquidity reserves instead of selling bonds in order to meet surging margin demands on their JGB holdings.
 The synchronicity between the price of gold (and other commodities) and the volatility of Japanese bonds makes this risk-driven perspective very clear. This leaves the question, what happens when the Japanese (or in fact global - since front-running the BoJ has been a big winner until a week ago) banks run out of 'other' assets to sell and their VaR models continue to demand more capital in reserve?

Since QE2, gold (and other commodities) have moved in inverted-lockstep with Japanese interest rate implied (and realized) volatility as the JGB margin demands oscillate.

For some reason unknown to mere mortals, Kuroda and his boss Shinzo Abe seem to think they can control everything, achieve just the results they order.

That confidence is definitely not coming from their experience at Fukushima, that's for sure. For that pesky problem that's leaking all-beta water, they are setting up a committee to study the problem so that people, particularly those in Fukushima, are assured, in the fine comical tradition of Sir Humphrey Appleby.

(I actually burst into laughter when I read the news about this committee. Every single word of the news I have heard and watched in episodes of Yes (Prime) Minster...)