Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Science buried in pork

I'm afraid that this is how all US Science is going. Funding must happen in a pork bill, where most of the money is probably going to powerful people. I'm sure that some minuscule good will come from the leftovers of the billion dollars. Let's see, what losers can we pour money into? How about conventional Big Pharma, it's not totally dead yet. How about giving a lot more money to surgeons, or hospital computer systems? The list is endless...

New guy in charge of Ontario nuclear plants

I congratulate the new guy Gerry Phillips, whoever he is, on assuming the nuclear mantle. Make no mistake, in the totally politically charge atmosphere of OPG, he is the uber-boss! (whoever he is).

I sure hope he get a realistic look at the chances of building a politically-correct nuclear plant in my lifetime. (Not good!). Perhaps he has some positive suggestions? And I'm always available, for lots of money....

Swedes love their nuclear plants!

Wow, these guys get a real tour of the nuclear plant. Our nuclear plant tours are boring affairs, where you can only get inside an information centre. Even if you could walk around, everything is closed up, with nothing much to see.

I hope if we ever, ever get a new nuclear plant, that it will be designed with some nice viewing vistas! There are actually some nice views at Darlington, but very difficult to get to.

After the landslides and fires, come the lawsuits

The poor victims! Must have been the city's fault, yessir! Leaky water pipes, city cigarettes, whatever. Fires, landslides, and earthquakes, there's always somebody to sue! Not that it has anything to do with leaky swimming pools, or drowning green lawns in water. Everybody has a right to build a house in a tinderbox, on an unstable slope, in a sag pond, down in a floodplain, on a filled swamp, etc.

AECL sold off again, and again, and again

It's time for another bout of 'The Price is Right' for AECL. I mean, really, who the heck would want to buy them? They are doomed to molder in their giant decaying techno-bureaucracy (much like other companies, that are labeled 'National Jewels'!). Perhaps we could sell them to the Iranians? After all, they did a good job of giving India the bomb. (Just kidding!).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Manager found guilty in Davis Besse trial

Remember, this is not a case of a poor lowly engineer. This is the case of a highly paid manager who did precisely what was expected of him from senior management. But as in Mission Impossible, everybody else can say they had no clue what was going on!

As I said before, this is the case that will now have every young engineer-prospect running like hell away from nuclear! Of course, you can always find someone....

Seems to me I remember there was a company who relied on manger-engineers to overrule their staff..... but the exact details have been cauterized from my head.

Oops! Space-Can does it again!

Are all these troubles a logical outcome of a big political mess? I think so.

I also think this picture is the perfect poster-child for the whole effort.

Sinking transformer - Part 2

It is not good to have a main transformer sink and tilt. They are connected to the plant by brittle conductors, and thin, buckle-prone steel work. As the recent Japanese earthquake showed, transformers tend to blow up during earthquakes.

We finally noticed one day that this transformer had sunk 7 inches over 30 years and was still sinking and tilting. There was no easy explanation since this was on highly compacted granular material, which does not settle.

When I found out about this, I imposed myself on the project people who wanted to have nothing to do with me! In the course of my investigations, I talked to the original engineers (retired), and read all the old reports. I concluded that the basement sump pumps had tapped into an old dewatering well, and were pumping 300 L/per minute. This was more than enough to seriously settle the general geology, much like New Orleans, or Mexico City.

As usual, I found myself in severe conflict with the Powers. I recommended that they use helical piles, but they went with an outside company who did grouting at 10 times the cost of piles. As of this writing, the transformer is sinking worse than ever.

The end of the in-house engineer

There just isn't going to be the government (utility) in-house engineer anymore. Even Quebec, the most Soviet of governments is turning to outside companies for bridge inspections (as if that is going to work!).

OPG is extremely proud that they only had 3 people working on the new tunnel in Niagara, but they forgot about the 20 years of design and studies of in-house experts on that project. The engineer unions don't help, because they are rather militant, and totally focussed on keeping useless people. They don't focus on the advantages of having tenured in-house experts.

The big trouble is the total instability of the situation. As soon as you say that all engineering will go out, then you destroy all talent on the inside, since there is a 'critical mass' situation here. Ideally, you want to contract on the outside, and have some good talent on the inside doing the purchasing, but this never happens. The primary reason is that 'project engineers' become totally immersed in the corrupt politics of dealing with 'idiot cousin' outside firms, and true talent will run for the hills!

So, what always happens is that political types (Dilbert-boss) deal with the outside companies, who greatly enjoy this, and make the most of it.

The solution is to open things up, and be less political, but that is never going to happen, again, until something bad happens.

ps, I just found out that the engineer union of the big company is currently ripping itself apart, with nasty accusations amongst the elected officials.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wind turbines kill birdies!

I knew it! I've been combing the news for years, seeking an article to confirm that those nasty wind turbines kill the little (and big) birdies. Ah, this is selective investigation, you rotten turbine-lovers might say. Blah!

This year the town of Young's Point, on the way to the cottage, built a Peregrine Falcon nest on top of a hydro pole. The babies were so cute! And I could see them every time I went up. Cut up to slices in a wind turbine? I hope not!

(The preceding totally biased article has been brought to by "Wind Turbines are Murderers" your friendly neighbourhood nasty activist group)

Canada missing out on nuclear party

Or so say the nukely guys! I have to admit that I'm their side, in the sense that waffling forever isn't a good thing. The problem is that AECL, the regulators, and the nuclear waste political kings, are all in one basket. How do you ever sort out that mess? But really, if we are digging out that uranium and sending it all over the world, we really should have a European-style 'cradle to grave' policy for those who would be kind enough to give back their Canadian nuclear waste. After all, it's chock full of juicy plutonium!

As with all things, there is a rational way to progress, and the political way to a mess (that rhymes!). I always see that we dig our big hole, until we become desperate, which won't be for another 10 years. Of course, intelligent people might realize that 10 years isn't so far away....

Still no verdict on Davis-Besse

The case that could have everybody and their dog fleeing from nuclear engineering, is still out to jury. Even though I think this is a case of management cover-up, the press represents it as an engineering thing. I can imagine every bright young student saying: "Holy crap, I'm not getting into that muck!". Of course, there are always those desperate bottom third of the bottom third of schools, that people keep hiring for nuclear plants.

Water Projects are still the Porkiest

In the US, politicians are judged by their ability to 'bring home the bacon'. And nothing says pork better than the US Army Corps of Engineers, whose civilian employees outnumber military people by 100 to one!

Now they want to upgrade a small portion of the Mississippi River, which is exactly like a highway to nowhere. The giant spending bill contains something for everybody, so it is well supported in the Pork-Dome, but Bush will veto it. Then they will have to throw in some more stuff to get enough support to override the veto!

The Case of the Sinking Transformer - Part 1

In all my years as the 'Physics Sherlock' of the big company, I had never run into a case as baffling as the "Leaning Transformer of Pickering".

It all starts with the geology. This was an area which had mixed lake and river deposits. It then got all squished by heavy glaciers, which resulted in a unique mix of hard (over-consolidated) clay, mixed with loose sand lenses. These sand lenses presented the anomaly of being loose, in a matrix of very dense glacial till. The only explanation was that the water in the sand lenses acted as bubbles, which prevented the sand from compacting, as well.

Drilling and excavating in this mess was always a hazard. You pierced one of these sand lenses, and poof! If you were digging, and you hit a sand lens, you would go instantly from a dry hole, to a quicksand mess!

Knowing that this muck could not be excavated, the original designers went for deep piles, which were driven down to 'refusal', which meant that they kept hammering until they didn't go in anymore. Almost everything was put on piles. If they had to dig deep holes for sumps, they installed huge dewatering wells, so they could dig without sinking!

Unfortunately, not everything was put on piles. They decided that if the load was light (such as transformers), then they could get away with just a concrete mat foundation. This was the fateful decision that would come back to haunt them! (not actually the same people, since the 'originals' are mostly dead!).

Thus, we have the main output transformers, which are the huge things that convert turbine power into something suitable to run toasters on. There is only one such transformer per turbine, per reactor, so they are quite important.

(to be continued)

Harper runs from nuclear waste

Does anybody think we'll have a real discussion on nuclear waste, other than FEMA presentations in remote farming communities? This article shows that the mere hint of doing something, gets people running for their hidey-holes.

I mean, really, if we want to sell uranium to Yemen for a nuclear reactor, we should enter an agreement to take back the nuclear waste, or we won't be able to sell. Do we want these guys to take care of it themselves?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Claptrap Space-Can continues to surprise

The whole reason for continuing the rather hopeless Space Shuttle, is to keep the even more hopeless Space Station running. I'm glad to see that everything is running today, since lives are at stake, but there is always trouble.

I once wrote about the Claptrap Society, and this is the prime example!

Underground CO2 storage

Why do I think this isn't going to work? Do I think the pollution caused by doing this will be worse than the original problem? Is it ethanol corn all over again? Can CO2 really stay in areas that have been extensively drilled? Wouldn't companies just inject, declare victory, and go home?

Building a bridge over corruption

Indonesia is certainly ambitious, to say the least. Somewhat like a nuclear plant in Yemen, they intend to build the world's longest bridge, in the midst of volcanoes and earthquakes. All the famous Indonesian business families want a piece of the action! Can it be done? I'm placing my bets on Yemen!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Giant hot-tub at perfect temperature!

The giant hot-tub in Indonesia is at a perfect 39C! Just like surfers before a hurricane, I'm sure that Extreme Soakers are rushing to the scene!

Another bureaucratic computer thing down the tubes

I've been near a few of these things. Unless you have lots of money and can scrap the first version or two, they always wash out. I think it's because too many cooks spoil the broth, and there is too much political interference (the mayor's idiot nephew!).

I think the reason you don't here about it more often, is because of polite cover-ups. I know of one big Canadian health initiative that is going 'south', but probably the colossal failure will not be a loud bang, but a quiet whimper.

Fema stages a press conference

I think this should be a role model for all agencies trying to sneak things past the public. For example, instead of having meetings in deserted Legion Halls, the nuclear waste people should have staged conferences posted on u-tube.

Q: Do you think you've done an absolutely fantastic job so far?

A: Yes, I do. We are totally wonderful!

Q: Do you think that your rock is really good?

A: It's the bestest.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Putting together your own computer - continued

In an earlier post, I enthused how I was putting together a computer, and how easy it was --- AAAAAGHHH!

Seems the boards were shipping with bad CMOS batteries, although I didn't know that at the time. All I knew is that it would not start up for me. I sent it back and it worked perfectly for them! I got a board from a different company (now I was up to renovating two computers), and it started perfectly.

Of course, I had to put in Vista 64, since my daughter must play Sims 2 all the time. Well, Vista 64 really doesn't work all that well... First, forget the use of any PCI cards, the Bios and the drivers need perfect planetary alignment, and that appears to be rare. Besides, there are almost no working drivers for old wifi cards. I followed somebody's advice and went with an external ethernet-wireless bridge, which works with anything.

I finally got it all working (except the sound!), and the ladies love it, because it has such a *cute* interface! I think I'm giving up on building my own computers....

Tiny number of Gray Googlers make money

Not me! Anyway, I only have a touch of gray, around the temples, to make me look dignified! Some old guys have hit it rich with blogs. I figure I pull in about 5 pennies a day. Hopefully, I'm worth it?

For some of my generation (aging baby-boomers), this could be worth a lot. I knew a guy who's passion was tuning bells for carillons, and he traveled the world doing this. Me, I'm just good for bulling about my favourite stuff...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

James Watson finally calls it a day

Good grief! About time, at 79! He has announced that he is joining the Dock Fishers Club. Now people will do the decent thing and not listen to him anymore, just like me!

It's no crime to be an incompetent engineer

Finally, the Davis-Besse trial has gone to jury. This is not quite a lowly engineer, but an engineering manager. The defence says that he had no incentive to cover up. They don't say that he had every incentive to look the other way. Trouble-makers have no protection in Management. When I was in the big company, I could cause trouble by my tenure-equivalent position. Without it, I would have been fired long ago, even though I was always right! :)

Steaming about the New York steam explosion

Quite a while ago, a steam pipe burst in New York City, and mucked things up quite a bit. Naturally, people are suing the owners Con Ed. And here comes the Broadway play that anyone could have predicted before this news article.

Suing people's hired engineer-gun: We believe that there was a fatal flaw in the pipe, a ticking time-bomb, ready to explode on innocent (and wannabe rich!) people. Con Ed was negligent in not detecting this, which they could have, had they spent a measly extra five bucks!

Con Ed's hired gun: Such Nonsense! We have found no flaw, no reason in the world why this pipe exploded. Must have been some capricious Act of the Pipe Gods, and, in no way, affects any other steam pipe. These rusty cast-iron pipes are as sound as the day they were made, just like the Liberty Bell!

US army wants to sludge up Lake Erie

The nerve of those people! They want to dump sludge, yes sludge, into our pristine Lake Erie. This, just after they lost a court battle in New Jersey for sloppy sludging!

After they screwed up the dikes of New Orleans, they were relegated to being Sludge Kings, and you'd think they would do it right! And why the heck is the US army buried in sludge anyway?

US states want to keep their own water

The current drought in the southern US offers a perfect example of the tensions between state and national interests. When times were good, the states benefited tremendously from the heavily subsidized, totally bureaucratic US Army Corps of Engineers. This is another one of those activist things set up in the 1930's, that can never die.

Those busy army beavers set up a national system of water flow and dams, to increase general regional wealth. And it worked at the time. Now, states such as Georgia want to ditch all that, and keep all the water stored in their state. To heck with those people downstream!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yuk-yuk Mountain lurches toward completion

Apparently, in the US, this certification is a big deal. That means, somewhere, they don't say where, 30 million pages of the finest bureaucratic prose, is available for on-line viewing. Who could argue with that? Maybe they could pay for it with ads?

Giving Birth to the Bladder-Baby

This happened to a friend of mine...yeah. I'm only writing it as though it happened to me, to make it funnier.

Apparently, if you are a woman, you don't need to read this. You would just think that I, err my friend is a big baby.

Friday night, I got sudden fever and chills. Saturday morning, the bio-plumbing stopped working. I toughed it out, no big deal. Saturday evening, I was moaning to the wife that I was dying! She said stop whining, and if it's bad go to the hospital. The fact that I give the same response to sniffles, or a stubbed toe is irrelevant here.

By late evening, after the wife had gone to bed, I was beginning to clue in, that there was a problem here. Being a Canadian, I sought to blast it out with 2 bottles of beer, since that always made me pee, eh? Big mistake! After this, I looked up "urinary retention" on the Internet and became an Instant Expert. The big advice was "GO TO EMERG!" ...nah!

1:00 AM and I couldn't sleep for the pain. I snuck out without telling the wife and drove to Emerg. Who needs that pain, on top of this pain? I enter and go to the Triage Nurse, who looks like she just got back from Afghanistan, and has seen Canadian bodies blown apart.

"I can't pee." (pause)
"Fill out the forms and sit down"

I sit right at the front, which is totally empty, and she can see me. I know that will help when I give her my puppy-dog eyes! Every once in a while, another nurse comes and pulls out a form from the form-slot board and calls out a name. Somebody comes from way in the back. I look back, and Geez, there's a lot of people! What do they want?

More forms pulled, and one gets laughed at, and stashed in the back. Better not be mine!

Dumm, de dumm dumm. Deep breathing, it's only dilated 4 cm! A mother goes up with her son. Bet it's only the sniffles!

Dumm, de dumm dumm. An ambulance brings in a 'party assault'. Can't be that bad. Nobody's running in with a crash cart, like they do on TV.

Dumm, de dumm dumm. A bevy of beautiful Party Paris Hiltons walk in. One of them has a tiny bandage wrapped around her exquisite wrist. Perhaps she slugged the stretcher guy?

Dumm, de dumm dumm. Somebody asks the nurse 'how's business?'. She says, it's not the usual SIX HOUR WAIT!

Finally, a whole hour after, my name is called. I'm sent to a room where the usual 'happy shroud' is waiting for me. Oh well, who needs human dignity? Should I even bother tying the top?

Half an hour later the emerg doc waltzes in. "Yep, you've got a big bladder there." Ya think?? Then comes the nurse with THE THING!

I know it's gonna hurt, but if she was carrying a hara-kari sword, ready to disembowel me, I wouldn't care. SHIT!! THAT HURT!! Ah, relief!

For those of you that 'diss' the Canadian Medical System, they kept me for about an hour, while I had a good snooze, and they got back the lab results. Then they strapped on a bag, and gave me the name and number of a urologist to call on Monday. He saw me right away, and said I had a prostate infection, which really shouldn't happen. I knew that from the Internet!

He booked me for an appointment to have a very teensy-weensy 'flexible tube coated with freezing gel' shoved up me, again. He should tell Nurse Fanny about that freezing gel stuff! Then he yanked out the Foley Catheter (SHIT, THAT HURT!), prescribe some huge horse-pills, and I was on my way!



Feeder fun - part 5

Ok, time to take this baby home!

These feeders were extremely happy, doing their thing, bleeding a little iron, when 2 things happened. First, there was a bad steam explosion in a Japan nuclear plant. If you saw the pictures, you would see that these crazy guys let a steam pipe corrode down to a pop-can. You can see the metal peeled back like an orange! There were only two things to be learned here:
-it's amazing how thin these pipes can get and still work!
-this is a Japanese nuclear plant

The second big thing was that some badly repaired feeder pipe cracked over in Quebec. I actually snuck into a printer room and got some pictures, and showed it around to some smart people. In cross-section, you could see that they joined two pieces of pipe that were not straight, so that there was a kink at the weld. This would result in a tremendous concentration of fatigue stress, and you could see the thousands of micro-fractures at the weld. Here is a good weld, where you can see all the zones.

A pipe butt-weld is sort of the same thing, except it is done from the top, and is 'blind". In other words, you want the bottom to be nice, but you don't know exactly what it is going to turn out like. This is another major 'initial conditions' uncertainty.

Of course, fatigue was not the interpretation of those who scented blood. They went ballistic, saying that all Candu feeders were in danger from flow assisted corrosion (FAC), and they informed the regulator, for good measure. They sent the pictures just to a FAC guy who duly reported it as FAC.

The race was now on for some real evidence, since large departments were being formed, and promotions scattered like sand. Anybody who came up with it, would be highly rewarded! And it came! The technique was familiar to all geophysicists: reflection seismology. But in this case, they shrink it down to ultrasonic size.

Here is their fancy mega-dollar machine that came out of this.

We all know the huge error bars involved with reflections. Yet, when I had my meeting with some top managers, they showed me a result of the pipe thicknesses, presented as single fine dots, spaced over a year. You joined the two together, and there was a line straight down to hell. You couldn't argue with that!

Finally, even that graph was not enough justification for billions. They had to run a crummy modal (seismic) finite element analysis, using 30 year old assumptions, and the 30 year old code. Since the pipes were first designed to that, just shaving off a micro-metre would guarantee failure, and that's what happened.

In reality, modern seismic experience shows that you cannot damage small-bore steel pipes in an earthquake. Sometimes, the piping is the only thing standing! Basically, the steel pipe acts like a rubber hose, and merrily shakes away, not doing anything.

That's how it now stands. I was going to do some more on their bizarre interpretations of weld cross-sections, but blah!

Deep geology thingie undergoes another vigorous review

You can read this on the party at Owen Sound. Deep questions from about 3 people.

California fires launch attack on nuclear plant

The reason that natural, dry-land forests are useless as carbon sinks, is that they love to have their forest fire parties. Apparently, one is approaching a nuclear plant and is being fought off by water bombers.

2008 Camry Hybrid

We are almost down to the bottom of the first tank, and it's time for a review. I wonder if people still have a chance to get one. We ordered the extra option package.

First off, this car is beautiful! With the extra package, you get a moon roof and leather seats, so it feels like a Lexus. The feel and design resemble a mini Chrysler 300. There are so many electronic doo-dads, that an absent-minded person, such as myself, may present a driving danger.

The car has power, and you can actually drive it like a mad-man Toronto loonie, but I don't think you'd save any gas money. As for saving money, give up on that hope. It's like growing your own vegetables in your backyard, you can buy them at the farmer's market for a quarter of the money you sunk into that pit! (I still grow veggies!)

If you drive the proper Gore-ish way, a happy-light starts to glow. So far, we've been getting 7.5 l/km in pure city driving, which is quite good. Haven't seen it on the highway yet. My son loves the sound of the braking system, which charges the batteries, since it sounds like a jet landing (turning down it's engines) - Neeee-oww!

A really nice luxury car that is a joy to own.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Computer stuffing

This is the morning funny. When I read the headline, I thought he had stuffed a desktop down his pants.

Amazing feeders Part 4

For new readers, this long story starts with Part 1, but I'm too lazy to provide a link.

The physics of feeders is fascinating. Everybody just thinks they are a stupid tube, like on a car exhaust, but they are different, especially when bent. Feeders are extruded as a solid tube, but each must be bent several times, in order to fit in the reactor. The physics comes in the reaction of the metal, as it stretches, shears and compresses to the new shape.

We all know how to bend a soft tube, like a copper pipe (if you took shop in high school). For those who didn't, bending a tube isn't that easy, since you want to maintain the same inside diameter. For example, if you take a cheap straw from McDonalds, and you bend it, you get a crimp where the straw failed. You can't suck up your milkshake with that! You could get one of those fancy bendy straws, but that's cheating!

In order to bend a tube without collapse, you need a proper setup. The most important thing is to confine the sides, so they don't buckle out. Here's a picture.

This is a very soft tube. You can imagine the unbelievable power require to bend the feeders! I find it amazing that at the time, this was considered to be normal tube bending, and no scientific investigations were done on what was really happening.

This picture shows the process for the feeders. As the tube is bent, the outer steel must be thinned and put into a yield state. The inner bend may or may not be yielding. The sides are exposed to a complex stress state, that involves high compression on the outside, and shear on the inside.

After the bend, the tube is in an unknown state. We don't know how much it has thinned or thickened, or what has happened to the material properties. We do know that all steel has a microscopic grain structure, and that deformation, cooling after extrusion, and alloy compostion, all affect this structure. Here is an example.

This is a highly magnified piece of steel, probably with some etching done to enhance the grains. If we sheared this steel, you would probably see most displacement along the grain boundaries, and the grains stretched, but the general structure would be the same. The disturbed grain boundaries would be more susceptible to chemical attack.

At this point, we know that the initial conditions of the feeders are unknown, the general science is unknown, and somebody is now going to make projections on performance twenty years later. If their analysis varies up or down a few percentage points, it means the difference between spending a billion dollars, or not.

-to be continued

Power plants suck up water in a drought

This is interesting, considering our current Gore warming spell. As the global thermostat is turned up, the southern states heat up and dry out. Their air conditioning sucks up tons of water. There is no easy way around this, since any form of big central power generation uses steam.

Monday, October 22, 2007

External rusty feed pipe directly connected to meltdown

You have got to love this nuclear spokesman. A crap cold-water feed pipe from the river breaks down, and he connects the word 'meltdown' to it. Considering that they let these pipes rust to ratshit probably means they didn't give a hootl

"Gotta fix these pipes or there'll be a meltdown!" And the local press laps it up. Plugged feed-water is the most unlikely cause of meltdown, provided they know right away, and can shut down the reactors, cooling them off with reserve water. Maybe they don't have reserve water??? Of course other plants get shut down all the time by river scum and lake algae. Close to a meltdown?

Big hydrogen tanks could be attached to nuclear plants

This article shows that hydrogen could be generated from the waste steam from nuclear plants. Of course, the giant hydrogen tanks wouldn't be right beside the nuclear plant, since they tend to go off with a boom. It would only be in giant trucks or pipelines, right by the nuclear plant.

Actually, there isn't any waste steam from a nuclear plant. It just goes into the condenser, and is considered very valuable stuff. The circulated lake water is just warmed up a bit, hardly good enough for anything. Actually, they may have been confused with the old days up at the Bruce. The old heavy water plant had plenty of waste steam, and they sent it by a long pipeline to help grow hothouse tomatoes. The plant was closed years ago, and I wonder what the tomatoes use now.

Starting again!

I heard some people at the Big Company were talking about it at a very low level, whereas I want to be at a higher level! No use jumping back into the same pond, and doing that long horrible daily commute for peanuts (what I used to get). I can afford to wait and see what trouble they get into. In the meantime, I'll get back to full blast, even though I've been sick with some old-man thing, and there hasn't been anything juicy on the news.

PS. I mentioned to one of the nuclear players who wanted me, that he should read my blog first, in case he would change his mind. He said the companies filtered out the blogs! I love it!


This is a very neutral article, so I'll sneak it in before Tuesday.

I was just reading my Economist, when I was struck by their innovation article. It seems everybody wants to pay lip-service to promoting innovation, and some countries are investing huge sums of money. Having worked in an industry that is notoriously lacking in innovation, I can make some comments.

Firstly, most of these countries have decided to create their own Silicon Valleys out of nothing. They pour in tons of money, and attract the brightest minds. But most of these countries have either a stultifying or repressive government. This is the same as a large hide-bound corporation opening up a research centre.

These various centres can come up with a million ideas, but none of them have really done much for the world. The key thing is that a good idea is disruptive to the existing bureaucratic power structure, and no bureaucrat gives up power without a fight! Let's say an innovative idea, or new scientific thought actually eliminates a department, or merges two together. This simply can't happen, by bubbling up from below. It requires an act from the very top of management, who are usually clueless about innovation.

A country or a corporation usually grasps innovation when they are on their last legs. As long as they are 'comfy' where they are, all the bright ideas won't matter.

The other problem with very political countries or companies, is that there might be a new idea championed by someone down in the hierarchy who is related to somebody at the top. This idea gets a lot of support, and starts to roll, but on this train there are no brakes! In a political system, nobody can admit they are wrong, so this eliminates the possibility of a Silicon Valley 'fast failure', with no major consequences on the originators. The project steamrolls to its ultimate stupid finale. Still, nobody will admit it is totally hopeless, so it dangles on its hook, discouraging any further innovation.

Day 3 of no news

Here it is 7:49 AM, and still no news. I know these guys come in by now, and discuss the most urgent issues. Oh well, I'll give it until tomorrow, and then it'll probably be next year, as they dig themselves into a big hole.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day 2 of waiting for the money

I suppose they don't work on the weekends, do they? I'll wait until Wednesday, and just do more Openstreetmap.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Flash! Harold about to sell out! (maybe)

I just got my first hint that some people may have realized the need for the only general nuclear seismic expert, in this neck of the woods. I've told them to read my blog, and if they still want me, then all my efforts to provide a free-thinking blog-shield have failed.

It must be because ABSOLUTELY NOBODY READS THIS! (except for a few fellow crazy people). I must now breathe deeply and forget my feeder story, and a thousand others like it. I am now going into an Ellen-hiatus for a few days, until I see how this pans out.

Teensy-weensy earthquake creates great stories

I love these Eastern North America shallow earthquakes! They are really a dog-fart in the grander scheme of things, but they make nice news articles. If a real earthquake came along, the stories wouldn't be so nice.

California weirdo Field Act

It must be a royal pain that you have a building all designed, and then somebody comes along, and says it has to be designed to a very old, 1930's building code. California truly needs a general building code, with importance factors for various classes of buildings. But really, a good code (such as Canada's) ensures that there will be no loss of life in public buildings. After all, those little kiddies spend most of their lives at the mall, and home!

Patchwork building codes never did anybody any favours.

Openstreetmap gratification

Here's where it all comes together, when they do the official render of all the streets you put in. Those are all my babies! You just can't buy self-gratification like this (unless you're Britney!). I had a few gps tracks, just to check, but all of this was done with their satellite overlay, since I know all the streets. Eventually, this can be downloaded to my portable Garmin.

Funny feeders - Part III

-continued from Part I and II.

The big bug-a-bear that terrifies the bureaucrats is Flow Assisted Corrosion (FAC). Since no political person wants to leave their backside 'Britney-esque', you mention this word, and the money flows like water, albeit with its own type of 'corrosion'.

FAC has become a big deal, since some super-thin steam pipes in Japan burst, and killed some people. FAC is a wonderful concept, which means different things to different people. To the chemical person (who dominate the big company), it means accelerated general corrosion, somewhat associated with flow. They have no concept of flow forces, flow patterns, etc.

To the geologist-physics person, it means flow erosion, somewhat sped up by rusting. These two mind-sets are on different planets. For example, here is a picture of Ontario drumlins, which is a glacial landform most likely caused by high-velocity water flow under an ice sheet. It is obvious that areas of higher flow eroded (corroded?) the bottom clay faster. The process is somewhat unstable, in that once a trench is formed, it tends to flow faster. Thus, you have these marvelous 'airplane wing' patterns.

Now, FAC first appeared in very soft metal, such as copper or aluminum. Here are a few pictures.

You can see classic unstable flow patterns, much like the drumlins. That is because, once a pit starts to form, turbulence increases, and it continues to be excavated.

It took a sheer act of amazing brilliance for somebody to extend this process to carbon steel. In doing so, they really had to push some things, and make up a story that convinced chemists.

The Candu feeders are made from the finest and hardest carbon steel. They are very thick-walled, and designed to take a lot of abuse, as well as lose a little thickness from corrosion. The idea of FAC on this stuff would be laughable, but for the total ingeniousness of the money-seekers...

(to be continued)

Nuclear waste party in Switzerland

I know some people who probably had a great ethanol-fueled, grand old time, over in Europe. These people travel a lot, since everybody enjoys talking about it. I actually liked this article, since it shows a different Swiss approach.

Like everybody else, they mentioned a possible site, and all the Ellen-wackos filled the place up, scaring everybody. Whereas in Canada, they have decided to pander to these people, the Swiss approach is to ignore them, and only put it to a national vote. Thus, nuclear waste becomes a larger issue, rather than just having meetings in the Kincardine Legion Hall.

Underpriced nuclear plants

Why do the proponents of nuclear plants continually underestimate the price? I mean, you know these things are going to be twice as expensive, and take twice as long. Just increase the estimate, and they still have to be built, since there is not a lot of choice.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rather obvious conclusion

This must have been done by the mayor's idiot brother-in-law. They put money down for a study that says 'oodles of money will flow if somebody plunks down a nuclear station'. Oh, really?

The Fysics of Feeders - Part II

Continued from Part I

I was never actually involved in this - told to mind my own business, but I could see that they were missing fundamental physics, which drove me nuts!

The feeder tube mess is a unique thing about Candu. Every one of those pressure tubes needs an inlet and outlet feeder, to pump in the high-pressure heavy water. Here is a partial illustration of the 'plumbers nightmare'.

This fits into the overall Candu layout, as such.

The feeder itself is a small-bore steel tube. It has thick walls, and is strong 'like bull'. If they have to be cut out, it's a real bitch, since they are radioactive. Here is a picture of a feeder removed from the Bruce reactor.

Now, a lot of heavy water flows through these pipes, and they tend to lose some iron. An attempt is made to adjust the chemistry of the water, so that it is not so aggressive on the iron, but it is generally impossible, because of different temperature conditions throughout the system. They adjust it, so that it keeps the pressure tubes clean, and deposits iron in the steam generators.

The big issue now, through the horrible application of bad physics, is that all the Darlington feeders are deemed to be bad, and must be replaced soon. It's no use saying that 10% of the feeders need to be replaced, since you can see from the pictures, that if you want to replace one, you have to cut out an awful lot of others, just to get to it!

This will cost some major change, and it was my contention at the time, that it was all unnecessary, but now I'm retired, and can just bitch on the sidelines...

(more to follow)

Tectonic Time Bomb

I just love that expression! It was used in an article describing the Hayward fault in California. People generally have a thing about timing of these earthquakes. If it shows that the average interval is 140 years, and it's been 139 years since the last one, then they go all bananas! In reality, the concept of 'due dates' doesn't really work.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Everybody gets earthquake coverage in New Zealand

I love this! You get coverage for a crack in your cottage. At my cottage, I just nail another board over it!

I wonder what they do when a real earthquake comes along? You might as well have universal coverage with insurance companies. It's a lot better than having a hopeless gov't bureaucracy trundle in after the fact.

Nuclear waste can't get no respect

They're having meetings at all the places where they can't store nuclear waste. I would think this to be a borefest, but still somebody can find a bunch of angry people to scream. :)

Volcanos ready to blow

I really liked this article. It tells of some major potential blow-outs near population centres. I think, worrying about Yellowstone is a bit much, but Vesuvius is something. But, all in all, I think the threat from earthquakes and tsunamis, is about the same.

Canada's very own volcano

Generally, things are really boring in Canada, with regard to natural disasters. Only earthquakes can fit this bill, mainly because we are always so horribly unprepared for them.

But now, we have a volcano bubbling! But even when and if it does blow, there are almost no humans nearby. Maybe we can magnify the disaster by making it a major tourist attraction! I can imagine a thousand new-age eco-tourists standing on top, wanting to feel the power of the volcano gods!

OPG says it's actually moving on new nuclear

This article says it all. They say they are moving, but nothing seems to be changed from a year ago. But, no worries. Once the 'miracle new guy' shows up, I'm sure we'll be clipping along...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The horrible case of Candu feeders - I

This is a very long story, horribly painful for me to write, but I shall go at it in stabs.

When I was going through school, my talent was in standard Newtonian physics. I would score the highest marks, when it came to dynamics, fluid flow, stress, etc. That quantum stuff did not impress me much -- spin of electrons -- quantum tunneling -- blah!

I especially liked to use fundamental physics to solve dynamics problems, using finite differences, and the physical laws at tiny time steps. I did all sorts of stuff with that!

When I first joined the big company, I could use all this talent, since we were doing big, high-energy things. I could also use logical thinking, to make things work. But as things went on, we weren't doing much anymore, except wash the floors. Logical thinking and hard-core physics had a long snooze.

When we were building, a lot of good thinking went into the seismic design of the structures and systems. Unfortunately, the scientific thought was 'frozen' at the time of construction, and never touched again. Which is too bad, since I'm told that science has changed a bit in 30 years. :)

All those earthquake assumptions from 30 years ago, have now been shown to be bad (good enough at the time!). We actually knew at the time, that we didn't know much, so a heck of a lot of extras (conservatism) went into the construction. That usually meant we doubled the thickness of the concrete, steel, pipes, etc.

Frozen, 30-year-old assumptions, and 30 year old seismic analysis techniques, now take a big toll. For the feeders, it could mean something like an extra billion dollars (minimum!) in unnecessary costs.

(to be continued)

Internet car purchase

We needed to purchase a new car, and we knew exactly what we wanted. I have a fearful cringe about talking to car dealers, so I curled up in the fetal position. We'll I saw a license plate frame with, and I went to their site. I already had a price, and the Camry Hybrid was selling close to suggested. These people gave me a great deal (can't say!).

Once you go through their site, you actually have to talk to someone (shudder!), but Adina was very nice. Today I picked up the new car, and it's magnificent!

Only one thing.... If I'm plugging this on my very popular blog, then I should get a t-shirt, sweater, car blanket, or something???

Very pleasant time at DGR open house

They served tea and crumpets, and everybody had a very good time, at the deep geology thingie open house. The reception was totally positive, so we can get on with the fun of watching them build this thing! I wonder how the drilling went. I don't have the serotonin to go into their web site, so I'll just grouse from the sidelines. :)

California earthquake boondoggle

California is totally bankrupt, so when they want to splash money around, they have to raise a bond. This week, they put down $250 million on the San Francisco ferry service, all in the name of earthquakes.

The ferries take about 1% of the bridge traffic, so they will be of great help when the earthquake comes. Of course, ferry docks tend to be on slimy mud, so a decent earthquake will knock them out as well. Anyway, none of this should stop their big happy-party this week!

Breaker failure at US nuclear plant

I was interested in this, because breakers have been a big problem at nuclear plants. Circuit breakers in a nuclear plant are mostly control switches. A small control current switches off and on a very large current (also called relays). There are also the 'house-type' that switch off when there is an excess current.

The old breakers and relays were 'mercury-wetted'. These were notorious for poofing on and off, especially if somebody looked at them funny! They are also horribly bad for earthquakes, since the mercury sloshes around, and randomly activates them. When we were re-seismically qualifying Pickering A, all of these 'bad actors' had to be replaced. Darlington also has replaced the mercury switches.

The new relays and breakers are solid state, and much more rugged. Sounds like this plant still has the old type, since who would expect an earthquake in Alabama?

Monday, October 15, 2007

New nuclear plants already getting stuck in the tarball

The new US nuclear plants are playing fast and loose with the NRC 'voluntary' requirements, in an effort to jump on the Congress gravy train.

For example, the companies haven't done site work for 30 years at their plants. They've always had the attitude of 'We're here -- tough!'. The poor NRC always thought that after 30 years, they should re-evaluate things such as seismicity, regional radiation, water requirements, environmental impact, etc. Now the companies are saying 'Get lost!', and we're jamming new nuclear plants on our old sites. The intelligent thing would be to evaluate the capacity of the existing site, for new reactors. I know they aren't doing that in Ontario, but they should.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

DGR still bubbling along

Thank goodness! I thought they had given up on the Deep Geologic Thingie. That would be no fun at all! They are having 2 sessions way up in God's Country. Since everybody there loves the money, they will have a very happy time.

I hope somebody asks them how they define 'good rock'. Could they have their own Clintonian definition? We wait with baited breath.

Blog hits new record!

Thank you, all my silent readers! My blog finally broke out of its plateau, and hit 60 views on one day!

It always goes down on the weekend, because all of you are reading this at work (naughty!). I just know that when OPG hires their Gregory Smith replacement, then things will start to move, and I'll have something to write about.

As well, that thing up at Bruce has to start someday.

FLASH! This just in! Somebody just added a nickel to my ad account!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Whew! It's only sloppy work and not terrorism!

An earlier post implied that there was something nasty afoot at a nuclear plant. But, we are happy to report that the holes in containment were merely the result of 'poor work practices', to put it in a rather kind manner.

This is a perfect example of 'never ascribe to conspiracy, that which can be explained by stupidity'. Of course, the end result is the same...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Openstreetmap, my new toy!

Openstreetmap is an effort to break out of the mapping cartel. You may not realize that a very few companies have a lock on the maps you use. Google Maps may appear open, but they use Navteq maps which was just bought out by Nokia.

This becomes important if you want to use a map in Wikipedia, for example. You can't use anything copyrighted, which these maps are. For example, suppose I wanted to show the perfect location for an underground nuclear waste repository in downtown Toronto! I would have to use an open-source map, or they would sue me. You can't use a Google map in a blog, unless you link it to their revenue source.

Navteq has 700 people a day doing maps. This new effort could have thousands (their server is already dying!). I'm doing my neighbourhood, and if you are retired, or writing about computer security (ha,ha!), then you can do this while walking, driving, or cycling.

Engineering director ignorant at Besse

He was shocked, shocked, when he finally saw the pictures of the reactor head. How could such a thing happen under his watch?

This trial is getting interesting. How can they nail the lowest engineers in this? They wrote lots of memos, they wrote lots of Station Condition Records (SCR's). Everybody and their dog wanted more inspection ports. Yet, the liability probably goes down to the engineer who was forced to sign.

Blogworld expo

Ok, I find this funny. They are having a big blog conference in the gamblers paradise this November. They are having bloggers actually speak! Aren't bloggers uber-geeks with no social skills? Why would another blogger actually listen?

So all you blog fans, go to Las Vegas! They'll have blog exhibits! Maybe those guys in the rich blogs will get there, all expenses paid? I highly recommend that the new nuclear OPG guy attend, and then do something like the Sun blog guy. Now, that would be something I would help them with. :)

Fema plans for earthquakes (but not here!)

This article states that Fema has finally lifted their head out of the hole, and drawn up plans for earthquake disasters. This is an acknowledgment that earthquakes are different from the run-of-mill, every day disasters.

When the heck will the Toronto and Ontario equivalents get this clue? They just go along with the idea of a 'generic disaster', and say they are ready for anything and everything. Of course, they had top scientific help, when coming to that conclusion (NOT!).

I've written the Toronto earthquake disaster, and it's not pretty. We're on the same odds as the Fema disasters because we are so pitifully prepared, and our 'disaster' earthquake can be much smaller than a California earthquake. Our nuclear plants can take this earthquake, but they are about as much prepared as the rest of the Golden Horseshoe. Heaven help us all!

Earth science week!

It's a big week for earth science! The Science Centre is having a program for students. If you know any students going, check out 'Dancing elephants and floating continents'. It's good, hard-core geology. Unfortunately, 'earth science' gets 'contaminated' by those pollution and global warming people! All namby-pambies! :)

Somebody's pissed off at a nuclear plant

This is a very unusual story. The old US nuclear plants are just giant kettles. Every 18 months, they stop everything, open up the reactor vessel, and replace fuel. While they're at it, they have a couple of thousand extra workers go over the place, and spruce it up.

Totally surrounding this kettle, they have a steel containment structure. If the kettle bursts (as nearly happened at Davis-Besse), then this 'dry-well', as they like to call it, is supposed to hold in the radioactive shit hitting the fan.

Naturally, this containment is supposed to be functioning at all times. In Canada, they do regular pressure tests, and always find holes, such as valves left open. But at least they care! I don't think they pressure test in the US, or these holes might have been found earlier. Either somebody was really pissed off, and went to town with a drill, or, most likely, it was something stupid.

There is also a controversy in another plant, about the containment being rusted to rat-crap. I also find that they have given up looking at seismic issues in the US. They believe that they are perfect!

Microsoft ready to get wiped out!

Not financially, since they have a monopoly, but in terms of earthquake hazard. Seems that the 'powers' have re-evaluated Seattle, and bumped up the seismic hazard values. Lots of Seattle is on swamp, so it will have a great ride in an earthquake. My whole career, I've been saying that they have underestimated the hazard of being on soft gucky soil. You can expect amplifications of 10 to 100 times, but the old estimates were only a factor of 2.

However, I can't expect them to make more expensive bridges, or to beef up the infrastructure. For that, you would have to raise gas taxes, which is an impossibility. So the game plan is to wait for the disaster, and have the federal government bail them out with deficit spending. :)

Really old nuclear plant should retire

Old Vermont Yankee has seen better days. There is a battle to extend the life of this plant. As usual, the proponents are being secretive, and saying that all the corrosion and rot failures should be ignored. But they haven't been keeping good track of metal fatigue or general corrosion. They really should have a record of testing of key components. My gut feeling is that they are going down the road of Davis-Besse.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

South Africa - latest nuclear song & dance

If only I had an ad-click for every country announcing multiple nuclear power plants According to my South African blogger, they are constantly suffering long rolling blackouts, so the new plants are needed. I estimate, however, there is only enough talent to build about 3 nuclear plants in the world at any one time, and 10 years of this intense activity. That means, our many nuclear announcements are probably over-subscribed by a factor of 10!

Naturally, with OPG stuck on how to find a public point-person, on a pittance, we may be very late for the train....

Nuclear power - only we bloggers trusted

Apparently, only a few of us scientist-bloggers are trusted to the tell the truth about nuclear power. This is only in Britain, where they don't listen to everything Gordon Brown has to say. Over here in Canada, we believe everything the big guys have to say.

What the people don't realize, is that when the big guys realize that bloggers are listened to (not happening yet!!), we bloggers will receive lots of money under the table. I'm waiting, since I'm still at $1.07 on my ad revenue.....

Meanwhile, in Canada, there is nothing much to report on the nuclear front. They couldn't move any slower if they wanted to! I am convinced that people around the world are making money, just on the say-so of putting up a nuclear plant.

Blasting near nuclear plants

Proposed blasting near n-plant creates news. This quarry is about 4 miles from the plant, and it's raising a stink. We've got one right beside Darlington, and nobody ever mentions it!

I think this shows that we are much more polite than the Americans, and our media is still afraid of The Big Black Wolf. (Boo! Scary, huh?)

Another famous country wants to build nukes

A country that the Russians call Soviet. One that makes Yemen look good. Yes, this is Belarus. So they're going to build a really cheap nuclear reactor of only a few billion, because they don't have to pay anybody anything.

I don't worry too much about this one, since they have no great incentive to use cement in their concrete. It's just another nuclear show.

Liberal majority - now back to the nuclear plant

It wasn't as though OPG was deliberately keeping quiet during the election, they just didn't have anybody to talk about nuclear. They are really missing 'The Gregory', who had to leave suddenly, because everybody was bitching about his salary.

I have found out that they are now interviewing for the position, in his fabulous new expensive office, finished just before he left. Here are the requirements for the job, in my opinion:

-dynamic business leader, able to bring in a 8 billion dollar facility, on time, on budget.
-able to communicate with the press, and television (and bloggers!)
-able to deal with dark political forces
-able to deal with the impossible unions
-can see farther than their nose
-willing to work for a tenth of what they could get elsewhere

It will be tough, but I am sure that once they find this person, we'll finally progress again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Giant mine being developed in BC

This is a great article for us rock lovers. This deposit is in the middle of the mountains, and looks like a bitch to get to. I especially like the monster helicopter they have.

Davis-Besse trial

Seems there is more on the 'big hole' coverup. Seems they knew there was a potential for a problem, many years before. However, management refused to spring for $250K to put in some inspection holes.

I know how these things work in the nuclear industry. If management refuses to spend the necessary money, then they put intense pressure on engineers to go along with it. Although this whole trial is a very US sort of thing, it shows the average plant engineer that they should not go against their instincts. Unfortunately, most people can't retire, like I did...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

More on smashed Japan nuclear plant

The IAEA has released some info on their walkdown of the Japan nuclear plant that was crunched by a near earthquake. As usual, it says nothing interesting, just how everything got kapoople-ated, just like it should. I'm still waiting for the strong ground motions, people! Are they afraid to publish the Peak Ground Velocities. Is this a state secret, or do they feel we are not worthy?

Anyway, they are royally screwed, since everybody and their dog mention the stuff about 'hidden damage'. Try and prove it doesn't exist! It's more difficult than proving you exist....

Monday, October 8, 2007

Nuclear corruption

I've been following this for a while. The idea that Yemen, who is pretty low on the corruption rankings, could build a nuclear plant, seemed far-fetched. I'm glad they have a good muck-raking press, though. Now, it just seems to be a typical thing between class-mates. I'm not saying anything, since my name is on this blog....

Cosy Canadian nuclear regulator

This is some old report obtained by legal means. Of course, now everything is OK!

I can't say much here, since I am waiting for the CNSC to give me loads of money :) If they don't give me money (and I'm certainly not earning anything from my ads!), then I think they've been a bit cosy with AECL. After all, they are in the same Ministry. As well, they let Bruce Power get away with anything! (just kidding guys!)

Kincardine draws the line

Quel horreurs! Kincardine was accused of wanting high-level nuclear waste, but they set the record straight. They only want the safe stuff!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Putting together your own computer

Time has come for a new computer for the daughter. She only plays Sims and does Facebook (along with homework). As such, I got a general computer. For a while now I've been putting computers together from parts and it's not really that difficult. I order my parts from NCIX in BC.

I just ordered their cheapest business computer set-up. The graphics, sound and everything come on the motherboard, and the reviews were good. It was really cheap for a very fast AMD dual 3800. It comes with a standard case which huge for such a simple computer, but very cheap. I used to go for small cases (Shuttle), but they are a lot more expensive, and have no room inside. I had to take out a memory card reader to get in another disk drive on my Shuttle! The whole thing came out to about $660 including shipping, for just the computer and keyboard.

Here is the case.

The case comes totally empty. Here I have screwed in the power supply, with 4 screws. The motherboard goes on the bottom with more screws. You just follow the directions.

One difficult part is putting in the processor. It's just a small thing thing that slips right in (and then clamped). I find the hard part is getting on the big ugly heatsink. It has to hook on with thin sheet metal things, and then clamped tight. Again, there are good instructions.

It came with 2 G ram, in two memory simms. You have to read the motherboard manual to see the proper placement, but they slide in and clamp.

I find this part a bit tricky where you slide on the front panel connections. The manual shows which pins, and the connectors are labeled.

Finally, I have to slide in the drives and hook the drive connectors to the motherboard, as well as hook up the power connectors. Nearly all the connectors are unique and only fit one way. For the game-happy son, I would order the same computer, increase the memory, and put in one of those really big graphics cards that look like refrigerators!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

California earthquake insurance messed up

I was surprised to learn how few Californians have earthquake insurance. Less than a small city, according to this. I've read about lots of complaints, such as the high deductible, etc. The cost is being jacked up again, so I'm sure there will be even less. If there is a big earthquake, I'm sure that the federal government will pour in debt-money, and do a great job, like post-Katrina!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Yuk-yuk Moutain to be doubled

This in from Las Vegas, which is appropriate. The US Ministry of Silly Stuff, has decided to do what everybody does in Nevada, and double their bets. When you lose, double it the next round. You're sure to win!

Yuk-yuk mountain is saddle with a million losses, and still they have to go on, because they are losing lodes of lawsuits about their obligations to cart the nasty stuff away from commercial reactors. Those reactor people can just cover their eyes and say "I don't see any waste", and blame it all on the government. Then they take all the gov't money, and build new plants.

I think it's a bit crazy and irresponsible, something like their health care system! Hillary will get Bill to fix it all!!!

Hampton throwing in the towel

The last gasp of Howard (Groundhog) Hampton is to plead about not giving the Liberals a majority government. Yep, the fat lady is singing. Hampton went too overboard against nuclear, and that other guy went too creationist.

As usual, there wasn't much debate about the people who control our nuclear future. As I've said, you can have competent, and you can have incompetent. The pro-nuclears just assume 100% competent, and the anti's assume 100% incompetent. What will we get?

People dying to go on bicycle tour of volcano

Too many people dead, and they want to kill this thing. I think they should do bicycle jumping over lava flows! Or tour this baby! That would be something!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Nuclear plants for free! (almost)

Complaining that private financing couldn't raise a plug nickel for a nuclear plant, they got 80% loan guarantees. This basically means they don't have to pay anything back, if they don't feel like it. Combine a nuclear plant with a stupid ethanol plant, and raise corn on the property, you make money before the first kilowatt!

Big Science spends the money

Big Science sucks funds directly from the American politicians, and so it must be very, very sexy. Geology is a bit boring, unless you do something with the San Andreas Fault! Now, that's what I'm talkin' about!

People have this idea that the San Andreas is generating all these earthquakes, rather than just being the weakest crap rock in the area. I mean, once it lets go over and over again, it can't be very strong. So they are drilling deep into the fault to see the Harry Potter magic of the place!

So NASA says they'll put a man on Mars, geologists say they'll drill to the bottom of the San Andreas. I wish them all the best of luck, and sure wish I could dip into the megabucks! :)

Volcano colours

This is cute. Seems that the big volcano explosions of the 1800's affected landscape artists. When really big volcano blows, the ash is sent all over the world. 1816 was known as the 'year without a summer'. We need one of those to counteract 'Global Warming'! (Just kidding!)

The ash creates much redder sunrises and sunsets. I remember camping when Mt. St. Helens blew and noticing all the ash on the bushes. It's a reminder that when all the rage involves meteorites, that volcanism can be pretty powerful.

California expensive homes get whacked

This the geotechnical news story of the day. I blame swimming pools, as outlined in the article Slope stability (I started that!). This happens all the time in California, usually during big rain episodes.

Typical slop at nuclear plants

Here's where you want to read about the slop that goes on in nuclear plants every day. Only you never hear about it until something blows up. At one plant (to be nameless), somewhere in the world, there were these giant resin filters, filled with billions of plastic beads. Extreme sloppiness allowed the strainers and valves to deteriorate. More sloppiness allowed the backup strainer to be removed. Millions of beads flooded the whole system and shut it down for a long time. Silence.

At another plant, the backup power system was wired incorrectly, so that it wouldn't have worked for 30 years. Shut down quite a while to get that fixed. Silence. There are worse things being set up.

Still, I'm all for a new nuclear plant!

Underground mine-city loses power

I've done a lot of studying on South African gold mines, but I was still mind-boggled on the size of these things. A little power failure and thousands are trapped, only able to get out a little shaft.

Actually, a power failure is not that little for this type of mine. It is hellishly hot down there at 2 km, and most of the power is used for cooling. Still, the miners must undergo 'heat conditioning' in order to work there. Without power, I'm sure the temperatures have gone way up.

These mines are fascinating to a Rock Mechanics dude, such as myself. They are chasing a very narrow, plunging, gold seam, that's only a few inches wide. But in order to get men and machines at the mining face, they have to excavate an opening about 4 feet high. This, of course, was still hell to the miners, but machines are doing a lot of work these days.

At 2 km depth, the rock pressures are intense, so they can't keep the tabular openings, open for long. It wants to squeeze shut as they continue to mine. They used to have horrible rock bursts that killed numerous black miners, but now labour is a bit more expensive :) Now they have specially designed, energy absorbing supports, which allow the rock to squeeze together under controlled conditions. There is a lot of science here.

The continuous excavation is a great model for rock behaviour near earthquake faults, and a lot of studies have been done. This was the inspiration for my master's thesis, and proved to me that there was a natural limit to the induced stress of seismic waves. It was also the basis of my work for underground radioactive waste storage. Alas, none of this science will ever be used in Canada, where these things are dominated by politics.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Alberta nuclear plant will suck the Peace River dry

This is soooo cute! The mysterious Energy Alberta had a Legion Hall meeting, and even had my fav. company Golder show up. Most notable, was the fact that even these good townsfolk realized you have to cool a nuclear plant. The official response to this was a resounding "Huh?". I'm pretty sure Darlington probably sucks through the entire summer flow of the Peace River, but I could be wrong...

US finally gets serious about electrical transmission

The US was in a state of extreme balkanization with regard to power lines. Any state could hold another hostage, if the hungry state really needed power. Now they have invoked federal powers to open up transmission corridors. Of course, everybody can hear the screaming...

Australia not doing that well out of global warming

Ha, ha. I'll be enjoying the cottage in Canada all year round, while Australia becomes a dry crisp, according to this. I really like drinking their wines at the cottage, though. I'll have to switch to the new Yellowknife Yellow-tail!

All power plants are dangerous

Big construction, high energy, confined spaces. 5 workers were killed when a machine caught fire, in a very long tunnel. I've seen these things work, and guys upwind would never stand a chance in a fire. Makes you think who the heck plans these things...

Earthquake damaged Japanese reactor opened up

I thought the official story on the Japanese reactor was that only a few 'unimportant' things blew up. Here, they've started to take the whole thing apart. Looks like the fuel bundles got mangled. As I've said before, we'll find out things in dribs and drabs.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nuclear Waste Manifesto - Part III

A continuation from Part II. (God knows when this going to end, I write on the fly).

These are the Harry Potter Laws of Nuclear Waste (notice that she had to write the Laws of Magic, because everything would go heck pretty fast if there weren't any!)

1. No free-riders! You want the high-tech industry, live with responsibility!

2. This is an industrial facility, just the same as a giant Toyota plant. The stuff comes in giant steel and concrete containers and goes underground. Nothing escapes, because it is physically impossible. It has nothing to do with nuclear bombs, or Chernobyl, or all that other dreck.

3. We are doing this because it is better to put these steel things underground than have them in flimsy warehouses with cracked floors, with the seismic design of a Toronto Condo.

4. We are putting them into absolutely bone-dry rock that produces rock cores you could use for a baseball bat. It will be so nice, warm and comfy that you'll want to live there, if the US ever decides to bomb Iran!

5. Forget this 'million years' shit! Our knowledge of the world completely turns over every few years, we can't predict to a million years. You might as well just roll over and die, if you want a million year guarantee. All we can say is that there is less than a million to one chance that something bad will happen within 100 years. You can translate that to a million years, if you believe all the probability crap that the nuclear plants give you.

6. Since the rock is bone dry and solid, this is what we call a 'diffusion regime' which is the only way to place nuclear waste. That means if even old Putin starts a world war, and our mutated survivors go to ratshit, and all those big steel containers crumble to dust, the farthest that the plutonium can go is about 5 cm into the rock.

7. Of course, the most probably scenario is that the stuff becomes more valuable than gold, and we make out like bandits!

Harry Potter isn't real, and this manifesto will never see the light of day. Most likely, we will bicker forever, and the waste will go where people want the money, even though the rock is swiss cheese (yucca-yucca), or underwater gravel (Bruce).

Forget anti-oxidants!!!

This is in the category of weirdest health advice ever! The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again! What if cutting down trees to put up solar and wind farms wasn't the smartest thing in the world? And what if taking anti-oxidants destroyed your body's ability to do the job?

Anyway, this won't keep me off dry red wine, and I just bought some 85% chocolate. I think cutting down on the glucose won't hurt anybody....

Global disaster alert

This was neat. I was just toolin' around, and saw this on the Yemen volcano. Since it is in the middle of nowhere, there is only a green alert. But at least it shows a map!

The Red Sea is a zone of plate tectonic spreading. As the plates move away, the earth is literally torn apart, and new oceanic crust is created. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is also a place where volcanoes are a dime a dozen. Usually, they are fairly bloopy volcanoes like you get on Iceland.

No secondary control room at US reactor

I wonder how common this is. The control room is a hub of activity, people going in and out, tons of equipment glowing, electric lights, feeble ceiling fixtures. Quite a chance for something to go phzzztz, and start burning. In a rational world, you would whip over to the secondary control room and shut everything down. You've got some time, since the reactor doesn't really care that the control room is burning (for a while).

And we are thankful that the US has finally gone after this. I always like these little nuggets, hidden away in local papers. Yeah for Google!

Latest blow to copyright cartel

Record companies make their money by tying up young talent and selling albums for what the monopoly market can bear. I don't really listen to music like I used to with my vinyl records, and my stereo set, in the 70's. My kids just listen to the radio, or crap copies of songs on an mp3 player, with just one earphone in, while gabbing with the other ear. Music just isn't worth the old album prices anymore. Apple sells on itunes, but this is just a front to look legit. Apparently, they sell just a couple of tunes for every 1000-tune ipod sold, and their mp3 quality is the lowest.

If I wanted good classical music that I really listen to, then I go to Magnatune, and order a flac download. Who the heck has the time for this? I can't read my Economist while listening to good music; I'm a male with a single processor!

Now, some famous band, who had a shitty album last time, wants to cut out the monopoly. They're giving low-quality mp3's for a donation, and selling the good stuff to hard-core fans. The cartel should quake in its Gucchi boots! They should also add higher quality downloads (flac) to the 'donation' mix. I wish them the best of luck!

Not that I have ever downloaded anything, but "If I Did It", I would really want to give a risk-free donation to the group that produced a good movie, or music, so that I could get some more. I would want to pay editors who filter out the crap, and offer fast downloads (no DRM-spyware!). I would want quality music downloaded to the car. I would want movies that I could play on the big screen. All of this stuff is available 'theoretically' to hard-core geeks like me, but it is so much trouble! All my friends are stuck with Windows, spyware, false movies, etc, and I bleed for them....

Manifesto for Nuclear Waste - II

A continuation of Part I.

If we want to get anywhere with nuclear waste, we will have to deal with the 'free-rider' problem. This week's Economist outlines the problem with the Kyoto treaty. Although I think it is more likely that the current world warming spell has nothing to do with carbon, it is nevertheless a Bad Thing to be dumping lots of carbon into the atmosphere. Kyoto attempts to cut back on the carbon dumping.

Australia and the US would be perfectly happy to let everybody else cut back, so they could be 'free-riders'. In other words, they would enjoy the benefits of less atmospheric acid, while having no cost on their economies. The trouble is, that when other people see this, then they don't want to play either!

This boils down to the Prisoners' Dilemma, which is described in the article. The gloomy outlook is that everybody betrays everybody else, and we all end up in the acid soup. This can be solved, if everybody knows it's a game, and there is the possibility for sanctions (tit for tat). This sets up long-term cooperation, and is the basis for a functioning society.

Now, in Ontario, we have lots of free-riders, in terms of nuclear implications. The London area is perfectly happy to have a new Toyota plant, which needs reliable electricity, and yet would scream about nuclear waste. The same goes for most prosperous areas in Ontario.

There are very few areas in Ontario with suitable geology, and very few towns that don't want to be free-riders. These combined probabilities make it nearly impossible to find a town with good geology, willing to take a nuclear facility. The happy-happy people with their feel-good brochure, would have us believe that we can find a willing host with good geology. That is a big lie, people!

As the Economist points out, we need to play the game over and over again, and place sanctions against the free-riders. This would be in form of higher electricity prices to those who are shit-heads. Nobody would be excused from the type of facility outlined in this manifesto (except Hamilton! Their geology is hopeless!). Any town that rises above the normal NIMBY protests, would get hit with sanctions. No excuses about property values, or population density. You get electricity, you have to bear the burden!

The next section deals with the fact that this will not be a huge burden to the namby-pamby sissy-pants towns!

Microsoft makes a feeble effort

Pity the poor company that has a monopoly, but then finds itself out-paced. Thus, good old MS finds that its locked-up goods aren't wanted anymore. In an effort to appear to respond to dynamic Internet applications, it has allowed a subset of Office to work on the net.

Old MS has had trouble expanding out of its fortress. It has tried to move into several areas, such as health care and database integration. I know that most of its products (out of its main line) are pure garbage, which is understandable since they haven't had to really program for a long time (Biz-talk is a dog!).

Everything is moving to dynamic applications, away from stand-alone. The most recent attack has been on stand-alone GPS devices. They've been selling for 40% gross margin, because there is a cartel on the maps. Navteq has just been bought by Nokia, which will combine GPS and cell phones, to provide real-time traffic maps, for an annual subscription. No more paying $400 to Garmin for new map software every year. Since Nokia will now attempt to throttle Google, the alternative will be user-generated maps.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Recording cartel to look like idiots

Finally! The Cartel has been scaring people to death (US - ha, ha!) by issuing all these financial death threats, forcing people to settle out of court. Some might call it blackmail. Some might call it the American Way!

I know they always drop the case when it's a Senator's grandson, but this time they hitched a feeble case onto an ordinary person, who has decided to fight, with a smart lawyer. I would love to know what dirty tricks they did to dig up information! Spyware? Rootkits? It will all come out in the trial.

For the first round, they are having trouble actually proving they own the songs! This should be fun! Contributions can be made to me, by clicking on my bizarre ads. With the money, I'll continue to make snarky comments on these nasty booggers. :)

Ontario psycho-drivers, beware!

This is new to me. There's new legislation to take care of the stuff I see every day on the roads. Can't wait until they impound a gravel truck! Just go to Weston and Lawrence to see the old slingshot move every light change!

Scapegoats trial for Davis-Besse incident

One of the worst nuclear incident in recent years is The Davis-Besse Incident (look it up!). Now there is a trial of two unfortunate souls. In the nuclear business, we have seen many presentations on this thing. It was as much a total institutional failure as the space shuttle. We generally consider it more important than 3 mile island, because of the great potential for radiation release. Is there something in the US psychology that they have to pick people from the crowd, and string them up? (They like to do that about music-sharing, as well).

Manifesto for Nuclear Waste - I

This article is written as if science had anything to do with the safe disposal of nuclear waste. It is a companion to the article related to an ideal nuclear plant, (and II) again assuming the dominance of science, not politics.

What is really interesting, is the give and take between politics and geology. Lots of towns and cities may be smugly sitting on perfect sites, but they get their clean electricity without having to do anything. Poor, starving towns may want all the money from a waste site, but the geology is crap.

If we allow smug cities to be gated from reality, then politics meter goes to 100%. The site is chosen first by having a pitiful town, then excuses are made for the geology. You see this at Yucca-yucca Mountain, and Bruce. If the geology meter is 100%, then some rich town with good press connections suddenly gets hits, and they scream to high heaven!

You saw this when a report came out earlier in the year that said any town could host a waste site. Everybody screamed! Some loonies made it an election issue! Meanwhile, everybody continued to use their air conditioners.

Ideally, a waste repository would look like this, only underground.

The polished floors really make the picture! This is from a recent happy-happy brochure from the NWMO. In order to actually get this, in suitable geology, we have to set up a manifesto, which every thinking person (and blog fan!) would want to pester them with.

(continued when I'm in the mood again.....)

Power law and depression

I subscribe to the Economist, and this week's issue has an article about my two most favourite subjects: Power Law and clinical depression. I wrote an article on how dysfunctional techno-bureaucracies approach power law, and now we find that depressed nervous systems do the same thing.

This is important for people to read, since the worst thing about depression is that nobody will admit they have a problem. I take a couple of pills of Celexa a day, and it is a miracle drug! But, I know so many people who could use a dash of it, and they suffer. Eventually, things get so bad, they think of murder or suicide.

If you know somebody who has outbursts of either violence, stress, upset, or great creativity, get them to think about getting professional help. As we all know from collapsed bridges, and earthquakes, power law can be very destructive.