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Suppose I - or more likely someone else - gave you access to the world's best instrumentation and then asked you to calculate the volume of water in earth's oceans.   Think of the difficulties you would encounter.   First off, the earth's oceans have an irregular bottom, and it swell know that below the ocean's surface there are huge trenches, mountain ranges, ridges and rifts.    Any measurement would need to be empirical, involving the mapping of features that could be several kilometers below the surface.    As for the surface itself, it is hardly constant on either a long or short time scale.  Gravatational tides, waves, temperature gradients in the water itself, as well as pressure and temperature gradients in the surrounding fluid, the atmosphere, all effect the position of the surface, as do temporary fluctuations that may derive from higher or lower fluxes of fresh water into the sea and well as fluxes out of the sea owing to vapor pressure.

Even a moment's reflection would suggest that this fascinating question is a very difficult one to approach.    (Calculating the mass of seawater, if it's any consolation, would be even more difficult, owing to compositional effects and hydraulic effects, as pressure, and thus density, varies with depth.)

Poking around for figures estimating the volume of earth's oceans, I've decided for the purpose of calculations in this diary to use the estimate published by the Yale Geologist Jun Korenaga, in the publication (linked in the link) Terra Nova, 20, 419–439, 2008, which is that the volume of the ocean is 1.51 billion cubic kilometers.   We can estimate if this is a reasonable figure by noting that the mean radius of the earth is generally taken to be...

...6,371 km (exactly), implying from the formula for the volume of a sphere, that the volume of the earth (were it a perfect sphere) would be 1.08321 trillion cubic kilometers, the selected volume of the ocean would require a radius roughly 3 km higher than the given mean radius, meaning that a perfectly smooth ocean on a perfectly smooth earth would have a depth everywhere of 3 km.

That seems reasonable to me.   (The Titanic, as an example, rests some 3.8 km below the surface on the decidedly not smooth seabed of the real earth.)

Seawater's composition is not everywhere the same, and these effects account for things like ocean currents and other phenomena.    However it is well understood that a fair average may be obtained for its composition.   Besides water, the majority of seawater is sodium chloride, but other elements are found in varying proportions.  

Uranium is a constituent of water owing to the weathering of uranium containing rocks, in particular granite.   Roughly the concentration of uranium in seawater is 33 mg per cubic meter (cf Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 2009, 48 (14), pp 6789–6796)   This suggest that the oceans contain about 5 billion tons of uranium, but I am going to ignore this large quantity of radioactive material and focus on the radioactive element potassium, because unlike uranium (and for that matter, rubidium a radioactive element that is a cogener of potassium) potassium is essential to life.   I will say this:   The ocean is saturated with respect to uranium, meaning that if uranium were removed from seawater - say to run power plants, something the Japanese have examined in some detail - it would continually be recharged by weathering of granite, assuming rivers actually flow to the sea, something that actually happens with less and less frequency in modern times.

As stated earlier, the ocean is not homogenous, and salinity gradients are well known.   In fact these gradients drive ocean currents.   The Gulf Stream, for instance, is driven by saline waters sinking in the arctic regions in relatively lighter polar waters.   Some people have speculated that the melting of the polar icecaps might result in shutting the Gulf Stream down because of the dilution of these saline waters with waters from melting ice.   However, a working figure for the concentration of potassium in seawater is 416 milligrams per liter.

The nuclear stability rules, which determine whether a particular isotope is radioactive or not, predict that elements have odd atomic numbers will have either zero (which is observed for elements 43 (technetium), and 61 (promethium)) one, or two stable nuclei represented by it.   Examples of elements having only one stable isotope are fluorine, sodium, and cobalt.   Examples of elements with odd atomic numbers having two stable isotopes are chlorine (35 and 37) and copper (63 and 65).    Rubidium - the most common element in human flesh that has no known physiological purpose (except possibly has a potassium mimetic) - has two natural isotopes in all of its ores and in natural brines, 85 and 87, but only one of them (85) is stable, the other is radioactive, but has a half-life much longer than the age of the earth, roughly 47 billion years.

I have argued elsewhere - based on the nuclear stability rules and the mass "defect" - that it is almost certain that calcium-40 is radioactive, although the half-life must be so long that it essentially escapes detection.   (Several years ago it was discovered that a similar case was obtained for bismuth-209, with bismuth being thought to be the element with the highest atomic number (83) to be stable - a surprise because 83 is an odd number.   To my personal relief on this score, it was discovered that bismuth is radioactive, although the half life is 2.0 X 1019 years, way longer than the age of the universe. cf: Nature 422, 876-878 (24 April 2003), "Experimental detection of α-particles from the radioactive decay of natural bismuth.")

Potassium also has two stable nuclei, isotope 39, which represents 93.2581% of naturally occurring potassium, and isotope 41, which represents  6.7302% of naturally occurring potassium.   These numbers do not sum to 100% because a third isotope, a radioactive isotope, potassium-40 is also always found with potassium.   The percentage of potassium that exists today that is radioactive potassium-40 (K-40) is 0.0117%.

The K-40 isotope has a half-life of 1.277 billion years, which is sufficiently long to have allowed it to have existed since the formation of the earth 4.5 billion years ago.    About 8.7% of the radioactive potassium-40 that was present when the earth formed is still here, although it must be said that potassium is less radioactive than it has been at any time in earth's history.

Using the figures above for the volume of the seas, and the concentration of potassium in that volume, as well as the percentage of potassium that is the radioactive isotope, as well as the fact that the isotopic atomic mass of K-40 is 39.9639987 grams per mole we can calculate directly the amount of radioactive potassium-40 in the ocean.   It is about 75 billion metric tons, outstripping uranium by a factor of 13 and being, gram for gram, more radioactive than the uranium, if one ignores (as maybe one shouldn't), the uranium daughters like radium, radon, etc, etc.

The total activity of the ocean owing to radioactivity associated with potassium-40 is approximately 2 X 1022 Bequerel, or roughly 530 billion curies.

This is an enormous amount of radioactivity, but it is very diffuse, spread throughout the ocean.

One may ask how much energy is released by this nuclear decay, and the answer is actually a rather large number given the branch ratio adjusted nuclear decay energy of K-40, which is about 1.33 million electron volts.    The decay of potassium-40 in the Earth's oceans represents a power output of around 1.3 X 1013 watts, or 13 million megawatts, which is roughly the power output of 4,400 nuclear power plants of average size.   The power output is roughly equal to 82% of the average continuous power consumed by humanity as a whole.

For the record, at the risk of encouraging simpletons of the Amory Lovins type who believe that it would be wise to cover the entire planet and all of its ecosystems with toxic semi-conductors and the like, the solar flux experienced by the earth is much larger than the power output of potassium 40, 13 thousand times larger, meaning that it is trivial for the earth to radiate the energy produced by potassium-40.

Nevertheless, this is significant energy.

Lord Kelvin - for whom our temperature scale is named - and one of the major founders of the science of thermodynamics - made a thermodynamic argument, a good one given that he, like many Kossacks, knew nothing at all about nuclear science, that since the earth was clearly hot, as evidenced by the existance of volcanos, that the earth could not possibly be more than 400 million years old.

It is now understood that the internal heat of the earth is provided by, among other radioactive elements, potassium-40.    By the way, this should establish something that is often not recognized, that geothermal energy is nuclear energy.  

By the way - just to be a little off topic - there is a paper published recently that indicates that the reason that the Gulf of Mexico is more radioactive than other bodies of water has to do with the release of "natural" radioactivity associated with oil and gas drilling, if, unlike me, you believe that oil drilling is "natural."  (cf. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 89 (2006) 1-17).   If we explained to people - and I have done this - that oil and gas drilling produces significant releases of radioactivity, they suddenly might begin to give a shit, or, um, maybe not.

One might ask the ridiculous question, "What is the risk associated with potassium radioactivity?" but although I could put together an answer to this question, I'd rather not dignify it with an answer, but rather would ask "What is the risk of avoiding potassium?" which is of course a risk of 100%, since you would die without potassium.

About 3,000 curies of radioactive potassium is added to U.S. soils each year as fertilizer, without which the soils would most likely die.

Anyway, every year, as of this writing (the number will continually decrease for all recorded time) about 4,100 metric tons of potassium decays in earth's oceans.

The molar specific activity (the activity for 136.907 grams) of cesium-137, a common fission product, is 440 trillion Beq, or about 1,189 curies per mole.

This particular isotope, cesium-137, has been fetishized by the Fukushima crowd, who regard the failure of the reactors at Fukushima in an earthquake and a tsunami as the worst energy disaster of all time, meaning they never heard of the renewable energy disaster at Banqiao in 1975, which killed about 200,000 people in a matter of days.   (It also means that most of them have never heard of climate change, which is very easily the worst energy disaster of all time.)

It follows that in order to make the Earth's oceans as radioactive as they were 1.227 billion years ago from potassium - a period in which life on earth was rapidly evolving - one would need to directly dump roughly 6,100 tons of pure cesium-137 directly into the ocean.

Because cesium has a different absorption profile than potassium, it is doubtful that this amount would remain solubilized in its entirety however.  In particular cesium has a stronger tendency to be adsorbed onto the surfaces of certain minerals and has several insoluble aluminates, which accounts for the existance of the mineral pollucite, an aluminosilicate.

In any case, in a few hundred years all of this radioactivity would essentially be gone, and the ocean would be about as radioactive as it is now.

If one makes certain simplifying assumptions about the accumulation of cesium-137 in nuclear fuel, first that the concentration of cesium-136 is very small owing to its short half-life (about 13 days) and that nuclear fuel spends most of its life outside the reactor and not inside it, one can discern that a solution of the Bateman Equation takes the form of P(σ,E) (1-e-kt) where P(σ,E) is a function of the total power output of one, or even all, of the nuclear reactors in operation in the entire planet and the fission yield of a particular isotope, in this case, cesium-137 and the neutron energy spectrum of said reactors, which is overwhelmingly a thermal spectrum on the planet right now, t is the time that a particular power level has been operating, a k is the decay constant of the isotope, the natural logarithm of 2 divided by the half life of the isotope..

It is very clear that this is an  asymptotic function, and by appeal to it, it is relatively easy to show that 6,100 tons of cesium-137 is considerably more than has accumulated in the entire history of nuclear power, nuclear war, and nuclear weapons testing and manufacture.  

Have a nice day tomorrow.

Originally posted to NNadir on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 04:58 PM PDT.

Also republished by Nuclear dkos.


Statistics anyone?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Radioactive oceans, radioactive anything, the... (5+ / 0-)

    ...indiscriminate dumping of radioactive potassium on American soils, tsunamis striking nuclear plants, the hidden risk of bananas, the hidden risk of fish, the obvious risk of lutefisk, slightly radioactive hide rates, and glowing, bright radioactive troll rates all go here.

  •  I'm sure that you have your degree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is radioactive prickery ... and I would bet that you WOULD eat a tablespoon of Plutonium ... sadly though .. your waaay past your Daily Kos half life, and shelf live had expired waaay back when.

    Just sayin'

    The Oceans will be VERY toxic from a recent event ... I think it was in Japan.

    •  Bull. (7+ / 0-)

      I have never once met a single anti-nuke who can comprehend something called numbers and often respond with crank remarks, usually puerile crank remarks, that they somehow confuse with wit.

      They always have a predictable reaction when they see numbers and it is, um, illiterate.

      •  The word you want is (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NNadir, gzodik, raoul78, bryfry

        innumerate.  Which is what they are.  They are not completely illiterate . . . although few would be competent to discuss the problems inherent in the use of verbal predicates ("VERY toxic" in the comment above being a fine example) in place of actual quantification, and the reasons why said verbal predicates should never be used in expert witness testimony (Hummel's flawed attempt at "definition" notwithstanding).

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 07:12:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  While I credit your remark, I can't say that I've (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gzodik, bryfry

          met too many of them who show any evidence whatsoever of ever having read the contents of, say, a science book, with even a mote of a fragment of a particle of comprehension.

          So they are illiterate, or at least scientifically illiterate.

          But whatever...

          They're a pretty ignorant bunch.   I actually don't mind passive ignorance, as I am ignorant of many things myself.    But agressive ignorance, ignorance that applauds itself, and is worn some some absurd badge of honor, is frankly appalling in what it means for these very fragile times.

          •  ... (0+ / 0-)
            I am ignorant of many things myself.
            Ignorance Kills.

            "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

            by indycam on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 09:35:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  This is part of why I've stopped trying to dial (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            back the crazy in their diaries.  They are pretty much the only ones reading them and trying to present reality-based arguments is pointless.  The Voltaire quote about not being able to reason people out of positions they weren't reasoned into comes into play heavily.  But then, they have a "respected scientist" egging them on, oh Joy oh Joy!

            Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

            by kbman on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 10:20:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Mercury from coal power makes fish toxic (11+ / 0-)

      The concentrations of mercury in sea water seem low because of the enormous amount of dilution, but bioconcentration up the food chain makes fish on the top of the chain, like shark and swordfish, toxic to humans if eaten regularly. Fortunately, cesium strongly adsorbs onto clay minerals so only waters local to Fukushima are likely to be dangerous.

      The Fukushima situation is bad but it pales to the effects of burning coal. We burn so much carbon that the oceans are acidifying.

      look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 06:17:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks (5+ / 0-)

    Lots of people forget just how bad a dam failure can be. And systems like molten salt storage of heat for off-duty power generation from solar mean huge vats of red hot molten salt need to be stored. Yeah, nothing could possibly ever go wrong with that. I wonder, will all those humorous cartoons about "sunshine spills" be retracted when thousands of meters of molten salt explode out of the ground because someone screwed up and a leak of water got in and the steam pressure built until it was explosive? Yeah. I didn't think so.

    Energy == Potential for danger. Any energy that is stored is energy that can be released and if it is released rapidly then you don't want to be anywhere nearby.

    In the end it comes down to choices and those choices shouldn't be made out of fear and ignorance.

    Modern Conservatism isn't simply about them owning as much as possible; it's also about breaking anything they can't own.

    by ontheleftcoast on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 05:52:08 PM PDT

  •  I would like to see your analysis of fracking (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erratic, gzodik, ontheleftcoast

    Fracking is a great way to contaminate water with uranium, radium & short lived uranium daughters. It also releases radon to the air.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 06:08:47 PM PDT

  •  wow TWO Kong options in the poll? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erush1345, raoul78

    I am overcome with joy

    PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

    by RumsfeldResign on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 06:31:00 PM PDT

  •  Always great to see the numbers. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NNadir, bryfry

    I've "seen" the K-40 that I contain, having had yearly whole body counts during my nuclear material safeguards career. It was the only peak visible in the spectrum, or the only one they were zoomed in on at any rate. Sodium iodide detector about the size of a hubcap. Remember hubcaps?

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 07:11:33 PM PDT

  •  15 poll choices...and no pie? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gzodik, NNadir, raoul78, bryfry

    I'm reccing this diary because I appreciate the scientific approach you've taken; I'd like to see a similar analysis for what you think the short-term local impact might be (i.e., how much additional radiation has been added if you assume it's all within a 50-mile radius of the plant, in water much shallower than the ocean overall?)

    I almost withheld my rec due to the overall combative tone (and I understand the history behind it) It's a shame, because fact-based analysis like this around here is too rare. It would be nice if we could get more of it, AND have it lead to thoughtful discussions rather than rekindling ongoing flame wars.

    At the very least, you made me go learn about Banquiao, of which I had been only passingly aware.  So thanks for the diary.

    •  In general, all of my diaries are extremely (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raoul78, bryfry, Jim M


      It's my style.    I really don't feel any compunction to be nice about any of this, and the reason for that is fully expressed in my sig line.

      I'm pretty pissed off, mostly because I know about that of which I speak.

      Nuclear energy need not be perfect, it need not be risk free, nor does it need to show that it can provide everyone in the Western world with a totally comfortable conservative lifestyle to be vastly superior to everything else.

      It is absurd to discuss what is going on in the 50 mile radius of Fukushima after a severe natural disaster when in fact, 5,000 people die each day from the normal operations of fossil fuel plants.

      World Health Organization:  Deaths from Air Pollution.

      But thanks for the rec.   In the spirit of the moment, I'll return the favor.

      •  So when you say that (0+ / 0-)
        the decay of potassium-40 in the Earth's oceans represents 1.3 billion megawatts, which is roughly the power output of 4,400 nuclear power plants of average size

        you neglect the necessary qualifier if you want this analogy to work. Is that 1.3 billion megawatts per year? Are those 4,400 nukes be putting out that much every year?

        IOW, what is your time scale and are these equivalent?

        •  Joieau ! (0+ / 0-)

          Whoops- watts is already per time. Disgusted as  I may be with affectations like "39.9639987 grams" I think NN got his dimensions right. We all get these brain farts at times.

          Michael Weissman UID 197542

          by docmidwest on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 09:23:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You don't get real time watts (0+ / 0-)

            (work) from radioactive decay, and Nadir has in no way established that 1.3 billion megawatts of real time decay of potassium in the oceans is occurring every fraction of every second of every minute of every day.

            But hey. If we've got billions of megawatts being generated all around us all the time, what the hell do we need nukes for? We could just plug in to the ocean - water's an excellent conductor, and it's already salt-cooled!

        •  The difference between power and energy is one (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          of the most telling sources of confusion among anti-nukes.

          Basically it tells one all one needs to know about them.

          Many of them know very, very, very, very, very little about physics, and thus make statements about "watts" in connection with wind and solar plants, where they are actually referring to "peak watts" and not continuous average power.

          Most nuclear plants in this country operate at close to 90% of capacity utilization, and thus peak power is very close to average continuous power.    

          A solar plant that reaches 1000 watts for two minutes is not the equivalent of any other kind of power plant that operates continuously.

          The capacity utilization of solar plants is very lucky to reach 15%.     I reported here the online figures for an American solar facility at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Massachusetts and showed that it was 10%

          The unit I used in referring to power from nuclear plants, and implied average power and not peak power.

          In the case of potassium, it is continuous power, since it is not possible to cause potassium-40's decay to stop.

          •  Oh, the punch line (0+ / 0-)

            is the sig line.

            Check it out. Joy is trying to sell a book that she co-authored, which was published through an author-mill, on ... (wait for it) ... health physics.

            Now, I've seen everything.

            An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
            -- H. L. Mencken

            by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 04:19:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Busey? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I haven't had the occassion to encounter any of her stupidity in recent years.

              It's just as well, since she's such a twit that she makes my blood boil.

              Is she still rototilling national forests to make yuppie McMansions where she can feel all "natural?"

              I'm sure any book from her involving physics would read like a treatise from Pat Robertson on the origin of life.

              These people, Wasserman, Busey and the rest are quite simply the intellectual equivalents of creationists, except that creationists don't actually cause as many deaths as they do.

  •  Bludgeoning with irrelevant sig figs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and off-topic excursions is a terrible way to present science, whether or not policy issues are involved. Contrast with, e.g. McKay, who makes every effort to bring the reader in to understand the science at a consistent and relevant level of accuracy.

    Michael Weissman UID 197542

    by docmidwest on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 07:55:12 PM PDT

    •  To each his own. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bryfry, gzodik

      My favorite science writer of all time was Isaac Asimov who routinely started his science essays with irrelevant personal anecdotes.

      •  It ain't the personal (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, Mindmover, greycat, ovals49

        part I object to. It's the elaborate technical blather to do something like estimate the total volume of the oceans. You could either just give the number, or explain how anybody should be able to guess it to within a factor of two, all that's needed here. And so on with each stage of this bloated essay. None of that verbiage was meant to promote understanding. It was all intimidation.

        The key point- that there's a lot more natural radioactivity on the oceans than in a few power plants- could be made in a paragraph. Then one could discuss the actual relevant issues- how it's distributed, etc.

        Michael Weissman UID 197542

        by docmidwest on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 08:09:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh please... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bryfry, Roadbed Guy

          Just give the number?


          Intimidation?   Giving references is intimidation?


          There's something wrong with being technical?

          There once was a time that understanding technical arguments was valued in this country.

          You're in the wrong place my friend.   Why don't you just watch some TV?

          •  You're kidding, right? (0+ / 0-)

            You're saying I'm not comfortable with quantitative stuff?

            I'm not comfortable with a certain junior-high style where kids who couldn't do actual math or physics would try to show off.

            Michael Weissman UID 197542

            by docmidwest on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 08:48:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  if you don't agree with NNadir (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NNadir, bryfry, docmidwest

              then you are an ignorant, mass-murdering scientific illiterate because he, um, um, um, uses facts, you know?

              That's just how he rolls...

              Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

              by jam on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 05:28:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's only when I'm in a pleasant mood. (6+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                docmidwest, bryfry, jam, billmosby, gzodik, Mcrab

                I'm much worse when cranky.

              •  The thing is (0+ / 0-)

                I may well agree with him, except for his bizarre attacks on solar. I'm still an ignorant etc. because I criticized his style.

                Michael Weissman UID 197542

                by docmidwest on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 05:39:09 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  There's nothing "bizarre" about it. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Personally, I find the waste exception for solar PV energy to be totally faith based and I think the exception is the only thing that is "bizarre."

                  The only reason the external costs of solar PV energy are missed is that solar energy is a miserable failure as an energy source.    If it were a significant energy source, after 50 years of mindless cheering for it, the external costs would be obvious and the whole world would be up in arms.

                  The waste profile is almost exactly like that of electronic waste (computers, cell phones, etc...) which is, whether anyone acknowledges as much or not, one of the most intractable point source environmental problems on the face of this planet.

                  Point source pollution is always the most difficult type of pollution to manage, and the representation that distributed energy is superior to centralized energy is basically similar to an argument that cars are cleaner than rails, or that coal stoves in houses are superior to coal plants with hundreds of millions of dollars in scrubber equipment.    

                  Now, I favor the banning of coal, oil and gas, but the fact is that if one must burn coal, one needs to be able to afford a scrubber.

        •  some of us are in balance, and as you (0+ / 0-)

          well know some of us need some balance....

          The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

          by Mindmover on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 10:57:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Well, as cited in the diary, somebody (0+ / 0-)

          wrote a 20 page publication on that topic.

          That must have really sent you off the deep end!

    •  Eh ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      I'm missing it. I see only one number that I would guess to be written overly precise. Most numbers in the diary have only two or three SD, which is hardly irrelevant precision.

      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
      -- H. L. Mencken

      by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 03:48:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is basically about a 1 sig fig (0+ / 0-)

        calculation, since there's no real point except to show that natural ocean radiation >> power plant rad. The only interesting point, the comparison with products from fossil fuels, isn't even made quantitatively. So the whole introductory part is about precision and methods about something (ocean volume) where precision and methods are irrelevant. Then 6,371 is used to get 1.08321 , to be multiplied by "about 3". This is bad form. There are excursion into the (irrelevant volume of the earth, when what's used is area. Then we see 136.907, 1,189, 1.227 (unexplained)....
        Then we get the Bateman equation, introduced complete with a discussion of ln(2), but not actually, you know, used.

        You would have to be psychologically tone-deaf to fail to see the close connection between the weird style of the technical presentation and the frequent outbursts of explicit abuse.

        Don't you feel any urge to rewrite this at about 1/3 the length, with more explanatory flow and a friendlier tone?

        Michael Weissman UID 197542

        by docmidwest on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 04:51:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          You managed to find the one figure that I considered to be too precise. The rest are just well-known numbers that have been repeated from standard references. There's nothing wrong with quoting a number from another source to its fullest precision. The point of tracking significant digits is not to "dumb-down" all information to the same imprecise level; it is to avoid fooling yourself that you have calculated something with a higher precision than the inputs merit.

          This is a big difference, pedantry be damned.

          Then we get the Bateman equation, introduced complete with a discussion of ln(2), but not actually, you know, used.

          Sure it's used. It's used as an explanation of the decay constant k. That is, k = T1/2/ln(2). Far more laymen have encountered the concept of half-life, T1/2, than know or understand what a decay constant is. Thus, a little bit of explanation -- in this case, just a definition -- is appropriate.

          You seem to be under the impression that this is some sort of technical paper. It's not. It's a DailyKos diary that just happens to contain a higher-than-average inventory of technical details.

          So, no, I am not going to summarize this as a technical brief. You'll have to do your own homework if you want to get anything from this diary (or feel free to ignore it; I don't care).

          Given your comments so far, I'm not encouraged. I'm afraid that your attention span is showing. I have to agree with the diarist: perhaps you are more comfortable watching some TV.

          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
          -- H. L. Mencken

          by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 05:40:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Make that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            k = ln(2)/T1/2.

            The business of formatting the equation interfered with me noticing that I had switched the numerator and the denominator.

            An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
            -- H. L. Mencken

            by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 05:44:12 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  bryfry- technical question (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              billmosby, bryfry

              Really, no snark. I looked up your old diaries and saw one on modular reactors. That seems a much better idea than the current chaos. The unit you described was light water. Why not D2O? I'm no expert, but doesn't the much better moderation (much less neutron absorption) allow less-enriched fuel? And doesn't that give a better safety margin if there's a loss of moderator/coolant?
              If there are going to be a lot of modules around, it makes sense to do it as well as possible from the start.

              Michael Weissman UID 197542

              by docmidwest on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 06:34:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It allows use of natural uranium, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                depending on the size of the reactor. However, once you have had it running for a while, I think the hazards from lack of cooling etc are about the same.

                I used to be a fan of modular reactors, but one thing they all tended to have in common was that the modules were spaced pretty close together to allow efficient collection of steam (bigger steam turbines tend to be more efficient than a bunch of little ones). So then if you had trouble in a module it could impact the operators' ability to keep the others out of trouble.

                Sorry to jump in, but there's still room for bryfry.

                Moderation in most things.

                by billmosby on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 07:04:33 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I see (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  billmosby, bryfry

                  "However, once you have had it running for a while, I think the hazards from lack of cooling etc are about the same." was what I suspected, but wasn't sure.

                  What's the efficiency loss of using one turbine per module? Could it be tolerated to get more robustness? You'd think, if single-module units are being considered for smaller towns, that the answer would be yes.

                  Michael Weissman UID 197542

                  by docmidwest on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 07:10:28 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't think the efficiency loss is (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    too terrible, probably only a few percent. Of course, building a lot of little turbines costs quite a bit more than building one or a few big ones too. However, there have been proposals by those who developed the Integral Fast Reactor design to use single, downrated modules in just such applications as smaller towns. They are downrated to allow decades of operation without refueling, in other words you take a core that could produce a few hundred megawatts of heat and run it at a lower power output so the fuel doesn't "wear out" so fast. By wear out I mean that its fuel ordinarily has to be taken out of service due to accumulated neutron damage long before it runs out of energy-production capability in that reactor type. The lower the power level per unit fuel, the longer it takes until the fuel needs to come out and be reprocessed or whatever you're going to do with it.

                    Moderation in most things.

                    by billmosby on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 07:17:50 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Answers (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Roadbed Guy
                I looked up your old diaries and saw one on modular reactors. That seems a much better idea than the current chaos.

                There are many people who think so these days. In my diary, I was just reporting the latest news. I'm hopeful that the idea of small modular rectors can get off the ground and make a substantial impact, but I'm not a fanatic. I just want the technology to work, and I'm open to any good ideas, should they pan out.

                The unit you described was light water. Why not D2O? I'm no expert, but doesn't the much better moderation (much less neutron absorption) allow less-enriched fuel?

                Yes, you are correct, and this is why Canada decided to go with their own technology of Heavy Water Reactors (the CANDU's), rather than purchase Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology from the US. The Canadian government realized that it would be easier for them, at the time, to produce heavy water than it would be to enrich uranium, an energy-intensive process, so that's the route they took. The CANDU design had other advantages for the Canadian infrastructure of the day as well, such as not requiring large forgings for a pressure vessel.

                It is a clever design, but as with all engineering efforts, there are tradeoffs. Compared to the light water reactor, Canada's heavy water reactor has certain advantages and certain disadvantages. I can't say that one is clearly superior to the other.

                And doesn't that give a better safety margin if there's a loss of moderator/coolant?

                Well, one of the disadvantages of the CANDU design is that most of the moderator is held in the calandria (a separate vessel). Thus, if you lose coolant, the moderator stays put, unlike a LWR, where the coolant is the moderator, so if you lose one, you lose both.

                If there are going to be a lot of modules around, it makes sense to do it as well as possible from the start.

                Well, that's one of the things that the designers of SMR's need to work out: what is the best way to cluster these modules to build a substantial power plant if that's what's wanted? There are people working on this today.

                An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                -- H. L. Mencken

                by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 07:36:16 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  There's nothing wrong with carrying (0+ / 0-)

            out calculations with whatever precision you like. If you have a situation where somebody cares about the precision of the result, you can then state what it is, round it properly at the end, present it graphically, whatever.

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 06:32:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not just the pretentious sig figs (0+ / 0-)

              the whole style of the presentation is to hit people over the head, relevance be damned. E.g. the long discursion on that great technical mystery, calculating the ocean volume. E.g. the calculation of the total power from radioactive K. It sounds sort of relevant, in the same way that climate deniers' discussions of how CO2 is a just a trace gas sound sort of relevant, if you forget what the actual topic is.

               Real technical discussions are great. Real popular distillations are great. This isn't either.

              Michael Weissman UID 197542

              by docmidwest on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 06:44:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Would you let your kids go for a swim (0+ / 0-)

    off Fukushima today ?

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 10:12:51 PM PDT

    •  Probably not safe (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, gzodik

      Considering that beaches are typically closed if it is discovered that someone has dumped a little bit of trash nearby, I can only imagine the condition of the water after the contents of thousands of households (including the various chemicals that we all have stored in our homes) have been washed into the sea. Nine out of ten houses in nearby Futaba were destroyed by the tsunami.

      I'm sure that much of the sewer system in the area was wrecked as well. That stuff has to go somewhere. Then there is the oil, petroleum, and battery acid that was in the cars that were destroyed, and who knows what nearby industrial facilities were hit, with who knows what hazardous materials inside that were washed out to sea.

      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
      -- H. L. Mencken

      by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 03:57:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This diary is about radiation in seawater . (0+ / 0-)

        My question was about radiation in seawater .
        Your answer was not .

        "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

        by indycam on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 09:04:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your question was stupid (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Phrase it better next time. Trying to ignoring the giant tsunami that caused an enormous amount of damage is just foolish.

          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
          -- H. L. Mencken

          by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 09:48:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There is nothing wrong with my question . (0+ / 0-)
            Trying to ignoring the giant tsunami that caused an enormous amount of damage is just foolish.
            That's a very interesting statement , unfortunately its got nothing to do with this diary or my question . Try to stay on topic .  

            "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

            by indycam on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 09:57:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  This is just my advice, and you can do what you (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bryfry, polecat

            want, but it may be a better approach to just ignore this guy or gal or hermaphodite.

            It's become something of an obsession with him to whine in my diaries, and basically it ends up being clutter.

            He has not a single intelligent thing to say, and there's nothing to be gained by engaging him.

            •  Thanks for the advice (0+ / 0-)

              You're right, and that's what I usually do.

              Sometimes, however, I can't resist the urge to string he/she/it along. A bad habit, I know, but it still amazes me the someone can continue make themselves look so foolish.

              Sorry about the clutter.

              An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
              -- H. L. Mencken

              by bryfry on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 01:02:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not a problem, really. In at least one of these (0+ / 0-)

                exchanges you made some good points that would be well made in another context but the fact is that the guy/gal/it is not overly bright.

                As a rather cranky person, I do understand, but it seems like every diary the guy/gal/it comes here to work out personal problems.

                •  Now, if we had a bar setup, I'd say give 'em (0+ / 0-)

                  a drink and put 'em in the corner. :)

                  I do think we should come up with our own brand of hot sauce and call it Fukushima.  But that form of graveyard humor may be lost in certain circles.

                  Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
                  I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
                  -Spike Milligan

                  by polecat on Fri Jul 08, 2011 at 07:24:51 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Since radioactivity is a natural phenomenon, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryfry, NNadir

    it must be good and more of it must be better. Are you sure you're not a closeted fuzzy headed hippie?

    Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. - Mark Twain

    by the fan man on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 04:20:15 AM PDT

    •  It's much like sunlight (btw, another form of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      radiation) . . . .  which kills alot of people, yet a whole lot of other people survive mild amounts of exposure.

      A few even seek it out, strangely enough, considering it's deadly effects.

      •  I'm with you on dat. As far as sunlight, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        many people are limiting exposure to the extent that vitamin D is now regularly prescribed by doctors. Skin cancer is no joke, people have gotten the message. Unnecessary exposure to radiation is not good.

        Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. - Mark Twain

        by the fan man on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 07:06:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Of course, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          the fan man

          too much vitamin D can be bad for you too!

          The point being, pretty much anything is toxic if you get too much, but OK (and even beneficial) if you get the correct amount . . . .

          •  Now I'm off the roadbed. I know, water (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy

            can kill.

            Arsenic is not good for you in any amount, but depending on where you live, it's in your drinking water and in most commercial chickens (much more in commercial chicken poop). Not enough to get us sick, but it's not doing anything good as far as we can tell, even though the mythical arsenic eaters of Turkey claim long lives by ingesting copious amounts. Same with mercury, lead, thallium and a few other heavy metals and metalloids. I'll throw in plutonium, cesium, strontium and uranium in there. Our bodies have mechanisms to cope with dna damage, but we live in a very polluted world. We've been witnessing illness from our industrial way of life for decades. Maybe what we could handle a long time ago no longer applies.

            By the way, what do you think of TWR technology by Terrapower? Seems very interesting.

            Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. - Mark Twain

            by the fan man on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 09:17:27 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Some blame things like plutonium (0+ / 0-)

              for human ailments - for example, the ancestral burden in the human body (~100,000 plutoniums) increase to about 1 billion upon contamination of the atmosphere during cold war weapons testing.

              But, if I had to assign causes for poor human health of late, I'd bet it would be much less due to toxic metals than to stuff like PAH from fossil fuels and shit we willingly ingest in huge quantities (HFCS, for example . . . .).

              •  Oh noes, HFCS! When I was a young man, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Roadbed Guy

                white sugar was teh evil. Now it's HFSC. If you had said tobacco use I'd agree. Arsenic is a potent carcinogen, also used in cancer treatments. Go figure. The other heavy metals more associated with neurological issues. Yes, now it's organic chemicals, animal fat from animals fed shit and yes, ODing on sugar. Too bad cancer doesn't come with little tags of origin. Radioactive elements are considered EPA Group A substances: Carcinogenic to humans.

                Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. - Mark Twain

                by the fan man on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 12:14:18 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I just mosey'ed over and perused the (0+ / 0-)

                  list of things that are "Carcinogenic to humans"

                  it includes

                  Chinese style salted fish
                  wood dust
                  alcholic beverages
                  coal, indoor emmisions from combustion

                  Scary, scary stuff!

                  Yet, only about 1/3rd of us get cancer . . .. .

                  The ramp up to similar numbers of us getting metabolic disease/diabetes/obesity is well under way.

                  Can you explain that?  Well, if you read the research papers that have come out over the past few months about HFCS, they really are quite damning.

                  •  Dont' forget lutefisk. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Roadbed Guy

                    I'm quite sure that lutefisk is carcinogenic.

                  •  The EPA is regulating Chinese salted fish? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    I dare say getting cancer from alcohol is a hell of a lot more fun than getting it from wood dust, coal, radioactive particles, and indoor pollution, It's also, like Chinese salt fish, something you can decide to avoid. If you want to put radiation on the safer end of involuntarily ingested carcinogens, you may. There's some good evidence to support your position.

                    You're a smart guy, studies of white sugar consumption show the same, almost identical metabolic disease promotion. (Yes, fructose is handled differently by your body. We don't guzzle a 32oz oj with a hamburger, and if we did, you'd see even more pronounced effects.) I think most of the negative effects from HFCS epidemiologically is better explained through the increase in beverage size and overall sugar consumption over the years.  If beverage manufacturers switched to white sugar tomorrow, we'd still have the same metabolic disease epidemic on our hands. It's more the quantity than the substance itself, in my and more than few medical researcher's opinion.

                    Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. - Mark Twain

                    by the fan man on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 01:03:08 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Comparing sucrose with HFCS, if the (0+ / 0-)

                      former were still used even in the same quantity, at least these problems would be progressing 22.2% slower than they currently are.

                      It might not be much, but it'd be * something * !

                      •  Sucrose is 50% fructose, HFCS is 55%. Sure it (0+ / 0-)

                        takes a little energy to break the bonds to convert to monosaccharides, how do you figure 22.2% difference? That's pretty precise. Like Ivory soap 99.9% pure. It floats!

                        Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. - Mark Twain

                        by the fan man on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 03:07:07 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  The amount of fructose to glucose in sucrose (0+ / 0-)

                          is 100% (50/50 x 100%).

                          In HFCS it is 122.2222222(add 2's to infinity)% (55/45 x 100%).

                          Then subtracting 100 from 122.2 (note the restrained use of decimal points) you get that HFCS is 22.2% worse.

                          It's not really rocket science.

                          •  Again, it's quantity. 5 grams a day isn't a (0+ / 0-)

                            big deal. 50 or 500 is. The precision of your calc is swamped by the bigger picture. We can handle small amounts, not glugging 7-11 mega slurpies.

                            Same for radioactive nucleotides, no? Dose is relevant in both cases.

                            Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. - Mark Twain

                            by the fan man on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 04:25:09 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

              •  Actually life expectancy is higher now (0+ / 0-)

                than it has been through most of history.

                This is subject to change of course, but it is worth noting.

                In many countries, including Japan, the high life expectancy is something of a social problem, because in effect, the young employed must support more and more retirees.

  •  The energy given off by the decaing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    potassium was a reference item to show how much there is, it's total energy signature, decay rate, etc. It was not pointing to harvesting such a diffuse energy source (unlike, say, those that want to harness solar energy). The fact that solar energy is "all around" us is equally irrelevant to this diary.

    Modular rectors. What are you talking about? Are you talking about SMALL Modular Reactors (SMRs)? Or modularly build reactors (AP1000).

    The idea is that SMRs are cheaper not more expensive because they can be built assembly-like in the way air planes of all types are built: in factories, thus "cheaper". I have my doubts about this as the point of SMR is that they are small not that they are "modular". They can be placed, or 'dropped' anywhere in underground vaults and put out 30 to 300 MWs with no human operators necessarily being onsite.

    The AP1000 is built with 234 distinct modules, some produced in ship yards, some in factories, all assembled in a standard fashion. The idea here is that the price of both manufacture of the component modules and the assembly of the plant come down as humans learn the techniques of building standardized modular reactors. Watch China as they building dozen of thee.


    Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

    by davidwalters on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 11:12:34 AM PDT

  •  re: Cesium and Fukushima (0+ / 0-)

    The point isn't that radiation is bad, "oh noes!" but rather how F'ing STUPID the idiots at TEPCO are, and that the leakage is ongoing.

    As you well know, I'm in favor of nuclear power -- we MUST stop dumping CO2 into the atmosphere and ocean and need to drawing down the CO2 that is already there down to pre-industrial levels.

    I'm not, however, in favor of IDIOTS being in charge.  We need real regulation -- regulation with teeth, and designs that are vastly safer than what is in use presently.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    -Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Fri Jul 08, 2011 at 07:22:01 AM PDT

    •  I agree. TEPCO should be 100% nationalized with (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      no compensation and the property and money of their execs confiscated. And that's my lighter solution to them.

      Part of any study of Fukushima is to ask "what happened and how could it of been prevented...what is to be done?"

      1. I think generalized reviews of all world sea-side plants should be initiated with sea-wall defense for 1,000 year tsunami occurrence taken into consideration. I think San Onefre needs a sea wall about 10 meters high at least (they never have had a big tsunami there in geological history but it's a question of peace of mine for the area).

      2. Such a study would reveal any vulnerabilities such as where the of aux. diesel fuel tanks are located. These need to be relocated to a safe elevation and distance behind any plant.(as they did at Diablo Canyon).

      2.2 Diesel pumps and portable diesel water pumps studied for location and hardening.

      3. Extreme hardening of the Decay Heat and Removal System from intake pumps to electrical buss work to switching gear. All waterproofed and hardened.

      4. Rethink all new nuclear power plants at seaside in light of points 1 to 3 above. Begin phase out of older plants for newer safer Gen III reactors. Massive investment in Gen IV.

      That's think out loud the minimum reaction to Fukushima.

      Fix it, not run away from it.

      Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

      by davidwalters on Fri Jul 08, 2011 at 09:08:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  David, somehow your approach surprises (0+ / 0-)

        me not in the lest.

        I will come back to argue with you guys that TEPCO has not done as badly as people think, but I don't have time to make those arguments right now.

        •  I'd love to see how you'd defend them, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but let me get some popcorn ready and maybe some beer so I'm prepared.

          Maybe some darts, too.

          Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
          I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
          -Spike Milligan

          by polecat on Fri Jul 08, 2011 at 11:59:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You know, it's worthy... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...of a diary to itself.

            I actually have an unpublished diary kicking around (written, as usual, in anger) about the "incompetent" engineers who built Fukushima.

            I can clean it up - to the extent I wish to do so - and make it more amusing to touch this point.   I have a cute alliterative phrase with which to mock our Fukushima fetishists, savage maybe, but still cute.

            Formally in my own mind, I am a nihilist now, and believe that humanity deserves what it is going to get, mostly because of the criteria it chooses.

            A good nihilist is not supposed to care about outcomes, but I think - and maybe I should check with more professional nihilists on this point - wallowing in schadenfreud is an acceptable nihilist practice.   (I can't say definitively, because I'm still a nihilist novice noviate, but, um, who cares?.)

            I actually never sat down to formally do the calculations that underpinned the present diary, although I knew intuitively that the result would be similar to that ultimately obtained.  Yet - for sure - I'm quite sure that we have a general public who thinks the only issue with radioactivity in the ocean involves Fukushima, Chernobyl and historical nuclear weapons tests.

            The problem is not with engineers and scientists, including those at Tepco.   The problem is with the public which has an attention span of less than 15 minutes and which chooses to construct dogmatic notions that it perceives as infallible, even though these notions consist entirely of two minute sound bites taped awkwardly and mostly incoherently together.

            In the past ten years, more than 300,000 people died from tsunami related events.   How come nobody ever talks about "nationalizing," say, the Government of Indonesia, where the majority of these deaths took place?

            How is it that the only thing that's important enough to stick in the public mind about tsunamis consists of the involvement of a nuclear plant?

            I will say this, nobody on earth is being judged on the same criteria as the people at Tepco are being judged.

            We've heard very little whining about incompetent dam engineers, very little whining about incompetent architects or builders, very little about the incompetent builders and managers of damaged dangerous fossil fuel pipelines and processing facilities even though more than a quarter of a million people died in the last decade from tsunamis - often with a mechanism involving the listed things - and thus far, none of them died from radiation sickness.

            If ten people do ultimately die of radiation effects connected with Fukushima, the public will act like they, and they alone, are the only people in the whole event that mattered.

            Yeah, for sure, humanity deserves what it is going to get.

            I will probably publish that diary about who and who is not incompetent in all of this, and yes, I plan to be kind to Tepco and will be rude - once again - to the real incompetents.

            Keep that popcorn warm and that beer cold.

            •  I wrote about misguided use of seawalls in Japan (0+ / 0-)

              And how engineers intentionally avoided using historical data that showed 100 foot high tsunamis had hit northern Japan.

              Seawalls provided a false sense of safety. They encouraged building in unsafe areas. Humans have a very hard time dealing with infrequent, high consequence natural hazards.

              TEPCO did crappy geoscience analysis and site selection and design. They also failed to upgrade unit 1 to deal with loss of site power. Unit 1 apparently failed very quickly.

              look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

              by FishOutofWater on Fri Jul 08, 2011 at 07:15:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  See? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                That's exactly what I'm talking about.

                Maybe you still haven't noticed that almost every single death in this recent event, something on the order of 25,000 of them involved "poor site selection."  

                By your logic, the entire coast of Japan should be behind a 100 foot seawall.

                Of course, public fetishes aside, a vanishingly small percentage of these deaths can be attributed to the failure of any of the Fukushima reactors, their used fuel or anything else connected to the reactors.

                But I agree that it "competent" for the fucking Germans to shut their reactors and dump more dangerous fossil fuel waste, with its 100% probability of killing people in normal operations, because the TEPCO engineers and scientists are stupid, evil and much less well informed than bloggers.


                How come you have called for the abandonment of Japan based on your special knowledge, or, for that matter, Seattle?

                Am I correct in assuming that the people who built Seattle are incompetent?

                USGS remarks on Seattle.

                Like I said, more than 300,000 people have died in the last 10 years from tsunamis.   If um, TEPCO, didn't account - allegedly - for 100 foot tsunamis, does that mean everybody else did?

                Thanks foir reminding me yet again that it's all TEPCO's fault that 300,000 people have died in the last 10 years from tsunamis.

                The only thing that matters about these events is that a nuclear plant didn't prove to be 100% risk free in a huge 9.0 earthquake and the resulting tsunami.

                Everything else worked just great and proved totally risk free.

                Am I interpreting you correctly or not?

                •  Here I agree...but... (0+ / 0-)

                  It is not a question of site selection alone (what save Danaii but not Diachi).

                  Several things. First, it is true that had THIS tsunami hit along the Plains of Tokyo, it would be 10 to 1000 times worse in terms of deaths.  But sea wall mitigation can help decrease the height and volume of a tsunami. They should of built them higher and strong than they did. 33 meters? No, not necessary. But a series of interconnecting ones even 15 meters according to my hydrologist friend, would of sufficed to 'break' this tsunami.

                  But even without the seawall, had the siting of the fuel tanks been reasoned wisely, they could of located those tanks behind the reactor building instead of the cheap way out for barge fuel unloading right at the waters edge. We would NOT have been having this discussion. It would of been that simple. But TEPCO only built to what they could get away with with regards to regulations. It seems this was TEPCO's historic way of doing business: do only what was mandated and nothing more.

                  NNadir, I don't have a problem with the staff engineers and certainly not the union workers who handled crisis. But TEPCO has a sorrid and apparently well deserved reputation as the Kerr Mcgee of Japan.

                  I await your diary on this question.


                  Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

                  by davidwalters on Mon Jul 11, 2011 at 10:22:47 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'll be honest here and say that I don't know... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    ...much about Kerr McGee except that it was the subject of a popular conspiracy theory involving Karen Silkwood in the 1970's.

                    Here, by the way, is something of a punchline about Ms. Silkwood's "defective" rods:

                    Karen Silkwood's rods irradiated.

                    It would seem that in spite of Ms. Silkwood's fabled effort to protect humanity from these "defective" rods, based on her two year experience in their manufacture, the rods were irradiated anyway, and exceeded their design performance.

                    I have, I will confess, a rote reaction to what I regard as nuclear exceptionalism, the notion that any short coming in the nuclear industry is inherently worse than a short coming anywhere else, because nuclear is spelled with an "N."

                    The system at Fukushima failed in an unusal natural disaster and by such failures, we learn things.   Whatever the failure may have been, on scale, it is trivial and hardly suggests that the hysteria caused by it is even remotely rational.    The number of dead will not be as large as the number of dead from the Piper Alpha oil platform explosion, but will be discussed ad infinitim, much longer than Piper Alpha was discussed.

                    If Fukushima had never been built, more death and injuries and ecosystem destruction would have resulted from the alternatives, not that anyone would have cared.

                    Thus even with the tsunami destroying it, Fukushima saved lives.

                    Basically I blame the accumulation of used nuclear fuels as something of a shame, particularly because I have a neat design for hot reprocessing that will most likely go nowhere, but mostly because the thing that prevents such reprocessing is ignorance, fear and superstition.

                  •  The TEPCO diary is almost ready, by the way. (0+ / 0-)
                    •  Good, I look forward to it. (0+ / 0-)

                      Karen Silkwood was a union organizer for OCAW, a very progressive union that represented workers in fuel enrichment facilities as well as oil refineries.

                      I believe she was murdered by the Company in question for her union organizing, not for any 'expose' of fault fuel rods.

                      The more interesting question, in part, is that Kerr McGee was part of the rather fake "Atoms for Peace" program and the only true attempt to tie peaceful civilian nuclear energy to the US military's WMD plutonium breeding program by building out a huge number of Breeder Reactors that could supply both forms of Plutonium for WMD and civilian nuclear plants. The fuel Silkwood was working on was for...Fermi I Fast Breeder in Michigan. The partial meltdown of that plant basically ended the whole program.

                      Fast Breeders, then, were not ready for prime-time. Now, they are of course and we will see them built out in Russia and China over the next half decade or so.

                      Back in day, companies like Kerr-McGee were simply arrogant f*cks who didn't care about any, and could get by almost non-existent labor and regulatory rules.

                      NNadir, don't forget to post the blog via the Daily Kos Nuclear Group. You and I are the only posting via this way now, it appears.

                      Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

                      by davidwalters on Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 07:55:01 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Well, I am hardly the judge and jury in this case, (0+ / 0-)

                        nor am I prosecutor or police officer.

                        I really don't know the details, but I don't believe anything I hear about the case from anyone.    

                        I am aware of the technical performance of the rods Kerr-McGee made and I believe the author of the link was motivate by public perceptions of what the case involved.

                        I am aware of the case only inasmuch as I saw the movie, which came out when I was in the anti-nuke camp as I recall.    The movie presented it as a plutonium contamination/defective fuel rods case.

                        I am a fluid phase reactor kind of guy, myself, and all fluid phase people express regret about liquid metal reactor types being developed in lieu of fluid reactors.

                        At least three types of commercial reactors were potentially dual use besides liquid metal breeders, although the choice to use anything, whether it be nuclear materials or oil is a moral question that is not unique to nuclear.   They are CANDUs, Magnox (which were actually used as such) and graphite moderated reactors (which were also used as such.)    Except CANDUs, I'm not fond of any of these reactors.  

                         In theory, and maybe in practice, any of these reactors including LMFBR can be used just as easily for thorium use and for weapons grade plutonium destruction/denaturation.   I rather like the Indian approach to LMFBR's and they have clearly identified the physics approaches to using it to consume plutonium and make U-233.

                        All this said my take on accumulated weapons grade plutonium is that it represents a huge resource and any rational disarmament program would necessarily utilize that resource.  

                        I have not been signed up to the nuclear group and don't really understand how groups work.

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