tsunami (4)


“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.”   Old saying



How to Best Protect All Future

Nuclear Reactor-Powered Generating Plants



    This blog will concern two closely related aspects of the Japanese tragedy that began over a week ago . . . .  

              1. John Heywood’s “Book of Proverbs” published in 1546 included this now famous saying: "An yll wynde that blowth no man to good, men say" and how it relates to the American economy now

              2. How to protect the nuclear power industry and, more importantly American citizens and the American economy

              Let’s begin with a current anecdote that thematically ties the two stories together: did you know that in response to the “meltdown” of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s support, Russia --which holds U.N. Security Council veto power -- was the main obstacle to the world agreeing to institution of a no-fly zone over Libya? Why? Because as one of the world’s greatest oil producers, Russia enjoys all manner of chaos that regularly tends to drive the price of oil skyward. In other words the “ill-wind” in Libya was blowing the Russian economy lots of good, thankfully worldwide pressure has seen the Russians capitualte. Similarly, that same “ill wind” in Libya is causing lots of consternation here in America as oil prices rise and drive gasoline cost at the pump inexorably higher. The connectedness of the world’s economy is both a curse and a boon depending upon which way the wind blows.

             America has a duty to help out our long-time ally Japan, no question.   At the same time, the American auto industry and auto- parts industries and all other American manufacturers need to respond to fill the vacuum left by the severe hit on Japan’s manufacturing from the combined 8.9 magnitude earthquake and horrific tsunami. Demand for automobiles and their parts; and electronics; and other manufactured goods is not going to drop substantially, someone needs to fill that void and it might as well be us. An ongoing and surprising example is the present boom in the sales of American Geiger counters and of American nutritional sales of potassium-iodide pills to the Japanese and to our own West Coast citizens.   On point #1, the ill-wind** needs to be exploited in our favor, ‘Nuff said.


             Point #2   As a former navy nuclear reactor operator on an American warship, Rajjpuut is aghast at the apparent state of the peace-time American nuclear industry in general; and more on our blog topic, those in Japan run by TEPCo (the Tokyo Electric Power Company); and most pointedly at the reactor plant grouping found at the Fukushima Daiichi generating station in the northeast of Japan’s main island of Honshu. As a former trainee of the Kepner-Tregoe management advisors, Rajjpuut believes that nuclear safety while a very complicated and utterly critical requirement: is ultimately quite easy.   “Yes,” complicated and critical, therefore NOT simple, but also “Yes,” easy. 

             Nuclear power safety issues are made easy by the utter necessity of ZERO failures. If cost, for example, can become a serious issue, then you wind up weighing-balancing cost and safety; and cost vs. safety  . . . clearly cost can NEVER become part of the decision-making process. Quality at every step, in every decision ties in to virtual 100% safety planning.   The key question as it always is in Kepner-Tregoe’s PPA (potential problem analysis) process is “What could go wrong?”

             With that key question “What cold go wrong?” guiding us, then it immediately becomes obvious that Japan is one of the worst places in the world to build nuclear reactors.   That does not mean that smart-safe reactors cannot be built there . . . it just means that SAFETY, which we knew was vital before, becomes absolutely a thousand-fold more critical.    Why? Because sitting on the edge of the Pacific Rim of Fire where severe and violent earthquake and tsunami activity are relatively common activities a whole lot more can be expected to go wrong on a regular basis.   TEPCo (a Japanese corporation with a scandal-ridden past throughout much of its fifty-year history in the nuclear industry) is the corporation ultimately responsible for cooling down and safeguarding the public from the threatened Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.   However, TEPCo clearly hasn’t lives up to the challenge as its communications generally appear at odds with the international nuclear power agency’s evaluations and even to be internally contradictory.  Since TEPCo has five times been cited for false safety records in just the last decade, it’s an easy call to say that even though logically COST cannot matter . . .   TEPCo has badly violated that principle in the past and presumably is doing so right now also. Planning for a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in the initial stages and then not protecting reactors from potential tsunamis is a travesty. 

             Someone deliberately violated the safety before cost principles and now the whole island nation is at risk. Rajjpuut’s betting that in future, nations will be insisting upon nuclear plants built a minimum of five miles inland (away from tsunamis at any rate) capable of withstanding magnitude ten earthquakes.   Rajjpuut will also bet that common sense will prevail and future nuclear sites will contain only one reactor within a three-mile radius. Obviously the problem at the Fukushima complex has escalated so that if one reactor becomes a new Chernobyl, than the prospects are that the immediate three other reactors and the other two reactors at the site (six in all) will also become part of a monstrously greater problem.

              It’s been a long time since Rajjpuut worked in a nuclear reactor environment. However, referring back to his magnificent Kepner-Tregoe training, he believes that virtually any thinking man or woman with even a moderate exposure to the basic concepts of nuclear physics (and learning those basics are no harder than mastering many principles of the internal combustion engines (ICE) powering our cars) could plan how to safeguard virtually any nuclear reactor with very little effort. Again, the key concept is that failure is NOT an option/100% virtual safety is the goal. So what’s the idea here?

             What is the worst-case scenario with Japan’s nuclear reactors right now? Something Chernobyl-like at least in the public consciousness? And why does that situation now exist?

            The problem exists because power was cut by the earthquake. Power was cut by the tsunami. Power which was supposed to keep the reactor cooling system was not available. Backup systems that were supposed to replace essential cooling systems all failed 100%.  And the tsunami corrupted the reactor area itself. So what is the essential problem underlying the potential nuclear disaster in Japan?

            The cooling of the reactor’s fuel cell and total core has failed. If, despite the 8.9 quake and the ills brought by the tsunami . . . somehow the reactor core remained at normal operating or normal shutdown temperatures . . . no harm, no foul. So here’s Rajjpuut’s failsafe method . . . offered to the world for free:

            With each reactor (and remember they should each always be located separate and independent from other reactors and away from potential tsunami damage) build two rectangular buildings capable of withstanding an earthquake of magnitude 11. Each will house a diesel-powered emergency generator -- each generator built integral with the building itself. The generator, for example might be attached to the building with four solid beams attached one to each wall.   Test Generator A every Wednesday and Generator B every Sunday and examine all their connections to the reactor electrically and mechanically every other week. Even if all hell breaks loose as happened in Japan, you can lug in portable pumps etc.   just knowing you’ve got lighting, fans and electric power would be a “Godsend!”    Expensive? You bet? But public safety should NOT be compromised. Short of an earthquake with its very epicenter below the reactor and the two emergency generators . . . nothing except a one in a quadrillion hit by a giant meteorite will bring on the equal of today’s problems at the Fukushima site.


Ya’ll live long strong and ornery,



**        Sidebar here:  By the way, speaking of ill winds, there is a growing body of scientific knowledge that says that very small amounts of radiation from nuclear plants; x-rays; security scans; etc. is actually beneficial . . . it’s called “radiation hormesis:”


and actually helps prevent cancer for just one of its many indicated benefits.  That means it’s quite likely that the thinking that any sun at all is bad for you; and any radiation at all is bad for you is just utter nonsense. No sun, for example, means that millions of Americans are suffering from inadequate levels of Vitamin D-3 . . . .

            The trouble with “medical science” is that so much of it is tied to profit for somebody or other which gets in the way of serious science.   It’s all reminiscent of a time when health educator Rajjpuut was telling people back in the 1970’s that eggs were a wonderful food and that cholesterol didn’t cause heart attacks despite their so-called scientific evidence (based upon a mere 47% correlation between heart attack deaths and high cholesterol – less than a coin flip; while triglycerides in some studies show 86% correlation). Cholesterol levels used to be considered high at 280; then they were adjusted to label “high” at 250; then 200; and now some idiot doctors are saying that a 175 reading is “high.” Two comments: 1) Very low cholesterol readings can leave you vulnerable to strokes (and the idea that taking an aspirin every day can prevent heart attacks also makes one similarly more vulnerable to strokes) that waxy substance cholesterol is absolutely vital for your body’s well-being and your brain needs more of it than any other parts do and 2) if you drop the cholesterol readings low enough soon you’ll have a 100% correlation that will mean exactly nothing. When they can explain ultra-high cholesterol readings in highly fit aboriginal peoples (for one example, in Eskimos who subsist on blubber) and in Third-World peoples who never have heart attacks, then Rajjpuut will be listening.



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Japan Moves 8’; Earth 10”; Reactors Deteriorate;
Nuclear-Waste Cataclysm Awaits???
            Murphy’s Law and recently revealed Japanese nuclear-incompetence may be setting the world up for an absolute disaster. First the background: The entire nation of Japan and all its islands moved a full eight feet closer to the United States; and the entire earth was shifted ten inches on its axis (and rotational speed slowed slightly) by the recent 8.9 mega-quake striking the sea floor near northeast Japan. The ensuing tsunami (tidal wave) was, naturally enough, worse than anyone prepared for . . . in other words an unimaginable amount of power struck the Japanese and unimaginably devastating consequences are now happening.
            Unimaginable to you and me is not the same as "unforeseeable" in the world of engineering, or shouldn’t be. However, the up-to-now competent Japanese engineering community seems to have blundered badly in one respect that might soon come to haunt them and many of us: nuclear waste storage. Incredibly enough, reports say that the Japanese have been storing the radioactive waste on site – get this – in rooms above the reactor containment areas. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this sort of idiocy could instantaneously turn the worst-case scenario into a mega-disaster for the ages. 
Murphy ’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way!”) is now in play. The densely-populated Japanese islands hold fifty-five reactors. Many of them have been idiotically clumped together (economical in many ways, but dangerous to the nth degree) so unfortunately, threats to one reactor’s core could conceivably threaten the whole group and even make normal human operation of the nearby ones impossible. 
Three of those reactors (two at the Fukushima site) have now been assigned to the scrap heap as emergency sea water cooling has been introduced into them destroying all future value as power generators. Granted moving a monstrously huge island eight feet eastward is hard to predict . . . but, clumping reactors in close proximity and storing highly dangerous nuclear waste above the reactors themselves; these are the sorts of acts that can win a whole truckload of Darwin Awards (given to those who find ultra-ignorant ways to wipe themselves out of reproducing and affecting the gene pool) for a people whose intelligence and engineering savvy had been famous worldwide up to recently.
Rajjpuut would suggest that whole volumes will soon be written about the errors of judgment attached to Japan’s nuclear industry. What to do about the waste now? OUCH!  Moving it away from the threatened reactors seems very wise, but remember they’ve had over 300 aftershocks; more than 120 of those aftershocks have been of greater magnitude than the quake that demolished parts of New Zealand last week; more than 150 of these aftershocks have been greater than 6.0 reading – do you want trucks of nuclear waste travelling around the flattened landscape waiting for one more 6.3 Richter Scale tremor to destroy the trucks and release their deadly cargo everywhere?   OUCH!
            Since multiple meltdowns (multiple meltdowns!!!) are now a distinct possibility on top of everything else that's attacked the island; we recommend the American management experts Kepner-Tregoe be invited in to help the Japanese deal with this unmitigated mess (a K-T technical phrase describing a conflagration and confluence of intertwined problems) ASAP. Pray for Japan.
Ya’ll live long, strong and ornery,
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“The survival-value of human intelligence has never been proved.” Michael Crichton late-great science-fiction novelist speaking to us from his first great novel, The Andromeda Strain
                “Human beings can be made to believe anything and to advocate dangerous actions, so long as the supposed authority behind the ideas is SCIENCE.” Rajjpuut’s thematic extraction from Crichton’s last novel State of Fear
To Err is Too Damn Human
The word “Chernobyl” comes immediately to mind. The situation in Japan has deteriorated markedly in the last fifteen hours. The so-called “perfect storm” has hit. 1. An 8.9 magnitude earthquake (3,000 times more powerful than the one that hit New Zealand recently) struck from the ocean floor near northeast Japan. 2. A huge tsunami generated by the earthquake struck the region. 3. The combination of seawater and the original earthquake and 136 aftershocks each greater than  6.0 on the Richter Scale destroyed the viability at least one nuclear power plant at the Fukushima site powering Tokyo turning it into a serious ecological threat. 4. Several mechanical back-up systems wisely created to prevent “the perfect storm” have so utterly and miserably failed that they might as well have taken on a mind of their own and deliberately sabotaged the whole endeavor 5. It appears that initial planning and particularly site location for at least some of the fifty-five Japanese plants was less than circumspect and for the Fukushima nuclear plants (more than one are located there – tell me it ain’t so, Lord!) was downright criminal. 6. It is very, very likely that human error after the initial earthquake also played a part in the ongoing disaster.
Short of a magic-bullet solution, this mess is on course to deteriorate far worse and far more rapidly than most of us can imagine. Japan is a densely-populated nation and an island. Japan is the site of routine and powerful earthquake activity on the “Pacific Rim of fire.” Japan has suffered a horrific 8.9 magnitude earthquake and 136 severe aftershocks most of them rivaling the power of the earthquake that hit New Zealand. If normal “protocols” following a major earthquake occur, Japan can expect Mother Nature to send them a string of tremors lasting at least the next five weeks . . . each of them with the potential to make the Fukushima situation categorically WORSE. Think of the British Petroleum disaster one year ago. Now multiply the potential ill-effects by half a trillion . . . it’s not just a mess. It’s the ultimate mess (note:  the term “mess” is an exacting term first applied to human activity in a meaningful and scientific way by Americans Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe and their Kepner-Tregoe Management Systems program beginning in the late 50’s and early 60’s, more on this later).  Perhaps two of the worst effects in the long run from this situation will be adding weaponry to the environmental saboteurs’; and Jihadist saboteurs’ arsenals . . . any doubt where they’ll tend to aim their attacks now? Let’s try to put this disaster into perspective . . . .
We’ve all seen techno-thriller movies with the now common theme of “technology-run-amuck.” It wasn’t always so.  The idea itself was so powerful that Hollywood itself couldn’t even hope to handle it adequately. For example, they took one of the greatest novels of all time, Frankenstein, and made such a farce out of it in numerous variations for sixty years, that when finally an honest rendition of the novel was produced they had to name it “Mary Shelley’s” Frankenstein to let people know this was the real McCoy exactly as the great novelist wrote it and not some hangover from the Hollywood 1940’s. They even had to get Robert De Niro to play the part of Adam, Victor Frankenstein’s misbegotten creation to lend authenticity to the project.
The single greatest pioneer of this genre of sci-fi, late great sci-fi writer Michael Crichton wrote many extremely popular books and was part of several truly great movies as well. Two of his greatest endeavors were found near the beginning of his rise to fame and near the end of his days: The Andromeda Strain and the lesser known but seriously provocative State of Fear. The two novels present alternating views of human reality, neither one of them very flattering. In the Andromeda Strain Crichton ventures the idea that the survival value of intelligence has never been adequately documented and thus we often become our own worst enemies. The message in State of Fear is even more pointed and poignant . . . human beings can be made to believe anything and to do any dangerous things, so long as the authority behind the lies is “science.” One is reminded of the so-called science of “eugenics” operating as a founding principle within Nazism. The Nazis actually made serious long-term trips to the Himalayas to “investigate Aryan roots.”
Crichton’s suggesting in State of Fear that in the name of the supposedly good (e.g. “environmentalism”) reacting to perceived techno-threats, we are also capable of tremendously stupid actions with the potential to create enormous dangers** to ourselves.   Taken together the message from the two books is easily underestimated: To err is human; and human arrogance makes all problems exponentially worse. This is the story of the third hit in Japan: the nuclear disaster following the earthquake, the tsunami, the 136 aftershocks and everything else that went wrong. As a tenet from Messers Kepner and Tregoe which has so often been validated puts it: “the most important management activity is potential problem analysis (PPA) and follow-up prevention; the most important question in PPA is “What could go wrong?”
When you find the answer to the question “What could go wrong?” is “Absolutely everything!” You know somebody didn’t ask the vital question seriously enough in the first place. Let us break down this “mess” into its component disasters:
1.       Should a nuclear reactor ever be built in an earthquake zone, “What could go wrong?”
2.     Should a nuclear reactor ever be built near enough to the coastline that a tsunami could conceivably hit it, “What could go wrong?”
3.     Should two or three or more nuclear reactors ever be built within fifty miles of one another? If multiple reactors are built within very close proximity, “What could go wrong if one reactor has a severe lack of coolant accident?   Could things be made exponentially worse by the presence of a second reactor so near?”
4.     Even if a nuclear reactor’s redundant safety systems survive a severe earthquake, “What could go wrong if a tsunami hits?”
5.    Even if a nuclear reactor’s redundant safety systems survive a severe earthquake and a tsunami, “What could go wrong if a string of aftershocks more than 6.0 on the Richter Scale hit?”
6.     Even if a nuclear reactor’s redundant safety systems survive a severe earthquake and a tsunami, and a string of aftershocks more than 6.0 on the Richter Scale, “What could go wrong if back-up power systems fail?
7.     Even if a nuclear reactor’s redundant safety systems survive a severe earthquake and a tsunami and a string of aftershocks more than 6.0 on the Richter Scale and a failure of backup power systems to employ,  “What if the core still cannot be cooled and what if even heroic human endeavors fail to return the core to safe levels?”
Such is the anatomy of a mess: a confluent congregation of problems each of which by itself might not amount to an insurmountable problem, but which in their overwhelming negative synergy can prove disastrous.  Let’s add the final questions . . . .
8.    What if human operator or human management error is added to the other problems?”
9.     What if human slowness in the face of conflicting evaluations is added to the other problems?
10.What if danger to human operators and/or managers makes even trained proper responses impossible?
11.  What if the universe decided to make an example of us on this one?
You get the picture . . . the road to hell can indeed be paved with the very best of intentions, but a certain amount of stupidity makes the devil’s work go ever so much smoother.
Ya’all live long, strong and ornery,

** For example, the banning of DDT has unnecessarily killed roughly 78 million people (just from malaria, not to mention five other serious widespread insect-borne tropical diseases) since 1972 based upon the pseudo-scientific book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. The 1972 level of 40,000 malaria deaths annually worldwide has now deteriorated to 2.1 million deaths annually. The pseudo-science of global warning by reverting the entire globe to energy use reminiscent of the early 1800’s would result in death by starvation, etc. of perhaps two-thirds of present humanity within two or three years if the most “ambitious” anti-global warming solutions were employed. Some solutions are much more dangerous than the problems (if the problems even actually exist). Crichton’s State of Fear is the perfect vessel for understanding the political biases rampant among people who use the environmental movement as a vehicle for personal empowerment, wealth and CONTROL.



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                The next dozen or so times you talk with the Creator, put in a good word for the Japanese who really need all the help, divine or otherwise, they can get.  In the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, in the last half hour things just got a lot worse. The news is, in short:  not good. According to reliable sources in Japan, “an explosion” at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant injured several workers and began emitting either smoke or steam about ten minutes after a loud explosion was heard. 
Purportedly the ceiling of the reactor’s radiation containment building collapsed. Cause of the explosion is under investigation but any such damage at any nuclear plant is cause for serious concern. Rajjpuut, who worked as an electronic technician and reactor operator on the U.S.S. Truxtun (a nuclear-powered frigate), has not been optimistic since he first heard roughly 24 hours ago that several Japanese reactors had scrammed and that two were having cooling system problems. In the worst-case scenario, a meltdown is underway already. Lesser scenarios are much less potent and deadly, but hardly anything to cheer about except to say, “Hurrah, NO meltdown is going on yet!”  Apparently the problems all ensued when several normally reliable back-up systems failed at the same time as the reactor "fail-safe" scram on the heels of the massive 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake which struck northeast Japan. 
           Worst news of all at that time was that the backup cooling system was inoperable. Nuclear energy comes from heated water in a contained primary system heated by nuclear fuel generating steam in a secondary system that turns turbines serving as generators of electricity.  The primary system of a nuclear plant MUST be contained/housed inside thick radiation-proof walls and never be allowed to overheat or to come in contact with ordinary atmosphere.  Nuclear fuel rods generate incredible heat which must be removed constantly by a reliable cooling system. Because of the high density population on Japan, the short- and long-term health risks are almost unimaginably stark for people in the vicinity. Complicating the issue is that the Fukushima nuclear site is a multiple reactor location with at least two operating reactors. No word yet on the cooling systems for other Fukushima reactors. Pray for the Japanese people.
Say a sincere and righteous prayer,

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