Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 30, 2011

How The War On Libya Will Continue

The obviously finally comes to light in some U.S. media. The "rebels" in Libya are just a bunch of maybe 1,000 wild running rag tags with no structure or real population support. On top of these, but without any control, are a handful of freshly imported expatriates, usually the U.S. indoctrinated type, and a few old Gaddafi hands who have fallen out with him.

Turkey did some yeoman's work to get the whole operation under NATO control. France's Sarkozy objected because he did see that it would end his plans. NATO is a political consensus machine. A majority of NATO countries, the two biggest old European ones, Turkey and Germany, and all the new eastern members, objected to the use of force against Gaddafi.

Now NATO is in control and will follow the UN resolution by the letter. It now sets the rules of engagement. Accordingly there will be no more direct air support for the rebels. There will be no official weapon transfer to them either.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen dismissed the idea in a CNN interview yesterday, saying “we are not in Libya to arm people, but to protect people.”

(France and the U.S. will likely try to circumvent that, but will hear some serious objections.)

Without air support the rebel gang will lose. This will not be a stalemate, the rebels will lose. Not only the oil cities like Ras Lanuf but all of the cities they "conquered" including Benghazi.

Before that happens there will be a lot of back and forth over hundreds of miles of coastal roads like we have seen over the last day. If you want to learn why that will be the case read Infantry Brigadier starting at chapter 7. New Zealand's WW-II officer Howard Kippenberger fought against Rommel in just the same area and his report on the back and forth is amusing and scholarly. Logistics, logistics, logistics ...

For the rebels to win the U.S., France and the U.K would have to get troops on the ground, train the rebels, provide weapons, artillery, communication, medics, food and everything else and then start a march on Tripoli through cities with a hostile population. I doubt that now, as the likely length of such a campaign becomes obvious and more serious thinkers are finally getting the upper hand in the discussion, the will to do so will still be there.

Gadaffi may well survive this and the continuing sanctions. Libya has been under sanctions so many years that little will change. Someone will buy that light, sweet crude. Eventually some need will come up to rehabilitate him.

Then again I may be wrong on all of this. But I wouldn't bet on any other scenario.

Posted by b on March 30, 2011 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

March 29, 2011

Juan Cole's Warmongering

Urging the killing of Libyans Juan Cole published Top Ten Ways that Libya 2011 is Not Iraq 2003.

I'll not bother to refute all his points. For anyone halfway awake it is self evident that all the ten points he mentions are rather pointing to similarities than to differences in the arguments for both of those wars.

For example he says "The United States did not take the lead role .." on Libya while the NYT reported on the 18th of March that the relevant UN resolution was drafted by the U.S. and the U.S. obviously led the military action. He says "None of the United Nations allies envisages landing troops on the ground" while there are many reports public that British SAS special forces have been caught on the ground even before the UN resolution.

So Cole's pamphlet is just pro-war propaganda. On all ten points the War on Libya is indeed like the War on Iraq.

But there is an additional point Cole doesn't mention where the War on Libya is the same idiocity as the War on Iraq has been.

Juan Cole supported both of these wars. On March 19 2003 he wrote:

I remain convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides.

Since mid March 2011 Cole is obviously propagandizing for War on Libya.

His latest pamphlet An Open Letter to the Left on Libya (notice where the title puts himself) is just a stupid  attack on sane thinking. Did the Koch brothers pay for that?

Posted by b on March 29, 2011 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (69)

March 28, 2011

A Vicious Circle

Japan says plutonium found at Fukushima

Much will be made out of the Plutonium but the levels found, while from the recent incident, are not concerning at all. Disregard the panicking Plutonium headlines. There are bigger problems at hand.

What I am more concerned about is the vicious responsibility circle at the Fukushima plants.

Cooling needs to keep going in the reactor vessels to prevent reheating and possible fission in the partially melted reactor cores. Pumping water from the outside in and letting hot water steam/flow out somewhere (feed and bleed) is currently the only possibility to do the necessary cooling to prevent reheating and further fission of the reactor cores until a real controlled cooling cycle can be established.

Unfortunately a real controlled cooling cycle can only be established with access to the turbine halls lower levels.

Unfortunately cooling by pumping water from the outside into the broken reactor vessels with partialy melted cores is flooding the downhill turbine halls with highly contaminated water which prevents access and the establishment of a controlled cooling cycle. No one has any good idea of where to put or redirect the hundreds of tons of water pumped in and now coming out into the turbine hall with high contamination.

Allowing to dump the contaminated water into the sea is equal to political suicide in a democratic seafood nation. Technically it is the only solution possible within any reasonable time frame.

The conflict between political and technical considerations will lead to a stagnation of decisions in the stabilization operations.

The contaminated water will not care. It will find its way into the sea. Meanwhile reduced cooling, as already established today, will increase core damage and further radiation leaks.

Posted by b on March 28, 2011 at 04:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (96)

March 27, 2011

March 27+ Fukushima Updates

Over the last days the already very serious situation in the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant got worse. It is possible that nuclear fuel in reactor 2 resumed fission. Radioactive water seeped into the turbine buildings next to the reactors making work there nearly impossible. While external power was restored to all reactors at the plant, there is not much use for it now as the pumps it should drive are not accessible due to high radiation.

Water in turbine building of no 2 is now reported to carry 3 billion Becquerel per cubic centimeter or gram, ten million times the normal radioactivity of reactor coolant. For good reasons normal limits for food are in the range of a few hundred of Becquerel per kilo(!)gram. The radiation effect is above 1,000 milliSievert per hour. The water in turbine building no. 2 also contains elements with very short half life. Obviously the fuel rods in the reactor core are broken, partially molten and cooling water escapes from the cores. There is no other way to explain these levels of radioactivity. But it may even be possible that the molten mass of the reactor core in no. 2 has reignited fission. I currently find no other way to explain some of the elements found in the water as they have such a short half life that they should have vanished by now. Iodine-134 was found in the water at no. 2. It has a half life of only 53 minutes. [UPDATE 11:30am EST: Tepco now somewhat retracts that result saying it is "not certain" that the measurement was right. But it did confirm the 1,000 milliSievert/hour (100 rem/h).] Also found was Iodine-131 with 8 days of half life. This 16 days after the reactor was shut down. There is another data point that supports this thesis. A recent Tepco press release said about no 2:

From 10:10 am on March 26th, freshwater (with boric acid) injection was initiated. (switched from the seawater injection)

Boric acid is used to suppress neutron flow and thereby nuclear fission. There was no boric acid added to the reestablished freshwater feeds of reactor no 1 and 3.

The plant owner Tepco is behaving criminally:

Six days before the workers were exposed, a measurement of radiation levels in the basement of the turbine building for the No. 2 reactor had picked up 500 millisieverts per hour, which exceeded the maximum level of 250 millisieverts allowed for workers.

But the workers were not told about those measurements before they began laying a cable at the turbine building for the No. 3 reactor from about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Two workers were exposed to radiation levels of 2 to 6 Sievert which will likely cause serious burns. Highly radioactive water from the reactor cores of no. 1, 2 and 3 filled the basements of the adjacent turbine buildings. Water as much as 1.5 meters deep was found in the no. 3 turbine building, 1 meter deep in the no. 2 building and 40 centimeters deep in no. 1. Those buildings also hold the pumps needed to restart cooling the reactors. In these condition the pumps can not be checked and restarted without probably deadly consequences for personal working on the issue. As a Japan Atomic Industry Forum report commented:

working condition in high radiation area is so bad and there is no prospect of accomplishing the work for this recovery
This leaked water has been found days ago and there have yet to be attempts made to pump it out into the condenser tanks in the turbine halls. I find that dubious. There is no point to put this water into some improvised and probably quake damaged storage now. Just dump it into the sea as far away from the coast as possible. Seawater off the plant now contains 1850 times the limit for radioactive iodine. Yesterday it was 1250 times the limit. That sounds high but isn't really a problem. The ocean is huge and dumping into it is now, unfortunately, the fastest, best and safest way to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Information flow from the Tokyo Power Company and the involved agencies is still very dodged and the reaction to new problems is still much too slow. When the roof of the number 1 building blew off, immediate measures should have been taken to prevent such in the other reactors buildings. Only days later after the roofs of number 3 and 4 blew up were measures taken to prevent such for no. 2, 5 and 6. Only days after experts publicly expected damage from seawater cooling did Tepco switch to freshwater for further cooling. It is quite likely that the seawater cooling resulted in corroding brine inside the reactor cores which then led to the recent radioactive water release. There is still no adequate central management of worker radiation exposure.

A U.S. company sent four robots to Japan to work at the plant. But these are not radiation hardened. Ten days ago Germany offered its zoo of radiation hardened remote controlled robots to the Japanese government. These were designed and are kept in stock especially for nuclear emergencies. They are capable to do various tasks even in highly radioactive surroundings where the usual robots will fail. So far Japan did not request any of these.

But it is not only Tepco and the Japanese government that are slow and clumsy here. NHK TV falsly claims:

Meanwhile at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant, workers continue to pump fresh water instead of seawater into the Number 1 through 4 reactors to flush out salt.

Water is only added and except for steam releases there is no controlled circling or release of the added water. You can not "flush out" salt with steam or without circling/releasing the added freshwater. NHK also still talks of "puddles" of radioactive water in the turbine buildings. But these "puddles" are up to 1.5 meter deep pools.

With the continuing management failures by the Japanese government and the plant owner Tepco and with the misinformation spread by the Japanese media I see no chance that the situation will get under control any time soon.

Additional resources:
All Things Nuclear - blog by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Atomic power review - blog
Arms Control Wonk - blog
Brave New Climate - pro nuclear blog
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japan's Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Tepco press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV - Live stream
Status reports in German for the German Federal Government by the GfR

Posted by b on March 27, 2011 at 02:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

March 26, 2011

A Laughable Comparison

This is probably must be the most laughable lines CIA spokesperson Ignatius has ever written:

The United Arab Emirates may not be a perfect place, but it’s a lot freer and more progressive than Iran, say, or Russia or China. Saudi Arabia has its problems, but it isn’t an Iran-style menace, either.

The comparisons would not even make sense if one were to exclude the rights of women, which of course would be laughable in itself.

Posted by b on March 26, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

March 25, 2011

Open Thread, March 25

Whatever's on your mind ...

Posted by b on March 25, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

March 24, 2011

Was This The Plan All Along?

On March 17:

The latter's National Libyan Council claims it is supported by 8,000 regular troops, including 3,000 Special Forces which are ready to die defending Benghazi.

But yesterday:

[N]ow, as they try to defeat Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s armed forces and militias, they will have to rely on allied airstrikes and young men with guns because the army that rebel military leaders bragged about consists of only about 1,000 trained men.

Down from 8,000 to 1,000 in just seven days. Judging from AlJazeerah and other video sources the real number of trained soldiers on the rebel site seems to be around zero. Indeed all I have seen so far are some rather lunatic unorganized folks with small and medium arms trying to run against superior forces. Even the special forces Great Britain, France and the U.S. have certainly put on the ground by now will have huge problems to create a disciplined fighting force out of these.

The political leadership of the rebels is also a weird creation. The "new government" "finance minister" is one Ali Tarhouni.

Mr. Tarhouni, who teaches economics at the University of Washington, returned to Libya one month ago after more than 35 years in exile to advise the opposition on economic matters.
[...] This week, the rebel leadership announced its latest evolution, a government in waiting led by Mahmoud Jibril, a planning expert who defected from Colonel Qaddafi’s government.

From the slick website (which PR company payed by whom created it?) of the Interim Transitional National Council we learn about Mr Mahmood Jibril:

Holds a masters’ degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1980. He also obtained a Doctorate in Strategic planning and decision-making from the same university in 1984 where he worked as a professor in the same subject field for several years.

So two U.S. professor with, no legitimacy or following in the country, now prepare to be the Libyen puppets of the "west".

But they will only get the job after the "allies" put many more boots on the ground. There is no way these rebels can win without a big invasion by "western" forces. Even in the desert air power can not conquer and hold any ground.

When that happens Gaddafi will do a Saddam and tell his troops to become "civilians" and to start an insurgency against the occupation forces. Even if he would not do so tribal resistance against invading troops is a certainty.

This is all so predictible that one has to wonder if this was the plan all along.

Posted by b on March 24, 2011 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (93)

March 22, 2011

The Sorry Mess

In Libya the U.S., France and British air forces are running out of targets. The non-integrated 1960s era Libyan air defense, totally incapable against modern jets, was taken out by some 130 cruise missiles. There is no functioning radar system and no usable air strip left. The French bombed some sleeping Libyan soldiers in the desert some 10 miles from Benghazi. Last night Libyan harbors were bombed. Everything that might be left to bomb will be in build up areas and will likely kill civilians.

All the bombing has of course nothing to do with providing a no flight zone. That could have been achieved by only firing at those Libyan planes and helicopters that were actually flying. As Qaddafi followed the UN resolution there were none.

But even without reasonable targets, the bombing will not be allowed to stop now. That would expose that there is no plan on what to do next in supporting this tribal rebellion. Today some U.S. media are finally waking up to that.

The African Union is miffed as the U.S. did not allow their delegation to land in Tripoli to negotiate a ceasefire. The Arab League is retracting its support for the operation. Has anyone actually seen the planes from Qatar and Kuwait were said to join the campaign? After helping the "west" to fall into the intervention trap, China and Russia now demand an immediate halt of the bombing.

According to McClatchy, the praised Libyan National Council has somehow vanished:

Many members of the National Libyan Council had fled to nearby eastern cities and even to neighboring Egypt. The council leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, was in nearby Baida, his hometown. The council's Benghazi headquarters was closed.

Several NATO countries do not want to let NATO take over the undefined mission as the U.S. had planned. My guess is that the U.S. will be stuck with the tar-baby it created out of Libya.

The UK and France want Qaddafi killed and the country occupied. But after agreeing to follow the UN resolution they pressed for it will be difficult to argue for steps the resolution explicitly forbids.

I can not remember any foreign policy issue that was so badly thought out, unorganized and unplanned for like this one. Not even the aftermath of the war on Iraq comes near to this.

If there are still any grown ups in Washington, London and Paris they urgently need to take over and end this sorry mess.

Posted by b on March 22, 2011 at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

March 22+ Fukushima Updates

All reactors are connected to external power but switchboards of 1, 3 and 4 are not yet accessible and not connected. No 2 is connected but damage of the quake and Tsunami still needs to be evaluated before the electrical systems there can be powered up. To provide electricity to all reactors will still take several days.

There are new verified numbers about the load in the spent fuel ponds. Why the Japanese authorities are prioritizing work at the no.3 spent fuel pool over no. 4 is still a mystery.

Unit 5 and 6 are in cold shutdown and with reported active cooling of the spent fuel ponds. Despite the reported cooling temperatures in both pools went slightly up during the last 24 hours to some 45 degree Celsius

A concrete pump with a 50 meter mast is ready to be used to fill spent fuel pools.

Measurement of seawater around the plant found radioactive Iodine and Cesium exceeding regulatory limits.

The Tsunami which hit the plant is now estimated to have reached 14 meter height, double the height the plant had been designed for.

Unless an additional serious incident happens further updates will be made in the comments of this thread.

Additional resources:
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language

Posted by b on March 22, 2011 at 03:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

March 21, 2011

War On Libya

The question that should have been asked before attacking Libya but wasn't: How will this end?

Please let us know your prediction.

Posted by b on March 21, 2011 at 08:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

March 21 Fukushima Update

The no. 3 reactor yesterday likely experienced another leak from its primary reactor containment (see below). /Update: At 15:55 local time today grey smoke was coming from the south eastern corner of the top of no. 3 (spent fuel pont) and workers were evacuated. The smoke disappeared at 18:00. At 18:30 white smoke came from the west side of no. 2 building./ Work continued on powerline connection and filling spent fuel pools at unit 2, 3 and 4. Unit 5 and 6 seem to be safe for now. No. 1 to 4 are still in trouble. To connect 3 and 4 to outside power will still take several additional days.

Unit 1

A powerline for external power was laid and has been connected to the no. 1 distribution switchboard. Equipment is now getting checked for damage.

Unit 2

A powerline for external power was laid and has been connected to the no. 2 distribution switchboard. Equipment is now getting checked for damage. Seawater is getting filled into the spent fuel pond of no. 2.

Unit 3

The no. 3 spent fuel pool has been filled with seawater. Pressure in the primary containment increased yesterday morning local time (320 kPa as of 11:00 March 20th) and venting, which would release radioactive steam, was prepared. But the pressure then stopped increasing and later decreased (225 kPa as of 22:00 March 20). Willful venting by the operators has not taken place.

But I do believe that the pressure vented itself through a leak in the primary containment. Earlier U.S. tests found drywell flange leaks on General Electric Mark I reactors under high pressure.

A Mark I primary containment with the drywell top in the foreground (source: Wikimedia)

The drywell top gets bolted onto the containment. The flange between the containment and the drywell top includes a rubber o-ring to prevent leaks. But in tests high pressure inside the containment could lift the top and steam could escape around that o-ring.

Such an "automatic venting" mechanism would explains the earlier hydrogen escapes from the primary containments which eventually destroyed the no 1 and 3 reactor buildings. On Sunday radioactivity at the Daiichi site went up from some 2670 microsievert/hour at 6:30 to some 3350 microsievert at around 14:30 local time. It later came down again and was at around 2360 microsievert at 6:30 on Monday. This correlates with the pressure in no. 3 coming down again after the likely temporary leaking.

Unit 4

Some 160 tons of water were sprayed into the no. 4 spent fuel pool by military firefighters.

Unit 5

Temperatures in the reactor and spend fuel pond has been lowered to below 100 degree centigrade. Electricity is provided via restored emergency generators at unit no. 6. External powerline connection to no. 5 is supposed to be finished today.

Unit 6

Temperatures in the reactor and spend fuel pond has been lowered to below 100 degree centigrade. Two emergency generators are now up and running supplying 5 and 6.

Additional resources:
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language


Posted by b on March 21, 2011 at 01:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

March 20, 2011

Exactly Eight Years Later - No Change At All

Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.

In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.
Remarks by the President on Libya, March 19, 2011

My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than 35 countries are giving crucial support -- from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.

Posted by b on March 20, 2011 at 04:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

March 20 Fukushima Update

The situation on the plant site is getting somewhat better. Unlike in the first week the operation now seems to be coordinated and adequate man power is being used. Detailed information though is still scarce. Some food from the wider Fukuchima, spinach and milk, have been found to be contaminated with radiation above the legal limits.

Five minute video of the military firefighters spraying at the block 3 spent fuel pond. The protection suits seen at the beginning are not military grade and, in my view, not adequate for working in a contaminated environment. There is a lot of debris laying around the unit no. 3. The support structure of the crane in the reactor hall of no.3 seems to be gone. The crane which is usually above the spent fuel pond may have fallen down and may have damaged the spent fuel assemblies. The water cannon operation itself is reasonably well done.

Details on each unit follow below.

Unit 1

A powerline for external power was laid but has not yet been connected to the distribution inside the building.

Unit 2

A powerline for external power was laid but has not yet been connected to the distribution inside the building. While the outer building seems intact eyewitnesses reported quite heavy internal destruction with cooling and electricity lines broken apart.

Unit 3

After 14 hours of continuous operation the spent fuel pool has been filled completely by Tokyo firefighters. Some 2400 tons of water were sprayed through an elevated water cannon fed with seawater through a 300 meter firehose line. Continued pumping will be required to keep the fuel covert. As explained here seals at the fuel pond depend on external electricity to stay sealed. Further leaks from the pool can are thereby be expected.

After filling pool radiation measured 500 meter from no 3 has gone down from 3400 microSievert per hour to 2900 microSievert per hour. Pressure in the primary containment of no. 3 is too high and another release of pressure from it is planned. This will again increase the radiation. The no 3 reactor has some MOX fuel assemblies which contain plutonium.

Unit 4

Plans were announced to fill the no. 4 spent fuel pool with borid fluid to prevent fission of the fuel stored there. Application of 80 tons of water began but was soon stopped for unknown reasons.

Unit 5

Cooling of the fuel pond has been restarted and the temperature there went down. Electricity is provided via restored emergency generators at unit no. 6. Holes have been punched into the roof of the secondary containment to prevent hydrogene build up.

Unit 6

Cooling of the fuel pond has been restarted and the temperature there went down. Two emergency generators are now up and running supplying 5 and 6. Cooling of fuel within the reactor through a residual heat removal line has been started. Holes have been punched into the roof of the secondary containment to prevent hydrogene build up.

Additional resources:
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language

Posted by b on March 20, 2011 at 03:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

March 19, 2011

March 19 Fukushima Update - No. 4 Pool Fission?

More water was sprayed onto the unit no. 3 spent fuel pond and efforts are underway to connect reactor no. 2 to the power grid. Manpower at the plant was ramped up with some 130 operational staff and 320 people now clearing pathways and laying new power lines. 130 firefighter from Tokyo also joined. No other incidents or efforts from the Fukushima Daiichi plant were reported since yesterday.

But what is up with unit no. 4?

Satellite picture March 18 by Digital Globe
Unit no. 4 to no. 1 from left to right
bigger version

I have been harping on over unit no. 4 for days now. I see immediate danger there.

The Japanese authorities have said little about it. There was a fire at no. 4 on the 15th they said, at some pump, and another short fire soon after the first one was out. There were two holes in the reactor building walls they said, 26 square foot each. Yesterday they even downgraded the INES classification of no. 4 from 4 to 3 while upgrading the damage classification of the Daiichi reactors 1 to 3 from 4 to 5. Instead of a "serious accident without significant off-site risk" no. 4 is now only a "serious incident" they claim. Cooling efforts for the spent fuel pond at no. 3 were again made while no efforts are made to cool the pond at no 4.

But all of that can not be right. There ain't just two holes in the unit no. 4 walls as TEPCO initially reported.

Photos and video show all outer metal and reinforced concrete walls down to the first floor severely broken and damaged after the "fire". Between the 16th and 17th the metal roof plating above the unit vanished according to satellite pictures (see yesterday's status post). Brown smoke is coming from the building. No explanation at all has been offered for all of this to happen. The TEPCO reports ignore it. Since yesterday 16:00 local time the Japanese Atomic Industry Forum report table (update 12) says for no. 4 without any further explanation: "Hydrogen from the pool exploded". But the Kyodo News Agency now reports on no. 4:
Renewed nuclear chain reaction feared at spent-fuel storage pool

The spent fuel pond at no. 4 holds about 1,500 fuel assemblies with a total mass of some 250 tons of Uranium fuel. The reactor no. 4 was temporarily unloaded for maintenance in November 2010. Therefore most of the fuel in the pond is not spent but rather fresh and radioactive. Cooling at the pond has ended a week ago right after the quake. The building exploded despite a non-active reactor within it. Why and how did that happen if not for some nuclear incident at the fuel pond?

Usually fuel in a spent fuel pond is moderated and prevented from fission by boron plates between the stored fuel rod assemblies and/or by boron in the cooling water. But if the fuel heats up due to its continuing radioactive decay it could melt and assemble an unmoderated critical mass at the bottom of the pool. Such a mass going back into fission would generate, aside from a lot of radioactivity, enough temperature to eventually burn through the concrete below and would end up in the environment after meeting water underground and exploding it into steam. This was one of the main dangers in Chernobyl and an enormous amount of work was done and serious deadly risk was taken to prevent that.

Today the New York Times writes:

[A] senior Western nuclear industry executive said Friday that there also appeared to be damage to the floor or sides of the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4, and that this was making it extremely hard to refill the pool with water. [..]

Engineers said Thursday that a rip in the stainless steel lining of the pool at Reactor No. 4 and the concrete base underneath it was possible as a result of earthquake damage. The steel gates at either end of the storage pool are also vulnerable to damage during an earthquake and could leak water if they no longer close tightly.

The senior executive, who asked not to be identified because his comments could damage business relationships, said that a leak had not been located but that engineers had concluded that it must exist because water sprayed on the storage pool had been disappearing much more quickly than would be consistent with evaporation.

The head of the U.S. nuclear regulator said publicly that the pool at no. 4 was dry. The NYT report tells why that is the case. TEPCO and the Japanese government are very quiet about no. 4. They probably do not know what to do about it. But what to do is easy. Doing it is dangerous though.

A heavy slurry of sand, boron and water must be put into the pond. This would shield the environment from radiation and likely prevent any fission. Drying slurry would probably even seal some of the holes in the pond. Several hundred tons would be needed.

This can be done from helicopters, as it was done in Chernobyl. It would be very dangerous for the pilots but that can not be helped. Alternatively high reaching concrete pumps could be used to deliver the slurry into the pond from the ground below. This would probably also cost the health and even life of emergency workers working near the reactor. Again, this can not be helped.

There are signs that TEPCO and the Japanese might finally start to get it:

In a further sign of spreading alarm on Friday that uranium in the plant could begin to melt, Japan planned to import about 150 tons of boron from South Korea and France to mix with water to be sprayed onto damaged reactors, French and South Korean officials said Friday.

They "plan to import". The boron was needed and offered days ago. Spraying will not help with a leaky no. 4 pool. Slurry is needed. Get it. Get it done. Now.

Additional resources:
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language

Posted by b on March 19, 2011 at 02:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

March 18, 2011

The Libya UN Resolution

In Libya a quite heavily armed rebellion, even with its own fighter jets, from the parts of the country which sent the most (relative to population) Salafi fighters against the U.S. occupation in Iraq has now been internationally recognized and will get armed support from Gulf state dictatorships, France, the U.K. and the United States. Already arms are flowing to them through the military dictatorship of Egypt.

Meanwhile the U.S. allies Bahrain and Yemen, with support of mercenaries from the fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, are shooting up masses of unarmed protester who demand their democratic rights. How come no one is pushing for any interference on their side?

Whoever thinks that the Libya UN resolution, allowing for all out war on the side of the rebels, has anything to do with "Human Rights" or "Democracy" should get their head examined.

This is about oil, about what is good for Israel and about neo-conservative/neo-colonial aspirations of some "western" leaders.

But who will now join the shooting? The U.S. military is against starting another war. NATO will not act because at least Germany and Turkey would oppose that. So it is up to France and the UK. Will they actually go on their own? We'll see.

I am happy that my country, Germany, joint the BRIC-states (Brasil, Russia, India, China) in abstaining from the UN vote.

Posted by b on March 18, 2011 at 05:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (117)

March 18 Update On The Fukushima Reactors

(New issues in bold)

Yesterday saw little progress in the Japanese attempts to restore some safety at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.

March 17 satellite picture of the Daiichi reactors 1 to 4 by Digital Globe
North is to the left - the lower part of the pic shows the damaged reactor blocks 1 to 4 from left to right. Comparing with the March 16 picture (with no. 4 on the left), the roof of reactor 4 appears to have melted or exploded away during the last two days.
bigger pic

For lack of cooling, three of the six reactors have experienced a partial core meltdown. Uranium fuel rods in the primary reactor containment were only partly covered with water, heated up and melted. Steam reacted with the zirconium hull of the fuel rods, creating explosive hydrogen and additional heat. These reactors are currently cooled through fire lines by seawater and are regularly vented to release pressure. Each venting releases additional radioactivity. Salt from the seawater used will eventually disable the internal valves, gauges and other urgently needed internal equipment.

Reactors 1, 3 and 4 were damaged by hydrogen explosions outside of their primary containment. Reactor 2 experienced a hydrogen explosion within its primary containment. All four reactor are now radioactive scrap and will eventually have to be entombed in place.

Reactors 1 to 4 have an additional huge problem with their open spent fuel ponds which are located above the primary containment. With water circulation disabled the spent fuel heats up, evaporates the surrounding water and is radiating in dangerous doses directly into the environment. This makes human work in the area nearly impossible.

Attempts were made yesterday to cool and refill the spent fuel pond in reactor no. 3 with airfield fire engines. The dousing attempts were renewed this morning local Japanese time and steam could be seen emitting after water was sprayed. For unknown reasons the Japan Atomic Industry Forum in its March 18:00 10:00am status report overnight downgraded the reactor 3 containment vessel pressure from "stable" to "fluctuating".

There were no attempts made yet to cool down or to cover the spent fuel pond of no. 4 which is suspected to have run dry and is the most hot one with relative unused and now melting fuel. This melted fuel could accumulate at the bottom and restart a nuclear reaction producing addition energy. Such a hot and heavily radiating lava like mass would eventually burn through the surrounding concrete and react violently with any water below it.

Fixed line electricity was reported to have been restored to the relatively undamaged reactor 5 and 6 but according to the IAEA this has not been the case. Instead reactor 5 and 6 appear to receive some power from a partially restored no.6 backup diesel generator.

Restoring electricity to reactor 1 to 4 will be a priority. But even with electricity available it is unlikely that the cooling equipment in these explosion damaged reactors will be able to function.

Information by the plant operator Tokyo Power company TEPCO, the Japanese government and the Japanese media is scarce and incomplete or false. The decision making seems to be by committee and always too slow and too late. The urgency to act decisively to at least stop the situation from getting worse has not yet sunk in.

Additional resources:
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Atomic power review blog
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream
Status reports for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit in German language

Posted by b on March 18, 2011 at 01:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

March 17, 2011

March 17 Update On The Fukushima Reactors

There is no even less information coming from the operator of the Fokushima Daiichi plant, Tepco, as well as of the government authorities. They are no reporting any of the all important details and are spinning every issue in a ridiculous positive view.  The IAEA, under a Japanese secretary general, isn't much better with even its webserver going down for half a day yesterday and any information on the Japan situation hard to find on it even when it is up.

Action on the ground seems to be chaotic and is missing leadership and decisive will. Japan is a major industrial nation with a big machinery and shipping industry but seems to be organizational incapable to timely provide for mobile generators, high pressure pumps and knowledgeable personal to help in the nuclear emergency.

The U.S. government is calling the radiation levels "extremely high" and advised its nationals to stay away at least 80 kilometer (50 miles) from the damaged plant.

Recent developments:

Recent measurements taken during helicopter overflights 300 m above the ground (240 m above the reactor roof) showed radiation of 4,130 microSievert per hour, in 100 m height above ground they showed  87,700 microSievert per hour (natural background depending on location is below 0.1). The measurments are consistent with large amounts of uncovered and exposed nuclear material. 

Japanese Self Defense Force helicopters tried four times to drop 7.5 tons of seawater each onto the unit no. 3 spent fuel pond (full capacity 2,000 tons of water). Video from the operation shows the water mostly missing its target as the helicopter are flying much too fast and too high to be able to hit the appropriate spot. A rather ridiculous operation.

There are plans to use riot police water cannons to spray the reactors and to fill the fuel ponds. As these are some 30+ meters above ground it is unlikely that the pumps in the truck will have enough power and capacity for this to be effective.

A new land line is getting laid to provide electricity to the site.

Status information on the reactor units (unfortunately most of it is over half a day old):

There are six reactor units at the Daiichi plant, three of them are loaded with fuel and were active when the quake hit. Each plant has a spent fuel pond above the reactor core and outside of the primary containment. Once used, nuclear fuel continues to produce heat due to decay and requires continued water cooling.

Unit no. 1 - Water level inside the reactor core was measured at 1.8 meters below the top of the fuel rods. The fuel rods the core are thereby only half covered by water. Partial fuel meltdown. Spent fuel pond exposed after hydrogen explosion.

Unit no. 2 - Water level inside the reactor core was measured at 1.4 meters below the top of the fuel rods. Partial fuel meltdown. Primary containment likely to have been breached. Pressure measurement for the reactor core/primary containment disabled due to lack of battery power.

Unit no. 3 - The water level inside the reactor core was measured at 1.9 meters below the top of the fuel rods. Partial fuel meltdown. Primary containment probably breached. Spent fuel pond exposed after hydrogen explosion. White smoke (steam) is still emitting from this block but much less than yesterday.

Unit no. 4 - According to U.S. authorities the spent fuel pond has run dry. It contains at least 548 fuel assemblies that were in use at the reactor until last November and are thereby still very hot. The fuel is likely to have melted and may penetrate through the metal and concrete basin. Spent fuel pond exposed after hydrogen explosion and fire. The operating company Tepco spokesperson said there is "no particular problem" at the pond as flybys by military helicopters are claimed to have observed water in that pond. I seriously doubt this to be correct.

Unit no. 5 and no. 6 - Temperature in the spent fuel storage pool increased from 60.4 °C to 62.7 °C and 58.5 °C to 60.0 °C within the last 24 hours (100.0 °C = boiling temperature, normal status below 25.0 °C). The water levels decreased but the fuel is still covered.

Two people are missing and two were "suddenly taken ill" at the reactor emergency operation in Fukoshima

I have read some reports/comments which claim that northern Japan will become inhabitable etc. Such is utter nonsense. Japan's main island, Honshu, alone is bigger than Great Britain. The current 20km range evacuation zone and the effected area is a rather tiny spot of the land mass.

About a half million people have been evacuated because of quake and tsunami damage as well as for probable radiation problems in the Fukoshima area. There are food and fuel shortages in the disaster area.

Temperatures overnight were in the slightly freezing range and there was some snow fall. Emergency shelters have heating problems. The wind is currently blowing towards southeast blowing any fallout out to the Pacific but is expected to turn south later on Friday.

The Yen is now at a record high - something the Japanese export economy currently doesn't need.

What is needed now is a serious massive operation to drop hundreds of tons of sand and borsilicate onto the spend fuel ponds and the reactor cores. This could stop further massive radiation being open to the environment. Plans will have to be made to put the reactors 1 to 4 into Chernobyl like sarcophaguses.

Additional resources:
AllThingsNuclear Union of Concerned Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV via Ustream

In German language - Status report for the German Federal Government by the Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit

Posted by b on March 17, 2011 at 02:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

March 16, 2011

Ides Of March Open Thread

The Ides of March (yes, a day late) have brought many concerning developments besides the Japanese catastrophy.

At the request of the Sunni Bahrainian rulers Saudi troops have invaded Bahrain, a state of emergency was declared and police violently removed the mostly Shia protesters from the square they had occupied and protested in. At least 8 people were killed.

In Libya Qadaffi's armed forces moved further east to Benghazi suppressing the revolt of some eastern tribes.

Israel pirated a ship far off its coast alleging that it carried weapons to Gaza. Ludicrous.

Pakistan released a CIA agent who had killed two Pakistani people from jail saying blood money was paid to the families of the killed persons. Family members and their lawyer say they do not know of any settlement. Expect protests against this move.

What other news did we miss?

Posted by b on March 16, 2011 at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

Update On The Status Of The Fukushima Reactors

Please check yesterdays status post for some basic explanations.

"the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage"
Emperor Hirohito in his first ever public address announcing surrender on August 15, 1945
"With the help of those involved I hope things will not get worse"
Emperor Akihito in a rare public address on the nuclear crisis, March 16, 2011

Early Wednesday all workers were removed from the Fukushima Daiichi plant for about an hour because of high radiation level. Some 50 have since returned to continue the operation. 50 people are too few to be able to control six nuclear reactors in dire straits. Satellite pictures from DigitalGlobe show very severe damage to reactor buildings 4, 3 and 1 and a hole in the wall of  reactor 2 (thanks to The Paper in comments).

We are near total core meltdown in at least two of the six Daiichi reactors additionally to very severe problems in several of the spent fuel ponds. The only chance left now to avoid more serious radiation release may be the Chernobyl option, i.e. to drop thousands of tons of sand and lead onto the reactors to encapsulate the radiation sources.

The information policy of the operation company Tepco as well as the Japanese government is abysmal.

Unit no.1 is temporarily stabilized. The "feed and bleed" operation continues, i.e. seawater is being added and steam released to further cool down the partially melted fuel rods.

Unit no.2 has a probable breach of the primary containment in the area of the doughnut shaped suppression pool.  The spike of radioactivity earlier today was attributed to leakage at unit no. 2. The fuel rods within no.2 are considered to have partially melted.

The primary containment of unit no.3 is now considered to be also damaged. White smoke, likely slightly radioactive steam, is coming out of unit no.3. Pictures shows the top of unit 3 which exploded on Monday with very heavy damage. Access from or to the top to the no.3 building is likely impossible. Helicopters were used to drop water onto the spent fuel pool of unit 3 but the operation was aborted because of high radiation levels. The fuel rods within no.3 are considered to have at least partially melted.

The IAEA reported: “Japanese authorities also today informed the IAEA at 04:50 CET that the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is on fire and radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.”

An earlier reported fire in unit 4 has either restarted or maybe was not really put out as had been reported earlier. While the operating company earlier said that it was machinery oil burning, the location of the fire in the north-west corner of the fourth floor of unit no. 4 is consistent with the spent fuel pool burning. A photo at the NYT website shows heavy damage at the outer containment wall of unit no 4. right next to the spent fuel pool. The Digital Globe satellite picture show the no. 4 outer containment with very severe fire damage.

Workers can not get near the pool because of high radiation. A water cannon truck is getting prepared to put water into the pool area through the damaged walls but the access road has first to be cleared of debris to allow the truck to come through. Due to maintenance at the time of the incident the no. 4 core does not contain any fuel rods but the fuel rods in the spent fuel pool are fresh from the reactor and thereby quite hot. Related to unit 4 Kyodo News Agency reports:

The utility firm said Wednesday morning it is considering spraying boric acid by helicopter to prevent the spent nuclear fuel rods from reaching criticality again, restarting a chain reaction.

This is curious as the fuel rods in the spent fuel pools should be in special racks with boric separations. Why does Tepco assume that these are no longer functional?

The reactors of unit 5 and 6 are empty and their fuel is held inside the spent fuel pools there. The temperature in those pools has increased as no cooling circulation can be established.

Radiations level are reported to be "constant at high level" of some 2-3 millisievert per hour.

The Japanese government increased the legally allowable limit of radiation exposure for workers at the plant from 100 to an accumulated 250 millisievert/year.

The wind is currently blowing eastward pushing any radioactive clouds out to the Pacific.

Some pro-nuclear people argue that the reactors withstood the earthquake quite well and only the tsunami created the current problems. I doubt that. The 9.0 strong quake already exceeded the 8.2 design level of the reactors (as the Richter scale is logarithmic, the increase in strength from 8.2 to 9.0 is several fold). The quake certainly already caused some serious damage. The tsunami added to that. What damage was created when will be difficult to find out.

The point is that the design was adopted to a certain level of possible danger but that the real danger turned out to be bigger than the expected one. This is likely to be the case for all existing nuclear plant.

The official death count from the tsunami has now exceeded 11,000 and may still double or triple. Nearly 80,000 housing units have been destroyed. It is unlikely that further survivors will be found in the ruble. Cleanup operations continue.

Additional resources:
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
IAEA Newscenter (currently down)
NISA Japanese Nuclear Regulator (last update March 14)
Japan Atomic Industry Forum (regular updates)
Kyodo News Agency
NHK World TV via Ustream

Posted by b on March 16, 2011 at 04:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

March 15, 2011

Nuclear Lobby Astroturfing?

Two days ago I linked to an explaining piece about the nuclear events in Japan which, as I and others remarked, was quite positive on nuclear energy. In today's post I linked to some site called I have since removed the second link. Both links may have been, unintentionally, to astroturfing sites with fake personal opinions or slanted information sponsored by some entity interested in furthering nuclear energy.

A post alleging such was up at earlier today. Curiously that site now only shows "This Account Has Been Suspended" - hmmm.  But as of now that post is still available in the Google cache.

I copied it from there and I am reproducing it below under fair use doctrine for further discussion.

[UPDATE (3:00pm): I have now been in contact with the owner of Genius Now. The site was down because of heavy traffic, not because of censorship. It is up again.]

Note that I DO NOT endorse that post or any allegations made therein.

The reproduced post follows:


The Strange Case of Josef Oehmen

In the wake of the nuclear incidents in Japan, a great deal of information and misinformation has beem spread – some of it deliberately. It’s understandable that people misunderstand, or mishear. Misrepresenting yourself to claim you’re an expert is something else. We expect that from industry and politicians – we don’t expect it from a PhD employed by a school as well-respected as MIT. But that’s just what’s happened, and is still happening now.

On Sunday, March 13th, I saw an interesting link on Facebook. Since the previous Friday, I’d been posting update information on the Japan disasters, and had been one of the first people to post that there might – and I stressed might – be nuclear problems. So when I saw a link saying “MIT scientist says no problems”, it’s only natural to read it.

The post originally came from Let’s first note that the name “Jason Morgan” does not appear on the morgsatlarge site. The site has one post (now redirecting to another site, which we’ll get to). Apparently, it was created yesterday. The “about” info is “About morgsatlarge English teacher, F1/ UFC enthusiast. Japan resident, quake survivor, and most importantly a husband to an amazing woman, and father to a beautiful baby girl.”

Jason is on Twitter, though, and thinks his “scientist friend” stuck his neck out for him, and is telling the truth. He’s had a  Twitter account longer than last week, and he says Oehmen’s married to his cousin and is an “awesome guy”. Sounds pretty benign, what with his claims the article will be published on, and has been vetted by nuke folks at MIT.

Jason had JUST been at the Japanese immigration office when the quake hit. And he sure enough was genuinely worried about the nukes, based on his tweets, in one of which he says he’s “shitting himself”. Nothing real suspicious here.

In the Google cache for the site today, we see this (no longer on the site):

“I do not work for the nuclear industry. I am an English teacher, from Australia, living in Kawasaki, Japan. My friend Dr J. Oehmen is a family member, and by far and away the most intelligent person I know. Feel free to believe/disbelieve whatever we have written. There are no conspiracies, however if you need to, feel free to make some up….

This post is by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston.
He is a PhD Scientist, whose father has extensive experience in Germany’s nuclear industry. I asked him to write this information to my family in Australia, who were being made sick with worry by the media reports coming from Japan. I am republishing it with his permission.”

The site I got linked to, though, was a repost from something called The Energy Collective. . This ONE instance of the article has been shared over 5000 times on facebook, and over 32k times in total.

The Energy Collective is a Siemens AG lobbying/influence/astroturf organization – it says Powered by Siemens right up front. They present as a “Nukes for the Environment” type. The author of the piece here is Barry Brook, who lists himself as a “Professor of Climate Change” on the site. He is – at the University of Adelaide – and is a strong proponent of nuclear power. In other words, he has credentials on climate change, and is pro-nuke. Then let’s note that this is a repost of something Brooks posted on BraveNewClimate. We’ll get back to the crosspostings later.
In his introduction he says “Below I reproduce a summary on the situation prepared by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston. He is a PhD Scientist (sic), whose father has extensive experience in Germany’s nuclear industry. This was first posted by Jason Morgan earlier this evening, and he has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here. I think it is very important that this information be widely understood.”

So let’s look at that “awesome guy”, Josef Oehmen.

Does he have a PhD? – indeed he does. In supply chain risk management. And yes, he’s a “Research Scientist” – that’s his part of his actual job title, not what he does. (LAI Research Scientist appears to be his title.) He’s not in a traditional department – he works for something called the Lean Advancement Initiative (LAI), which is a military-industrial-academic project. As of today, his information page clarifies that he is not involved with nukes at all.

It adds “Josef is working hard with a team from MIT to provide an appropriate response to the interest the post has generated. The original blog will be migrated to an MIT site, managed by a team of experts from MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. The link will be posted here when it becomes available.”

In the Twitter page set up yesterday, he says  ”Josef is a research scientist in mechanical engineering and engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology“. His about page says “He is a mechanical engineer by training, working on product development processes.” Interesting, not quite the same thing. He also says “MIT setting up information hub on nuclear situation in Japan incl my original post:” on his Twitter page.

Ok, that’s really interesting. Because was registered yesterday, through That was a Sunday, right? And while the contact information says it’s for MIT, the admin contact is given for an independent contracter, with the contractor’s phone number. The contractor is a graphic designer who has done prior work for the department. (here’s his  site:

There are only a couple of links from the department site – added well after normal working hours on Monday night.

Before “mitnse” killed the comment and rss functions on this site, you could see that rss feed said the site was “maintained by students” in the NSE department. No such students have identified themselves. And while the originally, highly erroneous post has been redacted, the editors have not seen fit to identify themselves.

So – “students” on the site, “experts” in the announcement of it.

The comments were filled with statements about “intellectual dishonesty” and “academic fraud”, as well as point by point rebuttal of many statements Dr Oehmen had originally made. They were killed 5 minutes after I posted the following:

“So far, although I see a link to this site from NSE, I don’t see any discussion of it. And frankly, Mr/MS mitnse, as far as I can tell you’re actually Ismail Subbiah, graphic designer occasionally on contract to MIT. The links between Siemens AG, Dr Oethman, Barry Brook, and MIT/LAI (which has cleverly been avoided – lets do bring that up, shall we?) suggest that no matter why the article was written in the first place, it’s become a major piece of disinformation masquerading falsely as academic opinion.”

As you can see, Siemens AG comes up again. Not surprising, because it recently became an “industry partner” of MIT/LAI. But there is almost certainly another connection. Dr Oehmen is German. If his father spent much time in the German nuclear industry, there is a very very good chance that he worked – or works – for Siemens.

LAI’s website says “LAI accelerates lean deployment through identified best practices, shared communication, common goals, and strategic and implementation tools honed from collaborative experience. LAI also promotes cooperation at all levels and facets of an enterprise to eliminate traditional barriers to improving industry and government teamwork.” .

What that doesn’t say is who the industry partners are. Oddly, they are all major defense contractors. And the only one I’ve found so far with any direct connection to nuclear power plants is Siemens.

I’ll be looking deeper at this story, including the mechanisms used to spread the original, and entirely specious, article across the web. It’s still spreading now, mostly from people who would be horrified at this.

No related posts.

Posted in Blog, Editorial.

No comments

By adminMarch 15, 2011

Author: admin (56 Articles)

Genius Now is devoted to Resilience. The Reality. The Concept. Many concepts, in fact. Materials science, strategic thinking, futuring, creativity. Above all, the ability of our species to survive, act, and thrive.


End of reproduced post from

Posted by b on March 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Status At The Fukushima Reactors

Spent nuclear fuel, once used in a reactor, still produces heat while waste products within the fuel rods continue to decay. The fuel elements need several years of permanent cooling by circulating water. If the cooling water is not circulated, it will evaporate and without being covered with water, the zirconium cladding around the hot Uranium fuel rods will start to react with surrounding steam and produce hydrogen. The hydrogen may accumulate and explode as happened in unit 1 and 3 at the Japanese plant. Without cooling the cladding will melt and with a bit more heat the Uranium fuel itself will melt, eventually accumulating at the bottom of the pool and further react there.

The first four of the six Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor units are in trouble. There are some 700 fuel rods within the pressure vessel of each reactor core. There are also additional 3450 used fuel elements in the primary cooling ponds above each reactor. These pools are outside the primary containment, but withing the secondary containment, i.e. the outer building wall. The status of these cooling ponds is unknown. As the roof has blown off violently from unit 1 and 3 their cooling ponds may have blown empty of cooling water and are open to the environment. Additionally all the primary cooling ponds in unit 1 to 4 are likely to have no water circulation. The primary cooling ponds in unit 5 and 6 may not have water circulation either.

GE Boiling Water Reactor Mark I
The primary cooling pond at the upper right below the crane.
(more detailed pdf)

There is a common secondary cooling pond at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility. It contains some 6290 fuel elements and is at ground level. It may well have been damaged when the Tsunami waves ran through and may have no water circulation. Its current status is unknown.

Additional spent fuel, cooled down buts still radioactive, is kept in dry storage casks at the facility. Their status is unknown but with a weight of 100 ton each the casks may have stayed in place when the Tsunami waves ran through. The current total inventory (pdf) at Fukushima Dai-ichi is 1,760 tons of Uranium.

On Saturday the top of the secondary containment of unit 1 blew off in a hydrogen explosion.

On Monday the top of the secondary containment of unit 3 blew off in a hydrogen explosion. This explosion seemed more violent than the one at unit 1 and huge parts of the structure could be seen rising over a hundred yards into the air before violently coming down.

Some seawater cooling has been restored to unit one and three but is not circulated. The cooling method now used is 'feed and bleed', supply water and release steam, which is not viable as a longer term measure.

Unit 2 may have been damaged by parts which came down from the unit 3 explosion. A central pressure release valve stopped functioning. Early Tuesday there was an explosion in unit 2. This one not at the roof level but at the doughnut shaped (torus) suppression water pool at the bottom of the reactor. The suppression pool is part of the primary containment. Escaping steam and a higher level of radiation was observed after the explosion. This lets one assume that the primary containment at unit 2 is now damaged and reliable further cooling at unit 2 may be impossible. There is a high danger that unit 2 may have a serious meltdown.

Unit 4: The reactor itself was shut down when the earth quake and tsunami happened. But the used fuel pool, which is needed to cool spent fuel that earlier had been removed from the core, ran dry after the electricity supply ran out. The used fuel became too hot and produced some hydrogen. There was a fire at unit 4 primary cooling pool late Monday/early Tuesday. The unit has lost a part of its secondary containment.

Early Tuesday radiation of up to 400 millisievert per hour (400,000 microsievert per hour) was observed within unit 4. Short term exposition to 1000 millisievert per hour has immediate negative health effects. Anything above an accumulated 100 millisivert per year(!) is considered to be longterm dangerous. Part of the staff have been evacuated from the site. Normal background radiation is 0.02 microsievert per hour.

As of now unit 1 and 3 have cooled down below boiling temperature and may be regarded as temporary save. Further complications at these units are likely to occure. The status of unit 2 is unknown. Unit 4 is still without reliable cooling.

Some more details at AllThingsNuclear, Pictures of the damaged reactor buildings at ISIS. Digital Globe satellite picture of damaged reactor buildings.

Regular updates are for now available at the IAEA Incident and Emergency Center and the ArmsControlWonk.

Posted by b on March 15, 2011 at 03:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

March 14, 2011

The "Democracy Council" And The "Green Movement"

How much is the "Green Movement" in Iran a product of covert U.S. activities?

Cyrus Safdari at Iran Affairs made an interesting find which may help to answer that question.

A document by the Democracy Council (a U.S. government cover operation?) marked "FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY: NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION" was leaked on Scribt but soon removed. A copy is here: CONCEPT NOTE - TAASH COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK [TCN]: VIRTUAL SANCTUARY FOR IRANIAN CIVIL SOCIETY (pdf).

The ten page paper describes a "secure" internet system which could be used as a central hub for all media activities of the Iranian opposition.

Taash Communications Network (TCN), developed by the Democracy Council (the Council) in collaboration with the leading representatives from the Green Movement, will help to meet this demand by providing the first robust, multilevel (internet, web, mobile, and satellite broadcast) communications channel for regionally produced progressive (uncensored) content and communications. TCN will operate as branded technological distribution portal platform) made available to independent content and communications produced by and for progressive and reform – minded Iranians.

The system would be "owned" by a European cover entity and would be "secure" versus the Iranian government. But all traffic going through it would of course be monitored by the "Democracy Council".

The "Democracy Council" is already running similar activities. On page 9 of the paper it proudly boosts:

The Council has implemented programming to support online social networking in Iran and currently maintains a strong network of internal activists, including the Green Movement, whose leaders have requested direct support from DC to develop its communications strategy and online capabilities. DC project staff includes the producers and hosts of VOA Persian News Network Technology shows with a focus on digital activism, and internet & mobile access. Their Facebook page attracts 500,000 hits per month inside Iran. In collaboration with VOA PNN, DC staff developed a Persian iPhone and Android application.

As Cyrus analyzes:

All this goes to show two things, frankly: Iran affairs is in the hand of amateurs, and the Green Movement apparently DOES have foreign backing. In my humble opinion, these sorts of information warfare campaigns directed against Iran are silly and mostly just self-serving. If they have any persuasive effect, it is in the US rather than in Iran, and even there it is largely negative because it creates a sort of dogma about the Green Movement that may be favored by certain exiles and their wishful thinking, but has no real relationship to Iranians inside Iran. See, the people of Iran don't lack for information. They have had years of this sort of media campaigns directed towards them. They're not fooled. But the "blowback" (deliberate?) of these sorts of campaigns creates a certain narrative and conventional wisdom that (is meant to) box policymakers in the US when dealing with Iran. Afterall, that's why you see so many articles which doth protest too much that the Green Movement is alive and the "Jasmin Revolutions" sweeping across Arab countries not only do not work in Iran's favor but will ultimately topple the Islamic Republic etc. Rubbish.

Feel free to sleuth through the paper. There are several names of opposition figures as well as "Democracy Council" helpers in there which deserve some further googleing.

Posted by b on March 14, 2011 at 08:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

March 12, 2011

Quake Aftermath

It seems that the severe quake and the huge tsunami were rather small trouble compared to what is coming now:

NEWS ADVISORY: Shaking felt immediately before explosion at Fukushima nuke plant (17:23) FLASH: Explosion occurs at Fukushima nuke plant, 4 injured: Tokyo Electric (17:14)

It seems (video) that some containment of Fukoshima 1 has ruptured.

But of course we all know that nuclear energy plants are safe ... until they are not.

Posted by b on March 12, 2011 at 03:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (75)

March 10, 2011

Agreeing With Pfaff's Thoughts on Libya

Old timer William Pfaff on the issue of Libya:

The insurgents want to be free from Colonel Qadaffi’s loathsome, fantasy-laden and brutal rule. We wish them success. However overt military intervention would transform a civil conflict into a war between the existing Libyan government and the West – the U.S., NATO, Europe.

The essence of the general Arab uprising is that it has been popular, authentic, spontaneous, democratic, and (with respect to established international political and economic interests) disinterested. This has been its marvel, and the source of its strength. It has been unique. An overt foreign military intervention threatens to discredit all that, undermining the essential quality of the Arab Revolution.

The last sentence in that quote is important to keep in mind. Any intervention in Libya would likely stop the wave of democratic revolutions in the Middle East.

But that is probably not the bug but the feature and the very reason why the U.S. senator for Israel, Joe Lieberman, and other zionists are calling for war on Libya.

More from Pfaff:

The civil struggle in Libya is not merely Qadaffi versus the people, but an affair of the tribal attachments of an Arab and Berber population, whose separate regions (in modern times Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan), were under Ottoman domination from the sixteenth century forward, and were not united until the twentieth century, and separatism undoubtedly persists even now. Western policy planners, military men, and even humanitarian enthusiasts, do well not to blunder into things they know nothing about.
Moreover, military intervention is highly destructive. A “No-Fly” zone sounds sensible and prudent, but the United States (as Robert Gates has warned Washington) does not intervene anywhere without first suppressing all possible defensive threats to American forces. Hence a NATO or U.S no-fly zone would be preceded by days if not weeks of systematic bombardment of Libyan defensive sites, inevitably located near cities and oil installations, with much “collateral damage” and many civilian casualties. It is not a humanitarian policy.

I agree.

Posted by b on March 10, 2011 at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

March 09, 2011

Open Thread, March 9

I am still busy wrapping up this project and with some other urgent duties.

zu Guttenberg PhD thesis with 130 plagiarized sources each in a different color
Source: GuttenPlag Wiki
(ginormous version, 3.4 MB)

Please use as open thread ...

Posted by b on March 9, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

March 07, 2011

Libya - A Tribal Insurrection

The "western" media is reporting the crisis in Libya as something similar to what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. But this is not a modern youth movement protesting against a dictatorship, this is a developing civil war between tribal entities - not exactly a novelty in Libya.

A bigger version of the map can be found at the Public Intelligence Blog

From a 2002 piece on Tribal Rivalries in Libya which explains why some army units are now with the rebels:

Such rivalries are most pronounced in the armed forces. Each of the main tribes is represented in the military establishment and the various popular and revolutionary committees. For instance, Qadhafi's Qadhadfa tribe has an ongoing rivalry with the Magariha tribe of Abdel Sallam Jalloud, the man who was second-in-command in the country for decades until he fell out of favour.
The Warfalla tribe, which turned against Qadhafi during the coup attempt in 1993, is numerous and is closest to Jalloud's Magariha tribe. The Al Zintan tribe backed the Warfalla as well. The coup attempt was spearheaded by Warfalla officers in the Bani Walid region, 120 km south-east of Tripoli. The main reason for the coup attempt was that, despite its size, this tribe was poorly represented in the regime and only occupied second-echelon posts in the officers' corps.
Moreover, Warfalla tribal officers have been excluded from the air force. The air force is reserved almost exclusively to the Qadhadfa tribe, to which Qadhafi belongs. It was the air force which crushed the coup attempt in October 1993.

It is possible that it, again, will be the air force that will put down this insurrection. But that end may also depend on one major tribe which so far has not taken a definite position:

The leadership of the Magariha tribe acknowledges a debt of gratitude to Gaddafi and his regime for securing the return of one of the tribe's members, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, from prison in Britain after he was convicted of being behind the Lockerbie bombing. However sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat that this has not prevented a number of youths of the Magariha tribe from participating – with members from other tribes – in the demonstrations and protests against Gaddafi's rule, especially in cities in eastern and southern Libya.
Experts say that the Magariha tribe is in the best position to carry out a coup against the Libyan leader, as many members of this tribe are in sensitive and senior positions of the Libyan government and security services.

There is more on the allegiances of the major 30 tribes and clans in Libya in the above piece. Additional information is here.

The misrepresentation of this conflict in the media may well lead to military intervention by "western" forces. These would then have to fight those tribes which for whatever reason support Ghadaffi. With "western" intervention the situation on the ground would quickly deteriorate. This would cost a lot more lives than any situation in which the Libyan people fight this out by and for themselves.

Posted by b on March 7, 2011 at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (102)

March 06, 2011

The Comeback Of The Fun Guerrilla

In the late 60s the German fun guerrilla movement, with Fritz Teufel being the most famous member, used all kinds of pranks to protest against state authorities and right wing policies. "Assassination" were planed, the plans announced and pudding was bought to be used as the deadly weapon. State authorities were ridiculed when they took such plots seriously.

Yesterday saw an unexpected comeback of fun guerrilla means.

Some 570,000 facebook members, many of them likely fake, "liked" a group page for the return of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the former populist defense minister recently relieved after plagiarizing his Ph.D. thesis. They had called for Pro-Guttenberg demonstrations on Saturday in several German cities. The facebook group and the call for demonstrations received large media coverage.

A few demonstration did indeed happen yesterday, but only a few dozens people appeared in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. The people taking part turned out to be mostly fun guerrilla pranksters.

Slogans shown included "Gutti for Kaiser", "We are your people", "Lead us to light" and "Gutti has hair nice". In Cologne the "Communist League Pro Guttenberg" rallied in support of Guttenberg's proven dislike of copyrights, "cut+paste=communism" was their slogan. "Cut & paste" hair paste tubes with Guttenberg's stylish picture on them were offered for sale. In Berlin the Hedonist International movement presented itself as instigator of the demonstration. When its spokesman was interviewed he rallied against the "far left media like Die Welt and FAZ which destroyed Guttenberg". Both papers are well known for their rather right wing stand.

All this ridicule, widely reported, likely destroyed any chance for Guttenberg's comeback. His alleged mass support was shown to be none at all and the facebook numbers as virtual junk with no base in reality.

The only real Pro-Guttenberg demonstration seems to have happened in his small hometown. In front of a few hundred party followers zu Guttenberg's father, the conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg, spoke of a "man hunt campaign" against his son something "I haven't seen since 1945". Enoch zu Guttenberg was born in 1946.

Yesterday's well covered return of fun guerrilla protest is likely, at least in Germany, to start a new wave of anti-right wing action using ridicule as its major tool. I wonder how effective it would be if people in the U.S. would start to use fun guerrilla style action to expose the tea party's hypocrisy.

Posted by b on March 6, 2011 at 05:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

March 03, 2011

Middle East Struggles

The Egyptians finally managed to get the Mubarak appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq kicked from office. Good. Keep the pressure up. Where is Suleiman? Why isn't he hanging from a rope?

On Libya - the U.S. is sliding to military intervention. If it tries it will be alone in doing so. The reason for intervention is said to be oil prices reaching the $100+ recession zone. Nonsense. While Libya produces light sweet crude, preferable for refineries, it only exports 2 million barrels a day. Not enough to make a long term dent in available supplies and a permanent surge in prices. The U.S. can survive with a short term spike in oil. There is no reason to panic.

Let the Libyans fight it out. Yes, it will get bloody and will take some time. But it is their revolution. Any intervention will be more harmful than staying away.

What's up in Bahrein, Omay, Yemen by the way. And what happens when the big one, Saudi Arabia, explodes?

Posted by b on March 3, 2011 at 02:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

March 02, 2011

Open Thread - Mar 2

(sorry, me still busy)

Your news & views ...


Posted by b on March 2, 2011 at 05:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

March 01, 2011

Guttenberg Is Gone

At 11:45am local time today Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg stepped down from his job as Defense Minister for Germany.

One reason for this was certainly the crowd sourcing project GuttenPlag which documented the amazing amount of plagiarism in Guttenberg's dissertation. I described the background to the scandal in an earlier piece and I am proud to be involved in the GuttenPlag work.

Other reason were Guttenberg's permanent denial of his obvious intent to plagiarize and chancellor Merkel's decision to keep him. In her statement she dismissed the importance of standards in scientific work and the value of any academic title.

That led to a shit-storm of protests from the academic and scientific community. Within the last few days some 30.000 Ph.D candidates signed a protest letter. Another letter (pdf) was signed by several thousand current professors. Major conservative papers took position against Merkel's conservative coalition.

Guttenberg stepping down was certainly needed, but this was never the intent or motive of the people running GuttenPlag. For us this was about academic standards and our own work in the academic field.

I'll continue to work in the ongoing wrap-up of the project and the writing of its final report. This will require a few more days, but I hope to have some spare time to again take care of MoA.

Posted by b on March 1, 2011 at 07:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)