Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reuters/Talking Points Memo: "Japan finds plutonium in soil at stricken nuclear plant"

"TOKYO (Reuters) - Plutonium found in soil at the Fukushima nuclear complex heightened alarm on Tuesday over Japan's battle to contain the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years, as pressure mounted on the prime minister to widen an evacuation zone around the plant."

"In the latest blow to hopes authorities were gradually getting the plant under control, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said plutonium was found at low-risk levels in soil samples at the facility.

A by-product of atomic reactions and also used in nuclear bombs, plutonium is highly carcinogenic and one of the most dangerous substances on the planet, experts say.

They believe some of the plutonium may have come from spent fuel rods at Fukushima or damage to reactor No. 3, the only one to use plutonium in its fuel mix.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said while the plutonium levels were not harmful to human health, the discovery could mean the reactor's containment mechanism had been breached.

"Plutonium is a substance that's emitted when the temperature is high, and it's also heavy and so does not leak out easily," agency deputy director Hidehiko Nishiyama told a news conference.

"So if plutonium has emerged from the reactor, that tells us something about the damage to the fuel. And if it has breached the original containment system, it underlines the gravity and seriousness of this accident.""

Reuters/Talking Points Memo: "Japan finds plutonium in soil at stricken nuclear plant"


More of that nuclear safety in action...

Because remember - disasters only happen one at a time - it's inconceivable that an earthquake and a tsunami would happen at the same time... good thing there was no typhoon to go with it...

And the nuclear industry says that everything is still safe because no-one could have predicted this would have ever happened - therefore all the other plants are safe - because they are supposed to be safe from all other known disaster possibilities (of course the fact that over 40 plants in the U.S. haven't even met regulations published in 1975 related to fire safety after an earthquake might make a person sceptical [but i'll publish that one in a little while]).

I'm especially thrilled with all the charts that circulated in the days after this disaster showing that more people through history have died from coal fired power plants than nuclear accidents. I think it misses the point. Even if people have died from coal related issues - we won't be glowing green and growing a third eye for 50,000 years after the dust hits the ground.

The story cited above also says "Beyond the evacuation zone, traces of radiation have been found in tap water in Tokyo and as far away as Iceland."

Of course coal and hydrocarbons will have quite an interesting long term effect what with the climate of the entire planet being altered courtesy of emissions...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Christian Science Monitor: "Traces of Japanese radiation detected in 13 US states"

"Radiation has been detected in the air or water in 13 states, but 'far below levels of public health concern.' Rainwater is called safe to drink. Massachusetts is monitoring milk supply."

"Elevated yet still very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis have now been detected in the air or water in more than a dozen US states and three territories, federal and local authorities say.

Higher than usual levels of radiation were detected by 12 monitoring stations in Alaska, Alabama, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, and Washington State over the past week and sent to Environmental Protection Agency scientists for detailed laboratory analysis, the agency said in a release Monday.

Unusual, yet still very low “trace amounts” of radiation, were also reported in Massachusetts rain water and by state officials and nuclear power plant radiation sensors in Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania, the Associated Press and Reuters reported."

"One key area being watched is the US milk supply. After the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, it was found that cows had eaten grass tainted by radioactive fallout from the reactor. Concentrated radioiodine in the milk was blamed later for causing health problems in humans who drank it."

Christian Science Monitor - Traces of Japanese radiation detected in 13 US states

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wired: How Much Money Do Spammers Make?

"After deleting the 10,000th Viagra offer from your inbox, you might wonder, does anyone actually make money off this crap? Chris Kanich and his colleagues at UC San Diego and the International Computer Science Institute wondered too—so they hijacked a botnet to find out. Kanich’s team intentionally infected eight computers with a middleman virus, software they found in the wild that was relaying instructions between a botmaster computer and the network of computers it had secretly turned into spam-sending zombies. Then they changed the orders, effectively zombifying the botnet for their own research. Instead of sending hapless rubes to the botmaster’s website, spam ads would instead funnel them to a site built by Kanich’s team. It looked like an authentic Internet pharmacy, but instead of taking credit card numbers in return for a bottle of sugar pills (or worse), the site coughed up an error message and counted the clicks. Then the researchers calculated an estimate of how much money the spammer grossed per day: about $7,000."

Wired - Equation: How Much Money Do Spammers Rake In?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Christian Science Monitor: "Reports: Lax oversight, 'greed' preceded Japan nuclear crisis"

"Reports are emerging that both the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency and the Japanese government failed to properly ensure the safety of country's nuclear power industry.

The reports are challenging the recent refrain that the world's No. 3 economy couldn't have done better and once again highlighting how poor government oversight of an industry that allegedly cut corners to turn higher profits can spawn an environmental disaster."

"Dr. Andreev said the sequence of events at Japan's Fukushima I suggested that the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), may have put profit before safety. The fire that broke out Tuesday in reactor No. 4's fuel storage pond may have been caused by a desire to conserve space and money, he suggested.

"The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin," Andreev told Reuters.

TEPCO has come under fire in the past for falsifying safety records at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. In 2002, according to The Wall Street Journal, TEPCO admitted to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that it had falsified the results of safety tests on the No. 1 reactor.

This was only one in a string of scandals and coverups to mar the Asia's biggest utility company. In 2007, the company initially said there was no release of radiation after an earthquake damaged its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, but later admitted that radioactive water spilled into the Sea of Japan.

And less than a year ago, on June 17, a reactor at Fukushima I lost electricity and saw a dangerous drop in cooling water, Bloomberg reported. TEPCO's president failed to adequately investigate to prevent the current crisis, said Iwaki City council member Kazuyoshi Sato."

Christian Science Monitor - Reports: Lax oversight, 'greed' preceded Japan nuclear crisis


This is the same kind of cozy inspection relationship between the banks and regulators and inspectors that caused the world economy to melt down a few years ago, hey?

Unless there is a fierce independence between inspectors and the inspected these sorts of events will happen.

Self-regulation does not work.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Nuclear: Spent Fuel Containment Pool May Be Open To Atmosphere; Sattellite Images Appear To Show Missing Roof

"...the total amount of long-lived radioactivity in the pool is at least five times that in the reactor core..."

"The spent fuel produced by reactors has been a challenge since the dawn of the nuclear industry, with most reactor operators opting to store it in pools of cooling water on site. At the 40-year-old Fukushima plant, which was built by General Electric, the fuel rods are stored at a pool about three stories up, next to the reactor. Satellite photos raise concerns that the roof of the building housing the pool has been blown off, says Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a senior policy adviser to the secretary of energy and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999. He and other experts are now warning that any release of radioactivity from the spent-fuel pool could make the releases from the reactors themselves pale in comparison."

"The pools “contain very large concentrations of radioactivity, can catch fire, and are in much more vulnerable buildings,” he warns. If the pools lose their inflow of circulating cooling water, the water in the pools will evaporate. If the level of water drops to five or six feet above the spent fuel, Alvarez calculates, the release of radioactivity “could be life-threatening near the reactor building.” Since the total amount of long-lived radioactivity in the pool is at least five times that in the reactor core, a catastrophic release would mean “all bets are off,” he says."

The Daily Beast - The Japan Nuke Problem No One's Talking About


OK - my usual motif is to toss a story out and then editorialise on the story. So here's my editorialisation:

"So, how's that nuclear safety workin' for ya?"


"Moreover, in the spent fuel pools usually situated next to nuclear power plants, there are large numbers of additional fuel rods, used ones, disposed of as waste. There must be constant water circulation in the spent fuel pools. In what is labeled a “loss-of-water’ accident in a spent fuel pool, the zirconium cladding of the fuel rods is projected as exploding—sending into the environment the lethal nuclear poisons in a spent fuel pool……."

latest news on the uranium/nuclear industry
Technical information on the Fukushima nuclear loss of coolant


Image Credit:

latest news on the uranium/nuclear industry
Technical information on the Fukushima nuclear loss of coolant

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court: Corporations Do Not Have Personal Privacy Rights

"“The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 12-page decision.

He added: “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”"

"Corporations do not enjoy a right to personal privacy that would prevent disclosure of certain embarrassing documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

The unanimous decision came in a case examining whether telecommunications giant AT&T could claim an exemption from required disclosure under FOIA because government release of its documents to competitors would cause the corporation to suffer an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Lawyers for AT&T argued that the company was a private corporate citizen with personal-privacy rights that protect it from government disclosure of embarrassing documents."

Christian Science Monitor: Supreme Court: Corporations do not enjoy personal privacy rights


While I haven't been a fan (to say the least) of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding Corporate Rights ™, I am pleased that they got this one right.

Corporations are not persons. They should not have human rights. They should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns (neither should unions in my mind).

Intelligent beings have "human rights" not the legal fiction we call corporations (this is where we veer into my personal feeling that a number of "higher animals" - thinking and self-aware species like dolphins, whales, and elephants [an example list, not a complete one] - should have essentially "human" rights).

Corporations are an economic and legal fiction created to allow people to pool resources in an ordered manner.

They have no more inherent rights than than a copy of valley of the dolls. They are a set of rules not a person, and should not be a vehicle to allow those who control them to use the benefits of asset pooling to further the narrow agenda of those very same people who control those corporations.

Interesting Discussion Of Gendered Criticism Of The Selfie

There’s a lot more to a selfie than meets the eye (Salon) by Alicia Eler The moral panic around teen selfies is old fear dre...