Daily Fix, March 14

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Today’s Fix is not about politics, but about the quadruple whammy that hit Japan at the end of last week.  First, a massive earthquake (8.9), then a tsunami, followed by a volcano and compounded by multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns has left the world reeling – literally.

*The earthquake that hit early Friday afternoon shifted Japan’s coastline by as much as 13 feet, shifted Earth’s axis 6.5 inches and sped up the rotation by 1.8 microsecond.  Fascinating pictures and explanation can be found here.

*The human toll is expected to top 10,000 and could continue to climb as entire cities are unaccounted for. Compounding the misery, the island nation now faces winter temperatures, no power (and a 2-month wait for the power to come back online) and a serious disruption in the transportation infrastructure which means it’s all the more difficult for food and water to reach the people. Des News

*Tsunami waves hit Japan hard and continued throughout the Pacific. Impact in North America was minimal, but waves as high as 30 feet were recorded in Japan. Be sure to check out the photo essay attached to this D News story.

*The tsunami also spurred a giant whirlpool. Check out the footage.

*Hundreds of people were forced to flee when the Shinmoedake volcano on the southern island of Kyushu began spewing ash and boulders. The explosion from the eruption could be heard miles away and an ash plume extended two miles into the sky. The volcano erupted in January – the first major seismic activity on the mountain in 52 years. Scientists say lava had been building up in recent weeks. Video clip from Business Insider

*Nuclear power plants have been affected, even leaving the uranium fuel rods completely exposed for a time. While everyone takes this seriously, and international scientists say there are serious dangers, there is also little risk of a catastrophe like the 1986 blast in Chernobyl, where there were no containment shells. Yahoo

*So far, 91 countries and 9 international organizations have offered to help. Check out this resource from Digital Journal

*You can also donate through the Red Cross

*Beware of scams, however. According to ComputerWorld, criminals have jumped on Japan’s twin earthquake and tsunami disasters at record speed, security experts said today. Scams range from links to fake anti-virus downloads and phony donation sites to classic online swindles that rely on greed, all within just a few hours of the quake. ComputerWorld

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14 Responses to “Daily Fix, March 14”

  1. Tim Says:

    As terrible as Japan has it now I think Utah is suffering there own “whirlpool”. No disrespect but I think a follow up on HB477 is in order, the blog over “grama got run over by a rain deer” is just not being responded too

  2. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    Also in reference to Chernobyl, The reason Chernobyl exploded in the fashion it did is due to its moderator(that is a material used to absorb excess radiation to control the nuclear fission process) being made of a material that becomes explosive when super heated.

    The actual Chernobyl accident occurred during an experiment to attempt to see how high they could take the reaction at the reactor, the explosion was actually the moderator exploding not a super critical event in the reactor fuel.

    Chernobyl had no passive safety technology’s, no backup cooling system, and no containment dome.

    I worry the Japanese reactors will set back the American nuclear industry another 40 years. Nuclear is one of the best choices for baseload capacity in the quest to move away from coal/oil sources of energy. And Gen 3 or new nuclear technology’s are very safe, and with IFR or similar reactor designs waste is much less of a problem then it once was.

  3. John Says:

    I won’t equate a House bill to 10,000 people dying.

    I do think the Japanese reactors will set back American nuclear power back decades. I’ve already seen my share of articles around the web on how crazy it would be to build more plants in light of what’s happened.

  4. rmwarnick Says:

    The nuclear power industry couldn’t’ exist without massive taxpayer subsidies. For example, because nuclear plants are un-insurable by the private sector, the costs of any accidents are paid by us. Now the push is on to re-license power plants that are already past their planned lifetimes, and allow them to run at 120 percent of their design capacity. What could possibly go wrong?

  5. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    “The nuclear power industry couldn’t’ exist without massive taxpayer subsidies.”

    I wonder about that, Coal/Oil receive huge amounts of subsides as well. If one where to compare the amount of subside per watt hour of power generated which would be higher.

    I also wonder about cost in human life per watt hour generated, between coal mine collapses, and oil rig explosions, clearly the fossil fuels have a great cost on this front as well.

  6. Pops Says:

    rmwarnick seems to think nothing could exist without massive taxpayer subsidies. That’s certainly true of wind and solar, but not so much with nuclear.

  7. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    The subsides wind and solar receive are nothing compared to coal/oil, nuclear, hydro etc. Much of our nuclear tech was born out of the cold war price/(to some extent lives) is no object in defeat’en them commie *&%#$%eds is priority one days, Hard to beat that subsidy =p

    Solar is still relatively new tech, material science is still infantile in this area and has great potential and deserves equal treatment(money wise) from the government. Solar is great tech for that mid day spike in usage on them hot summer days, Useful in space applications, expensive to reach off grid locations, portable applications, emergency backup, etc etc etc.

    Photovoltaic cells, molten salt mirror solar, are plenty worthy of subsides to encourage industry to further develop these techs.

  8. Pops Says:

    The underlying fundamental problem with solar is energy density. At 15 watts per square foot, a gigawatt would require almost 5 square miles. Factor in current efficiencies and the fact that the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours per day and we’re easily up to 50 square miles for 1 gigawatt. Multiply that by 1000 to equal current “non-green” nameplate capacity and we’re talking about some real estate – which state would you like to sacrifice? The environmental impact would be devastating.

    I don’t have a problem with subsidizing research, but subsidizing the deployment of windmills and solar panels doesn’t qualify. That isn’t research.

    I have a problem with claims that nuclear is subsidized more than wind and solar, and that so-called fossil fuels are subsidized with the implication they wouldn’t be profitable if not for the subsidies. That’s absurd. If it were true, every gallon of gasoline burned would make us poorer. Our net wealth by now would be negative gazillions of dollars. You need to explain how it is that by burning fossil fuels we have become wealthier rather than poorer. The industrial revolution couldn’t have happened.

  9. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    Never said fossil fuels wouldn’t be profitable without subsidizes, but we can’t just count direct subsidy via direct cash payment or the tax system, We also have to consider all of the indirect subsidy that fossil fuels get.

    The extra-legal liability caps, all of the corporations that are conveniently pushed into bankruptcy the moment the mine/well whatever runs out leaving the tax payers with thousands of superfund sites. To say nothing about the fact that their is an entire political party that will run to their aid on the beck and call.

    Every time their is a death that could be prevented by better regulations or just by enforcing the ones already in place, that is a subsidy. The Bush white house was a disaster for mine/well regulations, government collecting royalties for the use of public lands.

    If we add the costs shifted onto the public from the quality of the air/water as related to health then we find another subsidy as the fossil fuel industries don’t pay for that either.

    Nuclear has the benefit of everything we learned during the Manhattan project. The tech developed here for separating the different isotopes of uranium is a subsidy without match or equal(money wise).

    On solar, I don’t expect solar to replace baseline capacity, And I think molten salt solar is more practical for mass generation of power, either way their needs to be a few deployments just to understand the use better.

    Really I think we should be pushing 3rd generation nuclear reactor’s out to replace our baseline production, Transmission is also a place where we can improve the situation with a national supergrid(use of super conductor transmission cables). Rather then continuing to maintain the rural electrical grid use solar and wind where possible as replacements, only maintaining the grid where cost effective todo so vs. the cost of maintenance of the power poles to get their.

  10. Pops Says:

    So what is the subsidy per gallon of gasoline?

    You could avoid all the subsidy nonsense by looking at the EROI (Energy Return On Investment), which is a look at how much energy it takes to build and operate a facility compared to the energy it provides over its lifetime. Solar and wind fare poorly by this measure.

    The Bush white house was a disaster…

    And I’m sure it’s all changed under Obama. Or not. It’s hard to trust anything written by someone who feels a need to inject politics into everything. There’s sure to be spin lurking somewhere.

  11. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    “The Bush white house was a disaster…”

    I clearly limited the scope of that statement to one particular area, But you are correct Obama is no winner either. Both are lobbyest sellouts, we need another FDR or Eisenhower.

    “EROI (Energy Return On Investment)….”

    Again I stated a clear scope for the development of solar and wind(which really isn’t that bad), if it takes 400 power poles to reach some farm out in the boonies one would think it would be cheaper to simply subsidize some solar cells, gas generator/battery backup system to that location instead.

    And we still haven’t addressed many of the backdoor subsidies I point out above. These are not addressed in any EROI numbers I have seen, They are either left out entirely(by conservatives) or are exaggerated to stupidity(by liberals). And to point them out is not injecting politics into “everything”, it is a perfectly valid issue to be addressed.

  12. Pops Says:

    “Injecting politics” is blaming Bush for everything.

    The problem with being diverted into talking about subsidies is that the waters are easily muddied. So, what constitutes a subsidy? Perhaps armed forces fighting in Afghanistan, for all I know.

    EROI tells you whether a technology will destroy your investment or give you a chance for a positive return. Of course government can always step in and ensure that any investment will be a loser, similar to what has been done to nuclear power with massive over-regulation. (What other industry has been regulated to the point that no deaths have occurred in the last 50 years?)

    What government cannot do is turn a negative investment positive – they can only create the illusion that it is positive, which then motivates investors to dump perfectly good money down the black hole they’ve created, which is what solar and wind energy are with today’s technology.

  13. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    ““Injecting politics” is blaming Bush for everything.”

    Hardly, The Massey mine disaster and deep horizon well disaster and numeras other cases involving the lose of life or damage to the environment can all be directly linked to regulatory capture and deregulation that was allowed and directly promoted by the Bush Whitehouse.

    These are industries that have deep corruption problems, Massey and other mine companies coordinate their safety violation appeals to file them all at the same time as to overload the court system making them unable to enforce regulations, or preventing workers from doing safety related construction projections(this action directly resulting in the deaths of 26 mine workers).

    “The problem with being diverted into talking about subsidies is that the waters are easily muddied.”

    No, No its not. These are industries(coal/oil) that enjoy extra legal protections, $75 million dollar liability cap, all kinds of industry bought legal complexity that makes it hard to impossible to sue them for damage to health or property. The people in Colorado and Pennsylvania that have flammable tap water and ruined property values will never be compensated from natural gas fracking, or the tax payers on the hook for hundreds of mine tilling ponds of now defunked mine corporations.

    “EROI tells you whether a technology will destroy your investment or give you a chance for a positive return.”

    No, EROI is tells whether or not SHARE HOLDERS will have a positive rate of return, it says **** it to the tax payers, local property owners, government, future generations, down winders, the environment, or any other obligations that corporation makes to secure profits.

    “What government cannot do is turn a negative investment positive – they can only create the illusion that it is positive,”

    This is not entirely true, Private corps often can’t obtain funding for projects that large overtime returns, something that takes more then 3 years to start returning a profit is considered unworthy of investment without regard to the quality of that option. This is one of the issues dogging nuclear power, this is an issue with Wind power generation. Their is absolutely nothing wrong with government using a subsidy and tax return to take some of the hit out of the buy-in in order to get the private market to invest. I don’t want to see continuing subsidies but as has been used with existing wind and solar infrastructure one time subsidies to get something off the ground is a good idea.

    “similar to what has been done to nuclear power with massive over-regulation. “

    I disagree, but only to a small extent, nuclear power’s problem more relates to public perceptions, cost to insure a plant, massive problems over opening a national waste repository(related to public perception problem), public miss-perceptions of nuclear waste recycling, cost related timescale on ROI, and lastly government regulation.

    For the most part nuclear technology wasn’t really well enough developed until the last 10 years or so, and most of the gen 3/4 reactor designs, passive cooling tech, fuel runaway prevention spacers/coatings, alternative fuel cycles, fast neutron reactors, electro static radiation shielding really haven’t been given a good once over and fair chance(yet).

    I think the USA should rejoin the ITER project, nuclear fusion is much more interesting then nuclear fission. But that is another 10-20years off so nuclear will do fine in the mean time.

  14. Pops Says:

    You don’t get it.

    No, EROI is tells whether or not SHARE HOLDERS will have a positive rate of return…

    EROI is about the laws of physics. Forget the political crap.

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