Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's About Personal Choice!

I will start with a quote from C.S. Lewis:

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

The tyranny of the good has been creeping into our lives for years. They all start usually with a statement, "It's good for you", or "Think of the children". Ideas like this get my goat and infuriate me. Politicians our bereaucrats think that I don't have a head on my shoulders and can't make the "right" choices about anything. They have to legislate it so I will have no choice at all.

Well, things have taken a small change here in Toronto with the election of Rob Ford as mayor and a more conservative council.

Good Bye Socialist City Hall:

by Sue-Ann Levy

He made my day.

Coun. Doug Ford didn’t mince any words Tuesday when he informed his leftist colleagues on council that their bid to ban unhealthy drinks and bottled water was “socialism at its best.

“Down here we have the mentality (that) government knows best,” he told government management committee. “We think we can dictate to the people of Toronto what we should be giving to their kids.”

Shortly after Ford’s self-professed rant, some six years of so-called meddling into our lives by our former Mayor ‘Dad’ Miller and the socialist drink police on council went down the drain.

A move by the socialist drink police to mandate that only 100% healthy drinks be available in all vending machines in city rec facilities, hockey arenas and community centres by November of 2015?

Done like dinner, assuming council also approves the move on April 12.

If committee chairman Paul Ainslie has his way, the bottled water ban in all city facilities will also be lifted before too long.

Take that you public health drink dictators who declared city vending machines should only contain 2% milk, soy milk and 100% healthy juice products by 2015 — even if those so-called juices are loaded with sugar and calories.

Take that you socialist soy latte sippers, who appeared not to care one bit about the revenues the city would forego if they banned the more than 80% of the drinks purchased in vending machines — namely sodas, sports drinks and bottled water.

In fact, parks and recreation general manager Brenda Patterson said they’d run the risk of losing 50 to 70% of the revenues which go towards operating expenses for her department, meaning a need for higher user fees, more taxes and service level reductions. She also noted the potential impact on the $80,000 in sponsorships the city gets from its current provider, PepsiCo Food Service.[SNIP]

Finally some common sense is rising out of the quagmire of City Hall here in Toronto. A politician that realizes that most of us are adults and can make our own decisions. I am sure there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth by the socialists left in the building. It's too be expected. Still, it's nice to see changes for our good.

We still have to see more though. Removal of petty regulations that govern how we get to live would be wonderful. Just think three and a half more years of this roll back of horrible regulations.

Kudos to Doug Ford.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste

The above title is from a quote by Rahm Emanuel, former White House staff member under Barack Obama. The full quote is from an interview with the Wall Street Journal:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you didn’t think you could do before.

Why am I bringing this up? Well all the environmentalist nut jobs are popping out of the wood work with the whole situation in Japan and the Fukushima reactors. There's been panic, fear mongering, and misinformation being spread all over the place. Most of the misinformation being spread is due to the scientific illiteracy of the media when it comes to most science. Of course the media trying to find every single local tie in to spread their story doesn't help matters either.

Example one of the media tie in was a story yesterday about a pharmacy in Pickering that hands out iodide pills for free to anyone that lives close to the Pickering nuclear power plant. This is a measure paid for by the federal government as a standard precaution. One thing was that the amount of free iodide pills being handed out was more then in the past year in the past few days. All four bottles of them.

Anyway back to not letting the crisis go to waste. Greenpeace is lobbying the provincial government about freezing the construction of a new nuclear power station at Darlington.

Halt urged for nuclear hearings:

by Terry Davidson
Greenpeace and Ontario’s nurses paired up on Wednesday to call for the province to halt hearings on new nuclear reactors for Ontario.

The hearings on development at the Darlington nuke plant slotted for next week should be postponed, said the environmental group and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

“There has been no assessment of the cost-effectiveness of new reactors and the environmental and safety reviews ignore the potential for accidents like we’re seeing in Japan,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace.

“The need, cost-effectiveness and safety of the reactors is in doubt ... a rethink is required,” he said.

The nurses’ association said there are lessons in the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan.

“What happened in Japan is capable of happening anywhere there are nuclear reactors,” said Doris Grinspun, executive director of the nurses’ association.

“No doubt the nuclear experts and government leaders in Japan were confident that the sheer magnitude of this week’s disaster could never happen there,” Grinspun said.

“But of course ... it did. Nuclear power is an unforgiving technology (and) Japan reminds us that all nuclear reactors are vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster.”

Keith Stewart, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said the fact that Ontario’s Nuclear Liability Act protects those in the industry from serious repercussions if people are harmed indicates there could be serious problems.

“We know that the safety concerns remain,” said Stewart, adding Japan’s recent nuclear problems are a deadly example of what can go wrong.

“Those things can happen (here). They are unlikely, but it can happen.”

Right, a bunch of fear mongers trying to instill their beliefs and will on us. Using Japan as an example of went wrong is laughable. The Fukushima reactors were not only hit with a 8.9 - 9.0 earthquake, but also a 10m(maybe smaller?) tsunami. If things went horribly wrong the engineers and powerplant workers wouldn't be still there trying to keep things under the amount of control that they have. That the reactors survived is a testament to their construction.

Now saying the same thing can happen here is the worst case of projection I have ever heard. All of the reactors in Ontario are built on seismically stable area. Earthquakes are still possible, remember the one we felt here in Toronto last summer? A monster earthquake though isn't possible. Wrong geology for that. Now as to a tsunami wiping away power lines, support structure, and what have you, flat out impossible. Well, not flat out. There's a chance of a meteorite hitting the center of Lake Ontario causing one, and I won't quote you the odds on that one.

These idiots are trying to use a national disaster on the other side of the world to force policy on us here. The problem is that we need more electrical power generation that is reliable and stable. Is nuclear power the answer? Well right now it's the best one we have available that can produce constantly when needed.

As well Canadian CANDU reactors are one of the safest designs in the world that use uranium as a fuel. Too many people have been confused and baffled by people that think anything high tech is bad for the world. I could go into that but I will save it for when I am feeling more verbose.

A side note about radiation exposure that the Japanese workers are facing. Their standards are a lot higher then some American standards. One person I heard said that when he was working with radioactive material the max level per day was 2 millirems. The Japanese standard is 0.17 millirems. Think about that when you here news reports about the dangerous exposure they are receiving. Not to say that any over exposure is good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Nuclear Disaster

It's been awhile since I posted anything. No apologies. There are a lot of better political bloggers out there that are faster on the uptake and get the good news first. Today though I thought I should throw my two cents in. In the wake of the massive natural disaster in Japan, there's been a lot of misinformation being tossed around by journalists, left wingers, environmental activists, and others. Mind you some are just incompetent, the rest though have an axe to grind.

What's the big deal? The Nuclear reactors in Fukushima are in a dire state at the moment. After experiencing a earthquake measured on the Richter scale of either 8.9 or 9.0, and a quickly moving tsunami, the worst possible case scenario came into effect. Actually, I don't think most of the disaster preparation plans took what happened into thoughts of their planning. Needless to say, all back up generators, emergency cooling systems were knocked off-line or out period.

Since then the engineers in charge of the reactors have worked feverishly to contain the disaster. pumping sea water in to try to keep the reactors cool. There have been explosions, "hydrogen" explosions (when water gets superheated and flashes into steam at high enough temps it separates into hydrogen and oxygen, just add a spark), leakage of radioactive materials into the local areas, and too top it off there have been numerous after shocks.

As of this writing, two of the three badly damaged reactors are stable. A third one is gone into what is guessed at as "partial meltdown". Horrifying right? A "MELTDOWN"!!!

Bad science has abounded for the past week. Reporters and journalists talking over scientists and engineers getting facts wrong talking as if the reactors were going to blow up like a nuclear bomb. I had a friend that was in a panicky state on Saturday evening that read a news story that had said that fusion reactions had been detected in one of the reactors and was close to exploding. Three of us that had some knowledge of reactors and nuclear weapons had to link and talk about how something like that couldn't happen (believe it or not, nuclear bombs require a lot of engineering to explode into a fireball).

That's the problem with the modern media. If it bleeds it leads. They will take half baked science and try to spin to their own goals. In fact all the environmental nut cases are using what's happening in Japan as a call for the case against nuclear power.

Yes nuclear power is bad, according to them. They will try to use this to stop any future building of more nuclear power plants. I am of two minds about building more of them. One the one side is the need for more stable electrical energy, on the other side is the monstrous cost of building them (actually the building costs have a lot to do with environmental nutcases).

So lets look at some reasonable news stories and how it relates to politics and Canada.

First though we have to look at actual news coming out of Japan.

Japan braces for catastrophe (as if what has already happened isn't one)

TOKYO - Japan faced a potential catastrophe on Tuesday after a quake-crippled nuclear power plant exploded and sent low levels of radiation floating towards Tokyo, prompting some people to flee the capital and others to stock up on essential supplies.

The crisis appeared to escalate late in the day when the operators of the facility said that one of two blasts had blown a hole in the building housing a reactor, which meant spent nuclear fuel was exposed to the atmosphere.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km (18 miles) of the facility — a population of 140,000 — to remain indoors amid the world’s most serious nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

Officials in Tokyo — 240 km (150 miles) to the south of the plant — said radiation in the capital was 10 times normal by evening but there was no threat to human health.

Around eight hours after the explosions, the U.N. weather agency said winds were dispersing radioactive material over the Pacific Ocean, away from Japan and other Asian countries.

As concern about the crippling economic impact of the nuclear and earthquake disasters mounted, Japan’s Nikkei index fell as much as 14 percent before ending down 10.6 percent, compounding a slide of 6.2 percent the day before. The two-day fall has wiped some $620 billion off the market.

Authorities have spent days desperately trying to prevent the water which is designed to cool the radioactive cores of the reactors from running dry.

The authorities said they may pour water into the fuel pool of the most critical reactor, No. 4, within two or three days, but did not say why they would have to wait to do this.

“The possibility of further radioactive leakage is heightening,” a grim-faced Kan said in an address to the nation earlier in the day.

“We are making every effort to prevent the leak from spreading. I know that people are very worried but I would like to ask you to act calmly.” [snip]

Japan radioactivity could enter the food chain:

SINGAPORE - Radioactive materials spewed into the air by Japan’s earthquake-crippled nuclear plant may contaminate food and water resources, with children and unborn babies most at risk of possibly developing cancer.

Experts said exposure to radioactive materials has the potential to cause various kinds of cancers and abnormalities to fetuses, with higher levels of radiation seen as more dangerous.

But they said they needed more accurate measurements for the level of radioactivity in Japan, and the region, to give a proper risk assessment.[emphasis added by me]

“The explosions could expose the population to longer-term radiation, which can raise the risk of cancer. These are thyroid cancer, bone cancer and leukaemia. Children and foetuses are especially vulnerable,” said Lam Ching-wan, chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong.

“For some individuals even a small amount of radiation can raise the risk of cancer. The higher the radiation, the higher the risk of cancer,” said Lam, who is also a member on the American Board of Toxicologists.

Radioactive material is carried by minute moisture droplets in the air. It can then be directly inhaled into the lungs, get washed down by rain into the sea and onto soil, and eventually contaminate crops, marine life and drinking water.

Cow’s milk was also especially vulnerable, experts said, if cows graze on grass exposed to radiation. [snip]

Typical news stories, guaranteed to lead to panicky reactions and higher blood pressures.

Now for some commentary. First, Warren Kinsella, former strategist for the Canadian Liberal Party.

Going nuclear on the truth:

As we all watch the events unfolding in Japan, some of us may be watching more closely than others. Like the NDP, for example.

Over the weekend, as the whole world knows by now, one of the overheated reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi facility erupted. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan had just concluded a national television address -- warning the situation was "alarming" -- when reactor Number Three blew.

The blast injured a number of workers and soldiers, and was felt more 30 kms away.

Then, on Tuesday, there was another explosion, blowing a hole through the roof at one Fukushima reactor -- injuring more workers and releasing radioactive steam.

Japan continues to frantically scramble to cool the reactors damaged by last week's terrible 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami -- both of which have killed an estimated 10,000 people.

Outside Japan, media organizations have been frantically scrambling, too. They've been particularly focused on the nuclear story, calling up experts to try and understand what may be the fallout -- quite literally -- of a disaster at Fukushima.

When a microphone has been pointed in their direction, Greenpeace hasn't been shy. One Greenpeace spokesman said on the weekend -- irresponsibly, and without any proof whatsoever -- that nuclear reactors in Canada have "faults," quote unquote, and there is a "realistic" chance of a Japanese-style disaster happening here.

This, despite the fact Canada's seven reactors -- five in Ontario, one in Quebec and one in New Brunswick -- have been constructed in low-seismic areas, with massive concrete walls and multiple safeguards.

Over on Rabble -- the website where NDP policy gestates -- ominous mutterings can be found suggesting a Chernobyl-style collapse could happen here, too, with a "radioactive cloud" settling on citizens. [snip]

(I recommend reading the whole thing, he has quite a few good points)


Another editorial from the Toronto Sun. Just because I love the opening descriptive paragraph and common sense approach.

Our nuclear faith unshaken:

What befell Japan was akin to a tricycle being rammed by a convoy of Mack trucks at full speed -- an 8.9-magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami so unimaginable it still seems incomprehensible.

Yet Japan's nuclear reactors survived.

While the number of dead from the earthquake-tsunami combination in Japan has climbed epically, the partial meltdowns of two crippled nuclear facilities and cooling problems at four others have all but been contained through the reactors' scientific design.

They withstood and survived the worst nature could possibly toss at them, with the nuclear-energy industry knowing full well it is always one mistake away from a catastrophe that would have it blackballed for an eternity.

Knowing its sites were built along a stretch of the notorious "ring of fire," home of the most violent seismic eruptions in the Pacific, the Japanese prepared for the worst.

And their preparedness paid off.

If there were ever a time to give nuclear power a good-to-go in Canada, as opposed to backing away out of misguided fear, it is now.

The anti-nuclear fanatics at Greenpeace, however, are now using Japan as an example of what can happen with modern reactors.

This is to be expected from Greenpeace, of course, just as it is to be expected that it would carefully ignore how technological advancements actually prevented a nuclear disaster in Japan despite the perfect apocalyptic storm.

Except for the west coast, we do not sit on any major fault line.

In fact, we are perfectly situated to lead the world in nuclear-powered electrical energy.

And, not only do we have the technology that saw Japan surviving a nuclear Armageddon, we also have the need.

Solar and wind power are bogus answers, and provinces backing away from coal-fired electrical plants -- despite coal's cheap abundance and new scrubber technology that can limit emissions -- are political cop-outs, attempting to appease the crowd who believe in environmental voodoo.

The result of this political cowardice of not recognizing the technological advances that saved Japan is an unconscionable and unnecessary rise in the price of electricity coming into our homes.

Nuclear is the answer.

Following what didn't happen in Japan, it no longer needs to be questioned or demonized.

And finally a nice little article about the incident at the Japanese reactors and looking back to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

How bad is the nuclear accident in Japan?

By SCOTT DISAVINO, Reuters
NEW YORK - The Japanese nuclear safety agency rated the damage at a nuclear power plant at Fukushima at a four on a scale of one to seven, which is not quite as bad as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979, which registered a five. But what does that mean?

The International Atomic Energy Agency — an inter-governmental organization for scientific co-operation in the nuclear field — said it uses the scale to communicate to the public in a consistent way the safety significance of nuclear and radiological events.

The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, or INES, ranges from one to seven with the most serious being a seven referred to as a “major accident”, while a one is an “anomaly”. The scale is designed so the severity of an event is about ten times greater for each increase in level.

The Chernobyl explosion in the Ukraine in 1986, the worst nuclear power accident ever, was rated a seven. That was the only event classified as a major accident in nuclear power history, exploded due to an uncontrolled power surge that damaged the reactor core, releasing a radioactive cloud that blanketed Europe.

The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania was a partial core meltdown in which the metal cladding surrounding the fuel rods started to melt. That metal surrounds the ceramic uranium fuel pellets, which hold most of the radiation and power the reactor.

Nuclear reactors operate at between 550 and 600 degrees F (between 288 and 316 degrees C). The metal on the fuel rods will not melt until temperatures are well above 1000 degrees F. The ceramic uranium pellets themselves won’t melt until about 2000 degrees.

About half the reactor core at Three Mile Island melted before operators restored enough cooling water to stop the meltdown. The core holds the uranium fuel rods, which must be cooled by water to prevent overheating.

So what happened at Fukushima?

The blast at the 40-year-old Daiichi 1 reactor came as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) worked to reduce pressure from mildly radioactive steam in the core after the total loss of power needed to keep water circulating to prevent the reactor fuel from overheating.

That blast led to fears of a disastrous meltdown at the plant, which automatically shut after the quake, even though the government has insisted that radiation levels were low.

The cause and exact location of the blast still needs to be established, nuclear experts queried about the incident said.

A couple of examples of fours on the INES scale include a fatal overexposure of workers following an incident at a nuclear facility at Tokaimura, Japan in 1999 and the melting of one channel of fuel in the reactor — though no radiation was released outside the site — at Saint Laurent des Eaux, France in 1980.

Things have yet to calm down and there still are some risks. Considering the scale of the disaster overall, I think the Japanese Nuclear Engineers are doing a remarkable job.

Time to stop being fearful, panicking, or falling for hyperbole. Things aren't as bad as we are being told on the nuclear front. Now for the victims and casualties of the earthquake and tsunami? I think things are going to get a little worse before they get better. Thoughts and prayers going out to all of them.

As well, I might have got some facts and stuff wrong. I am just an armchair quarter back with a little knowledge on a lot of stuff. Any of my errors are my errors.

Update:

Well finally some detailed news about the reactors at Fukushima. Apparently they were put into an emergency shutdown before the tsunami hit. Reactors One and Two are stable, while Reactor Three is still being monitored. Here's the press release from Tepco.

And here's the summation from one of my internet friends from the press release and a few other sources on the net:

According to TEPCO At Fukushima II all 4 reactors are stable and in cold shut down.

At Fukushima I, where the problems are. 3 of six reactors were shut down at the time of the quake and tsunami (4, 5, 6).

1, 2, and 3 SCRAMed. All were shut down before the tsunami hit.

This means the nuclear reaction was halted, and the problem was one of thermal energy, not nuclear. We're talking about lots of thermal energy, and the need for cooling to control the energy. The tusnami wiped out the cooling power supplies.

1 and 2 they flooded with sea water and boric acid cooling and further control measure over a nuclear reaction. This process destroys the reactor core.

As far as I can tell. 1 and 2 are stable.

3 is the one still in trouble. It was shut down during the quake, and no reaction is taking place. But water, cooling was interupted and portions of the core may be exposed.

The exposed portions may meltdown.

TMI suffered a partial meltdown in a similar situation. Fuel rods and cladding melted into puddle in the bottom of the vessel. In TMI the melted fuel rods and cladding did not reach critical mass, a large portion of the fuel assembly would have to melt for this to happen. In TMI the reactor vessel, similiar in construction Fukashima I-3 did not fail.

The Fukashima I-3 reactor has not failed at this time. Since the reactor was succesfully shut down at the time of the quake, and before tusanmi the problem is not a "nuclear" problem at this time. It is a thermal problem, getting sufficent water into the vessel to remove the thermal energy.

Further since the nuclear reaction was halted, no more thermal energy is being generated from the nuclear reaction. Since the it has been 4 days since the quake, and core melt down has not result in a critical mass in the bottom of the vessel. It is unlikely that meltdown into a critical mass will occur. While the residual thermal energy is very high and dangerous, it will not have been increasing.

All reports of radiation release have been of very low levels.

Unless the situation at Fukashima I-3 changes, I think the "crisis" portion of this is pretty much over.

That do have to rig cooling to Fukashim I-3, and get the temps down, but that is no more complex than delivering pumps and generators.

Long term clean up etc... is another matter. 3 reactors are damaged beyond repair.