nuclear power allows for no human errors

nuclear power allows for no human errors

As the crippled and severely damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan appear in the news from time to time, I thought we would address the issue of nuclear power in an essay.

Why does this matter?  For 2 reasons.  First, the radiation released at Fukushima travels through the atmosphere and the ocean so that it is a health threat far beyond Japan. Secondly, today there are nuclear reactors in many industrial countries that pose similar risks to human health as such technology is not safe.  (Such health risks and threats include increased incidence of cancers, birth defects, contamination of the food we consume, possible genetic mutations, and for people living near to large radiation releases, acute radiation poisoning and death.)

There are websites that are more closely monitoring the developments at Fukushima.  The public, both in Japan and internationally, has not been told all the facts of the current situation.  The remaining risks of further large releases of radiation are quite real and serious.  These crippled reactors, in damaged buildings, are still located in an area that is prone to earthquakes.  To date, the cleanup and/or effective containment of the radioactive reactor cores, fuel rods, and radioactive water (used as coolant) has not been completed, nor even progressed very far.  Tokyo Electric Power still seems to be taking a wait and see attitude, and is not moving aggressively to prevent further releases of radiation.  From some reports, radioactive water from the nuclear complex is leaking into the sea each day.

Despite nuclear power industry assurances as to safety, nuclear power is inherently dangerous.  This is just the nature of the beast, so to speak.  The fission by-products that are various radioactive isotopes of Iodine, Cesium and Strontium decay and are damaging to life – human, animal, and plant.  Yet, because of the oil price shocks of the 1970s (1973-4, and 1979), a few countries built many nuclear power generation plants (France, Japan, and the US).

When dealing with such a dangerous activity (nuclear fission), there is no margin for human error.  Human error in the design of the plant at Fukushima may be partly (even largely) to blame for the disaster.  As well, human error occurs in the response to an emergency.  Even with extensive training of plant operators, safety drills, hours spent in simulators (of the plant’s control room), extensive safety procedures, and the presence of backup cooling systems with backup power sources to run them, we cannot guarantee that a person, or persons, during a crisis will respond correctly in the critical moments.  At Fukushima, it appears that Tokyo Electric Power personnel did not move quickly in the early hours of the crisis (March, 2011) to restore cooling to the various reactors (which stay hot because of decay heat even when fission has stopped).  We cannot eliminate the possibility of human error causing or contributing to a nuclear plant crisis or “accident”.  This is true at all the world’s nuclear facilities.

Nuclear plant accidents may so far have been infrequent, but when these occur, the effects can be very harmful to health and be very widespread.  Fallout from Fukushima did make it to North America by the prevailing winds in the northern hemisphere.  Air borne fallout from Chernobyl (1986) came down on eastern Europe and Scandinavia.  Also, troubling is the nuclear “waste” that is residing at the 100 or so nuclear reactors in the US.  Originally, this was to be transported to Yucca Mountain in Nevada for secure long-term underground storage, but this has not happened and does not appear likely to happen.  Thus, radioactive spent fuel is sitting in pools of water around the country and poses a risk of being released to the environment.

Taking a step back, and taking a broader perspective, we question the wisdom of producing electricity by splitting uranium atoms.  Fission produces heat that is used to boil water to make steam that then turns turbines (electromagnetic induction).  (The reactor cooling water is not what turns turbines, the process has other steps so that clean water is boiled.) Fossil fuels are much safer to burn to generate heat and boil water for electric energy production.

So-called man-made global warming has been debunked now.  (Only ecological and big government fanatics still cling to this idea.  Oh, and a misinformed public.)  While the world seeks to develop safe and economically viable alternative energy sources (which may be decades away), we ought to move away from nuclear power and use fossil fuels.  The US alone has a few centuries worth of electric power generation in its natural gas and coal reserves.  These can be used with appropriate pollution control technology that is here with us now.

A final thought on Fukushima.  At the time of its construction (in the 1970s), it was known that the eastern coast of Japan was much more seismically active than its western coast. Such nuclear facilities could have been built on the western coast of the country.  This might have necessitated constructing more miles of electric transmission lines to deliver the electricity, but that would have been a small price to pay for reducing the risks of a major plant accident.

Thanks for reading.

US: it is time to disengage from the middle east

US: it is time to disengage from the middle east

Dear readers, there is a need to present this “controversial” even “incendiary” essay.  In a world of so much misinformation and disinformation, what is a person to do?

We are rarely short of opinions here at larrysmusings (no joking), but we at least do try to make sure the opinions are well-informed, before we offer them to the blogosphere.

The below pic is of one source of our opinions.


aku aku 3


Today, we assert that it is time for the United States to rethink its policy in the Middle East, and urge that it disengage from this historically troubled, volatile and unstable region.

There are 3 reasons why the US is mired in the morass of the Middle East.  1. Oil.  2. Israel.  3. The so-called war on terror.  Let’s address these in turn after a little history of the region.  (This may get a bit long, but this is necessary to do justice to the importance of the issues raised.  Junior high and high school students can draw inspiration for term papers from the below paragraphs.)

Even before the fall of Sumer (circa 2,000 B.C.), Mesopotamia (and other nearby countries) was a region of petty, warring states and numerous tribes that fought each other over the region’s meager resources.  Thus, the age-old hatreds and antagonisms predate the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  It has been rare when a power from outside the region has been able to pacify this region.  Since the rise of Islam, I believe the only non-Muslim power to effectively do so was the Mongols in the 13th century under first Chingis (aka Genghis) Khan and then later, his grandson, Hulagu.  (The Ottoman Turks were converts to Islam prior to their successful conquest of the region and of northernmost Africa.)  The Mongols to pacify the region nearly depopulated several cities and even some entire provinces.  (Baghdad was destroyed in 1258 by Hulagu’s forces.)That is what it took.  The Middle East has not been a peaceful region these past 4 millenia.


Although the US gets much of its imported oil from sources geographically closer to its borders (thereby reducing transport times and costs), such as Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria, some oil is coming into the country from the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf.

Unlike Europe and Japan, the US has enormous energy reserves both in the contiguous 48 states and in Alaska that could be exploited (a dirty word?) or developed.  Such development would greatly reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil regardless of source.  As well, increasing domestic US energy production would effectively increase the daily supply of oil on world markets and thereby lower the cost of oil for everyone in the world.  Note: All the energy consumers in the world would benefit if America would make use of what it already has.

There are 2 principal reasons this development is not taking place anywhere near to the extent that it could.  First, the federal government, especially under President Obama, is greatly restricting such development on those federal lands where it is known there are significant reservoirs of oil.  The federal land leases that are being approved, Nancy Pelosi, are in areas where there is little if any oil or natural gas.  Ms. Pelosi misrepresented the situation when she was Speaker of the House of Representatives, as Obama currently does.  This is purposeful policy by Obama and his Interior Department.

Second, thanks to bills signed by President Richard Nixon the environmental regulations in the US were greatly increased.  This is not a bad thing per se.  The Clean Air Act of 1970 was good.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established by Nixon in 1970 (by executive order).  In recent years, however, the EPA has gotten completely out of control.  It now attempts to regulate the so-called greenhouse gases of water vapor, and carbon dioxide (you, dear readers, are producing and emitting carbon dioxide with each exhalation from your lungs).  The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, signed by Nixon, required environmental impact studies.  All of this legislative and executive activity in Washington led to the environmental groups having “legal standing” to challenge any and all development in the courts.  And, these groups do challenge any and all development of natural resources.  These groups, more accurately described as “eco-fanatics”, do not believe in the possibility of environmentally responsible development of natural resources.  These folks either reject, or are ignorant of, the very old concepts of conservation and stewardship.  (Yes, we did an essay on this back in late June during the heady days when we were knocking out an average of 2 essays each day.)

The fact remains that the US is literally sitting atop some of the world’s largest known reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal.  Many of these resources can be developed in an environmentally responsible way given current technology.  (We oppose the further development of nuclear power.  See our essay from June, 2012, on Fukushima.)  If fracking for natural gas is bad for the below ground aquifers (much current controversy there), then let’s open up (for development) the areas in the western states (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming) where the oil shales are nearer to the surface.  (History here: much of the land in the western states is controlled by the federal government as a consequence of almost all these states having been territories prior to the Civil War.  These territories then later applied for statehood and became states, but the federal government retained its control (“jurisdiction”) of these lands.  In the state of Nevada (with 110,000 square miles), today, 87 per cent of the land is controlled by “the Feds”.)

Cleaner burning coal has been powering electric power plants since the 1970s.  This coal comes from the Powder River Basin in eastern Wyoming.  (The development of this area’s coal has been a boon for the railroads that transport the coal to distant power generating stations in many states.)  The “oil shocks’ of the 1970s spurred development of this domestic resource, as well as the Alaska oil pipeline.

The resources are there.  And, yes, they can be developed without trashing the planet.  But, we do not take advantage of this opportunity.  An analogy would be the man who eats from garbage cans when he has a bank account with hundreds of thousands of dollars in it!  (Such cases of mental illness have been recorded.)

Not only would developing America’s energy resources lower the prices consumers pay at the pump each week, many good paying jobs would be created within the US, tax revenues to the federal government would rise, and the monthly trade deficit America runs would be reduced.  Energy independence and energy security (of supplies) helps to protect our economic security.  (As well, the loss of some “petro dollars” to the Saudis, from lower world prices, would mean less money for them to fund virulently anti-Western primary schools throughout the world which brainwash young children to hate all things Western!)

Israel  (caution: reader discretion is advised)

We condemn the murderous terrorist attacks directed at Israeli civilians.  We also condemn the very harsh treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis.

Today, even as we write these words, the sabres of war are being rattled in Tel Aviv and in Washington.  The flash point or catalyst: Iran and its nuclear ambitions.  Odd, is it not(?), North Korea now possesses a bomb or two or perhaps a few more (and has fired test missiles in the direction of Japan), and yet there is no threat of war against Pyongyang.

Israel possesses hundreds of atomic bombs and has the capability of delivering them to any and all the surrounding countries of the region.  All the countries in the region know this.  As well, Israel has well established defense industries and can manufacture (and does) its own munitions.  Israel can take care of itself.  The US does not need to protect Israel.

There is a very strong pro-Israel lobby in Washington, comprised of Jews and Christians, that keeps the pressure on our elected officials to support and back and aid Israel.  (We addressed Christian Zionists in an essay last autumn, The Talmud and Christian Zionists.)  We believe that US foreign policy should serve US interests and not the interests of any foreign state.

But Israel is our ally, you say.  Really?  Not many Americans are aware of this incident that brings your assertion into question.  In June, 1967, the USS Liberty was viciously attacked by Israeli war planes when she was in international waters and was flying a very large US flag that the Israeli pilots admitted clearly seeing during their attacks on the ship.  (I encourage you to do your own research on this topic.  Do an Internet search.)  Some US sailors were killed, and many were maimed for life.  This occurred during the so-called “six day war”.  (There is the current belief, held by many, that Israeli intelligence knew beforehand of the attacks of September 11, 2001, but did not warn the US as Israel stood to benefit from an outraged US and its expected response (a war on terror).)

Let’s briefly deal with Iran and its outspoken leader, how do you spell his name(?), Mahmoud Ahdemanijad.  It is often claimed that he said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map.  I do not know Farsi, so I cannot speak to the veracity of the translation of his words.  But, there are those who say that a correct translation of his words from the Farsi were to the effect that Israel, the Zionist state, would fade away, collapse of its own weaknesses (perhaps in a way similar to how the old Soviet Union collapsed from its own internal weaknesses).

What Mahmoud A. did that was really unforgivable was that he publicly questioned the official story of the (Jewish) Holocaust of the 1940s in wartime Europe.  He even went further, and held an international conference a few years back in Iran for open debate on the Holocaust.  Please note: Calling for open inquiry into a historical event does not necessarily make one a demon.  The post communist Polish government would be guilty by that standard.  It has changed the plaque at Auschwitz to read “one million died here” from the previously (and universally) accepted 4 million.  (They may have changed it again more recently (not sure) as the number of dead keeps decreasing upon further research of the camp’s records that had been locked away in communist archives for decades.)  Just to let you know that there is controversy around the official Holocaust history, soil engineers conducting forensic examinations at Treblinka, in northern Poland, have not been able thus far to locate mass burial pits where it is claimed that up to 875,000 dead human bodies were interred during the war only to be later exhumed and burned when the tide of war had turned against the Germans.

The so-called war on terror

The third and most recent reason the US is mired in the morass of the Middle East is the so-called war on terror.  President George W. Bush was tilting at windmills when he proclaimed a global “war on terror”.  Such a war could never be won.  It seems to us that the correct response to the attacks of 9/11/01 would be to go after the state sponsors of the terrorists that attacked and murdered more than 3,000 Americans (and others as there were non-American victims at the World Trade Center in New York).

Who were the state sponsors of the 9/11 terrorists?

Well, were they not, all 19 of them, bearing Saudi passports?  There has been a twisted and perverse relationship between the Bush family and the Saudis for many years.  This was evident during the father’s presidency (George Herbert Walker Bush).  Regime change ought to have occurred in Riyadh.  As noted above, the Saudis fund schools of hate around the world.  Saudi money is even currently reaching into these United States (in recent years funding various Muslim groups)!

If the Taliban and Afghanistan are at fault, then how about taking a lesson from history (the Mongols) in order to arrive at an effective deterrent for these people?!  Do what was done in late 2001, toppling the Taliban while striving to spare the civilians.  But, on our way out – which should have been no later than 2003 – tell the Afghans that if we have to come back because we were attacked again, we won’t spare the civilians.  When these backward people fear us more than they fear the terrorists in their midst, they will turn on the terrorists and kill them.  Sadly, it really is us or them.  Societal and national self-defense require a harsh approach to these peoples who are not far from the stone age.

Moammar Gaddafi was no saint.  He had innocent blood on his hands.  But, Libya after Gaddafi is tending to becoming even more radical and more of a safe haven for terrorists.  The same is true in post-Mubarak Egypt.

The US does not need an on the ground military presence in the region.  Yes, there is a need for an intelligence gathering capability.  But, we do not need troops over there for that.  Based on the intelligence gathered, if attacks against America and Americans are planned or are imminent, we can take various actions to prevent or thwart those attacks.

If terrorist attacks against the US succeed, then the state sponsors (of the terrorists) can be hit and hit hard from a far.  We certainly have the technology to lay some serious hurt on these countries, and they know that.  We may need to demonstrate the will to do so.  We have the submarines, the surface ships and the missiles.  We won’t need troops on the ground.  (Actually, there is a real deterrent at work today as regards any kind of atomic terrorist attack occurring within the USA.  Even a dirty bomb being set off will likely elicit a major retaliation by the US against whatever nation(s) were involved in the act.)

We, in the US, must accept that we cannot remake this region into what we think it should be like.  A democratic or republican model simply is not workable in this region, and may not be workable there for centuries to come given its very long history of strife and discord.  America, it is not 1945, it is not even 1975.  You must stop trying to play the role of the world’s police man.  Encourage the setting up of regional security alliances, but bring the troops home.  Too many American service men and women have been killed and maimed in that hellish part of the world.

end of essay

As we firmly believe that the future belongs to young women, we give in to the temptation to offer again this picture from an essay last autumn.  In America, she can: pursue happiness, drive a car, get an education, practice whichever religion she chooses, inherit property, own property, vote, go outside sans a veil, choose who to marry, wear a string bikini in public, consent to – or freely decline – sexual relations, is protected by federal law from having her genitals mutilated, etc.




Thanks for reading!  Now, kindly share this essay with everyone you know!

Is petroleum, also known as oil, a fossil fuel, or is it abiotic or “abiogenic” in origin?

Is petroleum, also known as oil, a fossil fuel, or is it abiotic or  “abiogenic” in origin?

Even before articles about this question started hitting the Internet in force back in 2008, the thought occurred to me that oil may not truly be a fossil fuel.  What led me to this surmise were 2 considerations.  First, a very large amount of oil, whether measured in tons or barrels, has already been recovered from both the land and beneath the ocean floor.  And, by all estimates, there is still much that can be recovered from the land and offshore throughout the world (including around the often overlooked continent, Antarctica).  The total mass of the oil that has been recovered so far would seem to be well in excess of the mass of all the dinosaurs and other fossilized animal life that we postulate that oil is fermented (or whatever the actual process is that we are assuming when we refer to oil as a “fossil” fuel) from.  Of course, who can guess what the mass of all the fossilized animal remains in the past few hundred millions of years totals to?  This leads to the second consideration.

Secondly, consider from where petroleum has been recovered.  So much has been recovered in the Middle East onshore.  This area is now a desert, but hundreds of millions of years ago the so-called Tethys Sea existed at this spot on the globe.  This sea closed after Pangea broke apart and the continents began moving towards their modern (current) locations.  So, it is a mystery where all that subsurface oil in the Middle East came from.  Was it from marine life that died in the Tethys Sea and then, after falling to the bottom, somehow fossilized and remained in sea floor sediments to be upthrust later when land occupied the area of the former sea?  Not much large sea life has a chance to fossilize as fish eat other fish.  (Okay, here, I may have tripped myself up.  After posting this last evening, it occurred to me that the land under which this oil is located migrated to its current location on the globe from a different location due to plate tectonics.  So, this oil may have been from land based animal life, if oil one accepts that oil is truly a fossil fuel.  Yet, it is still puzzling as to how so much oil could be concentrated in such a small portion of the land surface area of the earth.)

How about the current large oil prospects offshore of Brasil (now the world’s fifth largest economy), being explored and developed by Petrobras?

Here let me cite an online article, emphasis (bold font) mine (with proper source credit given after quote):

Some of the largest oil finds in more than two decades were discovered recently off the coasts of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, potentially holding as much as 100 billion barrels of crude. But they are located in one of the most hostile and inaccessible environments on earth, lying deep under the Atlantic Ocean seabed beneath a thick layer of salt.

Again, a mystery!  That large a volume of oil buried deep under the ocean floor.  How does a liquid supposedly from the fossilized remains of animal life get to such a location given plate tectonics (continental drift), and the fact that the fossilization process of large marine animal life is not very efficient in ocean waters?

Perhaps, all we can safely say is that we really do not know for sure how oil is produced, or, alternatively, where it comes from.  It may be that various processes, within the earth’s continental and seafloor crust, make oil and that it is abiotic in origin and nature.

Now, as for coal – that I can believe is a fossil fuel from the fossilized remains of forests.  The various peat marshes in the world provide support to the idea that coal is truly a fossil fuel.

Nuclear power and Fukushima Daiichi – the grave warning not to be ignored, environmental catastrophe

Nuclear power and Fukushima Daiichi – the grave warning not to be ignored, environmental catastrophe

 The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in northern Japan in March, 2011, was largely preventable.  Poor plant design appears to have been responsible for loss of cooling to the various reactors in the complex when the earthquake and subsequent tsunami waters knocked out electric power to the complex and shut down and damaged the backup coolant pumps.  A backup set of cooling pumps servicing the plant from the landward side of the site combined with separate backup power generators (for the cooling pumps) also located behind the plant and further from the sea would have prevented, or at the very least, greatly mitigated this disaster.  Japan has been prone to earthquakes and tsunamis for the thousands of years it has been inhabited.  These risks of earthquake and tsunami were well known at the time of the nuclear complex’s design and construction.  (Beyond the scope of this blog post, there is some history of original design specifications being abandoned or circumvented during final application for, and construction of, the complex.)

The human reaction to the tsunami’s damage to the multi-reactor nuclear complex was also baffling and perhaps inexplicable.  From news reports we were receiving in the US at the time, plant managers did not seem to be moving quickly and decisively to restore cooling to the various reactors.  In the first few days, their attempts at restoring cooling to the reactor cores – and thereby preventing damage – seemed to be hit and miss.

Yes, the managers of the nuclear complex had the fuel rods pulled out of the reactor cores so that the self sustaining chain reactions ceased.  However, this is not enough to protect the reactor cores from serious damage.  Decay heat must be removed from the cores via the cooling systems.  There are various fission by products in the reactor cores with varying half lifes.  (If you hear of anyone claiming that there are nuclear wastes that are highly radioactive for millions of years, be aware that they do not know what they are talking about. Highly radioactive means a rapid rate of decay and that is the same as saying a short half-life.)  One such fission by-product, the radioactive isotope of iodine (I-131), decays very rapidly with a half-life of about 8 days.  These decaying radioactive isotopes produce heat called decay heat.  This means that even after the fuel rods were pulled out of the cores to stop the ongoing fissioning process, decay heat was still accumulating inside the reactor cores.

This problem of the decay heat was known to Tokyo Electric Power‘s engineers and technicians.  We cannot be sure that the news reports and updates we received coming out of Japan during those first few critical days of the emergency were accurate and complete.  Restoring cooling to all of the reactor cores needed to be top priority and needed to be acted upon immediately and aggressively once the tsunami knocked out the seaward side backup cooling systems.  But, Tokyo Electric Power attempted to cool the reactor cores using isolation condenser systems and using them intermittently.  These isolation condensers were not as effective, nor were they designed to be as effective, as true backup cooling systems are.  Proper actions not being taken in those early days resulted in massive core damage to 3 of the 6 reactors in the nuclear complex and this was responsible for the not insignificant releases of radiation to the environment.

Nuclear power is inherently dangerous.  It allows for no safe margin of human error(s) at all.  This fact needs to be appreciated and weighted properly in any decisions as to building new nuclear plants and needs to be factored into both plant design and plant operating procedures.

The legacy of Fukushima is a very poisonous, toxic one and not just for Japan, but also for the western United States. We may not have been told the truth about just how much radioactivity was released from the various damaged reactors at the crippled nuclear complex.  We are hearing critics and skeptics of nuclear power asserting that the amounts of radiation reported to have been released were significantly lower than what actually escaped into the air and waters around the nuclear complex.  We hear of contaminated waste from Fukushima being dumped into Tokyo Bay thereby spreading the radioactive poisons into the most densely populated part of southern Honshu Island.

But this catastrophe is potentially global in scale, or at the very least international in scope.

The western states of the United States received some of this fallout via the prevailing winds above the northern Pacific Ocean.  Some of the other radioactive fission by products, such as Cesium 137 and Strontium 90, have longer half-lives than Iodine 131.  (Cs-137 has a half-life of 30 years and Sr-90 has a half-life of 28 years.)  These isotopes get into and remain in the soils they are deposited on and get taken up by plants and enter the food chain.  Dairy cows then are exposed and humans when they consume contaminated milk and related dairy products.

Now that manmade global warming is being recognized as at worst a hoax, and at best bad science, the world would be better served and protected by pushing ahead with more non-nuclear power sources.  There is still much oil, lots of natural gas, and yes, even coal, that can be utilized to meet our electric power generation needs.  Clean coal technology has made great strides in the past 30 years as well.