Friday, September 28, 2007

Southern Ontario earthquakes popping this summer

This is when I've looked all over the news and can't find anything interesting. So I looked at the Southern Ontario Seismic Network, and found that it seemed kind of heavy the past few months. Could be that they got a lot more instruments up around Georgian Bay, and the Bruce Nuclear Site!
A few more years and Georgian Bay will look just like the Hamilton area! I still can't figure out the big gap between Hamilton and Cleveland seismicity. There must be very thick glacial till acting as a water stop, or that massive amount of natural gas drilling just within the Canadian border has done something.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Florida kills plants to put up solar

It's in all the news. Florida, one of the world's great carbon sinks is putting up a massive solar thing. This will cover a huge area! And what is there now, you may ask? It's not like putting it up in some desert, where only snakes and lizards lose their livelihood, this is going over some serious plant growth. Just like Ontario displacing cropland with solar, I can't see how this is a good thing.

Maybe they'll go after the state's cossetted and subsidized sugar farmers, who are killing the Everglades? I doubt it, since they vote Republican. Perhaps cover Disneyworld? Windmills would be good done there, as well; we don't need flamingos!

Since they haven't picked a site yet, this might be just smoke, like locating a nuclear waste site. Time will tell...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nuclear waste loonies in Windsor

I was waiting for this. The federal report on the storage of high-level nuclear waste mentioned everybody and their dog as candidates for a deep waste anti-mine. Now a local desperate candidate has whipped up the conspiracy theory that Windsor, Ontario (low on the list of best places to visit!), has been singled out for nuclear waste.

Of course, nearly any town in Ontario could do this, but Windsor is the first! People should be more concerned about real plans! One day, I would be proud to get money for a decent effort, but I haven't seen it yet. I would also like a decent effort for a new nuclear plant (ditto!). Speaking of which, there must be dozen people in Canada, who could lead a new plant, but they are all very retired. I know there is now an effort to knock at their door, and I hope, for their health, that they have a good chuckle! That only leaves me!! :) (and right now I'm at the cottage, enjoying the fall colours).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

French bedazzle small town with 6 billion in small change

My favourite company Areva (love those French wines!) arrived in a small Alberta town waving $6.2 billion for a nuclear plant. They were 'surprised by the warm welcome'.

Peace Riverites can only frown, since all they got is some unknown company promising them a nuclear plant. Now, if only some of that money got over here....

Nuclear operators clam up about rusty clam shell

Once again nuclear operators are hoisting the old petard of 'meeting standards' with their rusty steel containment. 'It functions as it always has' is their answer. Of course, the dang thing stands there! It's sole purpose is to provide containment in an emergency.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if nuclear operators were open and transparent, instead of being terrified of the sunlight. They could say something like: "We were darn-tootin' sloppy about letting that thing rust halfway through, and we're scaling all the rust off to see what we've got. Pictures will be posted on the Web." As if this will ever happen!

Maybe it's true that this thing was so over-designed that massive rusting could have no effect. Maybe it's like having wooden beams in a cooling tower! All I know is that I spent my whole working life in a cult of secrecy, and I did everything I could to bust it open. Perhaps that's why they don't speak to me anymore... :) (They didn't even speak to me when I was there!)

US utilities can jump-start

This is interesting to starving geologists and geophysicists, like me! (keep clicking on those ads!). In the US, a ton of lobbyist money was poured into redefining the word 'construction'. Now, construction is defined as 'putting the cherry on top', or pouring concrete for the reactor. All the bulldozing, excavation, drilling, tunneling, etc, can be done, before the first paperwork flies.

This, of course, greatly disappoints the 'loyal opposition', who relied on infinite amounts of courtroom logjams to block any hope of a nuclear plant. From one extreme to another! Should be fun....

ps. Ontario better get its act together and start doing something that resembles intelligent action, on building a new plant!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fault discovered beneath nuclear waste dump!

No, it isn't up at the Bruce! It's the poor, hard-hit Yucca-yucca site that the US has pinned so much hope on, merely because it's in the middle of all those old nuclear bomb sites.

They have had the difficult task of showing that the area is a perfect glass marble, and will remain pristine for a million years! Well, nothing and nobody is that perfect! I wonder how this will affect all those new nuclear plans....

North Channel DEM's

Here is the North Channel, which is the zone of water north of Manitoulin Island. It has the most fascinating geology, and once the election is over, I might delve into it.

You might notice that something big and nasty zooms into it, which is the whole reason it is there. Here is an angle shot.

Again, just like the Bruce, this is a most unstudied area.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

North Channel Nuclear Plant Lives!!

OMG! I just read this. They said the north channel plant was studied in the 70's, but completely forgot that we resurrected it in the 90's for the 'great expansion'. I spent a whole summer there doing the geophysics! We had tons of data, and then were ordered by the NDP to destroy it all!!

Of course, I have it all committed to memory :). I won't tell them what it showed, because that would spoil their happy-happy party. I'd love to go on the north channel in the summer and do it all over again. I'd want a fancier ship, and a pretty crew.....A very suitable boat for marine geophysics.

Power track - 3

This power track had problems from the start. It would mysteriously break off wheels. These were tremendously strong, custom-machined super-steel wheels and bearings, yet they would break off, along with other things breaking.

As usual, they would just fix things whenever they noticed something broken, but one day there was a serious breakage. A wheel snapped, and wasn't noticed. Then the other side broke, and a large piece of axle fell into the track. The driver of the train (remotely!) noticed things jamming, and kept going, trying to clear the jam. Finally, the whole thing jammed up and lost power.

We were very lucky that this happened before hot fuel was in the hopper. Had that happened, the cooling water would have boiled off, and there would be a big radioactive mess! Might have even had to go public!

I got brought in because I was a dynamics expert. There was also an outside consultant. I saw the magnificent video of the damage, which would be an instant u-tube hit, if they released it! For at least 10-20 m, the track was totally ripped out, and bent steel everywhere! Better than a Minnesota bridge!

When I saw the broken pieces, I immediately thought of my water laser experience. This was no ordinary fatigue failure, of which I had seen my share (happens all the time!). This was a dynamic break, instantaneous, caused by tremendous force. I told them to get the proper scans, but they never did.

The failures were essentially random. Some pieces were lasting forever, sometimes brand new replacement parts broke. They thickened up some sections on the shaft, then the failures would move to the next area. I saw it as dynamic wave failure, but could not figure out how that could happen.

I went through many more videos, and still pictures of the whole system. I made my little model. The consultant and I agreed that it had to be an alignment problem. Finally, I figured it out. The big frame was flexing dynamically, under certain conditions. Once in a while, a very thick piece of steel on the frame banged against the tracked sled, with explosive force. You could see the impact points on the photos! Dynamic waves went through the sled and popped off wheels, and damaged the cable chain.

We wrote a report, saying how it needed some dynamic monitoring. As well, I wanted some ultrasonic monitoring for bearing damage. I never heard from them again, and I last heard they were still inspecting and fixing things when they broke. A big accident can never, ever happen again......

Both Ontario parties talk nuclear

The Tory-Tory will speed up the process. He's right that the plans for a new nuclear plant are going at a snail's pace. That's because OPG had to get rid of anybody competent who was earning US-style wages, because of the stupid 'pay list', and complaints about 'fat cats'.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Power track - 2

What the heck, one extra comment, and no bucks. I'll do the short version.

The giant power track beneath the reactors goes for the length of a football field. Think of it as two loops of cables which must be picked up and laid down on the floor.

This cable comes from a central location and must be supported on a central sled which has big wheels on a railroad-type track, and rollers for the cables which are enclosed in a steel chain-like arrangement. I once made a K-nex model of it to figure it out! As the big frame moves back and forth because the upper fueling choo-choo is moving, you can see that the leading cable gets laid down, and the trailing cable gets picked up. The sled moves half the distance of the frame, since at one end the frame is right up at the end of the sled, and the same the other way.

This all happens in a deep dark dungeon that nobody can visit because it is so hot with radioactivity. But I was called in because of a horrible accident, which never got into the press (Problem with Fueling Machine), just like the recent closure of another station was 'Problem with Backup Power'. HA!!

Now, since nobody is really interested in this, I will try to calm my blogging addiction with exercise, or pills, or something.

Friday, September 21, 2007

World awash in plutonium

It's everywhere! The US and Russia have tons, and so does the teeny weeny UK! Can we burn it all in nuclear plants? Can it make nifty, self-powered lava lamps? Who knows?

BTW, I'm not continuing my long boring story, until I get a few more funny comments on something, and another buck in my ad account!!

Power track - 1

Today's very long and boring story, started out as a mystery, and ended as a mystery, even though it didn't need to.

To start with, we have to delve into the bizarre world of the Candu nuclear station. This is always touted as having the magnificent feature of on-line fueling, but in reality, the plain-jane uranium fuel is so difficult to get going, that they constantly have to shove in fresh fuel. Now I know you're imagining little radioactive men stoking the fires with shovels, but the boring truth is, that machines do it all.

Now in this station, there are 4 big Calandrias lying like pop-cans on their side.
Inside each calandria are hundreds of pressure tubes, like this.

And inside each pressure tube are a whole bunch of fuel bundles. This is where all the heat gets generated, and the uranium 'burns'. Eventually, these fuel bundles get tired, and this is where the magnificent, Rube Goldberg fueling machine comes in.

This thing (more than one) trundles along a big underground railway, like Thomas the Tank Engine (lead-free version!). When it's time to get to work, they latch on either side of a calandria, like so.

They hook on like an automatic tank-gun loader, and shove a fresh fuel bundle in one end, and eject an old one out the other, all without spilling a drop of precious radioactive water!

Now this machine is the most wonderful mess of hydraulics, water pipes, and electrical cables. It has to get supplied with lots of power, and how do you suppose they do it? That's right! With a Power Track, which is the star of the story.

Here is a simple power track for some sort of machine. The idea is that the upper machine can move back and forth, and the cables are laid down in loop. All the main elements are there, such as the chain holder for the cables, so they don't rub. If you ever took apart an old pen plotter, this is how it worked, and you ink-jet printer has one.

The ones on a nuclear plant are a tad bigger.... (to be continued).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Geology studies holding up restart of Japan reactor

Maybe. Or maybe it's the spectre of hidden damage. Why can't they come out with the full set of strong motion data? We could just see the various indicators of damage (such as PGV). When I was with the big company, I always argued that we would have to come out fast with the instrument results, so we wouldn't get this 'hidden damage' crap. But everybody is so secretive....

Millions of dollars for geologists!

Ok, I'm tired of hearing geologists whine about how they can't get tenure, or complain that all geologists from New Zealand are named Chris. Here's chance to get $10 million crummy US bucks (since it's a Canadian company, you might be able to get $Can!).

All you have to do is figure out how to get silver from a rock. Should be easier than blood from a stone! Personally, I'm going to push for a bunch of Peruvian Meteors to hit the deposit! Should do something!

Meteor funnies

It's a hot September up at the cottage. I'm up with the dog and we went hiking, to do some fishing. Only caught one little one, which I threw back. Hiking is great in the fall, no bugs!

You've got to read this bloggie thingie, it's hilarious! If it is just a giant earth-zit, it will be hard to drain and prove anything. Probably just a mud sinkhole, since I would think that anything which would create that crater would knock down some stone houses.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hanford starts up again

I like to have fun with Ontario's plans to stack nuclear waste into an active fault, but the truth is that our waste is nothing compared to the US. They've got liquid plutonium, for God's sake! The worst crap is up at the Hanford nuclear dump. I've been following this for years, but this article says they've started again on their pie-in-the-sky dream to turn all of this into beer-bottle glass. They are umpteen years late, and billions over budget. Just shows that nuclear spans the full spectrum of human behaviour! (ie. STUPID!!) :)

Man bites dog (earthquake)

This is a great reversal on earthquake reporting. Usually, those experiencing a noisy intraplate earthquake report it as a truck hitting their house......

Rust vs. Radiation

I find this article fascinating. It seems that a steel containment structure has rusted halfway through, and yet they say it's good for another 20 years. One side says it doesn't meet code anymore, another says that it's good.

I'm all for relaxing code on existing structures, because the code usually has a high margin built in. I had big fights with 'code fundamentalists', mainly because something is originally built to code, and it won't meet code anymore once it ages. But the code has built that in!

Still, extensive rust seems a bit much! There's no experience database on this, and I didn't see any extensive analysis. As well, who knows what other damage there is? The original designers did not foresee extensive rust, caused by sloppy maintenance. All in all, it sounds rather stupid. (and not very earthquake-safe!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Record traffic for me!

When you write a blog, and tend to be somewhat manic, anxious, and depressive, you need an audience that applauds. I know how standup comedians feel, but they all take drugs. :)

So, with great joy, I have cracked a new record on visits per day. I know it's because the Science Notes lady was being nice to me, but it keeps me up.

My great income from ads has been stuck at $1.03, ever since I cracked that all important first dollar mark, but nobody needs to know that... :)

Neato earthquake report

It's been 140 years since the Hayward Fault earthquake of 1868 in California. Now there's a report estimating the impact on wages, should such an earthquake happen again (likely soon!). I'm amazed by the narrow focus of the zillions of US agencies, all created in the 1930's. They can never die!!

Alberta nuclear plant still gets press

That Alberta guy is talking up a storm. But now he's saying he really doesn't have an unnamed customer for 70% of the power. What he has are unknown customers for his juice. I guess he realized that 'unnamed' sounded much too sinister! All this is coming from an 'unknown' company!

I hope he lines up the geology, geotechnical, and seismic investigations for his unknown site. I always like when the money flows into these areas. Makes for some interesting times.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Iron-clad Chernobyl

I'm quite glad to read this. The old concrete covering of the reactor has been weathering badly, and stuff has been leaking out. Now, they are going to build a giant steel weather shield, and start chipping the stuff out. Geologically speaking, I'm interested is how they will dispose of the stuff. Personally, since that area is one giant exclusion zone, I think a clay-lined pit, with an eventual weather cap would be sufficient.

If everybody worries about a giant nuclear-bio war, and everything going to ratshit, then these new international radiation warning signs should do the trick.
Honestly, have you ever seen anything so stupid?

Intellectuals for nuclear power

This is an impressive article. I especially liked reading the comments, for and against nuclear power. One comment noted 'Cheerleading is dangerous', or I would call it 'The disaster of Jingoism'. It means you shouldn't be 100% against nuclear in any form, or 100% for any nuclear proposal, no matter how stupid. It is actually possible to have a good, open proposal for a nuclear plant, that follows the best science. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it, but that doesn't mean it will never happen!

Squirrel suicide attack on power system

I just knew those pesky little things are up to no good!

Fault geology of Hamilton, Ontario

As I have mentioned previously, one really huge fault whips down through Toronto and Hamilton. Now it happens in my many travels and fishing trips, that the most dramatic scenery is associated with earthquakes. If you take the beautiful seacoast road down from San Francisco, you can see these marvelous terraced beaches. Each terrace has been created by a huge M9 earthquake! If we didn't have earthquakes, everything would be ground to a pulp, and be as boring as Toronto!

This fault appears to be most active at Hamilton, and the spectacular topography is a result.

Good old Hamiton is located at the west end of Lake Ontario. It is noted for its stinky steel mills, and less noted for the swamps everywhere. In fact, I was told these swamps are extremely deep, and have blocked decent railroad access for years.

I have been playing around with Digital Elevation Models (DEM's), and viewers. I was using 3DEM to great success. Here a shaded relief view of Hamilton.

That great big gash in the Niagara Escarpment is the Dundas Valley, which was also a major glacial lake drainage outlet, and affects the sediments in Lake Ontario for a great distance. Nobody has really wondered why it is there.

The real fun with 3DEM is taking oblique views. Here's one, shooting down the fault.

Now, don't you wonder about Hamilton? The view would be much more spectacular if we could remove the sediments. Then you would see something! We did a lot of geophysics out in the lake, where you can get an idea of the depths of the swamps.

Why do we even care about Hamilton? First off, the scenery is nice. Second, all those swamps are formed by an active fault, somewhat like sag ponds, but over a much longer time. They are doing a lot of building in those ponds, and I think it is somewhat dangerous.

The next big earthquake in that area will be a high-speed thrust, much like some of the more destructive earthquakes that hit Japan recently. The damage intensity will have a very narrow zone with a high Peak Ground Velocity (PGV). The deep swamps will amplify this ground motion 10 to 100 times. The damage will be incredible! This earthquake will blow out the electricity and natural gas for most of Southern Ontario.

Yet, we merrily go on, ignoring this threat, not doing the slightest little thing to mitigate the disaster. Such is the power of living memory! We remember Hurricane Hazel, because it happened, yet this earthquake has the same general odds of happening. Just hope your house is on solid ground!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

US nuclear plant uses rotten wood beams

Ok, I've seen everything in nuclear plants, but this sticks up above the noise. They were using wooden beams in an ucky, wet cooling tower. Can you imagine if an earthquake hit? That's like putting a transformer on quicksand, which I've never heard of....

As US dollar tanks, $100 laptop becomes a fantasy

These articles are poo-pooing the $100 (US) laptop, but they miss the point that the US dollar isn't worth anything. Foreign governments are buying, and it's probably still the same price to them. Now, if it had been called the 100 Euro laptop, it might get there....

Mud volcanos in the news

I just came across this article. Seems that a mud volcano in Trinidad is a tourist attraction!

In the meantime, our fav. mud volcano is reacting to earthquakes. This is always expected, since large volumes squeezing through a little hole, are very efficient indicators of ground strain.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First dollar!

I earned my first dollar with the ad thingie! This is better than my fishing on the dock, because I don't have to throw the pennies back! With a whole dollar, I should be able to go to the wife and say that my blogging isn't a total waste of time! With an independent stream of pennies, maybe I won't worry about getting a consulting job with the big guys (lots of schmoozing required!). Pennies and comments boost my serotonin, so I might be able to approach nuclear issues again (even though nothing is happening!). I really don't want to sit at boring looooooong panel meetings run by lawyers. I don't want to be subpoenaed, either.

I think OPG should sponsor me with lots of pennies. I would publish 'Harold talks straight about earthquakes' (better than me being on the other side!). I would then say 'Sure the geology for the DGR is shit, but do you have a better place, huh smartie-pants??' Once underground, I would advocate sneaking away under the edge of the cliff, towards the good rock.

And for lots of pennies, I would tell the world that a new nuclear plant on solid rock could never be damaged by any earthquake, because of physics. I just wouldn't mention all the horrible things on the existing plants! If I were the OPG penny-king I'd get them fixed!

Tsunami dynamics

That series of earthquakes is absolutely fascinating to us 'movers and shakers'. They seem to be rupturing around a large patch that is known to be seismic gap, and has always been expected to rupture in the next 30 years. The articles on this page, basically say that the city of Padang is waiting to die.

The only way that the outer edges of a large zone could be active, is if the zone has begun to move, but it requires a larger critical displacment than the edge zones (see my fault mechanics). It still might take 30 years, or it could happen tomorrow!

We're talking about another M9 here. As explained, the shaking will be average, but the tsunami will be horrendous!

This leads me into tsunami dynamics for people like me (dummies!). I've read a lot about tsunami wave modelling, and the physics of the thing, but I think all the scientists have missed the point! They keep calling this thing a wave, when it's nothing like a wave at all! (at least to the public). This allows everybody to think of this monster as a nicey-nicey surface wave which can be surfed on! (Hey, Dudes!)

I have attempted a drawing showing the real scale of things.

We basically have water, which might be 1000 m deep, spread over a length of thousands of kilometres! My thin blue line should be thinner (try drawing that!), and plastered right onto the crust.

The difference is like walking with a full cup of coffee from Timmy's. You see the little waves, but you can handle it. Now, try filling a cookie tray with water (thought experiment only!), and walking with it. You can always make a few steps, you see the little shimmering waves on the surface, but all of a sudden the water starts to slide, and sloosh! -- bye-bye water!

This is a water slosh that encompasses the full depth of the water. Now, on the figure, the arrow shows where we suddenly pull down on the crust. This is our big subduction earthquake. The water sloshes into the hole, and this starts to propagate over to Padang and Africa (negative slosh). It doesn't take long for the water to slam together, and send out a positive slosh. These slosh pulses involve the whole depth of the ocean, and travel quite slowly, as one would expect.

In one way, the people may be luckier with a big subduction earthquake, because the pull-down causes a leading negative slosh. Thus, when confronted with the ocean disappearing, it behooves one to run like hell to higher ground! Apparently, this might be too late for Padang, they have to start running as soon as they feel the shaking, because the run-up could be kilometres!

Not everybody gets whacked the same. As we can see in this figure, boats out on the cookie sheet don't feel much. To get the full impact, you need a coast geometry that acts like a giant bulldozer, and can scoop up the water from a great depth. A nice gentle slope is the most effective. As we can see, this is no wave, but a giant wall of water slooshing up over your house!

So, forget all those scientists and their talk of 'long period waves'. This is a giant landslide (waterslide?) of water coming right at you!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The marvellous mechanics of the subduction zone

I'm trying out calligraphy with Inkscape. You can add mass, tremor and other neato stuff to mask your normal horrible strokes! I'm still improving, but already I'm better than Brittney in an MTV concert!

Lots of earthquakes lately in subduction zones. I get some questions (none, here, unfortunately), mainly: Why all these earthquakes now? -- Why not? is the correct answer. :) Also, why do these earthquakes have to be so much bigger to get the same shaking destruction as other types of earthquakes. (I made that up myself!)

To answer that question, we have to look at the mechanics, which is slightly different than the other articles I have written. First, I poo-poo the notion that the oceanic crust is pushed down. All oceanic crust eventually gets cold, old, and tired (like me!). It eventually sinks under its own weight, like elephants going to their grave site. Even New York City will (one day) have its own subduction zone!

As show in my great figure, this slab tends to fall at an angle, and rub up against the island arc complex. Mechanically, this slab is really goopy, full of water and sea-shit (see my Carbon Cycle articles), and has different properties than regular earthquake rock. Once in a while, the descending slab gets hung up on the upper rock, and slippery bathtub feet engage (from Fault Mechanics).

All the normal mechanisms for earthquakes now apply, but the dynamic friction drop may (or may not!) be greater because of all the goop. The important thing is that this is an 'upside down' thrust fault, with the moving element being the slab. As such, the rupture, and the high velocity pulse goes downward.

This reduces the impact of the shaking, but things are not so happy for the inhabitants of the ocean shore. The combination of the rapid slip downward, and the attendant push upward on upper crust, makes for some dramatic ocean wave mechanics. It's like suddenly getting up in your bathtub! If we are lucky (like this last one), most of the oceanic energy gets beamed down to the penguins, who can take care of themselves.

As in my beautiful drawing, the oceanic crust eventually gets a nice warm, peaceful death, and the water-carbon gets pooped out at the top, to cause some other problems for the locals....

Of course, the island arc actually gets pushed by all this, and on the other side we get the juicy high-speed thrust earthquakes that cause so much trouble, for their size (as in the Japanese nuclear earthquake).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gregory Smith lands on his feet

It's all right everybody! We don't have to worry about The Gregory molderizing on the fishing dock. The former OPG 'new nuclear man' is down in bayou country, providing electricity to all those pumps in New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Summer ends in Ontario

The summer ends, and so does my 'happy blog'. I'm entering my SAD time, and I have to look to ways to increase my serotonin. Since I really don't get many comments, this blog doesn't do it. I become increasingly sensitive to all the big cats that I'm irritating!

Also, at the bottom of all my scatty blogging, I generally hoped to do some good. I'm convinced, however, that there will be no effort on regional geology, or tectonic models with the new nuclear plant, or that waste thingie -- just politicians and lawyers gumming everything up.

I'll probably just go humourless, just like every other science blog, and report on earthquakes, or some such thing. I have to put on a serious tone if I want to start doing something for money (like consulting). I figure that sooner or later there will be some major screw-ups in the nuclear industry regarding geotechnical engineering, and I'll be there!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cut Tim Hortons Wait Times!

(a service to provide totally phony election issues for an Ontario election without issues)

It's a disgrace that we have to wait so long at the Timmy's drive-thru! What's more, the cars back up onto the street and create giant Timmy-Jams! Cut those wait times! Stop the social evil entering our streets!

I call upon whatshisname the provincial leader, and that other guy running, to do something about this! Forget the fact that new nuclear plants aren't going anywhere, and that they're dumping nuclear waste in sinkholes -- this is the main issue!

Final thing on water laser

There's an election going on here in Ontario. I know that because they're putting up the signs today. You won't hear much about nuclear power for a while, since OPG will stay low until the shooting stops.

In a Candu plant, they put all these compressible fuel bundles into a long pressure tube, and there's a whole bunch (I can't remember how many!) of these in a reactor (lots of sites explain the Candu system).

You can see the fuel bundle fits very snuggly into the pressure tube. Through this, they squirt a lot of heavy water. As they approach a critical water velocity, the compressed fuel pellet tubes start to bulge.

Here's when the fun comes. Any slight pressure pulse in the water hits the first fuel bundle and compressed it a little bit more, which causes resistance to the flow. A compression wave starts down the fuel bundle chain, driven by the water flow. When it hits the bottom, it reflects back as tensile pulse (that's what waves do!). A bit of tension has less resistance to the flow.

We have now set up our water laser! The fuel bundles pump up any little chop in the water flow. They will keep pumping up to tremendous levels! The amazing thing about this arrangement is that it tunes to the input, much like the unstable air flow in an organ pipe. Around the fuel bundles are many sections of pipe (headers and feeders) that would love to resonate at certain frequencies, as well as the primary pump itself. The tubes are probably happiest at their fundamental frequency (everything pumping up and down at the lowest frequency), but higher frequencies are possible.

It is this 'positive feedback' mechanism with the tubes that allows the water laser to pump up to such high energies. Now, once on Wikipedia, everybody poo-pooed this, as being totally useless. They said that the simple 2 cent rotary water chopper in a water pressure cleaner, did the same thing! They obviously didn't appreciate the magnificence of a multi-million dollar setup doing the same as a 2 cent part!

The water laser can be tuned to different frequencies! It produces a perfect sinusoid water pulse, instead of square waves! It can be used to destroy fuel bundles! Such a sad waste that this magnificent discovery will forever go unacknowledged, until they make another one in the next Candu plant!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Water laser - II

I shall continue my story, even though my ad account remains at a pristine zero! After all, I think I'm writing for my own soul, to boost my serotonin levels!

When the Big Company fired up Darlington, something horrible happened. There were tremendous vibrations, and fuel bundles were coming out shattered. I looked at the photos of these things, and was amazed at the stresses that would be involved to do this. On some bundles, the serial number of the adjacent bundle was imprinted perfectly, implying almost explosive shock-like impact!

For some reason, I was enjoying one of my high cycles in the company, and was thrown into the investigation, because of my experience in dynamics, and they were fond of shit-disturbers! They thought there was some sort of resonance involved, and switched the main pumps from a 5 blade impeller, to 7 blades. This had the effect of a dramatic decrease in vibrations, and broken fuel bundles. The whole case was closed.

They attributed the whole thing to acoustic-type stub resonance, which is the amplification you get with the chamber of an acoustic guitar, perhaps a factor of 2. They actually called it organ pipe resonance, without understanding the physics of an organ pipe! After the pump change, vibrations continued to plague the station, and they fooled around with the end fittings to change the perceived stub resonance. As of this date, they've had to do modifications in the heat exchangers for the vibrations, and I fear the place is shaking apart!

The biggest mistake they made was attributing organ pipe amplification to passive resonance. In reality, there is a feedback mechanism with the air stream, which flows chaotically up against a knife edge. A tiny change in pressure makes the air stream flow into the pipe, compressing the air, while a change the other way, causes the air to flow outward, creating lower pressure. The air stream starts as white noise, and the organ tube selectively filters the resonant frequency. This sets up a wave train of acoustic waves going up and down the pipe. When a compression pulse hits the air stream, it pushes it out, creating low pressure, which adds to the open reflection pulse. This builds up into a tremendous sound!

The combination of the fuel bundles, the water flow, and the pressure tubes, created something much more powerful than an organ pipe, and we'll go into this next time, when I feel like it...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Boring story - The Water Laser - Part 1

Once in a while, during one's career, you can come across something so astounding and unbelievable, that it is totally boring to anybody else. Thus, goes the story of the greatest discovery ever made at OPG, but it was totally ignored due to its horrendous effects. It's as though somebody stumbed upon atomic power, and said 'Oh my god, this is dangerous!' and shoved it back under the table.

It all started back with the very first Candu station and the very first fuel bundle. As we all know, the raw uranium is separated at the mine, and the toxic mine tailings are left. This is chemically purified and more radiactive junk is scattered around Port Hope. At this point, we have about 99% useless U-238, and about 1% of the good U-235. This stuff is all heated and glued together in a wonderful hard ceramic, which would pass right through you, if you swallowed one!

Candu designers faced the fact that this stuff is almost impossible in a reactor. Most of the world gave up on it long ago, and now so has Canada (see 'mildly enriched'). Nevertheless, at the time, they put the ceramic fuel into these cutsie fuel bundles, so that heavy water could flow all around the fuel.

Here's another image in cross-section.

They built the first Candu's with these, and they have never been changed, as far as I know. The heavy water flows through these at a good clip.

Then the Candu designers had a problem. The first reactors were a paltry 500 MW, which was hardly worth building. Let's up the power! (they said). They made the reactors bigger, but there was a scaling problem, so they jacked up the water velocity going through the bundles. They didn't notice the first hints of problems at Bruce B, so they jacked it up again at Darlington.

We can all see there must be a limit for the flow velocity, but what is it? An obvious one is cavitation, just like boat propellors. But, our friends hit innocently hit something much worse, well below cavitation.

We know that when a hollow metal tube is compressed, it bows out, just like those 'finger traps' in the dollar store. (I loved those as a kid!). If you look at the cross-section of the fuel bundle, so will see that there is a reduction in the flow area, and thus increased resistance to flow, if you push on it.

The bowing of a tube is marvellously non-linear, just like buckling. You can increase your loading on a tube for a long time, and this is a great demonstration for the kiddies: see how many books you can balance on paper-towel tube, you'd be amazed!

Well, I've got to go back to peeling apples, continued another day....

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mythboosters- AECL nuclear plant

Just a note Mr. Bloomberg. The handy brand-new AECL ACR-1000 does use enriched uranium, about 2% as opposed to the more common 4%. This allows all the advantages of a more compact core. My own feeling is that 2% enriched uranium is about as difficult to get as 4%. Unless we can mix in the old Soviet Union bombs, we don't have this stuff in Canada.

Flood of new nuclear reactors

I always wondered what a flood of nuclear reactors would look like. I betcha it would hurt! It looks like the US is already ordering Japanese parts, during the Japanese Nuclear Winter. Old Ontario better hurry up and join the party! If we wait for the election then the world will pass us by.

Geology of Bruce, Ontario

Since the cash has started to fly, I would open up the session by telling what I know about the site. I won't cite references because there aren't any! This is the most unstudied area I know. All information is safely hidden in-house.

I first became aware of the site, when I first joined the big company, 28 years ago. At the time, they were building a water intake tunnel, which was so leaky you had to wear a heavy raincoat to go into it. I was terrified, and never took up the opportunity to visit. To dig that tunnel, they had to use trainloads of grout, and they still ran into a huge cavern. Now there's a dog-leg in the tunnel, in order to go around it.

At the time I was taking stress measurements all over Ontario, and I always found high stresses and solid, tight rock. I could not believe there could be such an area where the rock was so bad, so I made a study of it. I wrote some of the results in Paleocollapse.

As such, I formed a hypothesis, which was testable:

Hypothesis One: The paleocollapse was caused by the dissolution of the deep salt beds under the limestones. There should be standard, solid limestone under the former salt beds.

Over 28 years, I learned a lot, so now there is this:

Hypothesis Two: The salt beds and carbonates were laid on the soft hanging wall of the Grenville Front (megathrust). This eventually resulted in extensive fracturing, and the dissolution of the salts.

Both hypotheses can be tested by drilling a deep hole, which is now being done in-house. I just worry that all the results will be spun towards #1. They have to proceed, no matter what, because they have left no alternative. They hearings will conclude that they should proceed, on the proviso that if they find something politcally unacceptable, they will stop. No scientific criteria will be set.

For interest, look at the Google picture. All of the paleocollapse is below a cliff that runs NE, parallel to the Grenville Front. The area NE of the plant shows the sinkholes, and is exactly like an air photo I once saw that was done before the plant was built.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New blatant commercial thing added

As a lark, I've added a new box. By the agreement, I'm not allowed to talk about it, or acknowledge its existence, but if my buddies over at Science Bloggers get free parties, because of this sort of thing, then what the heck!

Sooner or later, someone has to pay the piper for the hosts that run these things. I'm sure right now they pay for it by attaching a zillion tracking cookies (ever see what happens when you touch Science Bloggers?). I compensate by having my Firefox wipe all cookies when I close it down.

I would advise to never click on the thing I can't mention with Internet Explorer! My kids used to get the most severe things until I banished it from the house. That said, I'm looking forward to my nickel per year! And the first thing saying "Buy earthquakes at F-Bay!"

AECL clutches at straws

Never eat left-over frozen stovetop stuffing! AECL employees can have their revenge, knowing I'm sick as a dog, all alone at the cottage. Even the dog has abandoned me! Anyway I'm glad AECL has a glimmer of hope. My previous artcles have been cold and cruel, and if I die, I hope all those old, dead famous AECL guys forgive me. If not, well, I'm back!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Deep Geology Thingie dishes out the cash

This article is what I've been waiting for! 100 thousand loonies have been handed out to people, to make the OJ-hearings a bit more exciting. I hope they do a good job!

As we all know, the Deep Geology Waste Respository (DGR, whatever!) is a big plan to spend all that money which has been building up, from the nuclear plants (a percentage is set aside for the garbage). This is generally a good thing, and I'm all for nuclear power, but technocrats are in charge of this money.

These people actually hate to be open, and face the public, so they'll have their lawyers do everything. The people getting the money will have more lawyers. The lawyers will get fancy sports cars. All the money, for and against, will go into the Bruce area, so they'll get new cars, as well.

Will there be any open, and worthwhile science? You can figure this out for yourselves!

Water-carbon III

Wow, I have never gone to 3 parts! I can't even remember where I started!

Ok, I remember. We had 2 dials, the strength of which overwhelms anything that mere humans can do. There really is a third dial, which is a big mystery, and we have no data on it. This is the Solar Input dial, and it can vary by means of changes in the Sun's output, earth wobble, or orbital variations. It works on a much shorter period than the other two, and might be responsible for warm and cold decades, and centuries. For example, nobody knows why the 30's were warmer than now (although everybody knows why were getting warm now!!).

Our two main dials are very slow, and changes take 10's of millions of years. Over the last few billion years, the fossil record shows big swings in both water and carbon.

The variations are caused by our giant plate tectonics machine. When we have an 'average' world (right now!), the oceanic crust subducts under places like Peru. This conveyor belt of junk contains huge amounts of water, and carbonate rocks. Normally, it dives at a fairly steep angle, until it gets deep enough to cook. Then it spews out water and carbon dioxide (along with other nasties), in the big line of volcanoes, right over the cooking zone.

Our recycling factory, however, has not worked at a steady pace over geologic time. Sometimes, the plates move so fast that the cooking process is interrupted, and huge cold slabs of water and carbon get 'frozen' under the continents. This is the time when the 'dials' go down.

Of great interest to me, was the last time when all the continents glumped together a couple of hundred million years ago. When this happened, most subduction stopped, and all the cold slabs were under a giant thermal blanket of fluffy continental rock, and they cooked. Huge amounts of water and carbon were released, and we had the age of the dinosaurs. When the continents broke up again, the cooking stopped, and the world became average again. The poor dinos were not happy when the big lump hit the earth, and did not recover. The mammals started their party!

The final mystery is whether these two dials are independent, or linked together in some manner. It is possible to have subducted slabs that are full of water, and not carbonate, and vice versa. The last big cooking (dinosaurs) had both, but there were really bizarre climate changes in the earlier fossil records. I like to think that they can be twiddled independently, and more science will prove or disprove this hypothesis.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Nigeria goes one up on Alberta

Wow! I was joking that the arrangement for the Alberta Nuclear Plant made Nigeria look good. Now Nigeria wants a nuclear power plant, too!

Yeah, Nigeria!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Carbon and Water Cycles II - boring!

Well, I just took my middle guy to Queens. What a zoo moving day is! I didn't like the low-life Queens engineers insulting the parents, they can insult the frosh all they want. Well, they have to compensate for being inferior to UofT Engineering!! :)

Summer is practically over, and it's time for me to look for some tiny bit of work. I sure hope they take their thumbs out and actually start building a nuclear plant! OPG's top guy already bailed, perhaps because he saw all the political (and union!) interference. I like to think that he presented my ideas for a nuclear plant in my lifetime, to the Big Board, and they tossed him out on his ear! :)

Back to our little thought experiment. Like I said, we have two dials on the world, one for water and one for carbon. More water is injected water vapour, and less water means it has been sucked away down deep. More carbon is injected carbon dioxide, and less carbon means that it, too, has been sucked down deep.

The most fun is with the water dial. We can turn it way down and watch what happens. The oceans shrink. There is much less rain in the world. Large mountain ranges continue to rise, but are never eroded, like some ranges in South America. The ice sheets evaporate, but the world gets colder, like when you are camping and it's a clear night, and you know you are going to freeze! Lots of plants die. We have a cold, dry earth, suitable for tiny mammals that live in the desert.

Enough of that, now let's turn it up! We have lots of water, and oceans rise. There is lots of rain everywhere. The mountain ranges rapidly erode, causing carbon-poor sediments. The plants start growing, but become limited by the lack of carbon dioxide, just like my aquarium plants. The earth becomes very warm, because water vapour is the most effective greenhouse gas of all. We have a very wet, warm world, with limited vegetation.

Set the old water back at neutral, and play with the carbon dial! We turn it right down to almost no carbon. The atmospheric carbon dioxide gets quickly used up by plants and erosion, and little sea creatures. The world most likely gets a lot colder (if you believe all those carbon-people!). We have ice sheets, and maybe an ice-age, if the Sun turns down a little, as well. The plants aren't too happy and mostly refuse to grow.

Let's turn it up now. Remember, this dial is infinitely more powerful than the smokestacks of pitiful humans! We flood the place with carbon dioxide, and the oceans go acidic, we dissolve mountains faster, and most likely the world warms up. The plants are limited by the available water.

I think that's generally boring. The big fun comes from twiddling the dials to their extremes. First, we knock down the water, and the carbon. Nothing much happens from the water alone, except the plants are even more dead, and the world is much colder (Iceball Earth!).

Keeping down the water and jacking up the carbon, probably just results in a big mess!

The one I'm more interested in is jacking up the water and the carbon. Then we have a totally different Earth! The mountains are eroded faster, massive carbonate sediments are laid. The earth is very warm, and all the land is filled with swamps, which have tremendous plant growth. The growth of the plants fill the air with oxygen, and the air is thick. All the mammals get fur-rot, and the place fills with dinosaurs. The carbon is so thick, it gets laid down in beds of pure carbon (coal).

These things have actually happened, and we'll look at the geology in the next episode, after I recover from paying the tuition!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Carbon and Water Cycles I - boring!

We have to go way back for this one, before the formation of the earth. Back then we had a real dusty mess, probably caused by some giant star barfing. The Earth, the Sun and the planets started globbing this dirt. The four most common elements swirling around were (in order): hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and carbon. We had lots more heavier elements formed by past stellar explosions.

The Sun and Jupiter sucked up most of the hydrogen and helium, leaving Earth and the rest with the rockier stuff. Lots of carbon fluff bombarded the earth. Eventually the heavier stuff (iron, etc) sunk to the centre of the earth, leaving us with a lot of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen (in the form of water).

Thus began the great carbon and water cycles. We started with a certain amount of the stuff, but only a variable percentage stays up where we can see it. Over geologic time, there have been great variations.

We now imagine that we are the janitors who take care of the earth (a la that weird movie!). We have two dials, one that controls total available water, and one that controls total available carbon.

(Whoops, old guy has to go to bed!)

Burn oil - melt glaciers - get more oil!

I like the logic of this. This article states that the US is hungry for Greenland oil. Just a bit of ice in the way, so if we go whole hog in warming up the earth, we can easily get more oil in the Arctic. I won't have to retire to Florida! I can have Florida right in Toronto! Who could argue with that??

Giant volcano set to wipe out Manchester, England

Not really, but they are having a series of small earthquakes, and without good monitoring, discussions are getting weird. First, we have this article which says Manchester is rising very quickly. Then we have this article with the memorable Pythonesque quote: "There is no volcano rising under Manchester."

What is similar between the two? Despite other previous swarms, there appears to be inadequate seismic monitoring. They really should put in a dense network, since I suspect we have a similar mechanism to our own earthquake zones. The satellite thing is ridiculous, since these things drift tremendously when you have no ground truth. Had they put in the proper real-time GPS, we would know.

Nobody takes these things seriously, but an M5 or M6 right under Manchester would be something! Perhaps the Manchester zone is just a baby, with no threat of a large earthquake, but who knows?