Thursday, January 31, 2008

Antwerp attempts to break record for world's worst nuclear reactor

Composed of a giant stack of champagne glasses, those crafty Belgians are attempting to outdo Chalk River in terms of seismic unsuitability.

Says Dr. Schmoozer: "We don't have the seismicity or soft soil conditions of Chalk River, so we have to put in something extra. Just like AECL, we hope to justify continued operation, by saying that nothing has happened yet!"

Dr. Schmoozer also says that he will attempt to low-ball the price of medical isotopes, so that they can never turn it off. As well, there has been some attempt to castrate their local regulator.

Rock Mechanics - 3

Rock Mechanics
Rock Mechanics - 2

Nobody had actually measured the peak stresses of a passing seismic wave, so I needed to go for another measurement. I did some computer modeling, and some research, and came to the conclusion that Peak Ground Velocity (PGV) offered a good correlation with peak stress. The only problem was, at the time, nobody gave a damn about PGV.

30 years ago, the seismic world was totally dominated by California. Strong ground motions, correlation with damage, etc, was all from the deep soil basins. The whole concept of Standard Response Spectrum and modal seismic analysis was due to the fact that basin motions were low-frequency, long rumbling things. In this world, the measurement of Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA), expressed as a percentage of g, was all the rage.

I knew there was something wrong here. We had sent a crew, measuring stresses at the recent Miramichi earthquake, and had found something unusual. The crews reported that the ground was crackling with small earthquakes after the main event. Some would really thump the drill rig! I knew that if you had measured the PGA, you would get around 1g, but clearly these things had no energy to damage. I was convinced that PGA was a useless measure for the rest of the world!

When I went back to computer modeling, I found there was no physical limit to PGA, since you could just increase the frequency, and PGA would go through the roof! It was only in California, where the frequencies were forced to be low, that it was valid.

Thus, began my great campaign to wipe PGA off the seismic map! After 30 years, there is now some glimmer of hope! But I digress, as usual. My next step was to see if there was some limit to PGV on rock, and thus a limit on peak stress. As well, I had to determine if there was some indication of how much peak stress was required to damage a tunnel or cavern.

Experts prod nuclear plant

This is the image I have of the IAEA going after this Japanese nuclear plant. I don't think they can be effective just glancing at it, and bleeding the patient. I suppose the Japanese want a ringing endorsement from them, but these old European guys aren't going to do it.

Fishing for tsunami detectors

Finally a fishing story! Seems that the new sport is hauling in tsunami detectors. I would think you could install a Boomerang in those things!

Makes it difficult to monitor tsunamis in a zone swarming with pirates. They might have to give up and go with real-time GPS.

US Army Toadies Sucked into the Corruption

Finally, a judge states what I feel. The Army mainly exists to dole out Congress Pork, and doesn't have a brain. I wonder what new things they are up to....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Clement knows Keen was 'spectacularly wrong'

And he 'proves' this statement because Parliament cast its judgment. I think all of this is starting to get weird.

GoD dismisses earthquake scenario

The Government of the Day says there is no earthquake risk. AECL states that an earthquake would only cause a small poof of radioactivity that gives you a free Cat Scan. Who can argue with these grand statements?

AECL doesn't publish it's assumptions for the accident scenario, so we can't tell. I suspect it's rather benign, just as assuming the coolant boils away slowly, thus cooling the rods. GoD simply doesn't believe in earthquakes, period!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Another Toadie in Trouble with GoD

I'm assuming that all these bureaus are stuffed with toadies, or soon will be. Now, it's the Competition Bureau! If anything screamed "Toadyism", this would be it!! It could be possible, that for some bizarre reason, there is no toadie here, but now that the Government of the Day (GoD) has got its beady little eyes on it, look out!

Speaking of the Grand Supremo of International Toadyism, did you see where France got a 'reform plan' handed to it. It essentially recommends the dismantling of Toady Culture to get the economy rolling. According to the Economist, there is little chance that Le President will go for it. I've always seen Canada going down the same road....

Time's up for floating ice digger

The little engine that couldn't. After 10 days of carbon spewing, the ice digger has packed it in. Now they hope a trickle of hot water will do what the digger couldn't. Then again, maybe Nature will just do what she wants!

The digger was lucky and had only one ice burst, which gave it a bit of a close call. More risks could be anticipated as it attempted to claw out the river constipation. Now we wait to see what will happen...

Lost ring story inspires new effort

I just loved this story. In fact, I'm inspired to renew a search for a lost ring of ours! I'll let you know how it goes (when the ground thaws out!).

Keen spits back with nothing new

Blah, blah. Keen gets her digs in on the stand.

The only thing new was this 1 in 1000 thing of fuel failure, but I don't really think the pump replacements changed this probability. If the chance of fuel failure is 100% with a major earthquake, then those odds are like 1 in 100 per year.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Japan earthquake nuclear plant to be examined again, and again, and again

Yep, the wise old grey-beards of the IAEA are at that plant again. I've never heard anything 'concrete' coming out of this, so I suppose they'll just flap their lips again. There's a lesson here, but nobody's listening....

Today's Intellectual Puzzle

Today, I am pondering some ideas for the Daughter, and her IB extended essay. In Toronto, IB is the best scam going and all my kids have gone through it. It stands for International Baccalaureate and it basically a high school curriculum designed and monitored internationally.

All the fancy-schmanzy private schools are going this way, but in Toronto, there are 'boutique' schools that have a small IB program tucked inside a big ugly high school. If you qualify, it's all covered! And you stay away from things thought up by local provincial government people!

It's not for everybody, since most kids get killed by the compulsory French program. But my kids went through another scam, which is the totally French-French school board, mandated by something Trudeau thought up! So their French is good.

Now, the IB has this extended essay thing, which is due in the last part of Grade 11. The two boys did theirs already, but now the youngest has to do it. She chose Biology, and I've been racking my feeble brain for some good ideas that a student could do. I don't want the house overrun by mice, or fruit flies, and most genetic stuff is out of reach. Difficult to think of something simple in biology that hasn't been done millions of times.

My initial idea was synthetic evolution, with those little creature that evolve on your computer screen. Holy crap, that stuff is complicated! Played with a cutsie program, but didn't know what was going on. Back to the drawing board for another idea. However, my daughter is very hostile to any ideas that come from 'somebody so stupid!' :)

Rock Mechanics - 2

I don't even think these stories link together, they are the ramblings of an old guy who is finally healing from his stint in a dysfunctional techno-bureaucracy.

Rock mechanics has been mostly concerned with rock failure under the following-load of gravity. If your tunnel doesn't fall down on your head, you're happy! What I was studying 30 years ago, was the impact of earthquakes on caverns and tunnels.

Underground workings have generally done very well with seismic shaking. They do not resonate, and thus, are not very amenable to conventional seismic analysis, which I think sucks, anyway! For underground structures, I had to go into a totally different type of analysis, which is just now being applied to buildings, thanks to cheap computing!

Probably the best way to look at the seismic performance of underground things, is to use the methodology of 'Experience Data', which I used extensively for nuclear plants. Around the world, there have been many tunnels and mines exposed to strong ground motion. The performance has varied from very good, to very bad. "It never rains, but it pours!". If a tunnel fails during an earthquake, it can flood within seconds!

I went into the analysis of what actually happens to a tunnel during an earthquake. The earthquake source radiates seismic waves, which is easy to model with a wave propagation program. What I discovered 30 years ago, was the variation of peak seismic stress with distance. Although there is virtually no limit to peak stress in the near-field, seismic waves that propagate a decent distance, cannot be non-linear. In other words, the peak stress disturbance must go down to the level where it does not interact with the rock! This is extremely important, and saves us a lot during earthquakes.

What is the maximum stress for a propagating seismic wave? The search for that took me on another tangent....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

French government defends stupidity

Says: "It could happen to anyone!"

I'm so amazed by this $7 billion dollar loss, and they shrug it off, as though it was nothing. I may make fun of toadies in Canada, but France is where toadism reigns supreme, controlling most of the economy.

I'm just surprised that we have never heard any good stories coming out of their nuclear plants, but they must treat nuclear boo-boos as a national secret!

Lunn not as dumb as he looks

I felt for sure that he could just continue his 'deer in the headlights' routine, and I would believe him. Just a happy politician caught in things beyond him. Happens all the time.

But, no, this nice article points out that he became a lawyer! Not that it means much with regard to anything technical, but it means something. I think he just wanted to shove everything under the carpet, like the previous administrations.

Now, he is engaging 'technical experts' across the country for a private review of the matter. Can you spell Toadie?

Nurse did produce phony docs

I apologize to the good Nursing featherbedders of Manitoba! Inter-provincial barriers to labour movement had nothing to do with this story. He probably was a good nurse, though, and actual registered nurses have done worse things.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Toady flyer

My dog was chewing on this in the park:


We of the Toady Brotherhood have formed an association, to counteract and sue those who disseminate falsehoods about our profession, and to enact arcane legislation for self-glorifying featherbedding (just like the Doctors!).

Just like the fully qualified and competent Philippine nurse in Manitoba who fell afoul of their featherbedding, we will accomplish the same thing throughout Canada! It's best to have something different for each Province , in order to hide things better.

Our first rule will be: Canadian Toady's only! No American Toady's like Donald Rumsfield!

And we only spell it TOADY! And we're proud of that! Some commentators have spelled it toadie, but that's a sissification of the term.

And we shall have a Toady Certification Program, and only those with a genuine FoTS (Fellow of the Toady Society), behind their name can take the job offered by the Government of the Day (GoD).

The Duty of a Toady:

Always follow the whims of GoD.

Never do anything that will cause trouble for God.

Purge your staff of anybody who defies GoD.

If anything happens on your watch, just say "I wasn't aware of it."

Never publish any nasty letters from GoD.

And if, by some miracle, GoD gets destroyed, cause great trouble for the new GoD.

Now, we are sorry for qualified immigrant Toady's, but we crafted a Great Barrier to Entry, just so we can have headlines like:

The Toady Crisis Toady's Threaten to Quit in Calgary etc.

This will get more money for those of us already on the gravy train.

There are many new openings for Toady's, coming soon. The nuclear biz alone has about a dozen! Sorry, these are only for Conservative Toady's. Liberal Toady's will have to wait their turn. Sometimes, the GoD will appoint a 'Toady of a Different Colour', just to throw a fish to 'fairness', but fat chance with this one!

For the Social Good, Demand Detectors!

Now, if the remaining gov't divisions and boards haven't been totally toadified, they should get into cell phone detectors in a big way! Our cell phone plans are the most expensive in the world, so this cost could be absorbed by introducing a bit more competition.

Other detectors, such a poison gas, smoke or carbon monoxide could eventually be built in. Really nifty would be a bird flu detector, but this is probably years away. The great thing about this is that it can be sold as personal protection, as well as social protection. If your phone detects radiation, then "Walk away from the light!". Naturally, you wouldn't want it to be sooo sensitive so that people whine about nuclear plants, flying, or enjoying freshly dug earth in the garden (quite a buzz!).

I also want earthquake sensors scattered around the world. They would only be useful if the phone was potted into a special charger for the night, like an iPod.

Lunn states the obvious

No need for a review! I agree, what's that going to do? Meanwhile, Lunn searches for a 'qualified' toadie. I think it would be better to compile a "Toadification Index" for all these government technical boards. It could be a number from 0 to 100%. A fully qualified toadie has the qualifications and subsequent actions similar to Keen:

-must be a drinking buddy of the relevant minister.
-must get rid of anybody who thinks
-must roll over and play dead to the minister
-must bitch like hell when said minister gets the boot

We could award a "Toad Star" to the best one!

For service above and beyond Toadie-ism

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Opposition blowing hot air on CNSC thing

As if! They want a tribunal of lawyers and judges looking into this whole mess. The big problem is that there are too many of these guys in all the government formerly technical do-gooder bodies.

Might as well go all the way and just install government toadies in all these places. That way, none of them will have the agony of actually thinking. If nothing gets done, they just blame everybody else! Think of where we'd all be if we had just done this years earlier!

The safety of the Rutan spaceship

The new design is out, and it's making quite a splash! I was quite intrigued by Rutan's comment that it will be as safe as flying in the 1920's, and 'hundreds of times' safer than Nasa (not saying much...). I'm wondering how a US company can live with this product liability, since everybody sues everybody. Even a waiver isn't enough, they would have to engage in contracts with the spouse, the parents, the children, brothers and sisters. The contracts would have to say they won't sue, or forfeit a million dollars, or something. Would that work?

Oozing mud overtops barriers, no blame found

We may never know what triggered the Indonesian Mud Volcano, but sure-as-shootin', you know the mud won't stick to the richest family! Now, it is overtopping the feeble barriers, and stands poised to engulf more land.

I'm still not clear on the mechanics of large mud volcanoes, but the essential ingredient is oil and gas. The gas is probably the driving mechanism for the mud, which must involved ancient unconsolidated oceanic sediment. Normally, once rock is hardened by time (lithification), it can't be 'melted' again by heat. But it is possible to have a high-pressure gas pocket that survived a considerable time.

So, what we had here was a high-pressure pocket of mud, capped by some thin volcanics. Oil companies have blow-outs all the time when they drill, so now they are smart enough to make some attempt at blow-out prevention. This involves a heavy casing of steel and concrete, and a blow-out valve which can pinch off the drill stem. In most cases it works.

It is possible that the drilling in Indonesia did not have adequate blow-out prevention, but I find it hard to believe that the thick mud could have forced its way up an 8 inch hole. Then, there would have to have been a high enough flow to erode the hole to a larger size.

It is also quite likely that this was a disaster waiting to happen, as it has happened spontaneously before. That would have required a large crack developing, and the mud oozing out the rupture. I find this easier to contemplate.

Who knows? The point is that this mud is not going to stop. In that area of the world, it could have been just as likely that a real volcano could have started. Then there would be no question of running like hell!

Populists fight earthquake building codes

This is why it's tough to prepare for earthquakes. You get a populist politician making an irrelevant sound bite about California versus the East. "Doing something about earthquakes hurts business" they scream.

I'm sure you would get the same reaction in Toronto. Those wonderful people at Emergency Measures Ontario (maybe I'm getting paid by them one day!), are rather isolated, even if they did lift a finger (ooops!). In these days of government organization bosses getting the sack if they offend anybody, I don't think they can do anything anymore.

Admitting we have an earthquake problem isn't going to cost the earth, or drive away business. But nobody is willing to take the first step.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Boring story: Rock Mechanics

AECL is humming along nicely, nobody is paying me anything, and my readership numbers are going south. Time for a boring story to put the kiddies asleep!

In university, I went through UofT Engineering Science, and I specialized in Geophysics. It was more of a leftover choice, after I eliminated everything else! About the only thing you could do with this option was go into the oil exploration industry, so for my third year summer, I went to Calgary to work for an oil company.

I hated it! The only good thing was that I went into the mountains every weekend to look at the rocks. I love rocks! After that summer, the oil boom collapsed, and I had to look for another job anyway. I needed a career change, so I did my Masters degree in Rock Mechanics.

The most amazing thing about rocks, is that all rocks have a very similar friction angle. Their 'cohesion', however, varies from ultra-hard granite, to near-sand. Also, rocks are marvelously fractal, meaning that they behave mostly the same, from a very small scale to a very large scale.

My very first work, when I got out of university, was to look at underground structures - tunnels and caverns. It's a bit different to design infrastructure tunnels, than mining. In mining you can take slow, controlled failure, because you can re-excavate access tunnels. In fact, continuous movement is the norm in mines, simply because you are excavating all around and changing the stress fields.

I was looking at the dynamic stability of these tunnels and caverns, particularly for nuclear plants and waste repositories. The waste respository has the difficult problem of excess heat from the fuel bundles, thus it is always heating up, thus the stresses are always changing. On the other hand, a nuclear plant water intake tunnel is quite the simple thing; it should stand up long enough to slap in a thick concrete lining. Nothing much 'dynamic' about these tunnels.

Besides standing up to heat, there is the added problem of low-probability and time-distant events for a nuclear waste repository. Actually anything is better than having the waste hang around in concrete cans, but the 'people' demand 'million year' time frames, simply because someone could dig into an ultra-deep repository and start eating the nuclear fuel.

As you see, there is little rationality in the nuclear waste biz, but it leads to fun things such as determining what happens during the next ice age. (No matter that those cans all get ground up and spat out!). Maybe I will go some more into this the next time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Very old guy will attempt to restart Japanese reactor

I have no idea what they are doing with that Japanese reactor that got wacked with an earthquake. Now they got a new president, at least. I'm sure that will help!

For those of you not following this, last summer a very intense earthquake hit a Japanese nuclear reactor. Although their natural instinct would be to cover everything up, they had the misfortune of having a flaming transformer shown on national TV (oh, those transformers!), plus a speck of measurable radioactivity. Since they presented a mirage of human perfection, this hit them badly. Some of their fuel was damaged, alone with some minor leaks.

Soon, all their dirty laundry was exposed in public. These guys didn't know what hit them! Right now, I have no idea what they are doing to restart it, since their wasn't much real damage. And I don't think anybody else knows what they are doing, since they are a close-mouthed bunch...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reporter actually does something - gets fired

I am sure that a competent reporter would just scream at the pappy questions that get asked at these hearings. So, slipping in some decent questions does seem sort of natural. Of course, a good politician, such as Lunn (and Brian!) can just ramble on and on, and use up the time allotment.

Lunn Reiterates that He was Clueless

And you know what? I believe him. I've worked in a government-like world forever, and it follows some simple rules:

-executives spend 99% of their time looking upwards.
-if some issue gets to them, it is assumed that their underlings failed, and they shoot the messenger.
-you can never admit you are wrong.

Naturally, every single person in hierarchy plays this game, so that nothing gets up, until it is a big crisis. Then all the action is, to spend money like crazy, and blame everyone. After the hubbub settles down, everyone gets a promotion.

I'm sure Lunn behaved in the same exemplary manner! Even if somebody jumped up and down on his desk, screaming "THE REACTOR IS GOING DOWN!" , he would look up with doe-eyes and say "What exactly do you mean?". If someone actually got through the hair, he would be shot.

Kite pulls freighter

I put this in the category of very neat, somewhat related to fishing! The key here is that the kite is controlled by a computer to do figure-8 dancing, which allows a lift to be generated over the 'wing'. If it works, it would save a lot of carbon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Orleans delta moth-eaten

Not much is left of the old delta, the ecological equivalent of clear-cut logging. So, there wasn't much to stop Katrina and the next hurricane.

Although the oil companies can be blamed for some things, people have got to realize that it's sinking because they are living there! Although, it's very romantic and such, the delta only got built up by horrible silty flooding! You take that away with flood control, and the whole thing does it's natural consolidation, without build-up. You could simulate the floods by pumping in yucky, smelly organic silt, but you couldn't live there!

The same thing goes for beautiful, treeless, sand bars on the East coast. Everybody wants to build on these things, but they forget the reason why there are no trees! Every hundred years or so, a super hurricane cleans things up!

PhD's a dime a dozen

You can read about this in the many whining science blogs. :) There are no jobs for the zillions of PhD's that are churned out every year. As well, the education is worse because of the many scabs (adjuncts) that teach for practically nothing!

Unfortunately, this might be simple economics. The average professor can churn out a few hundred PhD's over his lifetime, but dies only once. If those students are only good for professor jobs, they are screwed! And yet the poor lowly students are responsible for the majority of decent research. Oh, the pain!

Quebec wants to stay in the game

Quebec appears to be leaning towards keeping their old nuclear plant running for a few more years.

I remember my dealings with Quebec over my corporate lifetime. They were very isolated from other Candu stations, mainly because of the French language issue. I never dealt with them on seismic at all. I would put them #2 behind Chalk River in backwardness on seismic. They are also in a fairly hot seismic area. As usual, the CNSC didn't do much on seismic, and all nuclear plants have drifted towards a seismic fantasy world.

Fiction becomes fact

I wasn't too far off, when I made a joke about the job ad for the next head of the CNSC. Now, the government is adding conditions to make the job more subservient, and less concerned about nuclear safety. They are adding 'must obey gov't about isotopes, when called'.

TV Zapper Creates Havoc

This article has stuck with me for a day now, so I have to exorcise here. I find it absolutely hilarious, although I'm sure some person will write and say 'Companies have a right to annoy us with massive TV screens'.

These screens should really have a button to turn off the remote, or people will have to put a piece of black tape over the receptor. Really, in a convention with a zillion screens, somebody trying to turn off a screen down the aisle would have a chance of turning off a lot of screens!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More soundbites on the old rustbucket

Here's one from Victoria. I'm collecting them, and trying to see what's new in each one. Most interesting was that Tom Spears has Gone West Coast. He could have been good on this in Ottawa! His take is that the old '57 Chevy' is running smoothly, and they've only mucked up on the new ones.

We know better. The old crap is running way below the true cost of externalities, especially regarding the risk of earthquake. The whole thing is on a big jiggly bowl of Leda Clay, waiting to explode. But we can sleep at night, knowing that the Beaming Face of Harper has forbidden nuclear accidents.

The Secret Life of Nuclear Waste

It's always that thing which nobody wants to talk about. It's always done in secret, with nodding reassurances by old bald guys. Personally, I think it's a straight-forward technical problem, that can be solved creatively, but it is too steeped in politics, for people to think straight.

NASA does the AECL

In some of my earlier works, such as The Claptrap Society, I have included NASA as a dying techno-bureaucracy. Now, NASA has realized that the space shuttle was a horrible mistake, and is going on to make some new mistakes.

Now, they want to take the old Saturn-Apollo design and tack on a solid fuel booster (cheap!). These things have their problems. In something similar to AECL, they are cutting close to the bone. I don't know if they can 'bravado' through this!

Excavator tickles the tiger's tail!

I just had to put this in, because it is sooo neat! Imagine that this tiny little thing is going to start chewing away at the business-end of a giant ice jam that's flooding some town in BC. I visualize it as excavating the bottom of an avalanche zone, or cutting out the toe of a slope! At the same time, they are going to pour hot water at the top! But they have to construct a special pipeline, which seems a bit much. I shall follow this story with baited breath!

Media still nattering about AECL

I like to think that reporters are starting to read my blog! Naturally, since they get paid, they can dig up old reports, and get juicy soundbites. That's too much work for me! But it's news to me that the control rods didn't drop on the Maple reactors. That's very serious, since those gravity control rods are all that stand between nice neutrons and disaster. And control rods never work during an earthquake!

I wonder how long we can go like this? Obviously, the European and South African reactors are having their troubles, and they are probably just as old. The Clappetron at Chalk River can't go on forever, even with Harper crossing his fingers, and legislating new physical laws!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fair analysis of isotope mess

I liked this column, it seems to be well-balanced.

Another nuclear head rolls

I think with all these heads rolling around, it will be difficult to get anything done! Now it was the designated head of the 'Rendering Panel' for AECL. Ontario got this guy fired.

We don't have to mention what all this head-bowling is going to do for new nuclear in Ontario. I'm happy to be retired.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Horizotal motions push the tsunami

Getting away from silly politics, and back to a quiet diet of fish and geology. And what could combine both better than a new look at tsunamis! (I wrote that mini-article!). Tsunamis are like sloshes in your bathtub, you can make one by bouncing up and down, or you can slosh by sliding forward. According to NASA, the last big one was of the horizontal variety.

All those little arrows show the direction of GPS motions for the big earthquake, and they are predominately horizontal. That might be due to a very shallow-dipping subducting plate. So all the islands went 'woosh' to the West, and sloshed all that water.

Thank you, Mr. Lunn

With the help of your antics, you have propelled my blog up from my previous record of 60 people per day, all the way up to 80! Had I chosen to keep my Sleazy Google Ads, I would have earned another nickel!

I'm old, and I obviously can't keep up this torrid pace of writing. Leave that to the younger writers, who have a refreshing lack of logic and critical thinking!

Now that Lunn has successfully buried the body of Keen in the back garden, this issue is closed (at least technically). However, I'm sure that people will howl about it for a while, but it lacks interest. Here's my prediction for the next surge(s) in my blog.

Bruce Waste Disposal

They want to dig nuclear waste into the worse rock in the world. The fun political part is: who will they get to serve on the panel? I recommend Sheila Cops!

Choice of Ontario Nuclear Design

At the very minimum, if they want to build a nuclear plant this century, they have to settle on a design this year. This is a totally political decision, made by a career politician. My guess is that we'll get the worse of both worlds, by choosing two completely different designs, one for the sinkholes of Bruce, and one for blast zone of Darlington. Even with two designs, there will be a loser or two who will scream. I recommend they hire Brain Mule-rooney!

Ontario Earthquake

Oh, we sooo deserve this, but it won't be this year, or in my lifetime, because I want it so much! Maybe we'll have one somewhere in North America, and people will natter about it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Geotechnical Engineer Advice

I am actually a geotechnical engineer, with a geophysics background, masters in rock mechanics, and doing earthquakes out of a love for dynamics.

I just got a call today from a friend about a friend of a friend. Seems most of their cottage just got wiped out by a big slope failure. In the fall, the contractors were preparing for an even bigger extension to the monster, and they did a lot of excavation. I haven't been there, knee-deep in the muck, but it looks like they might have cut out the toe of the slope. See my writings on Slope Stability. (as with all Wiki, it's been heavily added).

So the advice for today is "For God's Sake, don't cut out the toe of your slope!" Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

Funny report on the committee today

I just loved this. I wish I could write as well as Kady!

Lunn wins, Keen doesn't show up

Firing Keen at the last minute had the desired effect. She didn't show up to hurl mud at the minister. They have given her a plum, to stay on the board at the governments whim, but now she has to keep quiet for that income to roll in.

This article had an interesting picture which I hadn't seen before.

Look at that rickety, free-standing bathtub! Does anyone think it has a chance in an earthquake? The juicy quote in the article is from a CNSC person (who says she didn't get stabbed from within?), who cagily says "The reactor is as safe as ever, even without the pump improvements." In other words, the pump crap is like painting the Titanic a different colour!

The CNSC Story - Serious Contemplation

How has it come to this? The whole CNSC mess has serious implications for those of us who want to see some nuclear plants get started, instead of all the Great Lakes filling up with windmills. I was hoping for some work sorting out the seismic inadequacies, but now the utilities can just thumb their noses and say "Who needs this earthquake shit?".

It wasn't always like this. When I started in 1979, the CNSC was quite active, and a respected organization. My older brother was glad to join and work there, and so were many others. Then the organization went a bit unstable, when they hired some certified weirdos in their "Research Department".

The CNSC always had a fundamental problem on how they fit in the world. They were nothing like the US NRC, which drafted up a zillion micro-management regulations that controlled every aspect of approvals. And each of these regulations were coded into law!

The CNSC (then the Atomic Energy Control Board) was above all that! They were a council of wise men (women), who would give their approval on licenses. The utilities would write up a comprehensive operating license on what they would do with this or that situation, and the CNSC would approve it (or not). The worse censure would be that you are 'in violation of your license'.

The old AECB knew that they were in the middle of a sandstorm. Get too nasty and you're shutting down vital power generation. Too loosey-goosey, and there will be an accident. They played the game quite well, and promoted the general use of nuclear power. The only time they ever shut down a reactor was a minor one in the spring, when there was no power demand. They would never shut down all of OPG during the winter (a real one!). But soon, many of the nuclear opponents would accuse them of being a 'poodle to the utilities'.

The AECB started feeling (and worrying about) the political pressures of the day, and this started their downfall. They started this independent 'Research Department', where they hired some real wackies. These people would go on to causing some real political problems with their accusations on how the utilities weren't doing this or that. The AECB started to sink into the tar.

All of a sudden, they fired these guys, and vowed never again to get into research, or thinking, in general. They would just be a regulator, and whipped up some new laws, and became the CNSC. This marked the starting of the end.

For the CNSC was now a totally political body. Nobody was building any more nuclear plants anyway. Without their protection of having to do something technical, the Ottawa guys now viewed this as a patronage plum. What could hurt by dumping in the loyal village idiots?

The final nail in the coffin came with Linda Keen. She was a total political power-person, and viewed the whole CNSC as her fiefdom. Anybody who caused trouble, or disagreed with her got fired, as well as anyone who was a threat. This had no effect on the nuclear business, so all was well.

During that time, I saw the entire CNSC disappear from my life. I was now in serious trouble in the company, since my main job was to merge the inside, with the outside licensing. The CNSC never mentioned earthquakes anymore. Unfortunately, the company just proceeded to do whatever it wanted on seismic design, much to my dismay.

Now, I wonder what really happened on the AECL reactor issue. The old AECB would have been too smart to get into this pickle. They would have demanded a scheduled close-out for the rusty reactor, and prevented the dumping of cheap isotopes, in order to make it 'vital'. They would have got political backing.

I have to think that the staff hated Keen so much that they set her up. Or else, they passively turned off thinking, which amounts to the same thing. They suddenly wouldn't allow the restart of the reactor, which is the same thing as shutting down Darlington for bad battery racks (which I wanted at one time!). They knew it would cause a giant political disaster, and they didn't warn her.

Now, things are worse. The CNSC has been totally destroyed, and they are replacing Keen with another clone. There will be no serious action on new power plants. If there is, I'd be seriously worried!

What can we do here? I'd advocate totally wiping out the CNSC and replacing them with some serious CSA standards bodies that actually do some work. They would be totally open in everything they do, and truly be a place that intelligent people flock to.

Of course, as with everything I suggest, it is politically impossible. But if the only 'politically possible' solutions are disasters, then, eventually, things come to a head. Perhaps we should be happy for a big recession to slow things down a bit.

Job Ad - Head of CNSC

You are the head of a dynamic team of government regulators. You like challenges, and bowing down to the government of the day. You have no expertise in nuclear, and don't give a fig about it. You are able to bend over and grab the soap.

You will prepare your organization for the new nuclear era by getting rid of anyone who looks at you funny. You will have an ability to sit on the dunking tank, while maintaining the pretense of dignity. We are an equal opportunity employer.

Send your application to Gary Lunn, Minister of Whatever, care of the local Canadian Tire, or wherever he was last seen.

No margin on collapsed bridge

A preliminary report cites that there was essentially no safety (or engineering margin) for the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed. With most bridges, one expects that they can handle loads well above that for which they were designed. They cite that the bridge was essentially unstable, in that the failure of any one component would collapse the whole thing, much like the World Trade towers.

Being totally exhausted from the current Ottawa follies, I'm not in a caustic mood here. Is all American infrastructure like this? What will happen in an earthquake? I shudder to think.

Keen axed before appearing

Ok, I think all the Hollywood writers are moonlighting up here in Canada! You could not think of better stories, even on the stuff they smoke! Yes, minutes before Linda Keen was to appear before a committee in Ottawa, she is fired! That'll teach her!

I guess she can't appear now, and Lunn can remain in hiding. We should have a eulogy on all the things she brought to the job, but I can't think of anything. Then I thought, what do we expect from someone who does this?

Did she improve the CNSC?
Did she have the foresight to get them ready for the new reactors?
Did she get them ready for nuclear waste disposal?
Did she make them more open?
Did she beef up their technical expertise?

What would we expect of the new person? Will it be Lunn's political toady? I just don't know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Starwatch: Lunn to appear in Ottawa!

Keep a sharp lookout for this big star appearing in Ottawa Wednesday. May be wearing sunglasses and a false moustache. Looks a bit like a deer caught in the headlights. Let us know on Cabinet Starwatch if you see him!

Areva must teach China how to extract plutonium from spent fuel

Actually, I think the Chinese probably know this already, but I found this an interesting article. It'll mean a heck of a lot of more plutonium in the world. I wonder if there are similar deals for other states....

State of news reporting in Canada

And now for something completely different. I just came across this little tidbit. It reports a study by doctors, that supports paying doctors more. And the news media just reports on it, as though it was legit! Would this study come up with any other result? Hip replacements and cataracts are all 80 year olds. Are they high wage earners? (yeah, yeah, not all are super-senior..)

And it's okay that doctor's wages are out of line in Alberta, because those wait times cost the economy a lot more....

Mud flies, Multi-Culture Minister Becomes Nuclear Expert

This article came up yesterday. Nothing has shown up about whether this meeting actually took place, or whether Lunn has lifted his rock.

Harper continues his attack on Keen through intermediaries that should be looking at folk festivals. Not that she doesn't deserve it, but there are a lot of kettles and pots talking about soot. I'm waiting for this 'special investigator' to show up!

As I just said in a comment, I think the effect on the CNSC, of appointing Keen was the same as if Conrad or Barbara were appointed instead. You'll notice that all of her recent defence revolves around her, and how she has been so abused. Conrad always did the same with his libel suits. There is no mention of the effects on the organization or staff. I am confident that during her reign at the CNSC she acted the same way. I witnessed what happened.

Lunn in hiding

They are trying to drag Lunn out of his hidey-hole, but nobody can find him! This article sheds a bit more light on the Harper-Keen battle, and it's quite interesting.

One thing in the article is a statement that the CNSC refused to do a 'pre-review' on the new design that AECL whipped up. I was sort of involved in that blow-up. It was more than a year ago, when I was doing some CSA work, that I discovered the CNSC was engaging in some early work on looking at the AECL ACR. They were writing in some requirements that only the ACR and Candu could handle.

I flew off the handle, since this would negate our negotiating position, of looking at other nuclear design vendors. In fact, all my work at the CSA was in trying to keep these options open. I screamed up the line, which resulted in communication with the CNSC, and they totally stopped all that.

Now, it's being stated that the CNSC is being particularly nasty to AECL by not doing any pre-review. This is garbage, since they would have to engage in a formal procedure, and have it open to all vendors. And believe me, the CNSC doesn't have the manpower or talent for this. When she came in, Linda engaged in a giant purge of anybody who could think.

So, Linda digs in, Lunn is in his Saddam-hole, and life goes on...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Insurance industry wants to worm out of earthquake-fire

The insurance industry continues its quest to exit the earthquake business, while others are happy-happy. Currently, if your house is smashed by an earthquake, it is best to quickly set fire to it (but rubble is darn hard to light!). Once in a while it happens that fires are a result of earthquakes.

That is why there was always a big controversy about the 1906 Great Fire of San Francisco. They never wanted to call it the Great Earthquake, because of the fire insurance! But it's going to be difficult to separate regular fires from earthquake fires. If the house next door burns because of an earthquake-ruptured gas line, and sets your house on fire, is it an earthquake-fire? Wow!

Those along the coast in BC won't have to worry about this. The great tsunami will come and wash away all evidence. Surly that is flood damage?

Porn producers join moral crusade

I just liked the irony here. As the guy said, if you can watch the good 2 minutes of one of our movies, you're not going to buy the whole movie!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pot not easy to grow well

Amen to that! I'll tell a little fishing story about a, eh, friend of mine, who went down this journey. I'll just tell it in the first person, for style.

I was taking anti-depressants and wasn't allowed to drink alcohol. All on my own, I figured that if everybody was going to drink beer at the cottage, then I was going to have a little something, too!

It was an exciting time! I looked up everything on the Internet, on how to grow your own cannabis. In Canada, we have exemptions for medical purposes, and even though I wasn't actually dying, this was for medical purposes, just like an old lady's dose of gin!

I was working downtown at the time, so I found a nice hole-in-the-wall store that sold seeds for medical purposes, although they didn't ask. There was a bewildering choice of your normal Afghan brand, super Dutch brand, ultra-hybrid, etc. I went for something straight down the middle, since never having touched the stuff before, I had no clue.

Growing was a wonderful challenge, I had so many problems, and was always reading on the Internet. I ended up wiring my own lights. I even found out you have to grow a batch first, throw out the males, and grow cuttings from the females.

Finally, I had the most beautiful plants ever! Big juicy flowers, gobs of resin, totally looking like the pictures! I dried them, and they stunk up the house.. oh, well. I didn't want to smoke them, since I don't smoke, so I found a way to heat up the flower heads in olive oil, and pack it in gel capsules.

It tasted nice, but I didn't know what I had. Was it super powerful, or nothing? Every time I had a drop of it, I just fell asleep. Would I survive a whole capsule? Finally, once at the cottage, I had a capsule, and found myself 'Beatle Dreaming', with nice funny patterns, for 10 minutes, before I fell asleep.

After that, I developed migraines every time I touched the stuff, and had to throw it all out. The doctor was happy, since this stuff is as bad to mix with the anti-depressants, as alcohol. So I went back to drinking beer at the cottage, and some red wine, once in a while.... Medicinal!

Cheap land in Hawaii

Yes, this article shows that there is still cheap land in Hawaii. It has a few disadvantages, such as flowing lava, and frogs that can blow out your ears, but it's very appealing to Californians.

It's an interesting coastline. The lava flows slowly, but the tsunamis come in fast. The current continuous eruption is the longest in 1000 years, which may really set up a huge earthquake. I remember going to a talk once, on how the volcanoes add a huge amount of high-altitude mass, and every once in a while there is a huge landslip to accommodate this.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Video streaming on the PS3

I'm doing this now, so I have to gush about it. Recently, Sony upgraded the firmware to include Divx (Xvid version 4) movies. That means I can watch my water polo movies (he, he) on the big screen. It has fantastic upscaling, which uses the internal cell processor on the ps3.

I'm using Mediatomb on Linux to stream the movies. Since I am a Linux Internet expert (90 percentile), I have never had anything to do with the billions of xvid movies out there. Going now to watch another one of my very own, made by me, nothing to do with *them* water polo movies....

Jamaica more aware of earthquakes than Toronto

Jamaica, man, is having an Earthquake Awareness Week. They are looking a bit beyond yesterday and realize they have an earthquake problem. Not Toronto! We'll never admit it.

AECL Produces Radioactive Carrots

Another article stating the obvious decline of AECL. They didn't read my economic analysis, or they could have put more in. The neat thing in the article was that in 2002 AECL tried to make money by selling radioactive sewage sludge to farmers! This was probably billed as a great way to reduce insects without spraying! Bet those carrots were yummy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

IAEA goes back to Japan

I wasn't asked. Too bad. I sometimes wonder who they ask to go, and what expertise they have. You certainly never hear about it, or their findings.

I hope OPG and the Bruce take this lesson in. My scenario earthquake has the exact same thing happening to our nuclear plants: transformers blowing up, and questions about hidden damage. Note that the Japanese plant is nowhere near starting up. Could Ontario take a year without nuclear power?

But, no, everyone will live in blissful ignorance, so happy, such smiles!

Mama, don't build your subdivision on an active volcano!

I think that's a great title for a song! I didn't realize that somebody built a subdivision on the end volcano of the Hawaii chain. That seems bizarre, but the whole thing has been practically wiped out by very slow lava flows. Kilauea is so benign that only the tourists gets killed ("Take my picture standing on this red stuff, Martha!").

Yuk-yuk Mountain shutters up

Yet, it continues the zombie motions of the living dead. The poor little thing has suffered a massive budget cut, and all the nuclear plants are going to store fuel on their sites in concrete casks.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The nuclear mess - a rational assessment

Ok, I've made a lot of fun of the current battles between the CNSC, AECL, and the Harper government. I will write in the style of my favourite mag, the Economist. This is my rational brain talking, when pushed I will deny everything!

The Long Road Home - Canada's Failing Nuclear Legacy

When I go back from Billy's place I always have to roam
The mazy road, the crazy road that leads the long way home.

It has indeed been a crazy road for Canada's AECL. Started in the heat of war, and abandoned, as a child, by its American parents, this organization has seen its share of hills and potholes. This article explains the 'Final Stretch' where AECL goes out, not with bang, but a whimper.

Canada started the Nuclear Age with a tremendous advantage: displaced European scientists, all the heavy water in the world, and a brand new set of sheds in the middle of nowhere. Canada had neutrons, practically the entire world's non-bomb supply, and they made the most of them. Neutrons were flying everwhere, sometimes through people, with no ill effect. It was a great time to be a 'neutron' scientist.

The US thought that neutrons were for more serious stuff, like making bombs and never thought of making a neutron source for civilian purposes. Eventually, the Europeans also got into the game, along with India and Pakistan.

Cheap neutrons gave rise to a great intellectual flowering in Canada, at that great nuclear theme park call Chalk River. Sure, there were accidents, but all stuff got buried in the back forty, and the cancer rates never rose above that of the heavy smokers of the 50's and 60's (see Breakfast at Tiffany's for that!).

They got so good at playing with neutrons, that they were bold enough to aim for the ultimate prize: a nuclear reactor using natural uranium! Nobody else dared to do it, since a few lost neutrons and the reaction fizzled. AECL managed to keep enough going in the CANDU reactors, to spawn a new industry.

In the meantime, back at the ranch, AECL scientists were bombarding everything they could think of, with neutrons. This had a tremendous benefit to medicine, since now doctors had their own neutron generators in the form of hot Cobalt. Cancer research was never the same again! From that work came all the vital isotopes now in use throughout the world.

By now other neutron research reactors were coming on-line. They were a direct threat to Canada's lucrative monopoly. In a bid to stave off this financial disaster, AECL went all out to create a new, bold, series of reactors that could continue world domination. In the meantime, they produced isotopes at a cost way below sustainable levels, with the very old, wartime-designed reactor, which they were running into the ground. This was British-style 'Capital Cannibalization' at its very best!

The last few years have seen AECL desperately milking its monopoly, and using it as a club for more government handouts. AECL has positioned itself as a 'National Champion' or 'Crown Jewels', much like Ontario Hydro, and Al Italia. Needless to say, one can only push this so far.

Now we have the 'nuclear surge', as 'Dubya' would say. Will this be enough to save AECL? Let's look at the facts: The only thing AECL has going for it, is the complete ineptness of the US, in generating isotopes. The Americans have essentially given up on the 'Scientific Method', and gone for political funding through Congress. This doesn't help AECL in the CANDU business, though.

AECL has pinned all its hopes on "CANDU - Next Generation". This is just the old CANDU, but with some stolen enriched fuel (well, it has to come from somewhere!), to make the core a bit more compact. Nobody is really buying it, except, maybe, that sister company, Ontario Hydro, (through its various phony successor companies).

If you have to use enriched fuel anyway, most people opt for the 'Full Monty', which is exemplified by the new Westinghouse design. Ten times less complicated than CANDU, it is a darling of the Chinese, who, everybody, knows, are very smart. AECL is left crying like a losing candidate, in the wings of the nuclear stage.

Now, on top of this sorry saga, comes the final rendering of the body by the vultures. Some people in India may think this very lucky, but AECL does not. They have been caught out in their underpricing of isotopes, by becoming too vital for an honourable death. Every time they try to shut down the old beast, there are cries down the river, the very place where the earthquake-generated radioactive fallout would flow. They are caught between a rock and a hard place, in that they can't push the regulator on the new, unstable reactors, since they have the old, cheap reactor running. And they can't close the rusting hulk, because the new ones haven't been accepted.

Wither AECL? This article argues that it will continue to limp along, destroying any chances for Canada to shine, and it will be ripped to pieces. Horrible collateral damage will ensue, mainly in the areas of regulation and nuclear intelligence. For which bright mind will want to step into this tarpit? They will all go to Google, and hope that the giant information vacuum will come up with a way to power their monstrous server farms. We hear they are interested in fusion....

Yes, its a long road home, and a lonely one in the twilight years of Canada's nuclear promise.

Harper joins the baying for Keen's head

A battle royal is shaping up here. Collateral damage will probably squash any chance for a new nuclear plant. I can see where Harper will continuously have to wade in to get the CNSC to approve anything. Next to all this, the earthquakes rumbling under Chalk River and Vancouver are nothing...

Motorcyclists bake their nuts!

Oh, this is sooo delicious that I'm not making any comment on it. (Note the heavy use of the word 'radiation').

Britain makes grand non-announcement

Britain made a big announcement that everybody was waiting for, with baited breath. They've announced that they are all for nuclear power, rah, rah.

Some of you may have assumed from all the hype, that there would have been some meat in this dog&pony show. I, for one, expected the 'short list' of designs to be winnowed down to two, causing AECL to cry like Hillary. But, no, they figure there still much more money to be made from the losers.

When will they bite the bullet and cut down on the under-table money? Who knows....

Let's pour One BILLLLion Dollars into AECL

This is like good old Carl Sagan -- BILLLions and BILLLions! It makes sense to me. If we are going to keep AECL around as a creature of government, then we should pay. Those buildings at Chalk River were all built by the Americans in WWII, we didn't put a cent into them. Probably all block walls on an earthquake swamp.

Yep, let the money taps pour! They more money that spills out of the Ministry of Silly Walks, the bigger the chance some of it will dribble on me. I'll do a seismic assessment (snarffll!). I'll say the chance of a disaster isn't any worse than Vancouver, and that should satisfy everybody.

Earthquakes on both sides of 'The Gap'

In the year 1700, there was a humongous earthquake on the subduction zone by Vancouver. This earthquake was so big that it sucked the life out of any subsequent earthquakes for 300 years. Now, the earthquakes have dared to nibble at the edges.

First, we had 3 earthquakes on the northern tip, and now we have this Oregon earthquake. A few more of these earthquakes, and we're looking at something serious. I suspect that this subduction zone is 'smooth', so that it really doesn't give a lot of 'warning' earthquakes, but responds to regional stress changes (earthquakes), with one big 'whoosh' every few hundred years.

AECL joins Attack Pack on Keen

Yes people, the snarling continues. AECL now says they were as innocent as the driven snow, in that little thing about 'hiding' the safety infractions. In fact, the CNSC knew about it all the time. This is parallels the CNSC story that the Ministry of Silly Walks knew all about the reactor closing.

All I can say, is that it looks like nobody reads their mail!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Two earthquakes give the raspberry to AECL

At least that's how I think they would sound, if you could actually hear them. Sort of a deep rumbly fart that goes on forever! That was the only interesting thing I got from this article, other than General Auditor going on and on, blah, blah, about money, incompetence, blah, blah.

The appeal of mud volcanoes

Here's an idea for the biggest mud volcano over in Indonesia, turn it into a tourist resort. Apparently, tourists like to dip into anything! Just say it's good for them, who's going to know?

Vancouver subduction zone starts to move

That's the fun of earthquake science. We don't know what that cluster of earthquakes out in the West really means. Now a third one comes in. These are all sixes, which are pimples on that great ugly beast. It's sure got the insurance companies worried!

I think it's safe to say that when things are hopping, then there is a great chance of something big ripping down south or north. These quakes seem to be at a bend, which is a great initiator for the big one. Of course, maybe this whole thing will blow over and we can go back to bed....

Canadian isotope incompetence gets US worried

The grand old show of the last few months now has the US scratching their collective heads. Somehow, they didn't realize that most of their critical isotopes came from an old clapped-out radioactive bathtub that is threatening to poop out any time now.

They are now hoping that the unstable Maple reactors will get approved over Linda Keen's dead body (soon to be arranged...). Or else they will order that they build their own research reactors. This will be difficult since they just gutted the budget for nuclear physics, and I'm sure all those scientific people are real happy!

But I'm sure that my favourite US Hillary will cry her way out of this pickle, much like she has done before....

Oh, and Linda? If you see any guys in black suits wearing sunglasses in the winter, and earphones, I'd duck!

Incinerator to be installed beside giant cement plant

I have found these arguments interesting. I always thought that reasonable incineration was a good solution to garbage. The pollution can be carefully monitored and minimized. But there is a big cry over the pollution from this proposed plant.

HELLO! It's right beside the biggest darn burner of coal in the region! On a good day you can see the haze go for miles. And this thing is very lightly regulated, in a rather hidden manner. You can be sure it pumps out stuff orders of magnitude over a measly incinerator. Of course, you can incinerate all the garbage in the cement kiln, that would be something! (I think there are advantages in doing it for old tires).

Homer Simpson rules at Ministry of Silly Walks

I like this article. Old Lunn is being rather clumsy. Certainly, there is now every reason to sell AECL and get it away from him.

OPG gets into the fast lane

Things are finally moving on the nuclear front. The CNSC has decided to forgo tedious general public hearings, and zoom directly to a (rather cursory) federal environmental review. Because the talent is so thin, this will probably be the same bunch of guys that are doing the Bruce deep disposal.

I'm in a real quandary about whether I should be more or less obnoxious here, especially in wanting to line my own pocketbook. My usual approach has been toward 'pain in the arse', hoping that they would pay me to keep quiet. Now, I'm wondering about that approach, since there have been no bribes under the table. :)

Anyway, I expect these panels to be stack with Conservative cronies, that don't know anything about seismic, geology, geophysics, or blasting. Both the Darlington and Bruce sites are 'breaking new ground' in the areas of violating basic physics. And we all know that "Mother Nature doesn't like to be fooled."

Hillary cries her way back to victory

This has nothing to do with me or Canada. And I like all 3 top contenders: Obama, Hillary, and McCain. They have more intelligence than all the Bushes, and their cousins put together.

But still, this is interesting drama! Hillary was crying, and now she's beaming! And so much money pouring out! I'll be watching for more.

CNSC under attack

Wow! The minister wants to fire Linda Keen, and she is fighting back with full-cannon broadsides! It turns out that early in the incident, the minister improperly leaned on Keen, and she, properly, told him to get lost. Only Parliament can overrule the CNSC.

She still has her 5 year term to run out, and she's going to fight like hell to stay. The law is on her side since the CNSC is treated as a quasi court of law.

All of which is probably gumming up the whole works, and we'll never see a new nuclear plant in my lifetime...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


All I remember about fusion and the ITER, was that the Bruce was proposed as a site. It required a very deep hole for the reactor. I told them that you can't put a deep pit there, without pumping out all of Lake Huron, so they settled on Darlington. Of course, this was a huge patronage plum, and the French won it.

A comment on my last post about ITER made me do some more research. It turns out that there are several possible fusion reactions that could produce power. The ITER is just doing one as a plasma donut, and it recently lost its US funding, perhaps as a result of an intense, almost religious, campaign directly to Congress.

The darling of the passionate is a fusion reaction involving boron. It produces no neutrons, but is ten times more difficult to ignite. It also lights up the sky with x-rays! (you win some, you lose some). Looking this up on the Internet, the debate is very non-scientific and quasi-religious. I finally found a Wikipedia article that made some sense. The article is very neutral, to avoid passions, but I think it shows a lot of obstacles in the way for all these systems. The capital costs will be huge, and these things are all going to be a bitch during an earthquake!

Flood of cheap Linux boxes

Oh, whatever will Microsoft do? Everybody is announcing super-cheap Linux boxes (appliances) at the current electronic show. This Shuttle box looks amazing, and the barebones is priced less than a motherboard!

As I've said, we love our Asus eeeeeeeeeeee-pc which is essentially a portable Linux appliance, much like an ipod. I see the market going more towards these things than the standard boxes that Shuttle is coming out with. The Sony Ps3 is essentially a Linux appliance that can sit on your TV and do all the movies and games.

US pulls out of ITER, China comes in

Boy, that must really rot their socks! The big physics budget cut passed by the US Congress, practically dictated that they must pull out of ITER. Now, China has come in with big bucks.

ITER is a big world fusion project. For a while, Canada thought they could provide a site at Darlington, but France won out. The focus of the project is on the engineering aspects of maintaining a plasma fusion toroid. The project is not designed to be a net provider of energy.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Wikia, the new search thiingie

A rather biased article from the Register, who hates Jim Wales. I have a more neutral view, and I have even written a 'mini-article' on 'earthquake' for the project. I loved the Wikipedia when it started, since it merged my wild creative soul, with actual editors who fixed things. Then it became a giant bloody battlefield between the protectors and the barbarians (vandals).

Of course, this project will go the same way. And Google is trying the same thing with their bizarre 'Knol' project. The Internet survives by leaving the devastation behind, and moving on to the 'next thing'.

Insurance industry gets ready to cut and run

At least this is how I read it. The expected earthquake on the west coast is expected to cause about $30 billion in damage, and the insurance industry is in for $6 billion. Do you think they want that hit?

This press release is a coded message to the government that they won't take it, and the taxpayers will be in for the whole lot. Unless, of course, something is 'arranged'.

This is a general trend of pulling out of earthquake insurance everywhere. It's too concentrated, and too much of a big hit, causing a liquidity problem. The same with big storms, but I can't see them getting out of that business, and still insure homes.

My prediction for the coming year is that we'll see a quiet exclusion of all earthquake risks in insurance policies. In the US, they have to declare that they are getting out of earthquakes, but in Canada, it will all be done under the table.

Nuclear battle heats up in Britain

Britain is like Ontario, in that they are holding a political beauty contest for the next nuclear plant design. The money flows like water, under the table. AECL is an anxious contestant, crossing its fingers, and fluttering its eyelashes.

They could just make the damn decision, but noooo. Sounds like they are just going to reduce the list of 4, down to two. Then, more money could flow during the final bake-off.

I suppose there could be a non-corrupt way of doing this, but much less fun. But, in the end, Britain will supposedly make a decision on just one plant design. Ontario is expected to waffle on two designs, one for Bruce and one for OPG. This avoids the nasty implications of dealing with a jilted lover, who has paid for a lot of dinners!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Earthquake insurance pulling out of the East

This was noticed in Ohio, that they were no longer covering earthquakes. What is happening here? Are the insurance companies getting some brains? Will anybody else get any brains? What happens when all the insurance companies pull out of this area? Will the emergency people see this as a sign? Will the nuclear companies wake up? I doubt it....

Decent-sized earthquake out in BC

There's a great advantage in having your earthquake in the middle of nowhere. Over the years, the subduction zone at the Queen Charlottes has been very active.

So now they just had an M6.5, which is almost nothing out there. But you can see from the map that the whole area is a subduction zone. One day, the action just has to move down towards Vancouver and Seattle.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Intel sulks and goes home

Intel has abandoned making a pretense of supporting the 'one laptop per child' XO pc. They've taken their miserable chip and gone home.

I heard an interesting story over Christmas. Seems a rich private school has bought a lot of these on the 'buy one, give one' program. They intend to match with a village, and learn together. I think this is great! The few XO's distributed so far show they can really make a difference.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kodak Wireless Picture Frame EX811

I've seen these at Costco for years, and always thought they were useless. But my money-with-no-expenses-cause-Dad-pays-them-all son bought us the wireless version. With some fun, and a firmware upgrade, it detects my Linux-based Mediatomb mediaserver, and shows pictures from that. It had no problem connecting with my WPA wireless. It works so well, I have to suspect it is running Linux!

Now I've started to dig up my really old digital files, and put them on the mediaserver. I put them on a 30 second refresh, and it's fun to see an old picture show up. What are you really going to do with umpteen thousand old digital pictures?

More on this, by a useless technology writer who couldn't figure how to wireless himself out of a paper bag! :)

Roomba enters a parallel universe

Yes, our Roomba is missing, gone to where the missing socks go.

Being a great retired house-husband, I did my vacuuming by releasing it upstairs, like I've done hundreds of times before. It normally finishes under the bed, or some other horrible place, where I have to squirm to get it. This time it vanished! I searched under everything, got my daughter to search, and then my son. Other-half laughed at me, and said she'd find it right away. Ha!

I swear it beeped at me once, just to say it was all right. Perhaps it will come back one day....

ps. I found the pesky little thing! The door to the exercise room had been left open for a while and it jammed itself under the treadmill.

Canada is Japan

I just dug this up. It's a summary of all the things wrong with the Japanese nuclear model. The main point is that the industry is so inbred, that the same old fools are both paid by the industry, and the regulatory, at virtually the same time! The only comeback they have to that is "Everybody else is an idiot!"

The minimum standard for Japanese nuclear plants is to resist an M6.5. This is ridiculously low, and is a good number for Ontario! In the article, you can substitute "Canada" for "Japan". We just haven't had anything in living memory, so 'therefore' it doesn't exist.

So, this brings up the question of who is going to write all the 'pro' stuff for the next nuclear plant (or waste repository), and who is going to review it? Who is going to engage in the basic science to justify claims and counter claims? Don't forget that if the 'pro-camp' comes up with a 3 foot stack of 'private studies', it will certainly outweigh any verbal retort from reviewers.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Giant earthquake bridge makes nuclear plants look cheap

I liked this article. When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit California, the bridges took a big hit. This completely choked the car-dependent economy! So, they needed a new bridge! Apparently, a cheaper bridge wasn't good enough, they wanted a huge, beautiful, horribly expensive bridge, that would match the Golden Gate.

Of course, nobody in California ever pays for anything, so it was all bought by more debt, as well as some extra debt to meet the payments on the debt.

Anyway, I am happy they are obsessed with their future M8 earthquake. It gives lots of jobs to my earthquake buddies. Over here, now that Harper has outlawed earthquakes, we don't even think about them...