Posts Tagged ‘Fukushima’

Debate Is Human, Tyranny Is Not

March 11, 2016

FUKUSHIMA, NAZISM, SYRIA: FOR LACK OF DEBATE

“Tyranny” means the rule of one.

For example Obama decided not to intervene in Syria. All alone. He thought it was smart. Now hundreds of thousands more civilians died there. The point is that he decided that all alone, which a herd of sycophants bleating around. He is The One. An Augustus for our time.

The world is decided by a few. That’s the so-called “Representative Democracy”.

For example, British MPs decided to deprive PM Cameron of the authorization of intervening in Syria. That in turn, undermined the confidence of The One who leads the USA from-behind. Who made these few so knowledgeable? Right, they were elected. So were many kings and emperors, and the members of the Roman Senate. Hitler was elected, and won plebiscite.

Maybe We Should Elect Artists To Lead Us? Oops. Tried Before

Maybe We Should Elect Artists To Lead Us? Oops. Tried Before

The king of Bavaria, who refused to participate in the grandiose German militarization to finish the French Republic (and then master Russia), diverted spending of his state towards the construction of immensely expensive, fabulous castles, such as glorious Neuschwanstein above. But look at this painting better: it’s actually signed.

Most of those few who decide everything are remarkably ignorant. That comes with the function: how can one who spends most of his/her time telling artful lies to be elected, have artistic capability for anything else?

Adolf Hitler thought he did: “I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist.” (A lie said to a British diplomat in 1939) Hitler’s painting (above) of Neuschwanstein sold for more than $100,000 in 2015. One day soon, it will be worth millions (don’t tell me it’s worse than what passes for most of modern “art”, for once I agree with The Guide).

Five years ago, the nuclear plant at Fukushima was hit by a thirty meter wave, towering menacingly over the security cameras. The reactors resisted successfully (they had already SCRAMed during the 9.1 Richter quake), but the electricity feeding the cooling pumps was out. There should have been mobile energy generators, but they were in Florida (!) In the absence of circulating coolant, the reactors overheated and melted down in the next few hours or days.

The blowing up and melting of the reactors at Fukushima was a completely, easily avoidable accident. A national, popular, even international debate would have avoided it. Secrecy enabled it. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany) had hidden all it was doing:

  1. Putting at sea level (by destroying a cliff), nuclear reactors.
  2. Not having an emergency mobile electric generating system
  3. Ignoring the similar tsunami which had happened 12 centuries earlier (and that was written all over, including on warning monuments inside the forest).
  4. In the last two centuries, Japan enjoyed many tsunamis. The largest one was more than 100 meters tall, the second largest, 85 meters. Nearly all Japanese nuclear reactors are located in places where tsunamis will be maximal (weird… but it makes sense!)

The preceding points should (have been) debated. Point 4) is understandable (cooling by sea, access by road, long debate; but, once understood, countermeasures should be devised). Points 1), 2) and 3) have no excuses.

The less nuclear power, the higher the sea. Pseudo-ecologists will probably get that, when Miami has been transformed into an aquatic park.

As we wait for president Trump to be the Trump card trumping all, it is good to ponder that the very principle of representative politics is not representative of humanity.

Whether greedy Clinton and her cortege of professionally greedy vampires is better than greedy Donald with a similar cortege of exploiters is besides the point.

“Politics” is about the city: “polis”. Politics should not be about just one greedy persona and his/her second rate philosophy. Being all about one guy, that’s called “TYRANNY”. Obama, Hollande, Merkel, Cameron, Renzi, Abe, Trudeau, are basically tyrants: the systems they lead are similar, and are actually perfectly well oiled versions of The Roman Imperial System set-up by emperor Augustus. One man at the top, a small oligarchy below (the Roman Senate had more than 600 members, and they were elected…)

Meanwhile “The Atlantic” produced “The Obama Doctrine”.

Obama believes that G. W. Bush invaded Iraq because he was stupid, surrouded and advised by stupid people who blundered into invading Iraq. “The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit.”

Obama is naive: he thinks human behavior is all about smarts. (Amusingly, I know a classmate of his, much smarter than he is, who believes exactly the opposite.) But, the reason for the invasion of Iraq was not avoiding “the dangers of doing stupid shit”.

It was the exact opposite.

The invasion of Iraq was doing stupid shit, knowing full well everybody in the know knew it was stupid shit. And it’s rather stupid of Obama not to have figured that out.

Patrice Ayme’

ENERGETIC REALISM.

April 8, 2011

 

LIFE, PHYSICS, ECONOMY AND POLITICS ARE ALL ABOUT ENERGY.

And Saying, Or doing, Whatever, Does Not Help.

***

Abstract: Various considerations, some unusual, on energy, and those who talk about energy. Plenty of realistic news. In passing, the bad news about Fukushima: although the reactors themselves seem under control, at this point, unit 4 could go Chernobyl, I say (See the report: The Fukushima-Daiichi Incident, Dr. Matthias Braun, AREVA, March 29, 2011).

There will be a violent nuclear explosion (a so called "criticality excursion", as in Chernobyl, and as seems to have already happened on a small scale), with an enormous release of radioactivity (possibly like Chernobyl), IF the pool containing the (uncontained, since, it’s in the pool!) reactor core of unit 4 goes dry (so that ought to be prevented by any means imaginable). That could well happen, for example after another major quake in the area (so this event ought to be anticipated). That was probably the meaning of these helicopters dumping water…

Considering the insanity of the proximity of the already deranged couplings of reactors and pools to each other, the explosion of that pool is possible. (Apparently storing nuclear fuel in pools next to live reactors is done systematically in Japan and the USA, but not in France, or Canada. It’s the craziest thing, as nuclear fuel has one million times the energy density of conventional explosives.)

The worst imaginable case at Fukushima was that the six reactors, and seven nuclear pools, all blow up, making the radioactivity from Chernobyl, plus Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, tiny in comparison.

First lesson of the entire Fukushima freak show? The fiercest United Nations oversight of nuclear energy ought to be implemented. Nations which refuse to submit should be submitted to the proverbial "no-fly zone" treatment. Call that colonialism, if you wish to sound foolish, but that’s actually survivalism, and no misplaced semantics will stand in the way.

The obdurate ones who refuse to understand will otherwise contribute, and be submitted to nuclear war, one way or another, and they will like that even less.

WikiLeaks revealed that the International Atomic Energy Agency had warned Japan about earthquake danger, and the Japanese government promised to do something about it. In 2008. As it was Japanese nuclear plants could resist at most a 7 Richter quake, although the country was submitted to 9 Richter in the last 1,000 years, or so. And 10 Richter seems possible.

Ultimate lesson? Energy is the most serious business. Most solutions engaged into now, are not really sustainable solutions, considering their contexts. The main effort consists in unraveling the energy (and pollution!) stored over 450 million years of fossilization, in one geological instant. That is worse than the worst nuclear war.

***

WHEN FATE THREATENS:

Japan and France have plenty of nuclear reactors; they are high tech countries, deprived of serious indigenous energy. It is easy for others, better endowed, to give pious lessons. Germany can easily eschew nuclear energy, since it has a lot of coal, making it black, rather than green. The USA and Russia, would not have been what they became, without enormous reserves of oil. The USA was the world’s main oil producer, for most of the oil age.

Great energy savings could be made in the USA, with energy conservation. But countries such as Japan are already conserving nearly as much as possible. Too bad they conscientiously forgot about tsunamis.

The general area of Fukushima had been hit by a 6 meter tsunami in 1960, coming from Chili, so it was made impervious to 6.5 meter tsunami; that is called mathematics. In recent years, much higher tsunamis hit Japan, killing many, thus the authorities got used to live in a very high state of denial, with dozens of nuclear reactors waiting patiently for Poseidon’s visit.

Some nuclear reactors in Japan are made to resist to only a 6.5 Richter earthquake. It is even worse in the USA, with many reactors able to resist at most quakes hundreds of times less than the power delivered by the faults on which they sit. In any case, making reactors resisting a maximum of 7 Richter, is criminally optimistic, since the strongest quake of the nuclear age was 9.6 Richter, that is, 260 times more powerful.

Canada thought more carefully about quakes. The country decided to prepare for the sort of quakes one can have in 2,500 years. The Canadian conclusion was that 7.5 Richter quakes are possible in Quebec. Yes, Quebec. There is a fault system all along, below the Saint Laurent, plus a buried meteorite, and its 60 kilometers wide crater. All that tends to move.

Hospitals have to work after a quake. However two hospitals in Quebec were expected to collapse in a Richter 7.5 quake. Thus, they will be demolished and completely rebuilt.

New Yorkers, just to the south, may want to consider their own 7 Richter faults, and how close they are to the local nuclear reactors.

Let’s notice that Europe had an 8 (?) Richter quake in Bale (Basel), in the Middle Age. Most significant buildings were destroyed within 30 kilometers. A 9 Richter subduction quake 300 kilometers south of Lisbon, 250 years ago, crushed Lisbon, burned it, and flooded it with a tsunami. The tsunami washed the entire North Atlantic, causing a massacre in Portugal and Morocco.

Also let’s not forget the Messina quake and tsunami which killed maybe 150,000 people, in 1908. Super giant tsunamis have happened in Europe because of methane hydrate eruptions too. It could be a wise thing to consider for the cackling French as they self satisfyingly congratulate themselves on the apparent lack of tsunamis on their perfidiously quiescent French coasts. They may have the occasion to test the resistance of the EPR nuclear reactor, constructed by the sea. Greenhouse warming is reaching the abysses, and will cause methane hydrate eruptions.

***

THE FOSSIL FUEL-CORRUPT BANKS TRAP:

We have a fossil fuel propelled civilization. It burns chains of hydrogen attached to carbon that living organisms made using solar energy, in the last 450 million years of frantic labor. When we will be finished, some seem to hope, the percentage of carbon dioxide will be so high, that life may be impossible under any form. Idiotically, the plutocrats say not to worry, they are philanthropists.

CO2 goes back in the oceans, react with water and makes the acid found in carbonated drinks. Only some algae resist to that treatment, as CO2 rich volcanic areas off Naples have demonstrated. (Another area with 5 million people waiting for a disaster to happen.)

Of course the bitter end of this drastic devolution will not come to be, because various disasters such as the death of oceanic vertebrate life, and rise of the oceans by seventy meters will occur first, followed, or more probably preceded, by all out nuclear war.

Why nuclear war? Because it’s best for holocausts. In a free-for-all, it cannot be beaten. Nuclear fission is at least more energetic by a factor of a million, per unit of mass, than gasoline (and other chemicals).

War is about impacting the enemy with more energy than can be safely dealt with. The higher the energy density, the more impact. So serious war will be nuclear, and there is no pacifist whining loud enough to drown the supersonic roar of nukes. Pacifism cannot do anything about the dogs of nuclear war. Except vaccinating with war societies or religions prone to mad dogs before those can store nuclear explosives… As Pakistan has been doing, religiously.

What is gasoline? Essentially, hydrogen made denser than in pure liquid hydrogen (diesel is similar: the exact nature of molecules in gasoline-like fluids vary widely, but the idea is the same: plenty of hydrogen atoms, attached to a few carbon atoms). Our transportation system depends completely upon gasoline. When people talk about a hydrogen economy, they mean gasoline, because it’s the best hydrogen there is.

Ecological gasoline can be made out of algae, absorbing the CO2 in the atmosphere. It works. A plant exist in Spain, using the local sun, and CO2 from a fossil fuel installation. Problem: such algae plants require a lot of capital to build them (30 million euros for the small Spanish plant). As we know, banks prefer to engage capital in corruption and derivatives trading (with each other).

***

NO MORALITY, NO ECOLOGY, NO LAW, BUT THE JUNGLE:

Banks are amazingly corrupt. They have a fiduciary mission, historically speaking. "Fiduciary" comes from the root "fidere", to trust. In Roman law, fiducia was "a right transferred in trust". That right, that trust given to banks is money creation, by lending. This is made possible by the back-up of the state, as the money lent is more than ten times what the banks really have (in the case of Lehman Brothers, that "investment" bank lent 50 times what it truly had). So banks are actually governmental institutions, privately managed. they have a government given monopoly, and the government gives them the seed money. For free.

In counterpart, banks are supposed to help the state, that is, society. Instead, recently, they have opted to give money to each other, or various plutocrats they are associated with, beyond the breaking point of the society which entrusted them with the creation of money. That was made possible by buying off politicians, or, worse, making everybody so stupid that the preceding description escapes the imagination, let alone the wisdom or knowledge, of the for-profit economists.

Thus banks, in the West, have pretty much balked at financing big, useful projects. Some American solar companies have gone to China for financing… Yes, to the People’s Republic of china. Even the communists have a better banking system, a better capitalist system: Western capitalism has sunk that low, that commies make better capitalists.

***

WHY DOES INDIA LIKE QADDAFI’S LIBYA?

India decided at the United Nation Security Council, that Libyan civilians did not deserve protection from their dictator. Less well known, but related to the preceding, there is a rebellion in India, the Naxalite insurgency. It covers about 40% of Indian territory. The hyperlink I gave to Wikipedia is interesting in a negative way, because it does not reflect, not at all, what is driving the insurrection presently.

The area in rebellion corresponds to metallic mining, and the plutocrats (which the Marxist inspired Naxalites prefer to call "bourgeois capitalists") have tried to expel the natives to better exploit the rare earths found there. Rare earths are crucial to all "green energy", as they are involved in making materials for electricity production or distribution.

It is ironical that the greens, whose hearts are pure, are associated with the world’s worst regimes, through the rare earths their hopes rest on (I will not bother mentioning what the world’s largest rare earths producer is; it just occupies a very large foreign country. Or two. So it is rather touchy.)

***

CLEANEST OF GREEN?

In particular giant windmills and hybrid cars need rare earth elements, and a giant open mine in California will reopen in 2011: the world has found out that it depended too much on China.

Coal kills hundreds of thousands of people, worldwide, just by fine particles pollution. Of course it kills in many other ways. Mining coal kills thousands a year.

Coal also emits mercury vapor when burned, and said mercury makes the oceans poisonous.  How many people did civilian nuclear energy kill? Answer, aside from Chernobyl: most deaths associated to the nuclear industry have been conventional mining incidents.

Wind energy is often viewed as the cleanest, and it is price competitive with coal. Before covering the earth with 1,000 feet, 300 meters high windmills, two caveats.

Windmill efficiency varies with the cube of wind speed. So under anti-cyclonic condition, when it’s very hot, or very cold, no more electricity from wind mills. Also, as the greenhouse proceeds, wind speed, overall, will go down. 10% down in wind speed means 30% less electricity produced, and that is guaranteed. 50% down is entirely possible when the greenhouse is in full swing, because the earth’s Carnot engine will lose its cold sink, so will not produce work (that is wind) anymore. (Average wind down is compatible with the occasional super giant hurricane… which will happen.)

Second caveat: we have only one way to store electricity efficiently: hydroelectric dams. Nuclear power plants already use them, refilling them during low demand for electricity. Dams are of course extremely dangerous. They have killed hundreds of thousands by breaking without warning, in China alone (!). Nuclear energy never killed anyone in France, but just one minor dam break, the Malpasset dam, killed around 500 people (in 1959).

Expansion of windmills will require elevated man made lagoons offshore, equipped with turbines, should one want electricity from the wind to become more available. That will augment enormously the ecological footprint, and lethality, of wind.

Other methods to efficiently store electricity do not exist, outside of science-fiction books. Giant superconducting rings to store electricity are far-off, and will require enormous thinking, discovery, and investment. (First we will have to do something about bankers, so we can release capital for worthy research projects, rather than unworthy bankers.)

***

GROTESQUE SHOW AT FUKUSHIMA:

Old, quasi decrepit reactors, of a type constructed precisely because they were cheap. No emergency plan. Complete insanity of putting the reactors too close to each other, and, unbelievably, putting storage pools next to them, or, more exactly, on top of them, inches away.

There can much more energy under the form of old fuel in one of these pools, than inside the active core of a reactor. By orders of magnitude (that means 10, 100, may be more times).

The pools have all the problem associated with nuclear reactors, only much worse, and without any of the safety features. They depend just on water to stop neutrons to start a chain reaction. Besides having much more energy within, in general, the pools, differently from a reactor, have no containment (that makes them like Chernobyl; but they can have much more potential energy than this ill fated reactor).

The entire core of unit 4 was removed, for maintenance, and put in a pool. The pool is leaking. If the pool drains completely, that uncontained reactor core will burn and explode, with a catastrophic release of radioactivity, Chernobyl style (releases of radioactivity have been minor, so far, in comparison).

The boiling water reactor can work with a thin containment vessel. Thus one can save money, and still operate an unsafe reactor. Boiling water reactor of the Fukushima type are the most primitive reactors still in operation. They have nearly no safety features. Uncontained capitalism goes well with uncontained radiation.

Pressurized Water Reactor need stronger vessels. Only two factories, one in Japan, one in France, build them, with the best steel, and age old secrets. The EPR reactor built by Areva can, in theory, contain a completely melted core (it has a special sponge to help that, and another to recombine hydrogen into water, if steam gets too hot). But stronger vessels cost more. So when the Europeans tried to sell their disaster proof reactors to Abu Dhabi, the emirate preferred cheaper South Korean reactors.

To avoid potential catastrophe is more expensive. However, the real question is not whether it is expensive to avoid a catastrophe, but whether one can afford the catastrophe. In the case of Fukushima, the worst possible scenario which was taunted was an unimaginable disaster (permanent evacuation of a big part of Japan, including Tokyo). It was totally avoidable.

In a way, the entire planet is going Fukushima: a perfectly avoidable disaster, thus courted as much as possible, with total disregard for basic evidence and logic. One gets there through a combination of short term comfort, intellectual laziness, lack of imagination, incrusted privilege, playing the casino to win, and a taste for danger.

Apparently all Japanese nuclear reactors are easily accessible by tsunami. Same in California, but, at least, Californians have only 4 reactors, and do not know what the word tsunami means… Also California as a place of civilization is barely more than a century old, so has no institutional memory of its (not so infrequent) tsunamis.

Now, of course, there is a good reason to put a nuclear reactor by the sea. The reactor produces enormous heat, so it needs an enormous cool sink to make heat flow down from hot to cool. In France about half of the combined flow of all the streams of France passes through the nuclear power plants’ cooling systems. This also means, as the French found out, that any large nuclear reactor is at the risk of flooding (because it will always have lots of water nearby).

But having a reason does not mean that one is reasonable. When constructing nuclear reactors by the sea, one should assume that a 40 meter tsunami will pay a visit. (An Indian nuclear reactor under construction was annihilated by the 2004 Sumatran tsunami, so we are not evoking rare events here.)

Large nuclear reactors are threatened with melt down always, because they pile up so much energy in one small place. One needs a lot of water to flow through to keep the nuclear combustible cool, as long as one cannot stop the nuclear reaction right away, and definitively.

Today’s nuclear reactors are simmering nuclear bombs (one does need to have simmering nuclear bombs to use nuclear energy, but so it is at this point, because the present reactors evolved from military designs).

The closest back-up mobile generators from General Electric for its Fukushima plants were apparently in Florida, USA. The tsunami wave wrecked the plants, including the back-up diesel generators. Power lines which could have brought electricity from the electric grid were drowned (at the very least). Anyway, the grid was down.

Tsunami defense at Fukushima consisted of a natural bluff, plus a little wall, or so. It could take a 6.5 meter tsunami. Unsurprisingly, the tsunami was 15 meters. That was lucky. That same tsunami wave reached a height of 42 meters in other places. A 40 meter wave is pretty standard for the Richter 9, subduction quakes which bristle around the Pacific rim. Such wave heights, or even higher, can be generated by quakes ten times less powerful: this is not understood, but it is a fact.

There was an 8.8 Richer in Chili, on the same plate, less than a year before Fukushima got hit. The 1960 quake in Chili was 9.6 Richter, with various lethal foreshocks, including an 8.2 Richter quake. In California, the San Onofre nuclear reactors are on the beach, waiting for the tsunami, which will come some day. Someday soon.

A large indigenous tsunami in California will happen, all the more since it did not happen for a long time. The preceding giant tsunami at Fukushima was in the Ninth Century. Waves went at least 3 kilometers inland. There were a bunch of smaller ones in the meantime, including a three to six meter wave from the 1960 Chilean quake… A wave which killed about 150 Japanese, after crossing the entire Pacific ocean, in its greatest dimension.

A tsunami wave is not like a wave on a beach. The elevated part of a three meter wave on a beach may extent ten meter. A three meter tsunami wave can be elevated over 100 kilometers, as it approaches a shore. So the tsunami is a wave with 10,000 times the mass.

This what reality is made of. If the 42 meter wave had hit Fukushima, the six (6) reactors would have melted down and exploded right away. This is an important point. After the Richter 9 quake, the reactors were essentially undamaged and underwent successful emergency shut-down ("SCRAM"). Then the Fukushima reactors were only at 6% power, and cooled down by water circulation, thanks to the diesel reactors. 55 minutes later, the tsunami struck. The diesel failed. Cooling still went on with the emergency cooling from the "core isolation pumps", however that depended upon some batteries and some pumps, which failed within hours in unit1 and days in units 2 and 3.

After that the cores cracked, then caught fire, and partly melted, as temperatures reached half of that of the sun. Steam dissociated, into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen, released through pipes to alleviate pressure, built up in the building outside of the confinement zone and subsequently exploded (spectacular, but not important).

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PLANET GOING FUKUSHIMA:

It is a perfect planetary storm. The grotesque show at Fukushima is exemplary. A six year old could have picked up the grotesque mistakes: did you think about a tsunami? Why are the reactors so close? Why are the pools welded to the reactors? What if the pools drain?

Can we have such a large scale catastrophe, on a world scale? Driven by even more titanic stupidity and greed?

Of course. It is even on-going, and everybody knows it. It’s GLOBAL HEATING. OK, the frogs call it "Global Warming" at this point, and they croak. The frogs are happy. When the water warms up, just so, the frogs are content. But soon they will croak differently. The whole planet, in a sense, is a slow motion Fukushima.

When even the frogs discover that warming is turning to heating, it will have various consequences, including nuclear war. Global Heating is not just about quickly rising acid seas and desertification. It is also going to be about frogs fighting each other, to stay cool, to get to that cool place, over there. The irony of semantics…

***

THE NUCLEAR BOMB AT CHERNOBYL:

When some ecologists rile against nuclear energy, the way they do it, they may as well rile against knives, or complexity. The devil is in the details. By ignoring the details, one ignores the devil.

A good example is Chernobyl. It was of course a terrible accident. Thousands of people died, although how many is not known, even up to four orders of magnitude.

Officially, it’s only a few thousands (some official reports ludicrously talk about only 6.000 excess thyroid cancers, and 16 deaths, mostly from contaminated milk).

However Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment [a 2007 Russian publication] finds, from medical records between 1986, the year of the accident, and 2004, 985,000 excess deaths from the radioactivity released, mostly in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Up to 800,000 "liquidators" from all over the USSR passed through the contaminated area to work at containing the radioactivity, for a short while, and it is not too clear what happened to them .

If they read that, simple ecologists of the primitive type will jump up and down, like excited monkeys, and howler that nuclear energy is bad, here is the proof! Instead, the correct analysis is that bad political systems can turn very deadly, thanks to modern technology. Chernobyl was a Soviet reactor, it was basically a military realization, and it was designed as the world’s largest fission bomb. All of this has to do with fascism, not energy.

So the real question is: what are the ecological simpletons going to do about fascism? Soon afterwards, and in part because Chernobyl had made obvious the limitations of fascism, Gorbachev discontinued the USSR.

The Chernobyl reactor was designed to become an exploding nuclear bomb, after losing its coolant (an insane idea, which ought to be totally unlawful, I readily admit). This is not caused by nuclear energy, or nuclear reactors in general, but because of this particular type of reactor, graphite-gaz. Also studied in France in the 1960s, before this drawback, known as a positive void coefficient, became a no-no. In a Chernobyl style reactor, the coolant is a reaction moderator; when it’s gone, the nuclear reactions grow and multiply, as the number of neutrons augment. In the type of reactors used in the West, a PWR, loss of coolant let neutrons go too fast to be captured, and the nuclear reaction stops.

Another design flaw at Chernobyl insured that if SCRAM was engaged, the nuclear reaction would augment dramatically . It was as if, when you engaged in desperate braking, first the accelerator would be floored. There were more drastic design flaws, such as making the reactor the more unstable, the less power it had (it’s so stupid, it’s hard to visualize).

In any case, operators, at one in the morning, deliberately put the Chernobyl reactor in a desperate situation, unable to cool, the same situation encountered at Fukushima several hours after the tsunami, several hours after the Fukushima reactors stopped in SCRAM. When the reactor started to become unstable, it jumped back to full power, and then many times that, overheated, in less than a minute. The operators engaged SCRAM, and the nuclear reaction accelerated exponentially, while the heat deformed and blocked the sedate descent of the nuclear reaction killing control bars (at a snail like 40 centimeters per second).

The Soviet reactor reached 33,000 Megawatts (!), and much more, steam blew its 2,000 ton lid. Steam had slowed down the nuclear reaction. With steam gone, the reactor went critical, or, otherwise said, became the largest fission bomb ever contrived. Within three seconds, a powerful nuclear explosion tore the machine, and reached the stratosphere.

OK, it was all insane. Well, so was the USSR. Want even more, much more, insane? Just look at Pakistan. You have apocalyptic religious types, their fingers itchy for the apocalypse, and they pray about it every day. Anybody caring about ecology, let alone peace, should worry about finding a solution to the Pakistan problem.

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PV IS THE FUTURE

The Obama administration is giving large subsidies for PhotoVoltaic panels (which still cannot compete with wind). Subsidies help to create an industry, and that is one thing a government can do. But as long as PhotoVoltaic does not compete in price with fossil fuels, we have a non sustainable situation. So the necessary thing, of course, is for the government to finance research (financing industry helps research only indirectly).

There is every reason to believe that PhotoVoltaic panels could extract energy from infrared radiation (as some labs claim to have achieved). Multifrequency PhotoVoltaics could operate all day long, and even at night (thus one could even argue that they would absorb the greenhouse…).

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NO ESCAPING NUCLEAR:

Could futuristic PhotoVoltaics allow us to escape both the greenhouse and nuclear energy? Not really. Avoiding nuclear is an illusion.

Our ancestors did not renounce carbon just because some hit others with sticks made of carbon. Instead they learned not to follow those who renounced wood. 

That’s how our ancestors have been, for so long, that most of us, if not all of us, are still like that. Those who claim differently are hypocrites. It’s enough to see Jose’ Bove’, famous for having destroyed a Mac Donald, smoking his pipe, a personal carbon burning thermal plant.

So why nuclear?

First, why progress?

Second, nuclear energy is not a choice the West is free not to do. Pakistan has piled up already 200 thermonuclear warheads, within easy reach of the crazed hands of those rendered mad by apocalyptic superstition, a literal reading of the Qur’an. So, except if we subdue Pakistan first, there will be nuclear war. It’s in their book(s).

Third, we have barely scratched the surface of nuclear energy: completely different technologies are imaginable (such as liquid Thorium reactors). They will not have the problems associated with present reactors. They should be very safe, and much more efficient. There is plenty of Thorium.

Fourth, we need energy, aplenty. At this point we cannot be sure that PV energy will do it all (as infrared PV is semi science fiction, and the cost and feasibility to extract electricity from all light not clear). The other non carbon energy schemes have drastic conceptual flaws, or are unproven. Whereas nuclear energy can be made safe, and is a proven massive energy source, productive by a factor of one million times more than any other energy source. So nuclear energy has to be developed, as a back-up. However, since the possibilities are mysterious and numerous, a lot of research has to be done (for example on liquid reactors). I don’t advocate a reactor in every kitchen.

Fifth, it seems that only nuclear rocket engines will allow to conquer space with more than robots. The other efficient candidate is ionic propulsion, but the engines are tiny, whereas giant rocket nuclear engines have already been tested (successfully). The idea is simply to have liquid hydrogen pass through a nuclear core, cooling it, and acquiring a much greater speed than from burning stuff. Nuclear propulsion would allow to go to planets in weeks rather than months, or years, and carry any burden, and go down any gravitational well. Simply that would be best done where one does not have to worry about adding radiation too much (space is already stuffed with radiation)… Nuclear tugs to take off from, and return to, low earth orbit maybe unavoidable, once serious space colonization starts (that word again!) Just my observation: visiting the moon with exalted twelfth century technology has already happened, but much more than that will not happen without nuclear energy.

Some have long scoffed about the conquest of space. They say that sheep shall own the earth, by eating the grass, true, so not to worry. But those sheep eat already too much grass, and wear too much cotton.

Indeed, there is no palatable choice. There are already too many of us doing too many things on a small place. Vast zones of the Solar System have resources we already desperately need, as we use one and half Earths right now, and extending a minimum of comfort to most of humanity will guarantee that we use several Earths worth, within a decade or two. Otherwise the most simplistic ecologists can go and make war on 6 billion people to prevent them to consume commensurately with what they do. I would rather make war on simpletons.

***

Conclusion: The stupidity of experts can be quasi infinite. Nuclear industry has been most helpful to reveal this without causing a holocaust (yet). Seeing a nuclear plant dominated by a wave, as happened at Fukushima, should become an iconic depiction of dementia by expertise. Workers were killed by the wave in the turbine hall of unit 4.

Modern physics is all about minimizing a term called the action, which depicts energy, submitted to some constraints empirically determined.

That activity does not differ fundamentally from what humanity has to do in a democratic fashion as it determines its energy choices. Insisting on that situation is another way of calling attention to the high complexity of the situation humanity, and its leaders, are faced with. Cries from the heart, although they have to be included in all and any computation, cannot be the policy, they can only be what gets it to move.

People screaming that they are green can completely overdo it. Hitler was importantly supported by oil companies. As was his good friend Mussolini, who ended hanging out at an ESSO gas station, by the feet, in a discrete allusion to that fact. However, the Nazis were ecological fanatics. This is no coincidence, a subjacent syndrome lurks below: love beast, not man, so turn man into beast. That is a danger, a temptation, and so is selfishness; rich countries cannot ask people who use a tenth, or less, of the energy, to go ecological while they mount a huge plane because they need to visit a tropical beach in the middle of winter, for a few days, instead of just watching said beach on TV inside their warm bed, under bright lights.

Historically, it has taken 50 years to deploy a new energy system. This time, we don’t have that time: we are past peak oil (as long as one does not count crazy oil, which desperate oil companies find in the formerly glaciated regions, and very deep under the oceans, or in extremely polluting oil sands, or shale oil). We need algae oil now. Big time. Diverting subsidies to anti-ecological corn ethanol is worse than a waste (as much corn for car is now produced in the USA as for feeding livestock).

The European Middle Ages turned nasty around 1320 CE, after an exploding population ran out of fuel and building materials, which, at the time, were both made from wood.

It was not by dearth of the ecologically correct. The economy had to be sustainable, or die. Windmills and water mills were all over (in 1080 CE, England by itself had 6,000 watermills, and the Alps, much more). But that ecological correctness did not make a dent. The forests shrank too much. Haitian style soil destruction ensued. Plague, and many centuries of war, followed soon after. Within 30 years, perhaps more than half of the European population was dead. Not an example to emulate.

Now of course the late Middle Age catastrophe had many causes, and, ultimately, the major governments acted well. The European governments took drastic ecological measures, of the fascist type, including the forceful evacuation of entire regions. We also have to take drastic measures, and we have much more leeway to do so efficiently. But that depends upon not ducking reality.

We sink, therefore we duck, say all too many ecologists. We duck, therefore we sink, observe many pacifists, and they croak. Time to stop ducking reality, folks, if you mean it. Those who claim to want progress should learn to love the details, philosophically, and technologically.

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Patrice Ayme

Whistling A Hurricane.

March 17, 2011

Whistling In A Hurricane.

IDIOCY IS CRIMINAL, LOOKING SOMEWHERE ELSE, EVIL.

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[18 hours after the essay below was posted, to my very pleased astonishment, the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing “all necessary means” in Libya to protect civilians. The vote was 10 for, 5 abstaining. I want to congratulate the farsightedness of India, China and Russia, which overcame their concern about democracy intervening inside devious, democratically challenged countries. There is hope for them.

By contrast, Germany’s attitude was lamentable, anti-democratic, cowardly, symptomatic of a country that does not understand that democracy is worth fighting for, ahistorical, and anti-European. Merkel, who used to be a privileged youth of the fascist East German regime, seems to have returned to her questionable roots.

According to Le Figaro, BHL, Bernard Henri Levy, who climbed very late on the revolutionary train pushed Sarkozy, and then the West to war. Sarko worked on the 15 governments of the UNSC one by one, but the UN Resolution passage was acquired at last minute…. An encouraging case of philosophy in the driver seat.]

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Our civilization is an immensely complicated machine which thinks and feels. And it is getting more complex by the day. We cannot do without it. Without it, we, and all we love, will be dead, or dying. As the leaders exhibit this or that emotion, they drive events. Out of vile emotions, evil events. E-vil, indeed.

This civilizational machine has something in common with the doomed nuclear reactor complex at Fukushima, which could very well entirely melt, explode, burn, and not just force the evacuation of the world’s largest city. That would happen, in the worst possible case. But at this point, the reasonable thing to do is to proceed logically backwards from the worst possible case. So it is in Libya.

Proceeding from the worst often is the most reasonable, and should ever be more so, as we learn to see further, as we need to, as the machine gets ever more complex, and we need to steer the probability waves, just so.

So let’s suppose the worst has happened at Fukushima, with its 6 reactors, and 6 pools of nuclear combustible:

1) What would that worst be? Well, in the worst imaginable case, the pools where barely used nuclear rods are stored, would have dried up, and heated up so much that they caught fire. That’s the worst. The consequence would be "apocalyptic" (as the chief radioactivist in Europe put it in a diplomatic style reminiscent of yours truly).

2) So how do we prevent this worst possible case? Well France flew one hundred tons of boric acid (the element boron, B, stops neutrons, hence nuclear reactions), 10,000 anti-radiation suits, and various other equipment. South Korea will send some of its Boron reserve too. And a USA warship has provided high power water cannons. Anything whatsoever ought to be done to bring water to the pools.

If there is water, there is hope. No water, no hope. And the fall-out could be worldwide.

The crisis in Japan illustrates the necessity for catastrophic calculus. Catastrophic calculus would be employed after usual risk analysis.

For example the Fukushima reactors and pools had three systems for providing electric power to the water circulation system. This is typical of reactors, and other sensitive sites worldwide; pile up the safety systems locally. But if one piles them up all in the same place, they can fail all together.

Nuclear reactor complexes should have off site emergency cooling and anti-reactive systems, with their own autonomous, sustainable power (no pun intended).

The crisis in Japan happened because of idiotic geological analyses, idiotic engineering, idiotic risk analysis, and the amazingly idiotic storage, next to the reactors, of gigantic quantities of nuclear fuel. Yes idiotic is the word, there is no other that fits the perfectly idiotic strategies deployed, with delirious obstinacy over decades.

The attitude relative to Libya, a green light to its Pluto, Gaddafi, is even more idiotic, because it is giving a green light to the most brutish force. Today Libya, tomorrow, the world.

If you think the nuclear crazies in Pakistan and North Korea did not notice that the Libyan dictator and criminal against mankind could not be eliminated, when he could easily have been, I have soon to show you hundreds of nukes heading your way.

Ultimately the democracies will find themselves at war, for real, against immense forces with none of Gadhafi’s comic allure. And hundreds of millions will die, and fingers will be pointed out to today’s democratic leaders, desiccated dwarves apparently deprived of brains, guts,  hearts, and any respect or affection for their children, who will have to fight the war they brought. With their inaction.

Obama went to "fill up his brackets", in public on the sport channel, ESPN, something the rest of the world does not know what it is. In a literally critical situation, he produced himself as a well trained dog of the national mindlessness. Is that all he is?

"Filling the brackets" has to do with projecting team sports results for the rest of the year. You will not see the leaders of major democracies indulging in such circus, when the situation is as critical as it is now.

But this is the USA. The Americans got bread, they have to be given circus, and the joker in chief provides it on the sport channel. No doubt ESPN will know how to reward him someday. Thus the dog comes to the table. By the way, in Europe representing a brand on TV, or even alluding to it is against basic ethics. But, apparently the US president is the under assistant east coast promotion man.

A Roman philosopher and poet, Juvenal, was the first to observe that the backbone of plutocracy was for the emperor to provide " panem et circenses" (100 CE). Some emperors, namely Nero, Caligula, Commodus, entered the arena in person, and made a show of themselves. Obama is the last representative of a long tradition.

Americans are big on this sort of thing, obsessing about sports, so they can be small on the rest. Takes two to tango to Armageddon, People and plutocracy, a co-dependency of victim and torturer.

Instead Obama should have asked his underlings how come the armada the USA has deployed in Japan cannot bring water to the burning nuclear fuels. After all, the army of the USA is the army of Japan (Japan has only a self defense force, which is quite small, 40% of which is mobilized by the quake/tsunami).

But not only that: in the worst possible case, the safety of the USA is engaged (and not just by the evacuation of Tokyo). Obama is commander in chief of the USA, but, also, de facto, commander in chief of Japan. What does he do on this critical day? He "fills up his brackets". Ah, but his unworthy predecessor, emperor Justinian, before he destroyed millions in the name of Jesus, and his triple head, never missed a game. Morons had it easy in history, so far.

Our civilization feels, and thinks out of its feelings. It was one of Bush’s big themes: feel the wrath of democracy, and it will spread. That much was correct. But, of course, Bush was dissembling: he was mostly pursuing aims antagonistic to democracy and civilization. Still is. A general confusion reigns ever since.

It is true that democracy needs wrath to defend it. It is no coincidence that Republican Rome, Britain and France have been among the world’s most aggressive societies. (Interestingly, when Rome became a fascist empire, its wrath on exterior enemies mostly disappeared, proving that the Roman expansion had been propelled, indeed, by the wrath of democracy!)

Don’t expect Germany and Russia to understand that too well: they found themselves at the end of the Franco-British gun all too many times, and they are perhaps a bit too fresh at democracy themselves. Merkel certainly does not seem to have understood well that Germany’s banks and industries profited of the profligacy of the PIGS (Portugal Ireland Greece Spain). And that now Germany has to contribute, having well profited. Russia of course understand that it is its right to torture the Caucasus, just as Gaddafi has the right to torture Libya, Benghazi and the Cyrenaica…

By decisively deciding to be indecisive with Gaddafi, Obama gave a green light to all bloody dictators. Qadhafi has no legitimacy whatsoever; he made a coup, and never conducted even one fake election, and sometimes all his streets killers are paid mercenaries from other African countries (they wear yellow helmets). But, OK, his torturers are first class, and he does whatever it takes to subdue his people, and to provide oil to the West. All notions well appreciated in Washington, DC. Moreover, Kadhafi is a first class plutocrat, adulated by his peers, the world’s financiers of the kleptocratic type.

So Obama winked to Kadhafi, while waging his finger, the sort of ballet of gestures the charming Dr. Saif al Islam al Gadhafi is prone to do, smiling, on TV, as the great showman that he is.

Asked pointed question about the weasel behavior of his administration, Obama’s spokesman blurted out incoherently that they had to consult with "international partners".

I knew the concept of ‘friends", or "allies". But "partners"? Who are these "partners"? Russia, China, India, Libya? Having long been a "partner" to Japan, GE, General Electric, having sold cheap melting, exploding reactors to the land of the rising sun, at Fukushima, among other places, is now "partner" to China… Selling American secrets. And rules behaviors… China now tells us to stay out of Libya? Why don’t we tell China to stay out of Tibet? (Check the distances and the history, on both sides.) And what is exactly India doing in Kashmir? A bit the same as Qaddafi and Russia do with their contradictors?

By giving a green light to Gadhafi, Obama gave a green light for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain, and crush the budding democracy there. Which is exactly what Saudi Arabia did. A blood bath ensued.

If Qadhafi, and his family of bloody world class gangsters win, it is not just the Arab spring which dies.  It is not just the awe and respect for democracy which die.

In truth the armed democracies have to lead. If they do not, fascists do, fascists did, and fascists will. Lead.

When democrats become meek and uncertain about morality, as Obama has, fascists start to believe they can get away with anything. That is what happened in 1936, when, in a comparable war, part of the Spanish army attacked the Spanish people.

Democracy did not fight back in 1936. Hitler, Mussolini, fascist Japanese generals, and other fascists, worldwide, got very encouraged.

France and Britain wanted to get rid of Gaddafi. His dangerous presence will have to be extirpated someday, one way, or another, because he is a deadly danger to the neighborhood.

The USA ought to remember that France and Britain are not just allies and fellow democracies. They are who the USA mostly come from. Without France’s massive armed intervention in the fight of the American people against the English king, the USA would not exist.

Does Obama know any of this? He sure acts as if he did not. If he did, Britain, France and the USA would have cratered the Libyan’s dictator’s runways long ago (it’s super easy to do). Democracy does not ask authorization from infamy to proceed decently.

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Patrice Ayme

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Note on President as promotion man: One of Confucius’ most famous ideas was:”The gentleman is not an utensil.” By appearing on ESPN, right of a large, capital letters, bright red ESPN logo, intermingled with the Presidential Seal, Obama, showed clearly what his office was all about. In ancient China, the gentleman was not an utensil, in the modern USA, the emperor himself is a utensil. 

In 1965, when Obama was 4 years old, the Rolling Stones made the excellent song: “The West Coast Under Assistant Promotion Man”.

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Note on the fascist mass homicidal dictatorship in Libya: When Al Qaeda attacked the USA, it was based in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was attacked officially to remove Al Qaeda from there, after an ultimatum to the Taliban to do just that. Then Al Qaeda went to Pakistan. Did the West then attack Pakistan? No. Why? Because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and a lot of them. The Gadhafi gang is smart enough to understand that. So it will acquire the weapons.

China has looked the other way, according to leaked US state department, when North Korean weapons transited through China. China plays tough, and is determined to use Africa as a commodity backyard (although it is already well endowed with Tibet and Xinjiang, among other vast regions).

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On storing seven times more nuclear fuel next to nuclear reactors than there are in the reactors themselves: “the vast majority of the fuel assemblies at the troubled reactors are in the storage pools, not the reactors”). (I will write follow up essays on the nuclear and geological idiocies at play, because they will no doubt play an even greater role, looking forward; it will be made clear that it is far from being just a Japanese problem; actually the low cost reactors were made by GE, and the geological absurdity was, and is, global).