Daily Archives: March 17, 2011

Japan quake, tsunami, nuke news 04

… continuing ..

Good news and bad news, mostly just uncertain news. A cable needed to power equipment has been installed. It turns out that one of the reactors uses Plutonium. Ooops.

Cable reaches Japan nuclear plant

Fukushima on Thursday: Prospects starting to look good
‘Worst probably over’

The story of the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant continues to unfold, with reports suggesting that the situation with respect to the three damaged reactors at the plant may soon be stabilised without serious consequences. The focus of attention has now moved to problems at a pool used to keep spent fuel rods cool. There remain no indications that anyone has yet suffered any radiation health effects, and the prospect is growing that this will remain the case.

Engineers at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant have successfully connected a power line to reactor 2, the UN’s nuclear watchdog reports.

Restoring power should enable engineers to restart the pumps which send coolant over the reactor.

Japan nuclear crisis deepens as radiation keeps crews at bay

emergency workers focused their efforts on the storage pool at reactor 3, the only unit at the site that runs on mixed oxide fuel, which contains reclaimed plutonium. The strategy appeared to conflict with comments made by US nuclear officials and Sir John Beddington, the UK government’s chief science adviser, who are most concerned about the storage pool at reactor 4, which they say is now completely empty.

“The water is pretty much gone,” Beddington said, adding that storage pools at reactors 5 and 6 were leaking. “We are extremely worried about that. The reason we are worried is that there is a substantial volume of material there and this, once it’s open to the air and starting to heat up, can start to emit significant amounts of radiation.”

MOX: The Fukushima Word of the Day and Why it’s Bad News

All of the fuel rods in all of the other reactors are made essentially of uranium with a zirconium cladding to seal in radioactive emissions. Reactor 4 uses something different. Its fuel rod are only 94% uranium, with 6% plutonium stirred in and then the same zirconium shell. This mixed oxide (hence the MOX moniker) formulation has one advantage–and a number of disadvantages.

The advantage–no surprise–is money. Plutonium is a natural byproduct of radioactive decay and spent fuel rods are thus full of the stuff. You can always put them into long term storage for a few dozen millennia–which is where most spent rods have to go-but you can also reprocess some of the waste and combine it with pricier uranium for a cheaper and still energy-intensive rod. With nuclear power still more expensive than fossil fuels like coal, manufacturers need to save where they can to remain competitive, and MOX is a good budget cutter.

But MOX is also temperamental. Physicist Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takma Park, MD., spoke to TIME earlier in the week and heaped scorn on the Mark 1 reactors used at the Daiichi site. His criticism in that conversation was the comparatively flimsy (by nuclear reactor standards at least) containment vessels used in the Mark 1s. But he’s no fan of the use of MOX either.

Read more: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/03/17/mox-the-fukushima-word-of-the-day-and-why-its-bad-news/#ixzz1GtZa1pwn

Finally, here’s the latest areal footage from the site:

Continue reading Japan quake, tsunami, nuke news 04

Antievolution bill in Tennessee progresses

Tennessee’s House Bill 368 was passed on a 9-4 vote, with no testimony or discussion, at the House General Subcommittee of Education meeting on March 16, 2011. A version of the “academic freedom” antievolution bill, HB 368 would, if enacted, require state and local educational authorities to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” The only examples provided of “controversial” theories are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

More at NCSE

Antievolution bill dies in Kentucky

When the Kentucky legislature adjourned sine die on March 9, 2011, House Bill 169 died in committee. A special session of the legislature will convene starting on March 14, 2011, but only to consider two unrelated items, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader (March 10, 2011). HB 169, if enacted, would have allowed teachers to “use, as permitted by the local school board, other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.” No particular scientific theories were cited in HB 169, but the similar HB 397 introduced by the same legislator — Tim Moore (R-District 26) — in the previous legislative session explicitly listed “the study of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as examples of scientific theories for which supplementary instructional materials could be used. The exact phrase appears in the Louisiana Science Education Act, Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, on which HB 397 was apparently based.


Japan Quake: Effects and Side Effects

The quake, which was centered under the sea, did considerable damage to undersea communications cables. Originally the damage was thought to be minimal but it is apparently rather significant. At least five major cables have been damaged. Details here. Meanwhile, the US military has blocked several websites that are eating up bandwidth that is needed to facilitate Japan recovery efforts. These blockages affect users accessing the Internet from military facilities. “The sites — including YouTube, ESPN, Amazon, eBay and MTV — were chosen not because of the content but because their popularity among users of military computers account for significant bandwidth, according to Strategic Command spokesman Rodney Ellison.” Details here.

Right about now is when we hear the obligatory news report that the earthquake “may have shifted Earth’s axis” (or whatever). Sneezing shifts Earth’s axis. But obviously big energy events can do so in a way that is measurable. The earth is now spinning a little bit faster because of the 9.0 quake.

Using a United States Geological Survey estimate for how the fault responsible for the earthquake slipped, research scientist Richard Gross of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., applied a complex model to perform a preliminary theoretical calculation of how the Japan earthquake-the fifth largest since 1900-affected Earth’s rotation. His calculations indicate that by changing the distribution of Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second).

The calculations also show the Japan quake should have shifted the position of Earth’s figure axis (the axis about which Earth’s mass is balanced) by about 17 centimeters (6.5 inches), towards 133 degrees east longitude. Earth’s figure axis should not be confused with its north-south axis; they are offset by about 10 meters (about 33 feet). This shift in Earth’s figure axis will cause Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but it will not cause a shift of Earth’s axis in space-only external forces such as the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon and planets can do that.

Both calculations will likely change as data on the quake are further refined.


For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.


How to help Japan

Japan needs your help after the earthquake, tsunami, and complex nuclear accident.

George Takei on the Japan Quake and Tsunami. Hat tip: Claudia Sawyer

I don’t think the amount of heart makes as much difference as the amount of the donation, but it’s a nice sentiment.

The truth is, Haiti needs your help more. A very large percentage of the people of Haiti who were rendered homeless from the earthquake there are still homeless, and the situation in that region is probably worse in many ways than it was the day after the quake. Missionaries are in there picking up the slack, which of course a very bad idea. So give something for Haiti, please.

But right now, it is appropriate and necessary to help Japan. Here’s a small selection of secular organizations that are mediating the transfer of funds to places where money can help:

Civic Force Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Appeal.

Japan Center for International Exchange Earthquake Relief and Recovery

Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund

Over the next few days you’ll see a lot of appeals on Scienceblogs.com to help Japan. I’m sure there will be many other excellent options from which you may chose.

So far there is this:

Dean’s Corner: Think Japanese March 18 æ?¥è?®ç³»è«¸å®?æ´¾

For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.


Some but not all Irish Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day

I am (half) ethnic Irish and I grew up in a city that was as Irish as the Blarney Stone itself. When I was a teen armed with a false ID and a strong sense of purpose (that being to get drunk with my friends) we’d cruise the bars, starting on or near Madison, Lark and State (where I generally lived) in our regular hangouts, but quickly working our way up to the nominal Irish Bars (they were all Irish bars, but only some had Irish names). Somewhere between GJ’s and O’Heaney’s we would find the bar where Charlie Tapps was hoofing his Irish Tap Dancing act and … well, join in. If I recall correctly. Which, to be honest, I don’t.
Continue reading Some but not all Irish Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day

How does today’s explosion in Minneapolis compare to TMI and Chernobyl?

Daemonic underground gasses exploded to the surface in a fiery fireball in South Minneapolis today, blasting a huge hole in a parking lot, causing several cars to meltdown, and potentially damaging a newly rebuilt section of God’s Highway (I35 W).1 The news agencies noticed it when checking the traffic cameras for their local traffic report.

Local Minneapolitonians: This was on 60thE and Nicollet, near the Crosstown Junction. Route 62, closed for a time, is reopened, but as of this writing, 35 W is closed both North and South as they are checking for damage. Of the just moments ago rebuilt nightmarish intersection from hell. Somehow it all fits together.

Continue reading How does today’s explosion in Minneapolis compare to TMI and Chernobyl?

Japan quake, tsunami, nuke news 03

… continuing from earlier news

News, blog, and other items:

Singaporeans in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures told to evacuate

Language used to describe atomic meltdown borders on reckless hyperbole

Know Nukes: The Japanese Earthquake & Anti-Nuclear Hysteria: Explaining how the Japan Nuke Disaster is not melt down, there will be no radiation leaks, and it is not Chernobyl.

Japan tries air, land tactic to quell nuclear disaster

Northrop Drone Set to Overfly Japan Reactor, Seek Data on Damage

Japanese choppers dump water on stricken reactor

Japan relies on the Fukushima 50’s bravery

Nuclear Power is Safe, Greg Laden is a Jerk (explaining how the fire at the spent fuel rod storage facility is the fault of anti-nuclear protesters)

Australian nuclear experts advise 80km exclusion zone around Fukushima complex

Yet Another Japan Reactor Post explaining how everything is OK and there will be no radiation leaks, etc.

Precautions Should Limit Health Problems From Nuclear Plant’s Radiation: Demonstrating how being at the Fukushima Plant is the same as getting a body scan at an airport.

Japan Government Bond Risk Rises to Record Amid Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

23 injured, 20 irradiated at Fukushima nuclear plant

Fear of Radiation Sickness near Fukushima Plant

Tokyo Area Radiation Around Typical Background Levels – City Government

UPDATE: French Nuclear Watchdog:Fukushima Situation Not Stabilized Yet

Top UK Scientist Lays Out His Fukushima Worst Case Scenario

Helicopters drop water on damaged reactors

OK, on a scale of Three Mile Island to Chernobyl, where are we now?

Ana’s Feed1

March 16 5AM

The steam observed rising above No.3 for hours is radioactive. It is now presumed that the containment vessel has cracked. SDF had prepared to drop water from helicopter, but could not do so safely.

March 16, 6AM

“Tests revealed traces of radiation in tap water in Fukushima city, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Daiichi nuclear plant, the local government said Wednesday. The Fukushima prefecture’s nuclear department said amounts of radioactive cesium and iodine that are not harmful to the human body were found in water samples taken at 8 a.m. Wednesday (7 p.m. ET Tuesday)…

Government officials said the traces found are connected with the nuclear plant. A measurement of the tap water supply taken later in the day found no traces of iodine or cesium.” -cnn live blog

March 16, 7PM

conditions at the Daiichi plant have continued to deteriorate. The greatest concern at this time is over exposed spent fuel rods at the no. 3 and 4 reactors. As of now, radiation has prohibited workers from adding water to the pools…
A road has been built to allow a water cannon truck to approach what remains of the structures. Police hope to shoot water through the holes in a last ditch effort to prevent the rods from reaching recriticality. The chance that heat being generated from these hundreds of rods (many reactors worth) will lead to nuclear reactions is very real.

March 16 9PM

SDF helicopter has dropped some water on reactor no. 3.

Radiation readings after the water-drop remain the same as before.

March 17 1AM

Tired. But staying up to watch what happens with the trucks. The Defense Secretary says this is the last effort for his forces – that after today, radiation levels in the area will be too high for them to participate. However…it is possible that the President will order their return, under law that says when other lives are at risk, occupational limits do not hold.

March 17th 8 AM

“[7:37 a.m. ET Thursday, 8:37 p.m. Thursday in Tokyo] An operation to spray water on the No. 3 nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has ended after 40 minutes, Japan’s Defense Ministry says. Five fire trucks took turns spraying water for two minutes each, officials said, and there was no further spraying planned.” -cnn live blog

TEPCO reports that radiation levels rose after the operation (exact rates were not given.)

“The level around the plant’s administration building rose to 4,000 microsievert per hour from 3,700 after the trucks joined an unprecedented attempt to cool down the reactor’s apparently overheating fuel pool, after SDF helicopters dropped tons of water earlier in the day.” -kyodo news

The Defense Ministry says that choppers and trucks will be used again on Friday.

1For those of you wondering what “Ana’s feed” is … this is Analiese Miller’s facebook feed. Ana has been observing live news feeds from Japan and elsewhere and jotting notes on her facebook wall. Thank you Ana.

For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.