Saturday, March 12, 2011

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 2

So that worst case scenario on the whole Japan nuclear plant meltdown is pretty much happening right now.  We've gone from "no problem" to "small leak" to "the explosion was just the cooling system" to "we could be having a meltdown" in about 36 hours, which is about the timeframe for an event like this.

A meltdown may be occurring at one of the reactors at a damaged nuclear power plant in northeast Japan, a government official said Sunday morning, sparking fears of a widespread release of radioactive material at a time when rescuers are frantically scrambling to find survivors from Japan's strongest-ever earthquake.

A state of emergency has been declared for three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, the same place where an explosion late Saturday injured four people. A meltdown is a catastrophic failure of the reactor core, with a potential for widespread radiation release.

Toshihiro Bannai, an official with Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency, expressed confidence that efforts to contain the crisis would be successful.

Meanwhile, a second reactor at the same facility failed shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said, according to TV Asahi. The power company said that it was having difficulty cooling the reactor and may need to release radioactive steam in order to relieve pressure.

Meanwhile, another reactor at the same facility failed Sunday morning -- bringing to three the number of units there that are experiencing major problems in cooling radioactive material, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. Officials are working to release radioactive steam in order in order to relieve pressure in the reactor.

So, three reactors have failed, one may be in meltdown right now, the other two could go at any point and everyone's trying to plead for calm, even though the evac radius around the plant is 30 km. At this point the question is of containment, not prevention.  If the containment vessel is damaged by either the quake, the pressure buildup from the heat, or the super-hot nuclear fuel itself and containment is lost, it's only a question of how much damage Japan will suffer and how far the radiation travels.

A large chunk of central Japan could be rendered uninhabitable if winds are blowing westward, and that could carry the radioactive particles well into China, and that's just one reactor.  If the other two melt down too, we could be talking about a massive catastrophic event.

I'm hoping none of this comes to pass.  But it's looking like the question we need to be asking is "how bad will the damage be" and not "can they stop the meltdown".

[UPDATE] CNN is reporting now that officials in Japan are now operating under the assumption that a meltdown has occurred, according to the nation's top Cabinet secretary.

This is beyond awful.

[UPDATE 2Stratfor is reporting that Japan's nuclear agency is confirming the explosion earlier Saturday could only have been caused by a meltdown.  I understand the reasoning behind the obfuscation in a situation where people are already panicked and we're looking at possibly tens of thousands dead, but as I warned earlier today, all signs point to a "how bad will it be" scenario, not a "can we prevent it" scenario.

The Man Has No Soul

Larry Kudlow has no soul, just a dark, empty place.

In these tough economic times, isn’t it nice to know that calamitous natural disasters needn't have an adverse affect on your investment portfolio? After the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan failed to induce a market nosedive, CNBC’s Larry Kudlow expressed his relief in terms that seemed to appall even his fellow cheerleaders for capitalism: “The human toll here,” he declared, “looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that.”

Yes, thank goodness our stock markets weren't hurt in the quake, tsunami, or nuclear plant leak.  What a guy.  And the sad part is to the elite in this country, Larry Kudlow is telling you exactly how they think and feel.  "Whew.  That could have been a stock market meltdown instead of a nuclear power plant one.  That was close!"


True Colors

I've put off posting an update on Gabrielle Giffords because there have been several small updates.  This article does a good job of bringing the milestones together and painting a good picture of where her recovery is at.  The news is very good, with her true colors showing through and her determination and drive exposed.  When asked if her personality was returning, the three doctors being interviewed all snickered and smiled simultaneously.  She now knows she was shot, but it has not been confirmed if she is aware of the full scope of the incident.

StupdiNews! Celebrity Edition

Jewel was in a car accident, but is fine.  She is also pregnant, as she announced late last month.  The baby is fine by all accounts.

Elton John is getting some major bad press for calling a female reporter the "C" word.  Most are in agreement she in no way deserved it.  From a man who has claimed to suffer from discrimination and bad treatment, we expected better.  

The new Smurf movie trailer has arrived.  I'm from the target generation (my room was blue with Smurfette accents) and I have to admit that I'll go see it, even though my expectations are rather... smurfish.

Martha Stewart is a grandmother.  Her daughter Alexis (her only child) has given birth to a daughter, Jude.  I'm jealous.  This kid is going to live in crafty and beautifully decorated comfort.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 66

The banksters are going to walk.  On everything.

The U.S. government's investigation into the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. has hit daunting hurdles that could result in no civil or criminal charges ever being filed against the company's former executives, people familiar with the situation said.

In recent months, Securities and Exchange Commission officials have grown increasingly doubtful they can prove that Lehman violated U.S. laws by using an accounting maneuver to move as much as $50 billion in assets off its balance sheet, which made it appear that the securities firm had reduced its debt levels.

SEC officials also aren't confident they could win any lawsuit accusing former Lehman employees, including former Lehman Chief Executive Richard Fuld Jr., of failing to adequately mark down the value of the large real-estate portfolio acquired in Lehman's takeover of apartment developer Archstone-Smith Trust or to disclose the resulting losses to investors, according to people familiar with the matter.

People close to the investigation cautioned that no decision has been reached on whether to bring civil charges, adding that new evidence still could emerge. Investigators are reviewing thousands of documents turned over to the SEC since it began its probe shortly after Lehman tumbled into bankruptcy in September 2008 and was sold off in pieces. Officials also have questioned a number of former Lehman executives, some of them multiple times, the people said.

But after zeroing in last summer on the battered real-estate portfolio and an accounting move known as Repo 105, SEC officials have grown more worried they could lose a court battle if they bring civil charges that allege Lehman investors were duped by company executives. The key stumbling block: The accounting move, while controversial, isn't necessarily illegal.

Playing "hide the sausage" with $50 billion isn't illegal, folks.  There's nothing to see here.  Go back to your American Idol and Dancing With The Stars and your Happy Meals.  Tyler Durden explains why the "hurdles" have appeared.

The problem is that should the SEC actually pursue it and win, that act would open up the floodgates for hundreds of lawsuits against everyone from Bank of America and Citi, which have also disclosed they used comparable tactics to misrepresent the true status of their books, to shady accounts like Ernst & Young, all the way to FASB at the very top of the corruption pyramid. And with hundreds of millions if not billions in legal fees about to be paid out if the fraudclosure back door settlement fails, the SEC simply can not allow the pursuit of justice to threaten the viability of America's only national interest: that of its criminal banking syndicate. 

Goodbye banksters, goodbye America's only growth industry.  The Powers That Be will never allow that.  War is around the corner, and so is massive austerity for 95% of us.  But our most precious national resource, America's super-rich, will be fine.

We're at the point in the chess match where even if there was a way out of this mate in seven scenario, one side is willing to take a 20-pound slegehammer to the board as a last resort.  No way to win.  A million ways to lose.

The people who destroyed America's economy are going to walk.  They will keep every dime they stole.  They will use that money to profit even further.  And you and I will pay for it for the rest of our natural lives.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature

Stratfor has a very blunt and sobering rundown of the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.  The good scenario is Three Mile Island.  The bad scenario is Chernobyl.  Saturday, an explosion at the plant signaled the failure of the cooling system and engineers are resorting to using seawater to flood the reactor containment vessel to cool the nuclear fuel down.

First, a bit of a primer on how a nuclear plant works.  It's basically a big chunk of nuclear fuel that gets really, really hot.  That heat is contained by control rods (which soak up the radiation) and by coolant (the plant is a steam reactor).  The excess heat turns the water in the coolant pipes into steam, and the steam turns the generator turbines and creates electricity.  The steam then cools off and becomes water again where it goes back to the pipes at the reactor core and the cycle continues.

The earthquake messed up the cooling system power.  Yeah, that runs on electricity.  Normally they'd kick in the backup generators and did, but the tsunami then flooded the backup generators.  Without it, it's like a radiator with no coolant in it.  In that scenario, your engine overheats and locks up, but the engine stops.  If this doesn't work in a nuclear power plant, the nuclear fuel will, well, go nuclear.  It will get so hot that it will melt the steel containment vessel and then the really bad stuff starts to happen.

And so now the question is simple: Did the floor of the containment vessel crack? If not, the situation can still be salvaged by somehow re-containing the nuclear core. But if the floor has cracked, it is highly likely that the melting fuel will burn through the floor of the containment system and enter the ground. This has never happened before but has always been the nightmare scenario for a nuclear power event — in this scenario, containment goes from being merely dangerous, time consuming and expensive to nearly impossible.

Radiation exposure for the average individual is 620 millirems per year, split about evenly between manmade and natural sources. The firefighters who served at the Chernobyl plant were exposed to between 80,000 and 1.6 million millirems. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that exposure to 375,000 to 500,000 millirems would be sufficient to cause death within three months for half of those exposed. A 30-kilometer-radius (19 miles) no-go zone remains at Chernobyl to this day. Japan’s troubled reactor site is about 300 kilometers from Tokyo.

The latest report from the damaged power plant indicated that exposure rates outside the plant were at about 620 millirems per hour, though it is not clear whether that report came before or after the reactor’s containment structure exploded.

So at this point we don't know if this will work.  But that's why people are throwing around Three Mile Island and Chernobyl at this point, because we have a full-fledged nuclear plant disaster on our hands.  If the containment vessel was damaged by the earthquake and this thing is going into meltdown, we're talking "pretty much worst case scenario" here.

This is bad, people.  If Japan's plan is to flood the reactor with seawater, it means they have no other options at this point to prevent a complete meltdown. 

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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