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On 22 May 2011 Bernard re-posted a comment from Malooga, which struck me as eye-opening.  


Where b Was Wrong On Fukushima

by Malooga
lifted from a comment

Before I say what I am going to say, let me explain a little about my background. I spent a number of years as one of the head trainers in what at the time was the second largest oil refinery in the western hemisphere. In that capacity, I trained operators, and wrote training manuals of the type that b has linked too.  . .  I played a key role in dealing with accidents at our plant -- and there were many -- though obviously none even approaching this in magnitude. . . .

I consider that I know a lot about industrial accidents from a number of different angles,  . . .

 

Having described his background (in a different industry) he considers accidents as a phenomenon:  

One thing I know for sure, all accidents are political events and financial events involving gargantuan corporations. The larger the event, the truer this is. The safety of workers and the public is subordinate to those facts. That is simply how things work on the planet at this point in time. Workers lives may be insured for $250k and it may be cheaper to "expend" a number of workers, rather then use an intermediary device. It is simple cost-benefit analysis, made simpler if the tax payers are now picking up the tab.
 

Well, actually we knew this, but it gets grimmer:  


Lest anyone think otherwise after saying this, I am against nuclear power categorically. The fact that a "cold shutdown" requires "hot powered" circulation pumps is Orwellian. An entire oil refinery can be rapidly shut down. Everything is designed with a failsafe mode. In other words, I reject nuclear power from a design point of view even before I consider radiation contamination such as we are seeing, or the geologically long-term unsolved issues of waste storage.
 

In other words, a nuclear plant has no off switch.  Shutting a plant down requires a large, long-term, exterior source of power.  If exterior power is not available, the plant burns and melts down.  

Now some of us were suspecting that the plants were melting down--especially after the first two explosions, but we didn't know.  People with more technical knowledge did know within fifteen hours of the earthquake that all three operating reactors were melting down, and could "understand" all of the (seemingly bizarre) actions taken by TEPCO in the ensuing days and months.  


Now let's examine what the implications of this awakening means in retrospect.

A. If you have finally figured this out -- when the reactors began melting, you must presume that everyone who knows anything about Nuclear Power knew this immediately. (Unless you think that you are smarter than them; see above) Therefore, they (the plant operators and the government) knew the unprecedented magnititude and danger they were facing within several hours of the earthquake. Therefore, all news, accusations, finger pointing, disclosures, intentional contradictions of story, official lies, etc. have been managed from the start as political events of the highest import by the highest levels of power. For example, say you want to evacuate people from a radius of twenty kilometers around the plant. If you said that initially, you would create general panic leading to many deaths. So you start with two k, bump it up once the core has evacuated, and then repeat as necessary. That is exactly what they did.

Repeat: All news is political. As in the Bin Laden assasination, and all disinformation campaigns, creating contradictions and ambiguities encourages people to accept the basic assumptions: In the former case, that Bin Ladin was actually alive; in the later, that events were unfolding incrementally, rather than that the entire scenario was envisaged from the start and therefore had to be managed.

B. This is what I tried to explain from the start. You can go back to the official timeline, and the Japanese legal regulations (which I did before posting my second criticism) and see that --  -- all communications with the government were timely. The legal regulations REQUIRE the plant operator to seek permission from the government in the case of severe emergency. The granted permission has many implications, liabilty, etc., but specifically empowers the plant operators to take whatever measures are necessary. This makes sense as they are the ones who know what is happening in real-time at the site. Once granted authority, plant actions were taken in a timely manner. I don't have the government regulations in front of me to quote from (dead computer), but if someone wants me to reconstruct and quote regulations and timeline, I certainly can, I believe it was paragraph 64 or around there.

You misunderstood events, seizing upon a planted disinformation story of the government criticizing TEPCO, which as I pointed out contained no hard evidence and was a political document. Knowing, as you do now, that everyone knew an unprecedented series of meltdowns was underway and that therefore all information and ongoing narratives had to be managed, and that the government had ceded control to TEPCO, the story makes no sense, as I said. Yeah, the minister was once a big honcho at TEPCO, but that doesn't mean that he understands the intricacies of emergency procedures and vessel stress tolerances. Tom Kean, of 9-11 comission infamy, was a big honcho where I worked, but he didn't know a pump from a dump, much less metal fatigue tolerance catastrophic failure probabilities. (My boss at the oil refinery made a big name for himself in the industry by increasing throughput a mere 15% beyond design. Don't think that that small amount did not increase injuries and accidents, it did, but it still made money.)

 

Everything we have seen and read since the earthquake and tsunami is fed by a disinformation campaign designed to manage public attitudes toward nuclear power:  


When narratives are designed to manipulate public opinion we see:
  1. Rosy scenarios: Someone here posted an industry article painting the fairytale that reactors were designed to completely safely melt down. Similar to: Iraq, Libya cakewalk. They know its not true, in fact they NEED a quagmire to permanently position troops there, but they can't say that, so the public is manipulated by rosy scenarios.

  2. Blame game stories. As above, also as above on this thread. We will see more. Similar to the Bush being blamed for not knowing that there were no WMD false narrative, as oppossed to the real "US knew there were no WMD and that was why they felt safe to invade at that time" narrative. It is easier to find a fall guy then to have the public accurately assess the dangers and imperil the industry.

  3. Contradictions in stories. Self - explanitory. Confuses public about details, while reinforcing general narrative.

  4. Complete lies, with the truth leaking out much later after the mass of the public has moved on, and when a mass change of belief would simply be too threatening for most people.

This is why there have been so many actions that do not appear to make sense.... based upon the information they have told us. In situations like this one is better off trying to figure out what is really going on based upon what they are actually doing, rather than thinking you are smarter than them and that you know what they should be doing, an approach you take far too often.  . . .

This is why so many of the things that you didn't understand why they were doing were actually easily explained. For instance, burying with concrete from above vs. groundwater contamination from below. The real problem was waiting until you were ready to make a paradigm shift in how you framed the accident.

C. You spent a lot of energy criticizing the sea water injection operations. But as you now know, by the time power was restored to cooling systems, the damage had already been done. This is proved by the fact that there is no correlation between when sea water injection (lagtime) was started and the later explosion times for the three units. The cooling would not have prevented the explosions. When you assumed they were incompetently managing for cooling, they were actually managing for vessel integrity against further explosions, knowing that there were three different meltdown scenarios underway. Again, someone even posted some pro-industry propaganda here early on which said that the reactors were designed to "safely" melt-down.

 

Thus is the public disinformed.  But now, finally, we in the blogosphere, know that three plants have melted down.  That's bad, but how bad?  Current stories about radioactive water in the basements mean that not only have the reactor vessels been breached, but the reactor containments and the containment buildings have also been breached.  Okay, fine, but where is the corium?  Is it melting through the concrete floor?  Is it about to contact the groundwater?  Ignore what they say, and watch what they do, and eventually we will know.  Meanwhile:  


Finally, there are a minimum a 5 potentially fatal design flaws in these reactors that others who know more than me have detected, notably nitrogen blanketing systems, off gas systems, and fuel pool gate seals. But an examination of those issues is beyond the scope of this post and any free time I have available.
 

The takeaway:  Despite all industry propaganda, now is a good time to start working on shutting down all nuclear plants, worldwide.  

But! What will we do without the energy?  And where will the energy to shut them down come from?  

Well, it is like this:  We will never have more energy than we have right now.  If we fail to shut these plants, the most habitable regions of North America, Europe, and Asia will become--this century--nuclear exclusion zones.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 02:22:26 AM EST
is he posting again, or is b bernard, or someone else?
by wu ming on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 03:59:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When Billmon closed the Whiskey Bar Bernard created Moon of Alabama as an open thread, for the regulars, and then added his own posts of analyses of events.  That continued for several years, until just over a year ago (roughly).  Moon has been back up for the better part of a year now.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 07:58:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to nitpick for the hell of it - b or Bernhard of MoA is ET member Bernhard, while Bernard is an ET member from France.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 08:27:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]


The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 08:45:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No ummm... ;)

There's an h in Bernhard.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 02:37:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can indeed confirm that there's no 'h' in my name (just checked not two minutes ago :)

Bernhard with a 'h' is indeed the German spelling and it's not the first time there's been some confusion I think.

Although I've been there and I speak (ein wenig) the language, I am actually from France (SW of Paris these days), not Germany, and unlike my (almost) namesake from Alabama, I have absolutely no patience for conspiracy theories.

by Bernard on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 04:46:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that is because it is.  Bernard quit posting for over a year, because his real life was intruding.  He's now back some months.  Visit the site for details.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 08:27:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But! What will we do without the energy? And where will the energy to shut them down come from?

Well, it is like this: We will never have more energy than we have right now. If we fail to shut these plants, the most habitable regions of North America, Europe, and Asia will become--this century--nuclear exclusion zones.

That's the real risk I see. Not that we'll have heavy quakes and tsunamis in Europe but the long-term risk of societies having to handle very complex technologies for a very long time.

Barring natural catastrophes or intentional aviation accidents (the Terror-Terror scenario) nukes seem manageable on these shores from an operational safety perspective (Japan faces a starker dilemma). Because of the very probable energy descent scenario I'm of two minds about nuclear. On the one hand we'll probably need everything we can get to have a tolerable energy decline and transition. But on the other hand that decline gives me pause about how for instance the nuclear fuel cycle will be managed under possibly very unstable circumstances. Spent fuel needs decades to cool off before it can be buried (where?). The house still needs to be standing to make the complex technologies work. Who is to say that by the end of the century we will have the technical, economic or political capacity to deal with nuclear? And this will play itself out over the course of at least a century.

Since this is going to be a long-term affair one can speculate about the right cutoff point for a phaseout. Is the German way of skipping nuke town within ten years realistic - regarding either security/safety or energy access? When will there be a place for final storage? How much do the years gained by shutting down now make a difference? What happens when the assumptions about fossil fuels filling the temporary gap have the rug pulled out from under them by sudden FF depletion starting with oil.

I think that Merkel's double-180 turn is stupid insofar that she again (after pushing a nuclear extension) failed to achieve a consensus or at least a discussion about the tough questions. Instead, she outsourced that discussion in her usual teflon manner ("I'm not involved in politics!") to some 'ethics committee'. Which is why the fight is not over: on the one side there is talk of blackouts, price spikes, etc. and on the other side the anti-nuke movement is suspicious of another 180.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 11:31:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

For an unknown reason, this comment was "toggled" or put out of public view.

I have untoggled it.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 02:32:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you. I was wondering what had happened to it.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 02:32:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A. If you have finally figured this out -- when the reactors began melting, you must presume that everyone who knows anything about Nuclear Power knew this immediately. (Unless you think that you are smarter than them;

Or unless I understand a little of the power of wishful thinking. Humans do not like to admit that they have been ruined, that they have fucked up or that they are not in control of something they feel they should be in control of. They really do not like it.

Never underestimate the extent to which people will lie to themselves to avoid facing uncomfortable truths.

Therefore, they (the plant operators and the government) knew the unprecedented magnititude and danger they were facing within several hours of the earthquake. Therefore, all news, accusations, finger pointing, disclosures, intentional contradictions of story, official lies, etc. have been managed from the start as political events of the highest import by the highest levels of power.

This assumes that TEPCO executives, the Japanese government and their respective bureaucracies have if not coterminous then at least substantially overlapping objectives in their propaganda.

It further assumes that this shared objective involved TEPCO falling on its proverbial sword. The TEPCO propaganda makes them look completely clueless and out of touch at several key junctures. Now, when an entity's own propaganda makes it look incompetent and confused, then the most parsimonious explanation is usually that said entity actually is incompetent and confused.

Repeat: All news is political. As in the Bin Laden assasination, and all disinformation campaigns, creating contradictions and ambiguities encourages people to accept the basic assumptions: In the former case, that Bin Ladin was actually alive;

Uh-huh. Y'know, I'd love to explore the alternate reality in which the bin Laden conspiracy theories make even the dimmest sort of sense, but my doctor has told me to cut down on my tinfoil exposure.

Tom Kean, of 9-11 comission infamy,

Woo-hoo. Two down, one to go. Now all we need is the "the Bushies planned for Iraq to go to shit from the start" to have the Trr Tinfoil Trifecta.

Similar to: Iraq, Libya cakewalk. They know its not true, in fact they NEED a quagmire to permanently position troops there,

Aaand, bingo.

(No, they really don't need a quagmire. Most of their bases are in perfectly non-quagmired countries. In fact, a pliable client state is infinitely preferable to a quagmire when it comes to keeping bases around.)

Well, it is like this: We will never have more energy than we have right now.

I would quarrel with that assumption. Simply counting kWh, it is perfectly possible to power all of contemporary human civilisation by carpeting less than ten per cent of the Sahara in off-the-shelf PV cells.

Now, it's a bit more complicated than that, because you need to get those kWh to the places where we want to use them, and at the time when we want to use them. But there's at least a full order of magnitude to play with, from the Sahara alone, so compensating for the decline and eventual loss of fossil fuels is not prima facie impossible, should we turn the full attention of modern industrial society to the task. Which we will, if we want to keep being a modern industrial society.

If we fail to shut these plants, the most habitable regions of North America, Europe, and Asia will become--this century--nuclear exclusion zones.

Perhaps.

But going by historical experience, a lot more reactors are safely decommissioned than blow up.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 05:54:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Or unless I understand a little of the power of wishful thinking.
 
Well, I personally know quite a few people in denial about matters of daily life, so I can see where you are coming from with this.  Nonetheless, wishful thinking tends to apply more at the level of upper management.  The technicians on the spot usually have a pretty good idea of how things actually work.  Malooga claims this from his experience in the oil refining industry.  I claim it too, for other reasons.  I have never worked in the nuclear industry but I know the main modes of failure--it is just not credible that the folk whose job it is to know these things and are trained in them are unaware.  Just from knowing the operating conditions before the earthquake the technicians on site would have known how much time they had to restore cooling.  We didn't know that because we didn't know the conditions.  But they did.  

Malooga's main point here is that the meltdowns were already known, but the decision was made for reasons of public relations to pretend that they were not known, but that a trend toward meltdown was evolving over days and weeks, rather than already past.  

Well, this is one familiar pattern!  Look at last April's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Or the entire history of peak oil.  This is simply how management manages.  

 
I'd love to explore the alternate reality  
 
Congratulations on buying the media narrative.  I hope it gives you good service.  To say more would be off-topic.  
 
more reactors are safely decommissioned than blow up.
 

That is because they had exterior power that made decommissioning possible.  and that is exactly what I am recommending--that we decommission these plants while we have the power to do so.  

If the Sahara Desert plan works out, I will quit worrying--for Europe--as you will have all the power you need for decommissioning.  I admit I think the scheme is vaporware, but to explain why would be a whole new thread.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 12:10:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nonetheless, wishful thinking tends to apply more at the level of upper management.  The technicians on the spot usually have a pretty good idea of how things actually work.

Absolutely. But upper management are the ones who veto the agit-prop. So the more likely explanation for the observed discrepancy between the agit-prop and the facts (and actions) on the ground is that upper management was in denial and the technicians were not. (And that, thank God, upper management did not impede the technicians too greatly.)

Malooga's main point here is that the meltdowns were already known, but the decision was made for reasons of public relations to pretend that they were not known

And my point is that there was no single "the decision" made. Information does not flow instantly and flawlessly through an organisation, particularly when upper management is clueless and out of touch. So it is entirely possible (plausible, even) that one hand did not know what the other was doing.

Congratulations on buying the media narrative. I hope it gives you good service. To say more would be off-topic.

I'd say "make a diary where it is on topic." But honestly, I fail to see how devoting another diary to silly conspiracy theories would improve the signal-to-noise ratio of this place...

more reactors are safely decommissioned than blow up.

That is because they had exterior power that made decommissioning possible.

We can lose a lot of power before we are unable to safely decommission the existing nuclear fleet.

Even if we pump every remaining oil reservoir at rates that damage ultimately recoverable reserves, and strip-mine every coal deposit and tar sand pit, there is an upper limit on how fast you can get fossil fuels out of the ground. So even pretending that sustainable energy sources cannot take up the slack from fossil fuels (something which is less than perfectly obvious), we will still have enough power to decommission these plants, if that is what we decide to use that power for.

Of course, it is always within our power to make the political decision not to safely decommission the plants. But that would be a political decision, not an unavoidable fact of life.

If the Sahara Desert plan works out, I will quit worrying--for Europe--as you will have all the power you need for decommissioning.  I admit I think the scheme is vaporware,

Of course it is. There are no silver bullets, and it is not intended as "a plan" in the sense of being a silver bullet. There is no silver bullet. And even if there were, monocropping your energy supply like that would be criminally insane. The actual solution, if it is implemented, would be a patchwork of more or less independent solutions - harvest North Sea wind, improve energy efficiency, harvest solar power, run-of-river hydro, dams, and so on and so forth.

But the Sahara example does illustrate that the energy is there, and we have the technology and resources to harvest it. Whether we will be politically able to do so or not is a different question, but one that is not well served by assuming a priori that we will not.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 06:51:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is my issue with nukes - the technology can be made manageably safe, and in a psychologically stable world spent fuel would be nasty but not impossible to contain.

But nukes aren't politically and managerially viable. Too many politicians and managers respond emotionally rather than rationally, they have almost non-existent modelling skills, and their primary aim is always increased personal economic and political power rather than social responsibility.

So nuke technology is a bad match for this psychological profile. There will always be management pressure to cut corners on costs and safety and to maximise profit.

You can pretty much guarantee that in these circumstances, stuff will go boom when stressed.

As for energy needs - I'm finding it difficult to believe that renewables can't completely replace dirty carbon sources within a decade or two. Between wind, tidal, hydro and both kinds of solar - and combined with smarter grids and better efficiency - the only reason for continuing to build nukes is political inertia.

I'd consider allowing some nuke development as a stop-gap providing the design is absolutely fail-safe and impressively over-specced for safety.

But any technology which isn't absolutely fail-safe with any obvious safety issues of any kind really needs to be scrapped almost immediately.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 03:51:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How are renewable energy sources not subject to the same political and managerial emotion? Isn't that exactly the source of typical opposition to wind and solar power?
by asdf on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 05:25:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are. But they don't make nearly as spectacular a kaboom when you fuck them up.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 05:30:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're either inherently fail-safe, or fail-safe is easy to build in.

But this is the big value of renewables done right - compared to dirty carbon, they're massively low-maintenance. Once they're in place they mostly "just work" for the duration of their design life.

Dirty carbon fuels all need active high-maintenance permanent effort. You have to run them 24/7. They don't just sit there producing energy for you.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 06:16:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although we're just as guilty of management failure, our meltdowns only affect one-horned goats.

Unlike the Gas People.


Three years before the deadly San Bruno disaster, PG&E received an ominous warning: Its natural gas system, an internal review found, posed a "catastrophic risk." But the utility's management and board of directors failed to take critical steps to reduce the danger.

That telling lapse was one of many disturbing signs that the company's culture had turned "dysfunctional," according to a five-member expert panel picked by the California Public Utilities Commission to look into the explosion. The panel's report, released Thursday, drew headlines for its suggestion that improperly monitored work on a nearby sewer pipe may have led the San Bruno pipe to rupture.

But what may be more important in the long run are the report's insights into how the company operates internally.
While PG&E's stated goal was to be "the leading utility in the United States," the panel faulted the company for being too bureaucratic, lacking management expertise, giving mere lip service to public safety and failing to take measures that might have averted the San Bruno tragedy.

OK, the gas explosion only killed 8 people, and it only calls into question the condition of the gas network, so no big deal.

Except these are the same people who decide our energy future.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 06:24:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, one of the nascent renewables, HDR geothermal, can cause spills and subsidence; and if big hydro is to be counted as renewable, it can cause floods and earthquakes and downstream droughts. Though none of these are really management-related.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 13th, 2011 at 04:21:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Back in March, Dimitry Orlov offered the collapsitarian point of view. Wicked humor:
...
Paging Mickey Mouse!
Ultimately, the problem is with the people who designed and built these things, not with the people who have to suffer horribly and die when they explode. You see, you have to be a certain sort of person to say “Sure, using a precariously controlled subcritical nuclear pile to boil water to run steam turbines to generate electricity is a great idea!” That sort of person is called a sociopath. Having worked with quite a few of them, I know a thing or two about sociopaths. They are always around to make ridiculous things happen and take credit for them while they can, but when these ridiculous things go horribly wrong, as they inevitably do, they are nowhere to be found. They have this knack for promoting the knuckle-draggers just in time for them to take the fall for what appears to be their own mistakes.

Three years ago I wrote this into the Collapse Party Platform:

I am particularly concerned about all the radioactive and toxic installations, stockpiles and dumps. Future generations are unlikely to be able to control them, especially if global warming puts them underwater. There is enough of this muck sitting around to kill off most of us. There are abandoned mine sites at which, soon after the bulldozers and the excavators stop running, toxic tailings and the contents of settling ponds will flow into and poison the waters of major rivers, making their flood plains and estuaries uninhabitable for many centuries. Many nuclear power plants have been built near coastlines, for access to ocean water for cooling. These will be at risk of inundation due to extreme weather events and rising sea levels caused by global warming. At many nuclear power stations, spent fuel rods are stored in a pool right at the reactor site, because the search for a more permanent storage place has been mired in politics. There are surely better places to store them than next to population centers and bodies of water. ...
And now I will say it again: Shut it all down. All of it. Now. Please.


Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 03:25:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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