Friday, March 29, 2013

Rats and Humans and Nuclear Power Plants

"When humans ceased to be hunter gatherers and instead became farmers, their lives and those of rats became intimately connected. Humans learned to grow and store grain, and rats learned it was easier to feed off these stores than to fend for themselves. They also discovered that human dwellings provided excellent shelter from the elements. Thus began the relationship between humans and rats. " Source: AFRMA - The History of Fancy Rats, by Nichole Royer

That was the beginning, now fast forward to 2013 and the cause of the blackout that left the fuel pools at Fukushima Dai-ichi plant without cooling power. The power outage was caused after a rat short-circuited an outdoor switchboard. The outage left four fuel pools without cooling power for thirty hours and TEPCO officials scrambling for hours, three to be exact, to come up with an acceptable story.

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has now acknowledged in a recent report that it was not prepared to deal with the massive earthquake and tsunami that led to the meltdown of three reactors in March of 2011.

"Our safety culture, skills and ability were all insufficient," TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told a news conference. "We must humbly accept our failure to prevent the accident, which we should have avoided by using our wisdom and human resources to be better prepared."
It would appear also that TEPCO's ability to deal with the likes of a rat are also insufficient. 

An engineering professor at Iwaki Meisei University, Yukihiro Higashi, who sits on the regulatory panel over-seeing Fukushima Dai-ichi safety said, "We learned that it only takes one rat, not even an earthquake or tsunami, to paralyze the plant."  

I hope soon we will all learn before too long that perhaps nuclear energy is just not worth the risk. It is after-all not the only energy source in town.

For the full story see Japanese Utility Takes Blame for Nuclear Crisis 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Signs of Spring

BRUSSELS (AP) — Feel like having chocolate at Easter in Belgium? Well, send a letter and really lick that chocolate-flavored postal stamp.
The Belgian post office released 538,000 stamps on Monday that have pictures of chocolate on the front but the essence of cacao oil in the glue at the back for taste and in the ink for smell.
Belgian stamp collector Marie-Claire Verstichel said while the taste was a bit disappointing, "they smell good."
Easter is the season for chocolate in Belgium with Easter eggs and bunnies all over supermarkets and speciality stores. Now, they have stamps to match.
A set of five stamps costs 6.2 euros ($8) but might leave a customer hungry for more.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Equality Street

Overcome dogma, embrace acceptance. Celebrate a rebirth of yourself... it will impact others.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shhhh, use your inside voice please.

I wonder if this is what T.R. had in mind when he said, "Speak softly and carried a big stick".

U.S. to Bolster Missile Defense to Deter Attack by North Korea


The United States will deploy additional ballistic-missile interceptors along the Pacific Coast in a clear response to North Korea's tests of nuclear technology and long-range missiles.

Nuclear Reactors Financial Quicksand

NEWS: On Fukushima Day, another door slams on U.S nuclear expansion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, March 11, 2013
CONTACT: Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear, 301-523-0201(mobile); 301.270.2209 (o)
On Fukushima Day, another door slams shut on US nuclear expansion plans
Beyond Nuclear lauds decision not to green light third Maryland reactor

Takoma Park, MD — On a day when thousands around the world are protesting nuclear power to mark two years since the deadly Fukushima nuclear accident began in Japan, another door has slammed shut on nuclear expansion plans in the US.

After the 60 days expired, the NRC put the application on indefinite review. But when no US company stepped up to partner with EdF on the project, the NRC opted on Monday to deny the appeal. EdF could continue to search for a US partner but would need to start a new application for the Calvert Cliffs site.

U.S. utilities don't like to invest their own money when they can get DOE (taxpayers) grants and charge their ratepayers up front for costs (CWIP).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SMR's the Nu Crack of the Nuclear Age

Companies engaged in the nuclear energy business are scrambling like an addict looking for its next fix. Some bad stuff hit the streets in recent years and nuclear energy operators found business slowed and even stopped in a few instances.

How could nuclear energy be revitalized again? Remember that line from Field of Dreams, "If you build it they will come." So that is where we are at this minute in time, rolling out the plans to build SMR's ~ small modular reactors.

What is a small modular reactor and why is it so desirable? Small reactors are about one-third the size of current reactors, they can be built in less time and for less cost. The biggest feature is that the modular reactor can be manufactured at a plant and brought to the site fully constructed. Much like a modular housing, which for some reason never really took off.

In my own state of Missouri there has been a lot of talk about SMR's this past year. Ameren Missouri operates Callaway Nuclear Plant #1 and has been trying to secure a license to build a second nuclear plant at their facility near Fulton, MO. It kept getting hung up in the state legislature over this CWIP (Construction Work in Progress) law we have. You see Ameren wanted to change that law so the rate payers could be charged for the construction up front.

It has been a very controversial piece of legislation that Ameren worked on for years to try to get changed. Then almost in an instant the issue became silent. I'm not an insider so I didn't know what was going on but I was worried. I felt like you do sometimes when you are out walking late at night, it is dark and no one is around and it is so very, very quiet. The slightest breaking of a twig under your shoe can send you jumping sky high.

Then about a year ago Ameren shifted course and announced a partnership with Westinghouse to go into the manufacturing business of small modular reactors. It was going to apply for the grant being offered up by the Department of Energy.

The state of Missouri from the Governor to the University of Missouri president was joyful. They were assured that this new venture would be cure all for the economic woes of the state.
"And because the plants would be built in modules at a central factory and shipped worldwide, they’re seen as a potential new source of American manufacturing jobs — a benefit that especially interests elected officials in Missouri. " ~  Jeffrey Tomich, St. Louis Post Dispatch
The grant was lost by Ameren-Westinghouse when the DOE  award went to a partnership led by Babcock & Wilcox and included the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel corporation. It doesn't take special eyeglass lenses to see that this is a game played at the big boys club. 

Ameren has not yet announce if it will attempt to try for the second grant that the DOE has offered up. Applications are due July 1 and the award announced in the fall of this year.

Additional reading material on Small Modular Reactors:


Monday, March 11, 2013

Fukushima Means Nothing I Guess

Two years ago today the disaster that still is occurred in Japan. The mop up from that event has not even begun and the Obama administration is pushing ahead to enhance nuclear energy facilities here in the U.S.
"The Obama administration is following through on its pledge to push for commercialization of a new breed of small nuclear reactors." ~ from St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Jeffrey Tomich.
Ameren Missouri is not going to quit until they have the taxpayers money in their back pocket and begin construction on the SMR project that that are partnering in with Westinghouse here in Missouri.

Again, and I know I sound like a broken record, but there is no discussion by the Department of Energy, Ameren or even the President about the issue of spent fuel and the permanent safe storage of this dangerous by-product of nuclear energy.

The Post-Dispatch article went on to say:
"Safety, in fact, is a selling point for designers of the new small reactors, which incorporated a number of passive safety features to help plants shut down safely in the event of a complete loss of power that caused reactor meltdowns and an explosion at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant."
Does no one think that continuing to store nuclear waste in spent fuel pools over the long-term a safety issue?

So I say to all involved "well done, take a bow, kudos for having your priorities straight".

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pull The Plug On Nuclear Power

Beyond Nuclear is proud to endorse "Unplug Nuclear Power" to mark the second year of the still-unfolding Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 proved once and for all that nuclear power is too dangerous, too dirty, and too expensive to continue. An entire region of Japan, home to more than 200,000 people is now radioactively contaminated and is uninhabitable, probably forever. We cannot allow this kind of disaster to happen again. Yet, the electric utility companies continue to promote and use nuclear power. They value money over our environment or our personal safety. So, on March 11, thousands of people around the Country and from around the world will join together to teach the utility companies a lesson--we do not need them or nuclear power to survive. By using as little grid-supplied power as possible on that day, we will not only cost the utilities money, we will be declaring our independence from dirty, centralized, unsustainable generation technologies.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 11, 2011 - Two Years and Counting

It has been two years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown. Two Years! Perhaps you thought the problems had all gone away? Not hardly, you see there is this major problem of doing something with the spent fuel that remains as well as tons of highly radioactive water.

The first three metallic casks have been delivered by AVCO to the Fukushima Daiichi facility, the order placed by TEPCO is for eleven casks which will store a total of 452 spent fuel rods currently in the common pool at the nuclear facility.

The New York Times ran an article today Japan Nuke Plant Progressing in Fuel Removal Plans. It is such a slow process it would be hard for me to use the term 'progressing' to describe it. But on the other hand the task is enormous. 

The plant's manager, Takeshi Takahashi, told journalists Wednesday during a tour of the plant that the removal of the fuel rods will begin in November and take a year to complete. It will be the first major step in a decades-long cleanup of the plant. 
"We are steadily making progress, one step at a time," Takahashi said.
In addition to having to find a permanent home for the spent fuel rods, there is the problem of the 260,000 tons of highly radioactive water that is stored in 900 gigantic tanks.
TEPCO expects the amount to double over three years and plans to build hundreds of more tanks by mid-2015 to meet the demand. The water keeps swelling and the land space is limited. 
So TEPCO is anxious to launch a new water treatment system that can purify the contaminated water and eventually release it into the ocean as a last-ditch measure in case of a lack of storage space.
In addition to storage problems there is the human element. Over 160,000 people were displaced from the area around the plant. The article ends by saying,  "They are uncertain when or if they will be able to return home."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Turning Over...

Not in my grave (that's later) ...

I've been restless, dissatisfied and unfulfilled and I am not talking about my sex life, rather the vast wasteland of television. News that is not news but performances by very well paid actors, though they don't list that on their business cards.

Stupid series and their endless spinoffs about the sex lives of the housewives of America. They should come up with a new professional name, I thought a housewife was a woman who ran and managed a home?

Anyway I've made some changes. I have dumped my high-priced cable channels, all 200 of them that I rarely watched and in their place just the basic local channels. I am going back to Netflix and the $7.99 blue plate special. I will give them a try again and see if I get more bang for my buck.

Why is it I had this feeling when I canceled a couple of years ago they knew I would be back? They must have had something up their sleeve. Perhaps a House of Cards???

With every change in life there is a period of adjustment, but just as a hard core junkie knows once you kick the habit life will go on and in most cases it is even brighter.

When you find yourself at the lowest point in your life, and girlfriend finding yourself watching the Kardashians and realizing you are actually paying for the displeasure, sweetie, it doesn't get much lower. It is time to pull the needle out of your arm and get your own life back.

Who knows I may even find more time to read again.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy B-Day Dr. Seuss!

"Hey, Happy Birthday."
"What's that you say?"
I said, "It's your birthday
Now get out of my way."

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” 
― Dr. Seuss