Archive for the 'Nuclear' Category



Attacking Iran: The Ultimate Election Year Distraction?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 9 months ago

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about whether Israel is contemplating an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.   One article on the subject is found at Commentary Magazine’s online blog, “Contentions.”

Jonathan Tobin does a very good job of looking at the big picture and discussing the geopolitical aspects of an attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities, but the long odds facing such an operation by Israel seem simply prohibitive.

But what if all of the public debate about an Israeli strike against Iran was not just conjecture or the case of Israeli politicians leaking information to the press, but, rather, an intentional gambit by Israel to push President Obama to take stiffer action against Iran than the ineffective sanctions route?  What if the Israelis know something about Obama that tells them that not only is Obama receptive to attacking Iran but he is looking for an excuse to do so?   Could this President be just crazy enough to try to pull off a missile and air strike against Iran’s nuclear program?   Ordinarily the idea is absurd.   But these are not ordinary times.   Obama’s presidency is failing fast and he is thrashing around like a drowning man.

Fasten your seatbelts for a little rampant speculation and see if there isn’t a grain of sense in all of this.

First, let’s get inside the Obama White House.   Imagine the increasing frenzy.   Obama has tried everything to resurrect his sinking popularity but nothing has worked so far.   Killing Bin Laden?  A temporary bounce that has long since fizzled.  Killing Qaddafi?  Nothing doing.   Yanking the troops out of Iraq post haste?  No one seems to care.   Another $500 billion, Son of Stimulus spending spree packaged as a “Jobs Bill” is going nowhere fast.  The public has figured out that Obama does not spend our tax dollars but, rather, throws most of it out the window of Air Force One while the rest goes to his political cronies like unions and Democrat campaigns.

He needs something big.  Really big.  Domestic policy is not an option because the Republicans have a choke hold on the House of Representatives for the remainder of his term.

Could Iran be the ticket?

As crazy as it sounds, there are a number of factors that might line up in Obama’s mind and convince him to green light an attack.

For one, an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities is exactly the kind of wargaming that Obama enjoys the most:  remote, relatively low-risk, no ground troops involved, short duration, odds stacked highly in our favor.   Missiles, drones, stealth bombers, stealth fighters.  Maybe some Special Ops going in to blow up a thing or two.   No long-term commitment and largely out of his hands once the decision is made to proceed.

Another factor Obama may find attractive in a strike against Iran is the revenge factor.  More than one commentator has observed that Obama does not like to be snubbed or insulted.   He has extraordinarily thin skin.   And the Iranians have insulted and maligned him like no other on the international stage.   This must be especially galling to Obama given the way he has scraped and bowed to the Iranian Regime, offered the so-called “open hand,” and the only response has been the back of their hand across Obama’s face.  Pure speculation here, but it must eat at his sizable ego to think of Ahmadinnerjacket and the mullahs laughing at him.   He must want to get even very badly.   So there is ample motivation for him.

Still another argument in favor of striking Iran would be its effect upon Israel.   Whether it is all the anti-Semitic rants he absorbed for 20 years in Jeremiah Wright’s Chicago church or the Leftist obsession for the “plight of Palestinians,” President Obama seems to harbor a deep dislike for the Jewish State and, perhaps especially, for Prime Minister Netanyahu.  There is no doubt that Israeli officials have been making it clear to the Administration that they will act if Obama does not.   The thought that Netanyahu might show himself to be a decisive leader while Obama dithers is unbearable to The One.   This may be the very game that Netanyahu is playing on Obama right now.   And Obama may that he will be in a strong position to demand huge concessions from Netanyahu if Obama takes out Iran’s nukes, enough to seal the deal on a peace plan that could net Obama a second Nobel prize and the international acclaim he constantly craves.

But perhaps the most appealing aspect must be the political angle and its effect on his chances of re-election.  Americans have a hard time resisting a war-time President.  As long as hostilities do not go one for too long and they are seen as relatively successful (and the Leftist Media will make sure that no one knows whether it has been successful until long after the 2012 Elections), it is highly likely that his approval ratings will take a large jump.    It will also make Republican arguments that Obama is incompetent much harder to sell.

Will it be enough to drown out the terrible economy and lousy job market and skyrocketing deficits and rising prices?   Maybe not.  But that only makes it all the more imperative for him to try something as mad and desperate as this.   Add to this the calculus of the slowly widening scandals that threaten to engulf this Administration.   So far the Leftist Media has been able to hold back the floods on Solyndra (where it appears that more than half a billion dollars were railroaded to a failing company headed by a close ally and financial contributor of Obama) and the “Fast and Furious”  (where we are nowhere close to getting the truth and extent of the malfeasance).   If it appears that either or both of these scandals will take off in the public’s consciousness, Obama will be extremely tempted to pull a Bill Clinton-Lewinsky-Missile Strike distraction operation.    Attacking Iran with stand-off weapons would be the ultimate distraction that would assure zero coverage of either of these political scandals.

Do I really think that President Obama would launch a surprise strike on Iran?   No, not really.

But sometimes, when a politician lacking in scruples and dedicated to the idea that nothing is off limits in the quest for continued power is cornered, even the unthinkable may just be possible.   In this light, the withdrawal of all U.S. forces in Iraq next month actually eliminates one of the easiest targets for the Iranians to go after as a counter-strike.   Coincidence?  Almost certainly.  But convenient nonetheless.

And consider this article in The Guardian that discusses the preparations that Great Britain is making to support a U.S. attack on Iran:

Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran’s nuclear enrichment programme, the Guardian has learned.

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.

In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.

They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.

The Guardian has spoken to a number of Whitehall and defence officials over recent weeks who said Iran was once again becoming the focus of diplomatic concern after the revolution in Libya.

They made clear that Barack Obama, has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s presidential election.

But they warned the calculations could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.

Hawks in the US are likely to seize on next week’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is expected to provide fresh evidence of a possible nuclear weapons programme in Iran.

The Guardian has been told that the IAEA’s bulletin could be “a game changer” which will provide unprecedented details of the research and experiments being undertaken by the regime.

***

Another Whitehall official, with knowledge of Britain’s military planning, said that within the next 12 months Iran may have hidden all the material it needs to continue a covert weapons programme inside fortified bunkers. He said this had necessitated the UK’s planning being taken to a new level.

“Beyond [12 months], we couldn’t be sure our missiles could reach them,” the source said. “So the window is closing, and the UK needs to do some sensible forward planning. The US could do this on their own but they won’t.

“So we need to anticipate being asked to contribute. We had thought this would wait until after the US election next year, but now we are not so sure.

“President Obama has a big decision to make in the coming months because he won’t want to do anything just before an election.”

Another source added there was “no acceleration towards military action by the US, but that could change”. Next spring could be a key decision-making period, the source said. The MoD has a specific team considering the military options against Iran.

Since when do the British start making contingency plans to support a U.S. attack on Iran?   Very suspicious.  No doubt that President Obama will try to avoid anything so drastic as an attack on Iran for as long as possible, but this article indicates that the decision may well come to a head in the next several months.   As I say, it is probably crazy talk, but if the economy continues to stagnate, unemployment remains high, a scandal starts to gain traction and Obama’s approval numbers stay in the tank, do not be shocked if we start to hear increasingly tough language out of the Administration’s mouthpieces as a prelude.

As the saying goes, stay tuned.

News So Bad It Has To Be True: Iran Already Has Nukes (Time for Plan B)

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 9 months ago

On occasion someone will say, “That news is too good to be true.”   You won the lottery without even playing.    McDonald’s Big Macs have been discovered to lead to weight loss and longer life.   Obama wakes up one day and realizes that Leftist policies are killing this country.

Conversely, there ought to be a saying that some news is just so bad, it has to be true.   The opinion piece printed the other day in The Washington Times falls into this category:  so bad it has to be true.

Afterall, would anyone who has kept up with the pathetic Kabuki dance of anti-proliferation involving Iran since 2000 have any reason to doubt that Iran not only has The Bomb but has had The Bomb for quite awhile now and is simply working on expanding their stockpile?

I suppose we must always take a pseudonymous writer with a grain of salt, so this opinion piece by Reza Khalili must bear an asterisk, however small.   But I submit that, even if we were to exclude what Khalili says in his article about his days with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the remaining portions of his account that do not depend upon his inside information are plenty persuasive.

Here is the bad news:

The pressure the United States and the West is bringing to bear on Iran to keep it from acquiring nuclear weapons is all for naught. Not only does the Islamic Republic already have nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union, but it has enough enriched uranium for more. What’s worse, it has a delivery system.

The West for nearly a decade has worried about Iran’s uranium enhancement, believing Iran is working on a nuclear bomb, though the government maintains its uranium is only for peaceful purposes.

When Iran began its nuclear program in the mid-1980s, I was working as a spy for the CIA within the Revolutionary Guards. The Guards‘ intelligence at that time had learned of Saddam Hussein’s attempt to buy a nuclear bomb for Iraq. Guard commanders concluded that they needed a nuclear bomb because if Saddam were to get his own, he would use it against Iran. At that time, the two countries were at war.

Mohsen Rezaei, then-chief commander of the Guards, received permission from the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to start a covert program to obtain nuclear weapons, so the Guards contacted Pakistani generals and Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist.

Commander Ali Shamkhani traveled to Pakistan, offering billions of dollars for a bomb, but ended up with a blueprint and centrifuges instead. The first centrifuge was transferred to Iran on Khomeini’s personal plane.

This is pretty damning stuff.  But even if we disregard what Khalili says about his days as a C.I.A. agent, the rest of his allegations are more than sufficient:

In a second but parallel attempt to amass nuclear weapons, Iran turned to the former Soviet republics. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1990, Iran coveted thousands of tactical nuclear warheads that had been dispersed in the former republics.

In the early 1990s, the CIA asked me to find an Iranian scientist who would testify that Iran had the bomb. The CIA had learned that Iranian intelligence agents were visiting nuclear installations throughout the former Soviet Union, with particular interest in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan, which had a significant portion of the Soviet arsenal and is predominately Muslim, was courted by Muslim Iran with offers of hundreds of millions of dollars for the bomb. Reports soon surfaced that three nuclear warheads were missing. This was corroborated by Russian Gen. Victor Samoilov, who handled the disarmament issues for the general staff. He admitted that the three were missing from Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, Paul Muenstermann, then vice president of the German Federal Intelligence Service, said Iran had received two of the three nuclear warheads and medium-range nuclear delivery systems from Kazakhstan. It also was reported that Iran had purchased four 152 mm nuclear shells from the former Soviet Union, which were reportedly stolen and sold by former Red Army officers.

To make matters worse, several years later, Russian officials stated that when comparing documents in transferring nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia, there was a discrepancy of 250 nuclear weapons.

Last week, Mathew Nasuti, a former U.S. Air Force captain who was at one point hired by the State Department as an adviser to one of its provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq, said that in March 2008, during a briefing on Iran at the State Department, the department’s Middle East expert told the group that it was “common knowledge” that Iran had acquired tactical nuclear weapons from one or more of the former Soviet republics.

Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, an experienced intelligence officer and recipient of a Bronze Star, told me that his sources say Iran has two workable nuclear warheads.

An editorial in Kayhan, the Iranian newspaper directly under the supervision of the Office of the Supreme Leader, last year warned that if Iran were attacked, there would be nuclear blasts in American cities.

When you stop to think about it, this just makes too much sense to not be true.

It perfectly explains the behavior of every U.S. administration since the time that Iran allegedly gained possession of the nuclear weapons in the 1990′s.   From Clinton to Bush to Obama, all have almost robotically stated that it was “unacceptable” for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.   But not one of these administrations did anything concrete about it.

Think about this for a moment.   When the U.S. declares something to be “unacceptable,” one would naturally believe that the U.S. is going to act accordingly.    So when the Soviets began installing nuclear missile sites in Cuba, the U.S. imposed a blockade on the island and dared the Soviet Union to try to break it.    When the U.S. declared that a communist South Vietnam was unacceptable, the U.S. invested over half a million soldiers to prevent the takeover.   In more recent history, in the case of Bill Clinton, he refused to put up with the Serbian ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and launched a unilateral air war to stop it.   President Bush took bold military action to dislodge Al Qaeda from Afghanistan after 9/11 and remove Saddam Hussein.   Obama has gone on a drone strike frenzy since he took office, all in order to kill leaders who have not yet shown any ability to launch any sort of large-scale strike against the U.S.

But, strangely enough, when Iran pursues nuclear weapons– a regime whose fanatically religious leadership has universally pledged itself to the utter destruction of the U.S. and its allies in a way that Cuba, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam, China, Serbia and even Iraq never did– the U.S. does what?  All these presidents who have used the U.S. military on numerous occasions did nothing to halt Iran’s progress.   (And I am confident in the sophisticated readers of TCJ that no one will even think of the sanctions as real action).

Is there something about Iran’s conventional forces that is so menacing and so advanced that the success of any U.S. action against Iran would be in doubt?   Of course not.   Yes, Iran is always threatening that they will turn the Persian Gulf into a lake of bloody fiery oily fiery blood, or something to that effect.   But beyond an initial ability to cause havoc in the shipping lanes, it is bluster.   The U.S. has more than enough capabilities to ensure sufficient safe transit through the Straits of Hormuz, particularly after Iran’s military is reduced to ashes.   (Think of the Kuwaiti “Highway of Death”).

To my mind, the only thing that can account for the pusillanimous treatment of Iran by the U.S. is the certainty, in those secret briefings that new presidents always get, that Iran already has The Bomb and, furthermore, has the capacity to use them in at least some fashion that a president would find extremely unpleasant.   So, each administration has been putting on a brave face and declaring that the U.S. will not allow Iran to get The Bomb, all the while knowing that they have it and the most that we can do is try to slow down, interrupt, forestall or complicate their tireless efforts to expand their stock of bombs and delivery systems.

Cold comfort, that.

Khalili’s closing thoughts are chilling:

“History suggests that we may already be too late to stop Iran’s nuclear bomb. Why do we suppose Iran cannot accomplish in 20 years of trying – with access to vast amounts of unclassified data on nuclear-weapons design and equipped with 21st-century technology – what the U.S. accomplished in three years during the 1940s with the Manhattan Project?” asks nuclear weapons expert Peter Vincent Pry, who served in the CIA and on the EMP Commission, and is now president of EMPact America.

Mr. Pry concludes that Iran only needs a single nuclear weapon to destroy the United States. A nuclear EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack could collapse the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures that sustain the lives of 310 million Americans.

Are we ready to finally realize what the goals and the ideology of the jihadists in Tehran are and take appropriate action against them? The Iranian people themselves, who oppose the dictatorial mullahs, for years have asked us to do so. Thousands of them have lost their lives to show us the true nature of this regime. We must act before it’s too late.

But isn’t it already too late?  What can be done at this point?  Isn’t the game over?

Assuming that Khalili’s article is correct, it may be over in the sense of preventing the Regime from acquiring nuclear weapons, but that does not mean that the U.S. must accede to a Regime that continues to enhance and expand its nuclear capabilities.   Presumably this is the intent and aim of the Regime: an ongoing capability to manufacture a large number of nuclear weapons, something that the Regime presently lacks.

The goal may now have changed from prevention to neutralization, i.e. regime change.   Afterall, if it is already too late to take the nukes away from the Regime, the only option may be to take the Regime away from the nukes.   There is much, much more that the U.S. could be doing to ensure the downfall of the Regime and the rise of a pro-Western democracy in Iran.

This is not nation-building and this is not containment.   This is good, old fashioned covert operations and insurgency tactics designed to take out critical infrastructure like oil facilities, refineries and the electrical grid with plausible deniability.   The Iranian economy already teeters on the edge of ruin with high rates of inflation, massive corruption across every industry and a population that is seething for change.   The U.S. and its allies need to do everything possible to push the Iranian economy over the edge and support to the fullest extent those segments of the Green Movement that favor a pro-Western policy.   We need to push the buttons on Iran that fatally weaken them– the 1,000 cuts– without giving the Regime the excuse to launch a major terror attack.   At the same time, if the U.S. is smart, it will be doing everything possible to increase domestic production of oil and natural gas as a buffer against the predictable rise in oil prices as Iranian exports plunge due to disrupted drilling, sabotaged pipelines and industrial accidents.

An Iran with a limited number of nuclear weapons is not yet a hopeless situation.  In a nuclear age, possessing nukes is not enough.   A nation must possess a sufficient quantity to convince an opponent that any attack against it will result in a counter-strike of apocalyptic proportions.   When facing a regime like the one in Tehran with a so far, very limited stockpile of nukes, it is, ironically, the one who launches first who loses.   Iran lacks a large stockpile of nukes with which to threaten the U.S., so it cannot afford to initiate any type of nuclear attack.   If it does, it invites certain annihilation from the U.S. stockpile.   Strategically, Iran’s nukes, at this stage, only serve as a deterrent against conventional attack.   Like a bee with a very large stinger, the Regime’s nukes raise the cost of directly attacking it, but cannot, in the long run, serve as an absolute deterrent or prevail.

Instead, the Regime likely would welcome a direct attack and then claim such an attack as justification to use its small number of nukes as its only, real means of defense while counting on the international community’s protection after the fact and the sympathy generated by the initial attack launched by the U.S. (or Israel, perhaps).   The U.S. cannot fall into that trap.   By using covert means, the U.S. can work to eliminate the Regime and ensure that a democratic Iran emerges, one which will either relinquish the nuclear weapons or pose no more threat to the West than Israel or France.  The U.S. must find a way to become adept at the use of proxies even as the Regime has used Hezbollah and Hamas as its cat’s paw against Israel.

Whether the U.S. can find an elected leader with the courage and determination to pursue such a course is another matter altogether.   The current occupant of the White House is not going to do it.   It is hard to know at this point whether any of the current GOP candidates are up to the task, either.  One thing is clear, if we assume as a worst-case scenario that Iran already has at least a few, working nuclear devices and the means of delivery, every year that the Regime stays in power allows them to expand their nuclear capabilities and stockpile to the point where even covert action would be too risky.  That, to my mind, would be the very definition of “too late.”

Al Qaida Closer to Nukes? Don’t Bother Telling Anyone

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

Here is a highly disturbing article from February that I would bet most of us never saw featured in any major, U.S. newspaper or given any time on the network news.

According to the article:

Al-Qaida is on the verge of producing radioactive weapons after sourcing nuclear material and recruiting rogue scientists to build “dirty” bombs, according to leaked diplomatic documents.

A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a “nuclear 9/11″.

Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing “workable and efficient” biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.

Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.

At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of “dirty radioactive IEDs”, makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan.

Lest anyone think that this is an over-reaction by nervous State Department diplomats, the Indian security services have provided their own confirmation:
The briefings also state that al-Qaida documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that “greater advances” had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized. An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a “manifest attempt to get fissile material” and “have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb”.

Does anyone have the increasing feeling that we are trying to build ever stronger sandcastles?   The tide is coming in.  The U.S. had better have a well-thought out response.

On second thought, given the current Administration and its responses to international crises so far, the most sensible response may be on a personal level:  food, medicines, water and ammunition.

Status of the Fukushima Reactor Accidents Part II

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

In Status of the Fukushima Reactor Accidents, I said:

… it’s important that everyone realize what I have already said concerning this set of accidents.  The main stream media (both print and television) continue to point towards avoiding a core melt event, as if it will announce itself with some sort of trumpet blast and melt through the earth.  As I have explained, it doesn’t happen that way.  The corium, if it makes it through the lower reactor vessel head, will disperse and cool from that dispersal, not even making it through the lower basemat of concrete.

The cores for Units 1, 2 and 3 are already damaged.  They are partially melted, and partially shattered and rubblized, sitting in the lower part of the reactor vessel.  Most of the radiological source term that can be expected to be released from the core to containment has already been released.  It is being held up inside hard containments and depleted via radioactive decay, plateout, etc.

The work now has to do with mitigation of the radiological source terms, from water injection into the reactor coolant system, water washdown of plant components, and so on.  If the semi-volatile fission products and alkali metals are in effluent, they will likely not re-evolve to the atmosphere in large quantities.  Most importantly, for now, the Spent Fuel Pools deserve attention, and hopefully the operators will be able to mitigate zirconium fire events in the pools.

And in Primer for Studying News Releases on the Japanese Reactor Accidents, I described how computer codes – including one that I have written – model fission product release as a function of temperature during fuel heatup.  Fuel melting doesn’t have to occur to release fission products.

On March 19th Glenn Reynolds linked an article at Pajamas Media that weighs in thusly:

Nature has also learned that initial CTBTO data suggest that a large meltdown at the Fukushima power plant has not yet occurred, although that assessment may change as more data flow in during the coming days. Lars-Erik De Geer, research director of the Swedish Defence Research Institute in Stockholm, which has access to the CTBTO data and uses it to provide the foreign ministry and other Swedish government departments with analyses, says that the data show high amounts of volatile radioactive isotopes, such as iodine and caesium, as well the noble gas xenon. But so far, the data show no high levels of the less volatile elements such as zirconium and barium that would signal that a large meltdown had taken place — elements that were released during the 1986 reactor explosion in Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

And today the AP acknowledges that the cores in Units 1, 2 and 3 are “partially melted.”  The Captain’s Journal is a week or so ahead of the rest of the nuclear experts.

Here is another prediction and technical explanation.  Power has been restored to the plant.

Japanese authorities have taken a major step in managing a nuclear crisis by connecting all six earthquake-damaged reactors to power supply, but it’s too soon to say the crisis has reached a turning point, experts said on Monday.

Power has been connected but not switched on to crank up most coolers and pumps, which may have been badly damaged in the quake and tsunami that on March 11 triggered the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Only one pump has been activated.

The damaged reactors and their spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, urgently need cooling from air-conditioners and from water pumped in.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, asked by CNN whether the worst of Japan’s 10-day nuclear crisis was over, said: “Well, we believe so, but I don’t want to make a blanket statement.”

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko added that radiation levels at the plant appeared to be falling.

But nuclear experts in the United States and elsewhere were not quite as positive.

“I am not sure if the crisis has passed but it is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Peter Hosemann, a professor at the University of California Berkeley’s Nuclear Engineering Department.

“It is getting better. However, we don’t know if the pipes and connections and pumps still work at this point or what works and what not. But having power makes external water supply easier.”

This is a positive step.  This is good.  This makes addressing the problems an order of magnitude easier.  But don’t hurry to a conclusion.  Water may have intruded into terminal cabinets, circuitry, pump motors, transformers, load centers and motor control centers, and getting power to the plant is not the same thing as getting power to individual components.  There will be ground faults, broken connections, flooded components, and breakers that trip open on over-current and under-voltage when they are closed.  It will be a massive headache for the operators.

This isn’t over.  The Japanese are performing heroically as I have observed.  They are improving the situation.  But habitability of land, edibility of crops, cleanup of the plant, and recovery operations for the rubblized reactor cores will take time and money.  Pray for the Japanese – and don’t jump to any conclusions from MSM reports, like the notion that the fact that Unit 3 contains mixed oxide fuel (MOX) makes it somehow more dangerous than UO2 cores.  Please don’t fall for the hype.  Fuel fines will not become aerosolized or airborne, and the Plutonium is part of a metal crystalline structure.  It will stay bound within the fuel matrix.

Status of the Fukushima Reactor Accidents

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

The Telegraph has some useful video that shows the damage to Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

ANS Nuclear Cafe gives us a rundown of the status of Fukushima reactors (and a little information on the Spent Fuel Pools).

FEDERATION OF ELECTRIC POWER COMPANIES OF JAPAN March 17, 2011, 14:15 GMT Update regarding the Tohoku earthquake

Radiation Levels

  • At 9:20AM (JST) on March 17, radiation level at elevation of 1000ft above Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 4,130 micro sievert.
  • At 9:20AM on March 17, radiation level at elevation of 300ft above Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 87,700 micro sievert. At 11:10AM on March 17, radiation level at main gate (approximately 3281 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station: 646.2 micro sievert.
  • At 7:50PM on March 17, radiation level outside main office building (approximately 1,640 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 3,599 micro sievert.
  • For comparison, a human receives 2,400 micro sievert per year from Natural radiation in the form of sunlight, radon, and other sources. One Chest CT scan generates 6900 micro sievert per scan.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor
  • Since 10:30AM on March 14, the pressure within the primary containment vessel cannot be measured.
  • At 12:50PM on March 17, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.185MPa.
  • meters below the top of the fuel rods.At 12:50PM on March 17, water level inside the reactor core: 1.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor
  • At 12:25PM on March 16, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.40MPaabs.
  • At 12:50PM on March 17, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.027MPa.
  • At 12:50PM on March 17, water level inside the reactor core: 1.8 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor
  • At 12:40PM on March 16, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.23MPaabs.
  • At 6:15AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber was observed to fluctuate.
  • At 7:00AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.22MPa.
  • At 7:05AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.44MPa.
  • At 7:10AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.26MPa.
  • At 7:15AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.52MPa.
  • At 7:20AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.13MPa.
  • At 7:25AM on March 17, pressure inside the suppression chamber: 0.57MPa.
  • At 9:48AM on March 17, a Self Defense Forces helicopter made four water drops aimed for the spent fuel pool.
  • At 4:35PM on March 17, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.005MPa.
  • At 4:35PM on March 17, water level inside the reactor core: 1.95 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
  • At 7:05PM on March 17, a police water cannon began to shoot water aimed at the spent fuel pool until 7:22PM.
  • At 7:35PM on March 17, five Self Defense Forces emergency fire vehicles shot water aimed at the spent fuel pool, until 8:09PM.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor
  • At 2:00PM on March 16, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor
  • At 2:00PM on March 16, the temperature of the spent fuel pool was measured at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Notice the pressure inside the Unit 1 reactor vessel: 0.185 MPa, which is 26.834 psi.  Units 2 and 3 are lower, essentially atmospheric pressure, and Unit 4 isn’t even included in the report.  The NRC has some hypothetical dose projections (that are in my opinion far too high, and I don’t believe them), but it isn’t difficult to see why the NRC has recommended evacuation for U.S. citizens.

Help is on the way, and they hope to install and align emergency power soon.  It wasn’t long after the tsunami that they had portable emergency diesel generators delivered, but the tsunami had cleared out all offsite power, including stepup transformers and connections.  They literally had nothing to which to connect (that could be readily ascertained as the power source for any specific component).  It was a jungle of cables.

But it’s important that everyone realize what I have already said concerning this set of accidents.  The main stream media (both print and television) continue to point towards avoiding a core melt event, as if it will announce itself with some sort of trumpet blast and melt through the earth.  As I have explained, it doesn’t happen that way.  The corium, if it makes it through the lower reactor vessel head, will disperse and cool from that dispersal, not even making it through the lower basemat of concrete.

The cores for Units 1, 2 and 3 are already damaged.  They are partially melted, and partially shattered and rubblized, sitting in the lower part of the reactor vessel.  Most of the radiological source term that can be expected to be released from the core to containment has already been released.  It is being held up inside hard containments and depleted via radioactive decay, plateout, etc.

The work now has to do with mitigation of the radiological source terms, from water injection into the reactor coolant system, water washdown of plant components, and so on.  If the semi-volatile fission products and alkali metals are in effluent, they will likely not re-evolve to the atmosphere in large quantities.  Most importantly, for now, the Spent Fuel Pools deserve attention, and hopefully the operators will be able to mitigate zirconium fire events in the pools.

The Japanese are performing heroically, and the main stream media will catch up in several days (or weeks).  The current efforts are focused on radiological source term and thus dose mitigation, not the prevention of core melt events.

Prior:

Further Degradation of Fukushima Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool

Spent Fuel Pool Fire At The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant?

Primer for Studying News Releases on the Japanese Reactor Accidents

Further Degradation of Fukushima Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

Today for the first time the NRC went on record saying that the Fukushima Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool was in deep trouble.

Mr Jaczko, who was briefing US politicians in Washington, said the NRC believed “there has been a hydrogen explosion in this unit due to an uncovering of the fuel in the spent fuel pool”.

“We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool. And we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”

There has been some disputing going on between Japanese officials and the NRC, but apparently not enough to cloud the trouble, and the apparent plans to address it.

As U.S. and Japanese officials disagreed on how to characterize the seriousness of the nuclear crisis, police planned to use a water cannon truck — normally used for crowd control — to try to cool an overheated and possibly dry spent-fuel pool, one of an escalating series of malfunctions at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima prefecture, 150 miles north of Tokyo. Without cooling, the spent rods could emit radioactive material.

[ ... ]

In Washington, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said at a congressional hearing that all the water has evaporated from the spent fuel storage pool at the complex’s No. 4 reactor. Japanese officials have not confirmed that.

While not acknowledging that the Unit 4 SFP is a problem, they acknowledge plans to use a water cannon to get water into the pool.

As I said before boiloff, dryout and zirconium fires in the SFP pose a more significant risk than what is happening inside a hard containment.

Prior:

Spent Fuel Pool Fire At The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant?

Primer for Studying News Releases on the Japanese Reactor Accidents

Operations Suspended at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

From Foxnews:

Japan suspended operations to prevent the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant from melting down Wednesday after a surge in radiation made it too dangerous for workers to remain at the facility.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said work on dousing reactors with water was disrupted by the need to withdraw.

Foxnews is so far the only news media outlet reporting this.  Thus far I have made my objections known to the paucity of good information coming from Japan, and the misinterpretation and mischaracterization of the little that is available by MSM outlets.  It isn’t clear what this means.  It could mean that that efforts to ensure core cooling are being abandoned, and this is bad, but not the same thing as abandoning the plant entirely.  In the former case, we still have cores that have been partially rubblized and melted, fission products released, and partially contained within a hard containment, but attention still being paid to maintaining the integrity of the spent fuel pools.  In the later case, this is very bad indeed.  I had said earlier that I was actually more concerned about the radiological source term in the spent fuel pool than I was over the cores and containment.

Prior:

Spent Fuel Pool Fire At The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant?

Primer for Studying News Releases on the Japanese Reactor Accidents

Spent Fuel Pool Fire At The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

This goes to show just how bad the situation is – no, not the situation with the reactors (which is bad enough), but the situation with the flow of good information.

It had previously been reported that there was a fire in the Spent Fuel Pool of the Unit 4 nuclear reactor.  However, it wasn’t quite what it seemed.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that an oil leak in a cooling water pump at Unit 4 was the cause of a fire that burned for approximately 140 minutes. The fire was not in the spent fuel pool, as reported by several media outlets. Unit 4 was in a 105 – day – long maintenance outage at the time of the earthquake and there is no fuel in the reactor.

Or was it all it seemed to be?

Near the plant entrance, which is somewhat removed from the building, radiation rose to 11.93 millisieverts per hour at 9 a.m. but was back down to 0.5964 millisieverts at 3:30 p.m.

Elevated radiation levels were also detected in northern Kanto and the greater Tokyo area, which is further south. Readings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. averaged 10 times higher than normal in some places, but still far below any level that would have an effect on the human body.

The No. 4 reactor had been shut down for a routine inspection, but the water temperature in the pool used to store spent fuel rods was rising. With the power now out and crews unable to enter the building, there is no way to know what is happening in the pool. If the temperature continues to rise, the rods could melt, threatening to release huge amounts of radioactive material.

From having performed the spent fuel characterization and shielding calculations, I know that the dose rate in a fuel pool building with the fuel uncovered by water would be as high as 50,000 rads/hr or even higher depending upon specific assumptions such as fuel burnup, decay time, enrichment, etc.  That’s why most U.S. reactors have multiple (not just redundant, but multiple) means of makeup of borated water to the Spent Fuel Pool.

So the operators cannot get into the building to observe the conditions due to lack of habitability.  If this fire is consuming oil, that’s one thing.  If there is a Zirconium (cladding) fire due to loss of water over the fuel assemblies, then given the lack of a hard containment for the spent fuel building, I am actually more concerned about that than releases of radioactivity from the reactor buildings due to holdup, decay, sedimentation and plateout of fission products inside containment.

But the point is that there is still a dearth of good, high quality, technical information flowing our direction.  Foxnews reported this morning that the dose (rate – although they didn’t understand that dose [rate] has units of time and didn’t report it as such) from radiation from the plant was the same immediately surrounding the plant and at 18 miles from the plant.  Of course, this is physically impossible given that radiation decreases like sound and light with the inverse of the square of the distance from the source (1/R²).

Be careful what you read – and believe.

Prior: Primer for Studying News Releases on the Japanese Reactor Accidents

I previously gave you ANS Nuclear Cafe for your study.  See also the informative link at the Nuclear Energy Institute.

UPDATE #1: Or it could all have been steam from pool boiling.

Primer for Studying News Releases on the Japanese Reactor Accidents

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

There is a dearth of quality, technically correct information and commentary on the Japanese reactor accidents occurring at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  In fact, some of it is downright wrong.  There is no hope of comprehensively reproducing a time line or of surveying all of the available news releases or reports.  I’ll link some very good sites shortly that will assist you in studying the future commentaries and reports.  Just to set the tone, if you are interested in one-and-a-half minute reading and tabloid hysteria, close this web page now.  Go to the tabloids – or most MSM sites – or so-called news television (with their “nuclear expert” du jour).  I won’t purvey hysteria or ignorant analysis.  I’ll begin with things that can’t happen, and phrases and terms to avoid in your reading and viewing.  We’ll move to a quick summary of what we know thus far about the accident(s), and close with an assessment of the consequences of this reactor accident for the future of Japan.

Perhaps the worst tabloid journalism thus far has come from Geraldo Rivera on Foxnews on Sunday evening.  Thousands of souls had been swept into the sea, and Geraldo was discussing how “radiation was like that voodoo stuff – you can’t see it, and that’s what makes it scary!”  The kind of hysteria extends to supposedly smart people like Charles Krauthammer, who said:

It’s a terrible potential. If you get a meltdown, of course, there is a catastrophe for the region.  But also every 20 years we say let’s try again with nuclear energy, it’s clean energy — it doesn’t put stuff into the atmosphere. [Now] if you get a “China Syndrome” as in 1979 … it could put the nuclear [industry] out of business for decades.

The Daily Mail reports that “As fuel rods melt, they form an extremely hot molten pool at the bottom of the reactor that can melt through even the toughest of containment barriers.”  To dispense with the myths, the China Syndrome was a movie.  What happens in the analytical models, and also in actual reactor accidents like Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit 2, is that the corium, that mixture of melted fuel, cladding and other internal reactor components like control rods and guide tubes, forms in some of the channels, further blocking fluid flow.  Eventually in an extreme reactor accident, much of the fuel shatters and becomes rubblized in the lower reactor vessel head.  This is in fact what happened at TMI in large measure, along with some core melting.

It doesn’t require melted fuel to release fission products.  Having written computer codes that model such releases, I can observe that much of the fission products are released in fuel heatup, and most releases occur prior to achieving fuel melt temperature, including most or all of the Noble Gases (Kr, Xe), much of the semi-volatiles (halogens) and some of the alkali metals (e.g., cesium).  Don’t forget this point.  This is important and I’ll come back to this later.

The corium isn’t modeled to melt through the lower vessel head except in the worst accidents where there is no coolant at all.  This isn’t the case for the Fukushima reactors.  Even in the event of complete breach of the lower vessel head, the corium doesn’t under any circumstances achieve melt-through of the lower basemat, which in some U.S. reactors is as much as 12 feet of concrete.  The corium disperses and cools from the dispersal.  There is no such thing as the China syndrome.  That’s just a dumb ass movie.  And reactors also don’t explode like nuclear weapons.  Nuclear radiation isn’t voodoo, and we know how to achieve protection against it.

Now to what we know about the accident.  When the tsunami occurred it disabled the offsite power to the plant.  Emergency diesel generators automatically started, and they functioned for approximately one hour until they shut down due to tsunami-induced damage to their fuel supply.  Power to the control valves in the reactor makeup operated until they lost battery backup.  DC power from batteries was consumed after about eight hours of operation.  The plant sustained a complete blackout (loss of all power), and it was at this point that fuel damage and Zirconium alloy (Zircalloy) – water interactions occurred, i.e., cladding oxidation.  This is an exothermic reaction and produced more heat, adding to the fuel fission product decay (or residual) heat to be removed by the cooling system.  It also produces hydrogen.

During some point in the past several days, hydrogen explosions occurred on Unit 1.  In an attempt to prevent the hydrogen concentration from being above the explosive limit, releases were made from Unit 3.  Ironically, it was likely a valve opening or some other electrical arc that caused the hydrogen explosion that occurred on Unit 3, further damaging not only Unit 3 but apparently also parts of Unit 2.  Any hydrogen explosion that looks like this has already degraded a lot of nuclear fuel.

In spite of Russian experts who wax eloquent about how the world learned from the Chernobyl accident and how we’re better able to handle reactor accidents because of the Russian experience, the Japanese reactor accidents aren’t like Chernobyl, and it isn’t because we learned from the Russian design.  I studied thousands of documents concerning Chernobyl and performed many calculations.  I trained the DOE safety analysis engineers on the nuclear design characteristics of the RBMK-1000 reactor (not as a DOE employee).

The RBMK reactor design was loosely neutronically coupled, and had an overall positive power coefficient.  That is, it was graphite-moderated, and since the water was a neutron poison rather than the moderator, the reactor was “over-moderated.”  This means that upon a loss of coolant, the reactor experienced a power excursion.  It had a positive void coefficient, leading to an increase in reactor power by a factor of 100 in less than 1 second.  Furthermore, its containment structure was little more than a sheet metal “Butler Building.”  The core was in flames and pouring fission products into the atmosphere.  More than 30 souls perished attempting to mitigate the accident, and many more contracted cancer from the releases of radioactivity.

Despite what some of the more “conservative,” pro-nuclear “experts” have said on national TV, the Chernobyl accident was a catastrophe.  I was in training with an engineer from Kiev not too many years ago, and he informed me that residents of Kiev still have to frisk their food with a GM detector and pancake probe prior to eating to ensure that they aren’t ingesting radioactivity.

So why was the RBMK reactor designed this way?  For the production of weapons-grade fissile material.  I have pictures of the Russians performing online refueling operations at the Chernobyl site to remove the weapons material.  The Russians tried to combine commercial nuclear power with weapons production.  The RBMK design is the result.  U.S. reactors are designed by federal code with a negative overall power coefficient (GDC 11), which shuts the reactor down in a loss of coolant or fuel heatup.

The Fukushima reactor accidents aren’t Chernobyl because they have a hard containment design and a negative power coefficient like U.S. reactors.  Unfortunately, that containment design is being breached periodically to release steam from the sea water that is flooding the core, and with the steam releases come radioactivity releases.  As I said before, much of the release of fission products to the containment has likely already occurred (meaning that while it’s important to cool the core, its also the case that sedimentation, washout, plateout and other removal mechanisms are acting on the fission products (including radioactive decay).

We in the U.S. had our core melt event; it was TMI.  There were essentially no releases of radioactivity and thus no health affects due to the hard containment design.  The Fukushima reactor accidents are worse than TMI given the breach of containment, but with the evacuation that has already occurred, the health affects will be minimized.

The main cost now to TEPCO will be the cleanup and decommissioning of the damaged reactors, which likely have rubblized cores sitting in the reactor vessel.  It will take a decade and tens of billions of dollars.  Just as with the Takaimura criticality accident, we will probably see senior company officers bowing before the nation and asking forgiveness.  This will probably spell the end of many careers, and the beginning of much soul searching over design and licensing basis seismic events, flood events and related design criteria.

There are many reports that have incorrect or incomplete information.  The reports on exposure to the 7th fleet is remarkable for its lack of technical detail.  We could perform a dose reconstitution with the available data, but we aren’t given any.  There are incorrect and inconsistent units of radiation being reported, and there are technical facts gotten wrong.  It’s best not to speculate on what we don’t know, and it’s best not to listen to the “experts” on television.

This is a serious reactor accident, one for the books.  Nuclear engineers will be studying this accident for decades to come, and it will affect reactor regulation in both Japan and the U.S.  But the Japanese worked remarkably efficiently to evacuate residents, and thus radiation exposure will be minimized.  This was yeoman’s work given the state of transportation after the tsunami.  The Japanese faced the perfect storm of problems, and they performed admirably.

But what this accident should not do is cause us to jettison the promising future of nuclear power because there might be some cesium uptake in Tuna in the Pacific.  When nuclear workers receive regular body burden analysis to assess the radioactive content in their body, the technician can tell if they are hunters.  “Do you hunt, sir?  Yes, I hunt deer.  Oh, that explains the Cs-137 spike I see.”  The Cs-137 doesn’t come from commercial nuclear reactors.  It comes from fallout from nuclear weapons testing during the 1950s and 1960s.  We’ve been there and done that.  It’s not a problem.

Only tabloid media could take a situation where thousands of souls were swept away in a tsunami and ignore that story for the real drama of a melted core (in which one soul has perished, and that from an industrial accident).  We need to maintain our perspective, and the proper perspective isn’t to have nightmares of melt-throughs to China.  We should leave that to the purveyors of hysteria.

Some good links (I will add to these later):

ANS Nuclear Cafe (for the best coverage and analysis of the Fukushima reactor accidents)

NUREG-1250, “Report on the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station.”

EPRI, NSAC-127, “Multidimensional Analysis of the Chernobyl Accident” (if you’re really interested in Chernobyl).

San Diego Port Authority: Homeland Security Has Got No Clothes!

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 6 months ago

Last week, WKGTV, a San Diego ABC News station, interviewed the Assistant Director, Al Hallor, for the San Diego port authority about security at the port.

During the interview Hallor confirmed that “weapons of mass effect” have been found by U.S. government agencies in apparent attempts to smuggle such devices into the country.

Customs and Border Protection officers clear 80 percent of all cargo before it enters the United States. Congress has mandated that they clear 100 percent of cargo imports by 2012. In San Diego, every cargo container is driven through a radiation detector before leaving San Diego’s seaport.”So, specifically, you’re looking for the dirty bomb? You’re looking for the nuclear device?” asked Blacher.”Correct. Weapons of mass effect,” Hallor said.”You ever found one?” asked Blacher.”Not at this location,” Hallor said.”But they have found them?” asked Blacher.”Yes,” said Hallor.

I could be wrong, but this would seem to qualify as a major news story.

So far, however, the only, other media source to report on this is The Daily Mail in the U.K.

The Department of Homeland Security has sought to tamp down any interest in the story and has explained Hallor’s comments as confusion or nervousness at being interviewed.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps Hallor has yet to get the Administration memo that government officials should never be honest or candid with the public about the grave threats that we face.  In that sense, Hallor is like the little boy in the nursery tale that was too innocent not to blurt out, “The Emperor’s got no clothes!”

Perhaps it is the rest of us who should be nervous.  Very nervous.


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