Saturday, April 16, 2011

Obama on the Libyan War


"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent."

- Barack Obama,  Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007 

Well that is odd.  He attacked Libya without Congressional authorization.  By his own statement, he has no power under the Constitution to do so.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Largest concrete pumps in the world will be used to spray cooling water onto the reactors at Fukushima

Gary Schmidt, a regional sales manager from Putzmeister America, watches as one of the world's largest concrete boom pumps is loaded onto a Russian Antonov An-124 cargo jet at the Los Angeles International Airport Friday April 8,2011. The Russian cargo planes will carry the massive pumps from airports in Atlanta and Los Angeles to Japan to spray cooling water on reactors at the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

 Company personnel walk around a 95-ton Putzmeister concrete pumper to be delivered to Japan at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport on April 8, 2011, in Atlanta, Georgia. A Russian cargo plane will transport the 95-ton concrete pumper to assist in the cooling down efforts of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.


Warnings from the Past

From CBS News:
“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old.

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
 Katsushika Hokusai
c. 1829–32

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Diagram and photos of radioactive water leaking into the pit at Fukushima Daiichi

NHK World offered this rather inadequate diagram tonight (Friday afternoon in Japan) showing the path of the water leaking into the pit at Fukushima Daiichi.  Apparently TEPCO has plugged the leak with "liquid glass", whatever that is.

Unsaid is where exactly the exceptionally radioactive water is coming from, and how plugging what is essentially an artesian water source (coming out of the ground), at the final point where it bubbles out, actually solves the problem.  I would assume that the ground around the plant is fully saturated with perhaps millions of gallons of radioactive water, which is making its way underground alongside any cable, conduit, tunnel, or pipe toward the sea.  I am also concerned about erosion of foundations and footings.

Here is a worker pointing to the pit that the water is leaking into:

 Here is the inside of the pit:

Here is the leak before attempts were made to plug it:

Here is the first attempt to plug it.  They simply dumped a load of concrete into the pit.  It didn't work.  The leak just washed away the concrete from the area of the crack.  Imagine my surprise.

Now that they have plugged the leak with liquid glass, I would suspect more leaks to pop up in other places.

Reminds me of this old cartoon, where Popeye and Olive Oyl have some trouble with water pipes:

The Japanese were using old newspapers and sawdust in an attempt to stop the leak.  Maybe a can of spinach would help.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Worries at Fukushima

The New York Times reported today on a March 26th Nuclear Regulatory Commission assessment of the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  New information includes:
  • Filling the containment structures with thousands of tons of water makes them vulnerable to rupture during aftershocks -- especially since their integrity is already questionable after the main quake and the ensuing hydrogen explosions.  After the cooling systems failed and the normal cooling pipes either melted or plugged up, the Japanese simply pumped in sea water to immerse the reactor vessel.
  • "The assessment provides graphic new detail on the conditions of the damaged cores in reactors 1, 2 and 3. Because slumping fuel and salt from seawater that had been used as a coolant is probably blocking circulation pathways, the water flow in No. 1 'is severely restricted and likely blocked.' Inside the core itself, 'there is likely no water level,' the assessment says, adding that as a result, 'it is difficult to determine how much cooling is getting to the fuel.' Similar problems exist in No. 2 and No. 3, although the blockage is probably less severe, the assessment says."
  • The reactors need to be cooled for many months before they will be able to be decommissioned.  Without the closed-loop cooling capability (which has perhaps been lost forever because of the melting of the cores), this must be done by flooding the units with water.  But that solution has a large number of problems associated with it, including ground water contamination, storage of the water (or discharge to the ocean), erosion of footings and foundations, etc.
  • Fragments of radioactive fuel may have been expelled up to a mile away by the hydrogen explosions.   A large amount of fuel landed between two reactor buildings, and had to be bulldozed over, presumably to enable workers to be in the area.
Read more here.

It appears that exceptionally radioactive water is escaping from the No. 2 reactor, probably from the toroidal suppression pool that sustained an explosion early in the crisis.  This is the water that was flowing from under the ground, through a crack in a concrete-lined pit, and then into the ocean.  It has been measured at 7.5 million times the legal limit for ocean dumping.  That high of a level would imply that the water is coming directly from the core.  Containment has failed.

I also noticed that the measurements of radioactivity at the plant are being hampered by the fact that their rate dosimeters cannot measure greater than 1000 millisieverts per hour (100 rem/hour)-- and the levels are apparently well above that.  At 1000 millisieverts per hour, you would have an increased cancer risk in 6 minutes, and would have full radiation sickness symptoms with an hour of exposure.  If you stay four hours in that environment, you would likely die from radiation sickness.  If you stayed six hours, you would almost certainly die.