Saturday, May 31, 2008

Earthquake alerts- perhaps hopeless

It is a great dream of earthquake bureaucrats to either have a 2 day 'weather forecast' of earthquakes, or to have a 30 second warning. This would save them the difficult choice of tearing down old schools, housing and infrastructure. I don't think it's going to happen. There are too many bizarre things in the earthquake world, and these guys always want to centralize things, to make life easier for them.

The problem with centralization is that all the shit hits the fan, and then gets sucked up into the black hole of the central processor. Nothing can take this load, and they can't think of every possibility. It is the true failure of central command economies, such as the old Soviet Union, and the modern US agricultural policy. These things never work!

We need more basic science, such as decent seismic monitoring, and some open discussion on infrastructure. This 'cone of silence' and the 'pay wall' don't get us very far.

West coast 'locked fault' may be unzipping

Scientists have placed a series of earthquakes in Oregon directly on the west coast 'big fault'. This type of fault is unusual in that it appears to never produce little earthquakes, only big ones. At first, it seems this would violate the standard law of self-similarity, but these big 'smooth' faults have a different fractal dimension than, maybe, an interior fault.

That means there are still little earthquakes setting up for the big one, but the slope is much steeper, which means fewer little earthquakes before KABLAM! The big question about these 'Niners', is whether they need a bunch of eights along the fault first. Most likely not. If the critical displacement is tiny (because the fault is smooth), then M6's could set everything up, and when it comes to the first M7 (minimum magnitude to rupture the whole crust), everything just falls like dominoes.

Simple seismic modifications could save lives

This is an interesting article. Shows that some simple modifications in the way you lay out your infill walls, make things much better.

I've seen lots of schools in Toronto that take everything from the 'bad book' of seismic effects. If they are on soft ground, as well, they don't have a chance. Of course, everything is much worse at 'Ground Zero' in Hamilton-Burlington.

Frills tacked onto seismic retrofits

It's going to be more difficult to do essential seismic retrofits to schools, if this flaky board sets a precedent. As they have said, saving lives goes hand-in-hand with all the loony things they want done. Why not scrimp on steel, so we can put in a solar panel? Of course, these guys would say that we're not carving away the seismic budget, but we're asking for more money out of an bottomless pot!

Toronto is the same. Let's do Miller-things and not worry about seismic! Then when the earthquake comes and schools collapse, hands are wringing, blame is flying, and Miller's only worry is the active volcano at his retirement resort.

Why are the earthquake dams in China so dangerous?

The recent China earthquake has released dozens of landslides, which have blocked rivers. The water builds up behind them. What happens next, has happened to quite a few man-made earth dams, and it's not pretty.

The whole thing depends on the non-linearity of the erosion process. As the water over-tops an earthen dam, it starts to erode. Most man-made dams have concrete spillways, and asphalt or concrete on top. That way, water can be safely released.

But if the soil consists of loose sand or silt, then things are different. The water starts to form a gully, and more water starts to flow. Very quickly, it cuts through the whole dam, and a giant wall of water rolls down the valley.

With natural landslides, there may be a lot of boulders which slow down the process. Even digging a ditch, like the Chinese are doing, is playing with fire, since it could run away from them. As well, a release of an upper dam could start a chain reaction.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chaiten keeps going

I think that's absolutely amazing that it's still going full blast. But the watch is still on for a big blowup at the end.

Paper: Seismic tomography

The new issue of Seismological Research Letters has come to my door. These journals are the only contact I have left behind the 'paywall'. This year's conference is in Kingston, but I don't really have the mood to see everybody. (They don't really think much of my blog!).

This is what you call a typical 'big author list' paper! It was a massive effort, involving the deployment and constant shifting of a large number of seismometers. Basically, they leave the seismometers at a bunch of spots for a while, and then calculate the seismic velocities of the ground beneath them. They did this for all of the western US. Then they get a map like this.

The reds are warm, soft areas with low seismic velocities. This is usually due to volcanic heating, or a thin crust. The blues are cold crust, which may be due to the subduction of a cold oceanic slab, or ancient, thick crust.

The cross-sections are interesting.

Section A goes through the Seattle subduction zone, and you can see the big slab driving down. Section D shows the Yellowstone hotspot. And so on.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bugs at the cottage

The bugs at the cottage are incredibly thick right now! The weather must have screwed up the dragonfly cycle. Poor dog, every time she was at the door, she was surrounded by blackflies. I only managed to put in a new laminate floor by saturating the area with two running Off lamps. I feel thoroughly pickled in that stuff!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Injecting CO2 into the unstable rocks of BC

I'm not looking into this too much, but I have generally assumed that the rocks of BC have a lot of problems. This is a very active mountain range! My general feeling is that 'what goes in, must come out'. If these saltwater zones were truly impermeable to gas, then they would be chock full of the stuff!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Painful nuclear decision process

So they are going to come to a 'decision' of where to put the new reactors. Let's see, a choice between a karst-ridden site, on a giant fault, with no transmission lines, vs. Darlington....

So when they come to this 'decision', they will be so happy, that they'll take their time announcing the next decision. Anything to keep the media happy!

More media picks up on Becky Disaster

Another sleepy paper has picked up on this. We're talking quite the story, when the whole thing locks up, and they can't get it out because the rock has squeezed. That's because they haven't yet reached the "Mother of all rock squeeze", which is under the St. David's Gorge. The big guy says it's "demanding drilling conditions'. Yeah, this rock is as soft as cheese, to one of these machines!

The big trouble with these rock machines, is that there is no margin for error. You can design the machine to take 2" of squeeze, but 2.5" and the whole thing locks up! It's happened many times before in the world!

And speaking of techno-bureaucracy improvement, look at NASA! They've made a concerted effort to fight group think, by opening up the process, and bringing in external thinkers to trash their designs. Through this process, they found something like a dozen possible flaws and fixed them up! If only Canada would wake up!

Triggered earthquakes

A big earthquake can trigger a lot of other earthquakes right around the world.
This is most likely due to water flow, since large underground bodies of water react to the very low frequency seismic waves. Mostly this is observed as well-water changes, but you can imagine what this does to fault systems!

This reinforces my ideas that water is the main driver behind 'interior' earthquakes. Other people haven't come around to this yet, so I'm waiting... :)

More reactor vessels being built

It might not be such a big bottleneck for long. Mits---- is going to build a new plant for making reactor vessels. I think now, considering how long it's going to take futzing around, we can go for the AP1000.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Boys back from Paree!

Boys are back. As with France, they always ran into strikes, and graspy little 'fine' collectors. It sounds really bad, every time you goof up on train or bus, they attack, and extract a 40 euro fine each, in cash, no receipt! It as bad as it is in Prague! I'll bet if more people complained, or started "STAY AWAY FROM FRANCE!" campaigns, they'd have to do something. Anyway, until they do, either read in advance how to avoid them, or bring along extra cash!

Vista 64 revisited

I've had sooo much trouble with this. First of all, there are no wireless cards for 64, that are clearly supported by the vendor. And then it doesn't work with 2year old routers unless you do a zillion registry changes. Finally, on one machine I went back to XP, and on another machine I went to Linux. You can't put your old XP on a new machine, unless you have a copy with the latest service pack, and good old MS is pulling those.

I even went to a wireless bridge, which should work with anything, but Vista fights it! But when the son returned, it was whine, whine, I need my games! I tried again, but this time with Network Magic, and it all worked!!! Seems NM immediately talks to the router to see what's up, and it can make all those horrible adjustments.

Reminds of the old days, when MS was useless without a whole ecology of third-party programs. It seems we are always doomed to repeat history...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Somebody not happy about Bruce nuclear waste thingie

I think people are finally waking up.

China quake: attention to details saves lives

Here is a happy story. Apparently, when people are concerned about the quality of construction, the buildings stay up.

Big Becky not looking so hot

OMG! OPG is having techno-bureaucracy disease with the Niagara Tunnel. I though for sure they could pull this one off!

This was the OPG 'new model' way of operating. They didn't involve a speck of engineering competence, but had only 3 sales guys running the whole thing. Everything else was contracted out. Normally these contractors bleed OPG dry, but I thought this was different.

It was mainly because we had 30 years of geotechnical competence looking at this project. Even I worked on it 25 years ago! We had test tunnels, geophysics, what-have-you. There was no way anybody could botch this up!

Ah, but those little things! Niagara rock is noted for a horrendous rock squeeze problem. I've looked at old underground stations that had the life squeezed out of them! The rock is very unsuitable for tunnel boring machines. And then there's St. David's Gorge, which is an old run of the river, now filled in with glacial till. I always thought it was a bad place, but the other guys treated it with contempt, and they were going to tunnel right under 'rock mechanics hell'!

My experience with the same consultants, that helped destroy the sinking transformer, is that they only have a couple of brains in the company, and these guys spend all their time schmoozing with clients. Who does the work? It's young people, living in servitude, waiting until they can get a cushy OPG job!

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Pick-7 info

Check out comments here, for things I can't talk about, and I don't want the sleepy media finding out either. Then everyone will know, and what' the fun of that?

OPG report - Less money to waste on nuclear waste

OPG didn't make much money on its savings account for nuclear waste. All of us with stocks feel their pain!

Fun in a nuclear Turkey

This is one that gets in my top ten list of scariest countries for nuclear power. Not only are there the problems of government, but this has got to be one of the nastiest places on earth for quakes! I wonder who will build the plants?

Learning from the China Quake

We are starting to get a better picture of how the buildings performed during the China quake. The question is whether the modern world will learn anything from it. As far as the actual earthquake mechanism goes, I think we will learn a lot, once all the computers have finished munching the seismic data. As I've said before, without monitoring on the ground at Ground Zero, we will never know the actual PGV.

We can't learn much from total rubble. When the 'seismic experience' guys finally tour the place, they will probably note every seismic design mistake in the book, such as no steel, no detailing, no connections, etc. It will be interesting if they can find buildings that have survived. I remember in the big India quake, there was this picture of total housing destruction, and in the middle of it was a house totally untouched! Must have belonged to a decent engineer!

The next interesting quake will be one to test all the flaky ideas that have popped up in the last 20 years. One of these is base isolation.

The idea is to put these suckers underneath a building. They are very popular for renovating old brick buildings, or trendy loft warehouses. When an earthquake hits, they deform and absorb energy. Some buildings have similar 'energy absorbing elements' distributed throughout the building.

These things are designed on shake tables, and you know what I think of those things! Nevertheless, we shall assume they are good, until a real earthquake tests them. I give a 50-50 chance that they'll be proven to be worse than useless, since they can only absorb so much energy before they hit their limit and make things much worse.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Battle of the Zones!

Which is worse, the Acid Zone or the Dead Zone? One is caused by too much soda fizz in the ocean, the other is caused by growing biofuels to stop the fizz. Either one is touted as being the 'end of the world'. I wonder what happens when an Acid Zone runs into a Dead Zone? Do they neutralize each other, or explode?

Site evaluation - 6

I've lost interest. End of series. Right now, the big boys are all beavering away in top secret (for millions!), and I don't want to upset them.

Italy goes for nuclear

Ok, one day I'll have to compile my top ten list for scariest countries to go for nuclear power! I'm not saying that Italy would be on that list, the story just made me think of it.....

Mother of all Money Pits

As Simon would say: "Ottawa wins by a knockout!". They have absolutely the best headlines, when talking about certain companies I won't mention because I don't want to get on the blog search.

Site evaluation - 5 - Canada

Now we get to Canada. Actual documented regulations have always been thin in this country. Two teeny little documents sum up the recent thoughts on the issue, one is for design, and one is for site evaluation.

As regular readers know, I am an intellectual depressive, prone to anxiety attacks when faced with intellectual corruption. I had a lot of them at the old job. I really didn't want to get too close to the Canadian 'thing', but I have found a way around it. The one scenario, which I shall avoid, is the way it will be actually done. What I shall concentrate on, is the way it should be done, having great comfort that this is a fantasy!

Site Evaluation - Darlington - for a Westinghouse AP1000

Core Assumptions

Fact - No 'normal' earthquake scenario that has been used for the last 30 years can damage the heavy components of a nuclear plant on firm rock. The only thing that can do this is a direct hit on the hanging wall of a 'super-quake'. Recent earthquakes have shown this.

Fact - The term 'impossible' shall be defined as 'beyond contemplation of a reasonable intellectual'. It is known that ivory-tower scientists will never use this word, citing that it is 'possible' for the sun to blow up tomorrow, or that Mars Attacks!

Approach - This document will outline that it is impossible for a super-quake to hit the Darlington site (as opposed to certain American sites!). However, knowing that nuclear plants are rather hopeless seismically, outside the components that are impossible to damage anyway, the document will conduct a paper seismic review of the design. The emphasis will be on the effects of a reasonable earthquake on interior walls, controls, transformers, turbines, etc.

-whoops! gotta go to a rugby tournament!

Other geological hazards build up in China

If you ever see pictures of the mountainous areas of China, you are amazed at how the slopes stay up. Now it appears that the earthquake has loosened up a lot of things, which could cause significant secondary damage. When the rainy season hits, expect a lot of landslides and floods.

French nuclear gets trashed

This is a well-written rebuttal of the French claims, but the trouble with such an 'oratory' piece, is the difficulty in verifying anything. That's why I never like verbalizers and sound-bite artists, who generally take over floundering institutions.

Still, I'm tired of the concept that the French have superior intelligence in the nuclear biz, when their whole country makes 'fascinating' reading in the Economist. I'm more inclined to believe that they can't even whip up a decent batch of concrete!

The ShakeOut Scenario

Perfect timing for this study! Hot on the heels of the China quake, California seismologists have released the most detailed earthquake scenario yet. This is for a 300 km strike-slip earthquake. This type of earthquake doesn't hit as hard as a China Superquake, but is a long rumbler, perfect for activating California basins.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lake Ontario poisoned to the gazzoo!

Here's a great article stating that 'poison' is oozing by the barrel-full into Lake Ontario, but never stating exactly how much. Might be one atom per year, for all we know! Yet, our nasty rivers dump a heck of a lot of natural uranium, mercury, lead, whathaveyou, into the lake every year. Lucky for us, the zebra mussels eat all this up, and they're very healthy for doing so!

Sometimes we forget that 'the dose makes the poison'. And remember the song: "A spoonful of uranium makes the medicine go down" la, la, la!

Site evaluation - 4

Hey, I'm not getting any indication that this is interesting for anybody! Anyway it's interesting for me, so I'll soldier on for a little while longer, even though I think it ends in a vale of tears when I get to Canada.

The neat thing about this US site was that I thought the original document was ripped to shreds by the USNRC, and then I saw the next day they got their permit. Obviously, I was wrong! I expect the same thing to happen in Canada.

The other great thing was that they did absolutely no new work for this, they just rehashed the 30 year old stuff (ok, maybe they had a little tour for sand blows). The thick books were all compiled by the big US consultants, who doing the same for OPG. They are real pros at this!

Ok, everything hinges on the grand old ideas of the 70's that a nuclear plant is actually threatened by an M7 earthquake a couple of hundred kilometres away. This is shown by their graph, which breaks down main contributor to seismic hazard by magnitude and distance.

Note that for the lower frequencies (the most damaging energy), it's all M7's in the New Madrid Zone.

How can this be? Wouldn't you think the recent Japanese Nuclear Earthquake would give pause for thought? How about this recent spate of 'super-shear' or what I call 'super-quakes'? Surely somebody would think that the science has changed in the last 30 years? But, alas, the answer is no.

That's because the old engineers still think a nuclear plant can be damaged by a long rumbler set some distance away. They come to that conclusion by using shake table testing, and very old computer analysis that puts in a lot of amplification for piping systems. Even though it is known that the big pipes and forged nuclear vessels can never be damaged by an earthquake. Again, look at Japan!

And so, they are locating this nuclear plant in a very interesting area. It is right on the outer fringe of the New Madrid seismic zone, right where there have been a lot of big earthquakes recently (and more can be expected!).

Now, I personally think this site is one of the most challenging for the new breed of reactor designs. I mean, how close can you get to New Madrid an still live? They include a nice map of the big ugly zone.

This is a great map! So, in the end, they come up with a uniform hazard response spectrum at median 10-5, blah, blah. What they don't mention is the huge multiples between 10-4, 10-5, and 10-6, for this area. Personally, I think there is a good chance of being directly hit by a super quake, at these low probabilities. Really, this is one of the most active zones in all of ENA!

So, they got away with this, rah rah. Next, we'll look at Ontario, and the very vague requirements here. Or maybe I won't! This is probably getting too close for comfort, and my anxiety attacks!

Seismic retrofit becomes a hotter item

It's a serious problem in most US and Canadian cities. You've got all these quaint brick houses in the downtown core, on filled swamp, and they are death traps. What to do, what to do?

You could be like Seattle, and force the retrofits. Yet, they have found that even trying to put in sprinklers caused a massive abandonment of the older building stock. You could just raze everything, but that would look like downtown Toronto! The problem is worse in the States, where old building stock becomes the last refuge of the poor. As we saw with Katrina, they will be the first to suffer, and perhaps die.

Chaiten volcano still zapping away

It's difficult to find articles about the current state of this volcano. But according to this, it's still gushing, and with lots of lightning. I'm pretty sure this makes it a record holder in gushability. Too bad there was no monitoring.

Nuclear Meltdown

Don't you just hate headlines like that? But it brings in readers. This article is just a rehash of the 'nuclear incompetence' article. I don't think it will have any effect on the 'generally bungled' political process that leads us to such things.

I still have great faith that when we are staring death in the face, these political bumblers will all melt away, and the competent 'doers' will make their stand. Of course, I might be dead by then!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

OPG uses manned kiosk to push information

I'm just collecting these little tidbits. I'm not making any comments or anything. What is the bandwidth of a guy in a booth anyway?

China fighting internet bloggers over earthquake

You really can't have that much love for the way China controls information. The internet is impossible to control, and nobody knows you're an idiot! That's why the poor China bigwigs are getting lambasted for all the wrong reasons.

First there's the rumour that there's a big aftershock coming. Maybe there is, and maybe there isn't. The state media has been forced to interview my fav. California seismologist Lucy Jones to fight this crap. She also addresses the other big internet thing, which is they knew all the time that an earthquake was coming and didn't do anything about it.

The second thing was that the buildings were shoddy, cement powder siphoned off by corrupt officials, yada yada. The jury is still out on this, but the buildings might have been as good as it gets in that part of the world. This was a 'super-quake', and we have no idea what the maximum PGV was. As well, a lot of people were killed by huge landslides and boulders rolling off the hills.

It will be interesting to see if any building survived the direct hit, or if any building could have rode it out. As well, we shall be looking out for evidence of the rupture coming to the surface. All that blarney about it being 'shallow' and '10 km deep' came from the automatic locating seismic computer programs which initially set the depth at 10 km. Trying to determine the exact way in which it ruptured will be difficult due to the lack of strong ground motion instruments. They'll be forced to use mathematical models and distant measurements to try and reconstruct the rupture history.

Westinghouse AP1000 Site Evaluation - 3

The American Way

The US has it easy for site evaluations. They have something called early site permits, and it all hinges on the USNRC blessing of registered designs. All the site owner has to do, is produce this diagram:

Plus a whole book on landslides, volcanoes, etc.

This diagram is a ground response spectrum. The upper line is the 30%g curve, to which the new designs have been certified. As long as you produce a line that is below this, you can plonk any old nuclear plant you want on your site. Certainly, an AP1000!

The US has always been quite different from Canada in the nuclear regulation department. In fact, I've been living with Canadian regulation all my life! In the US, everything is precisely written into a zillion regulations with yes/no answers. Line up all the ducks in a row, and you get your license. Thus, it is ingrained in law that if you get your curve below the standard design, then you get your license, no matter what!

We don't have that here. In fact, it's usually an endless talk-shop with some result at the end. In the days when we were competent, it always ended up as a contest of wills. We would just choose something, and dared the board to pull the plug on the whole thing! In other words, we just soldiered on, doing the right thing, and dragged the regulators with us.

Not so, now. They are always trying to get some pre-approval from the CNSC, which is like pulling teeth! The CNSC has not pre-approved any designs, and has not stamped a response spectrum on them. There is no methodology of taking an existing design and plonking it at Darlington. I tried to get worked out at the CSA meetings, but failed miserably.

Anyway, we look next at how this response spectrum thing is completely wrong scientifically, and how all the earthquake scientists run away from it screaming. It's only the grisly old engineers who stick to this 30-year-old methodology.

5 million homeless

The China earthquake affected a lot more population than I thought. So much for 'sparsely populated'! Of course, in China, maybe this is the thinnest population density around. I hate to think of what could have happened in a heavily populated area.

Monday, May 19, 2008

West-AP Site Evaluation - 2

All of the modern nuclear plant designs can be described as 'Earthquake-Lite'. That is, they are designed to be situated on firm ground in the eastern US. For this, they have set a nice clean (and somewhat arbitrary) value of 30%g in US-speak. This has been scaled to the US standard response spectrum, and can be generally thought of as 50 cm/sec, wherever people are more intelligent about these things.

This was set at about the probability of 10-4 per year for standard sites in the east, but by coincidence is the minimum level for damage to decent structures in an earthquake. In fact, I was told that the 'Earthquake Hunters' don't even leave their offices for earthquakes less than 30%g. These are the people who write reports on industrial facility damage for earthquake experience. In Taiwan, which has the best seismic monitoring in the world, they have decided that 50 cm/s PGV is the threshold level for damage to housing stock.

That means these paper-plants are not suitable for 'bad' sites. They cannot go on the hanging walls of major thrust faults such as Hamilton or Bruce. Especially not California, Turkey, Japan, or the fore-range of compressive mountain ranges, such as China or Alberta. Those places are the homes of 'super-quakes' which probably throw things at 200 cm/s!

Of all the designs, the AP is probably the one that can best be 'beefed up' to a higher level.

A site evaluation for the AP is, therefore, an exercise in determining that the seismic ground motions cannot exceed 50 cm/s for a suitably low probability, such as 10-4 or 10-5 per year. Unfortunately, this is a bit more difficult than most people think, since this is out of the range of general human experience. The only way to get to these low levels of probability is to look at the entire world and trade space for time. In other words, if you can get a probability for a very large area, such as the world, then you can go to much lower odds if you specifically determine a small area. For example, with a deck of cards, the odds are one in four that you'll pull up a spade, but the odds go down another order of magnitude for pulling up an ace of spades.

Unfortunately, Canada is not really set up for this line of thinking. As with old generals, we are always ready to fight the last war. What we used to do is find a good number for peak acceleration, and design a custom plant around it. We did that for Darlington, with the very low number of 8%g, even though subsequent internal doubling made that much higher.

New series on site evaluation

Now that I've accommodated to the fact that I am unemployable in the current political regime, I have to prove to myself that I could actually work, if I had to (and keep my 'penny a month' rolling in!). Thus, I will outline a full IAEA site evaluation work plan, along with my usual comments. The current players are rather hopelessly off-course here, and our lovable CNSC has their fun, but they can hire international experts. I think, overall, there will be quite a spotlight on Ontario!

I'll do the work for the Westinghouse AP1000, which is the only decent design out there. After the Maple, and what happened at P7, I don't think anyone will go for the 'other one'. I'm assuming that South Korea will get their forging plant up, super quick.

There are lots of documents on the internet, so this can be done in an open manner. The parallel effort is being done in a cone of silence, and will only dribble out in the hearings. (to be continued).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Long Weekend is Here!

Yahoo! Going up to the bug-infested cottage to open it up! I won't be writing much, but this summer I'm supposed to get broad-band! Wow!

Hopefully the news slows down for the summer. These past 2 weeks have been awesome, what with the China earthquake, and the AECL, CNSC things, as well as Brucie! I don't expect such action again until the fall.

Keep up the good ad clicking! I'm raking in about a penny a month! I'll write about some of the cottage and fishing things for a while.

Canada in space

This is a feel-good article, after we have learned the sad news of the Maple reactor. We're developing a Canadian cluster of space intelligence, and it makes me happy.

Blog OK for now

I made my high-level inquiries, and the old company is still totally against hiring ex-employees for their own good. The site evaluation process is having trouble getting Canadian scientists involved since they must go through the same horrible paperwork, as if they were submitting a nuclear design! Naturally, people run screaming from that.

So, all the work is going to the big US companies, who can tell a good story if they have to. I'll wait another year to see how much trouble they get into, but by then it will be too late for me to do anything. Since it is a general mess, I'll ease off on my merriment, since it's not funny anymore....

Still, there's always Bruce!

AECL Throws Out Maple

This is the most significant news in a while. AECL is giving up on the Maple, the hoped-for replacement of the clapped-out NRU. Now the NRU will just have to go on, just like the 50's cars in Cuba!

But don't worry, the Maple lives on in the new design for the ACR1000! Funny things are going to happen whenever you surround the fuel bundles with light water.

I now take this opportunity to admit that I was completely wrong! I though for sure the 'New CNSC' would approve the Maple reactors.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Over my dead body!

Some people takes things way too seriously!

Energizer volcano keeps on going

Chaiten seems to have a lot of juice left. But conditions seem to be changing as it starts a new round of rumbles. It would have been nice to have this one fulled kitted out with monitors, to see it first inflate, and then slowly exhaust itself. And who knows what these latest earthquakes mean? Is the interior chamber starting to collapse in on itself? Is there any lava left or did it all fizz away like a Mentos and Diet Coke?

Fun hearings in Ajax

I like to read these stories, to find out who actually goes to these things. I mean, who cares if it is a 5 year license or 2 year license? It's just a matter of more money to lawyers.

Well, I found out Unit 7 will be out a long time, and it's not my blown-up transformer, but something that happened after the transformer blew. Whew! I was always worried that it would be the transformers that shut things down! The guy who left on the big copper grounding wires is a hero!

Sucked into the vortex

I just got my first hints that they want to bring me back into the fold, and it's given me a major anxiety attack. As usual, I discuss my upsets here, where nobody reads them anyway!

I think if I ever got sucked in, it would have to be a major role, not a few hours that they are talking about now. I would like to go to conferences again, dole out contracts, and have an expense account. Of course, they aren't talking that big now.

This is for Darlington, which is a fine site for one unit, and has nothing really wrong with it, if we can control the blasting. Of course, if they did turn on the money taps, I would give up on all this fun with my blog! I'm now open to rival offers to keep me 'open'!

Anyway, I think most of the money is going to big US consultants who produce giant books that you can't lift. I wonder how I would fit in. As well, the site evaluation process calls for total academic secrecy until the hearings, which turns off all my university buddies. So, the final point is that I am probably 'on the air' for a while yet.

New invasive ant eats the last invasive ant

I just saw this article and it tickled me funny bone. Place in the category "Be careful what you wish for."

Bruce C Sounds Good to Us

Another editorial singing the virtues of Bruce C. As I've said, we worked quite a bit on this project, before the NDP shut everything down. Of course, all of that work is lost forever, so they have to start from scratch. I'm all for the effort of getting it going again, should be fun!

Cone of Silence Award

Ha, ha. The journalists are giving an award to the biggest schmucks who don't hand them a living on a silver plate. Ontario is right up there with the totally secret nuclear process. And then there's that Ottawa guy...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No video for stingray pool

When this story first broke and I looked at the videos on u-tube, I thought OMG somebody dumped in a bottle of bleach! I mean, I'm an evil Torontonian, and when I saw that, I thought of all the fountains that have had soap dumped into them.

Then I thought, oh it couldn't have happened because they must have that place video-covered to the wazzoo. Really, it's dangerous to mix yee-haw cowboys and innocent little fishies. Nope, these people are scratching their heads and have no video. Next time they might have someone at the door to say: "No sir, you can't bring that barrel of weedkiller in here!"

ps. just noticed this article.

China earthquake revives interest in seismic preparation

It's very interesting that there are a whole lot of news articles, basically saying that an earthquake can happen wherever that newspaper is being sold.

Here's one for Vancouver, all about schools. And another one for Seattle.

Nothing for Ontario yet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Modis image of Great Lakes

This is on the Nasa Modis site. It's a great shot of the Michigan Basin, which I think is one of the most mysterious geological phenomenon of this area.

Here, in the middle of a 'rock-solid' continent, is a big basin that slowly sunk to the centre of the earth (to the Moho, at least!). What caused this? Note the circularity of the lake shorelines around it. All the region got sucked into this, including my fav. Bruce site. I've studied it, but have never understood it.

There, wasn't that a good intellectual break from disasters, and general political incompetence?

Pro nuclear energy

Ah the amazing power of being rational. I just liked this article, although I don't think anybody here is capable getting to this point.

Money to gold-plate AECL's NRU

I mean, what can money do to this dangerous piece of crap? But here we have the harperites earmarking $120 million for Chalk River. Perhaps more first class trips for AECL? Placing some earthquake scare-crows around the place? Paying for some better spinned publicity? Who knows?

Give some money to me! I can make statements such as "It's not as bad as China." "Thank God we don't have volcanoes!" I'm really good at making up these things!

CNSC says something!!

Our lovable CNSC has issued frowny-faces at Pickering nuclear power plant. That and a buck can get you a very small coffee!

Of course, OPG has a great comeback line: "It's safe 'cause we says so!". Who writes that stuff?

Getting the patio furniture decent

Ok, this has nothing to do with natural disasters, but if you totally neglect your white patio furniture like I do, then this is for you! It was as scummy as Ottawa politics! Mildew had stained everything! I threw some of it out and was going for the rest! But then I thought of the high gas prices, and tried to clean it. Nothing worked! Went through all the silly things on the Internet, short of making a bomb that looked a bit self-destructy.

Then I tried this huge spray bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles with Bleach that I got at poor Rona. It works great! Finished everything off with a good coat of Armor-all to get back some smoothness. Worked good for the cushions!

So next time the volcanic ash has got you down, try this Fish-Tip!

Countdown to Chaiten column collapse

The volcano has entered a steady state which means it is running out of juice. If there no wind, and the cutoff is sudden, there will be a massive flood of hot gas and lava chunks. The best one can hope for is a slow death.

China earthquake looking worse and worse

They haven't really reached the actual fault rupture yet. If we find the towns in the actual fault valley are powdered, then this earthquake is right up there, as a valley thrust 'super quake'. Total numbers of casualties may be limited by the thin population density. As I have said before, there's no way to design for the full impact of a super quake, on the hanging wall.

But I still think that when they write this one up, it will have been found to have ruptured right to the bottom of the crust.

China tectonics and big earthquakes

It has become apparent that this was a big valley-thrust earthquake, of the type I call 'Fist of God'. That's because of the very high velocity pulse that runs up the hanging wall (I've done a few articles on this). This earthquake was exceptional in that it was felt so strongly for a very long distance. For that I suspect there was a lot of slip on the deeper parts.

We did a lot of work on the Tangshan earthquake, which was in a higher population zone. My boss at the time was one of the top geotechnical engineers in the world, and got some exclusive access to visit the area and take pictures. Everything was made of unmortared bricks, and they all fell down. What was interesting to me, were the zones of non-damage, on solid rock.

Zoom to this earthquake, and you see pictures of destruction, beside totally undamaged buildings. This is probably a soil-basin thing. The buildings are now made of concrete frame, which has to be done right, or they are just as bad as bricks. At least the buildings collapsed with large concrete slabs, which shows the concrete was good, just the detailing was missed.

As can be seen on the map, all of China suffers from the continent of India shoving into Asia. Around Sichuan, you can see the giant valley thrusts, each of which is capable of huge earthquakes. A recent similar earthquake would be the devastating Kashmir earthquake.

ps. Sharp observers might note a certain similarity to a certain proposed nuclear site in a certain western province, although an order of magnitude less strain rate.

Pickering transformer mystery solved

I got a comment on my earlier article about this. I'm glad to report that it has nothing to do with the general neglect of these giant transformers, allowing them to sink away, like the Tower of Pisa. No, this has to do with general neglect in maintenance!

Seems that when these things are off, and you want to work on them, you hook up a bunch of grounding straps to leak off stray currents. These are big huge copper things. It's kind of important to take them off when you fire it up again, but they didn't. I'll bet that was one heck of a copper-vapour cloud!

I still can't find out if they totally toasted the thing. I can't find anywhere that unit 7 has started up again. I do find it rather odd that the official story is that it was a 'ground fault'. When the public thinks of that, they think of a little trickle current that is quickly cut off by a ground fault protector.

AECL enjoys the good life

This article is a bit of a muck-raker. I mean, who cares what AECL bosses are spending, when they are doing such a good job? I am sure, at this moment, they are wisely spending that latest big money package from Ottawa.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Daughter wins all swim-offs

For those into water polo, the initial swim-off is an exciting moment. Nadine confirms her title as fastest water polo player (youth women) in Canada, even though we didn't play every single top team.

China earthquake must have been deep

This earthquake was felt for thousands of miles, and the local towns weren't totally flattened. My suspicion is that it was quite deep, and in solid rock. Right now, they give a phony depth of 10 km, but I would guess 30 km.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bruce Nuclear likes these locations

After I found out about the duck pond, I decided to look at the seismicity and geology, and see why the Peace River is there in the first place.

Imagine my absolutely total surprise, when I discovered they were in a very hot seismic zone, where there has been absolutely no seismic monitoring! In fact they are in that dead zone right beside the big monster earthquake. I think they can now use the same line that they have for Bruce: "Although we are located right on the Grenville Front, nobody's felt anything 'round here for years!"

In fact, when you look at the structural lineament map for that area, the picture is even more fun for me! I just can wait for the next thing ... maybe a high density of UFO sitings?

But as Sir Doug likes to put it: "If you're against this project, you're misinformed!" So, I'm, like, totally, not against it!

Alberta nuclear plant to be on a duck pond

Ah you think, old Harold is going nuts! Who would locate a nuclear plant on a lake that is "shallower than a swimming pool, and full of slime"?

The new plant is to be located on the top of the pulled tooth.

I revel in the fact that I'm the only one in the world who finds this hilariously funny! It's just the way I am. I'm sure that everybody else can promote this site with a straight face. Bruce has opened up a general store to sell this, along with soda pop, and ladies' underwear. Say no more, nudge nudge, wink wink.

OPG sends out 'feel-good' survey

OPG puts out a lot of 'energy' to stop the locals picking up their pitchforks and storming the place. They check the 'temperature' of local feelings with these surveys. Sample questions include:

Do you love us?

Aren't we the cutest thing?

Do your kids play on one of our hockey teams?

Would you like a coffee and donut?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Two Types of Reality

This week has really brought home the two types of reality, and how they clash.

Political Reality

This is really worth the big bucks. Masters of the art can be in finance or politics. In finance, you are either betting against the crowd, or packaging something to sell (Let's bundle these crummy mortgages!). Debaters, such as Obama, and lawyers are also masters.

Masters of this art also rise in the military during peacetime, and in giant Canadian institutions when they aren't doing anything. Examples include the totally political Space Shuttle (make it reusable!), solar cells in the gloom, and wind turbines in the doldrums.

Physical Reality

This actually bites quite rarely, but with spectacular results. It is summarized by the saying: "What goes up, must come down." A perfect example is Feynman dipping a piece of shuttle o-ring in ice water and snapping it. Of course, the bigger demonstration of this was rather messy!

Clash of the Titans

This week saw a good example of the right Reality winning. The Chaiten volcano was following a perfect pattern of Pompeii, right down to a large number of people wanting to stay in the ash. The gov't forced an evacuation, almost at gunpoint, knowing that they might have to mount a rescue in a pyroclastic flow! This was a far cry from Katrina, where political reality won out.

The point is, physical reality will always have the last laugh, and this is where I get most of my laughs in this blogs. In the geology and nuclear biz, it is fun to watch the ball coming down: especially at Pickering right now. Am I cruel for laughing? I'm sure all the political masters hate me.

Physical reality bites hard when Mother Nature is angry. You can totally suppress a country for a while with bullets, but then comes a cyclone and millions might be dead eventually. I've gone on an on about earthquakes, but they do happen, even though political reality denies their existence.

Now with the CNSC totally in charge of kangaroo panels, I don't expect much happening in the next few years with the new nuclear plants and nuclear waste disposal. I expect them to totally follow political reality. Physical reality will hit when you have to build the suckers!

CNSC toadie cemented in

Ha, ha. So much for the effort to get someone who knew what they're doing! I don't think they could've found someone like that, even if they tried, which they probably didn't.

This sets the stage for rapid approval of all the silly plans by the utilities and AECL. Who needs credibility if nobody cares? I don't think it bothers the staff much, since all the people most affected (people I could talk to), left when the first toadie wreaked her destruction.

And I don't think that the big toadie Science Council has met yet. I'm sure they would heartily approve of this!

Yeah for physics!

I love physics. In fact, most of my problems in the big company were due to physics, and the general non-appreciation thereof. Thus, it made me happy to read that RIM money is being used to fund a theoretical physics place at Waterloo.

Friday, May 9, 2008

More Pompeii - Chaiten comparisons

Ha! I found someone who agrees with me! I search thousands of people who don't, just to find one! He was saying that these things belch like that for 7-8 days before they fizz out in a big kaboom! Just like fireworks! I just hope nobody is around to get turned into stone.

Two Minds

I love this hoary old piece of trite crap: "People 'round here are of two minds 'bout this new nu-clear plant, some are for it, and some are 'agin it'."

Could you say they were of three minds about it? Or maybe a unanimous one mind? How many minds could you have? Can one person be of 2 or 3 minds?

I love it, because I don't know really where I stand on this corny spectrum. I'm for a rational, well run nuclear plant. But do I see this anywhere? I still harbour hope that it can be done, that someday they 'will see the light', and pay me lots of money. But as in any new war, the existing bumbling generals will have to kill of a lot of people (in this case, money), before they are kicked out.

Boys off to Paris (Finally!!)

Ok, this ends up being one of the great all-time teenage (university) sons story. Those who do not have such boys will not be cringing at the thought.

So, the boys had this great idea that they would go to France for 2 weeks between University and lifeguarding (for #2 son). They would also hook up with some friends there. As parents we said: "Fine", with the famous last words: "But we don't want to have anything to do with this!"

#1 son hustles up some cheap flights right away (Air Transat), and they order their train tickets. Fine, so far. Then comes the last few days... "Have you got your Euros ..... No" 'Have you got your bags? ... No' and so on for every question you could think up.

So, guess who had to find a currency exchange around here with on-hand Euros. And go with #2 to find backpacks they liked, and clothes. Then the day before, it's "Lets dig out your passports" We were confident because both were in Europe previously.

BIG PANIC!! #2's passport was not in the safe spot, and hadn't been seen since he came back from a school trip and had flung everything everywhere. The whole family strip searched the house... Nothing! We were doomed.

We thought for sure it would take 2 days to get a passport, so we were prepared to ship #2 later and lose thousands on the flights. But the gods smiled upon us. It turns out now that the wife can be the guarantor with her valid passport, the photo shop is right at the downtown office, the notary public (for the loss declaration) is on the same floor. And with a proof of flight, and some heavy money, we got the new passport in half an hour!

This can only happen at the main passport office in downtown Toronto, but Thank God!

So, it took a few years off our lives, but we got the boys off, and now 'no news is good news'.

Volcano ready to collapse

So far the Chaiten volcano has stuck to the exact script as Mt. Vesuvius for Pompeii and Herculaneum. You have your days of ash, and the column going up 20 miles and scattering the ash over a continent. But what goes up must come down. The volcano runs out of steam, and suddenly all that stuff is concentrated over a much smaller area. The big chimney runs out of pressure and collapses. At that moment all the hot gases and lava just barely pours over the top, and down the sides. As with Pompeii, the looters and the just plain stubborn got engulfed by a giant wall of hot gases.

I find it amazing that we are having the exact same eruption in modern times. Except for the poor people, this is truly a wonder to behold.

Sun continues to muck with open source

I'm just like the guy in the article. When I started, I was in love with Sun, wanted a Sun, and all the geophysics world used Sun. I got Sun machines into the big company, until the bloody MS purge.

Of course, Sun botched up everything for years. They became disconnected with the hot stuff. Now, they've been trying to get back with an open form of Solaris, but always they didn't go far enough, they had massive fights within the company not to give away the crown jewels. Now they open up another notch. Will it be enough? That's why it's always fun to watch this story....

Canadians blamed for US tornadoes

Yes, we poor Canadians. It's our cool, fresh Canadian air, mixing with that thick, hazy Gulf air that causes 80% of the world's tornadoes to be in the US.

Anyway, this article is a reminder that we always are having natural disasters, and we should be prepared. Of course, we aren't the tiniest bit prepared for an earthquake around Toronto, but that's another story....

On another note, it looks like that Tokyo earthquake sequence has burnt out. An M6.8 is absolutely nothing on the subduction zone, since it could be deep and the thrust motion is down into the earth. You need about an M8 to start damaging things under those conditions, and then only on soft ground.

Get rid of OPA or OPG or something

OK, I didn't understand much of what this person was saying, except that we have to be more bold in Ontario. I agree with that! Total weaseling is not going to get us anywhere. Right now we are buried in weasels who want to stay under their rock. I can't wait for some type of decision, or anything that resembles a decision.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wind farm costs 'blow' up

It looks like the first doubts are setting in on whether wind farms will ever make money, even by paying companies to use electricity when nobody wants it! The massive subsidies for wind and solar were meant to lower costs through mass production, but these things are a hand-made. In fact, costs have ballooned through a shortage of key materials. It looks like the wind-marxists have failed their Economics 101 again. These policies have produced tons of solar cells in Germany where the sun never shines!

Of course costs are doubling again and again in the nuclear business. These things are all custom-built with a different design each time, so there is no learning curve. It's all leading to the cost of electricity going through the roof!

Cat fight for a nuclear plant

Yes, two western provinces are fighting to host a nuclear plant. Can we honestly say they know what they are doing? Can they have a plant up before Ontario? And as I've said before, they have absolutely no geological issues and can put a plant anywhere, without doing any studies! (Ha, ha!).

As we in Ontario slowly sink into our muck and decay, we can only wonder at the tremendous 'energy' of these western upstarts.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kremlin on Frenchman's Bay

One month ago tomorrow, Pickering Unit 7 was shut down by an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny 'ground fault'. No, that doesn't sound serious, does it? Not something to shut a reactor for a whole month!

I've constantly searched the news for news, but to no avail. How long will it be shut down? When will our sleepy newspapers go for this story? All we are getting is how wonderful it will be to build a new nuclear plant.

Thank goodness all my friends at the old company have clammed up on this. I don't have a clue as to the real story. Perhaps they aren't even telling anyone internally?

Now I will assume the worse: The shutdown was caused by a transformer fault induced by the settling and sinking foundation. They are so afraid of this, that they won't start up Unit 8, which has an even worse foundation. Unit 6 is next.

"When people clam up for their own advantage, I just happily assume the worst." I always did this inside the company, which drove everybody nuts, but I was mostly right. Of course, all the weasels hated me, which made me so happy to leave the second my time was up!

Now, it's a Diefen-Nuke!

Now that Sask. has all the money, they want to go after a nuclear plant, as well. Why bother putting any up in hopeless, have-not, Ontario? We can't decide on what side of the mouth to chew gum!

Both Sask. and Alberta have the advantage of totally unknown geology. Ontario would wish the same, but I know too much! At least BC has had the good sense not to want a plant.

Volcano sprays Argentina

Darn volcanoes have no respect for national boundaries! Chaiten is soaking Argentina in ash, and they've had to shut down the main airport. This image is neat if looked at in detail.

There's good chance that it will go through a full cycle, like it did 7000 years ago. That means a collapse of the caldera, and a big explosion of hot gas and lava. Currently the sulfur production is real low, so we don't have to worry about the tomatoes! And this would be confined to the S. Hemisphere anyway.

Electricity cheaper than free!

For a while, electricity producers were paying customers to keep making cars or whatever. Most of us were fast asleep with the windows open. It's not totally insane to have this situation just before a busy morning, since it is impossible to stop and start a nuclear power station. And maybe it's windy with a zillion bird whackers pumping in the juice. If the power isn't used, the grid goes wacky, and maybe blows, so it's best if somebody makes some extra steel that day.

So far Japan earthquake no big deal

I think it was out on the subduction zone, and probably fairly deep. An M6.8 is rather small for this area, and gives a gentle rolling motion. I'm more amazed at the very noisy sequence, and wonder if this is the end of it.

See what I mean at the NEIC site.

Big earthquake near Japan

Just got this in on my mail notification. Ouch, that's gonna hurt! That's showing up as an MM 6 or 7, on firm ground. Soft soil is going to be a lot worse.

Going organic in Ontario

Oh jeez, now Ontario is banning all pesticides for my fruit trees. Toronto has this banned already, but I can slip over the border and smuggle in some good stuff. Soon it will be nearly impossible.

I can live without spray on my lawn, since I only spot spray now, but the fruit trees are impossible without nasty spray, since many people in the neighbourhood don't spray, and apple maggots can't be stopped organically.

Now I have a solution! In 2009, I will follow these guidelines. I will staple paper bags with McSquinty's face on them, all over my trees. That could be a great business making these!

Volcano plume reaches stratosphere

Wow, this is really something! It should start pouring out lava soon, with pyroclastic flows. I once read this really great book, Pompeii, which was a historical fiction, all about a Roman engineer, at the time of the great eruption. This volcano seems to be following that book.

Yeah! Earthquake Work for Emergency Week

Well, somebody did something earthquake-y for emergency week. They did minor retrofits to make a house more resistant to earthquakes. Now, if we could only get the various emergency organizations acknowledging earthquakes, we'd have something!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Ultimate Lava Lamp!

A lightning storm overruns the nasty volcano in Chile. This volcano was unmonitored, so we really don't know what stage the magma is in. But the description reminds me of the sequence for Pompeii.

Auto guys try to squeeze blood from a stone

I've been generally following this story, since I have two friends who are auto workers. They have generally enjoyed very high wages for little intellectual stress, and have been happy with the arrangement. With Chrysler slowly dying, they don't get the shifts they want, and things are more gloomy.

Like I've said before, there's not a speck of Ontario brains in this whole auto thing. We've got to decide what our advantage is, for the next 20 years. We've been living of low wage costs forever, and this has come to an end (which it always does!). Oh well, our government will solve everything for us, we just have to sit back and wait....

Monday, May 5, 2008

'Totally Political' Ontario to decline

Here is another voice telling Ontario to wake up! You can't have a high-tech province without some active intelligence! You've got to know where you are going, and what you need to get there.

Unfortunately, Ontario is totally in the grip of political weasels and toadies. They are deciding the nuclear thing, for heaven's sake! And they are totally in charge of where the new nuclear is going to go, and what to do with the nuclear waste. Do they have any incentive to be competent? Nope!

And what if we are all moping about and we get an earthquake? All the nails for the coffin get slammed in at once!

What to do? We need to attack the future more aggressively. We can't have this 'Port Hope Attitude' of being against everything! What the heck are windmills and solar farms going to do for us? All the subsidies are just driving up costs. Do you think they'll be any use in the world's dullest (wind and sun) province?

And cars! Forget cars as an engine of growth! All the brains are in Tokyo, waiting for their own earthquake. We don't do much here if our dollar stays high.

We need to have some thinkers work on this in an open and transparent manner. Otherwise I see this whole place sinking into a nice place to retire, and fish from the dock! :)

Emergency Week: Ottawa oblivious to earthquakes

An article from Ottawa. There really isn't too much going on for this week. Ottawa prefers to ignore what they are sitting on, but I don't blame them. Earthquakes just don't exist until they happen. I never saw any place prepare for earthquakes until they actual feel one.

Check your emergency kit this week

Nobody in Ontario is ever going to do anything about earthquakes, so it's up to the individual. This week, check your emergency kit. You should be able to survive 3 days without power, gas, or anybody coming in to save you. This is about what I expect for my larger earthquake scenario. Even the 'moderate earthquake scenario' has the power out for a week.

Chicago earthquake busters

After the 'wakeup call' earthquake, Chicago is setting up a panel (yes, another one!) to look at the state earthquake risk. This is one step up from Ontario (the 'have-not' province) which doesn't do anything, although our seismic hazard and risk is way over Chicago.

ps. I'm back from Mo-real, nothing collapsed on me. Things have been really slow lately on the blog.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Star finally realizes the forging thing

Very interesting article, and adds some details on the forging backlog. I still think it's best to go for the AP1000 and wait for Korea. I thought it was better for Canada to get into this party, but apparently everybody and their dog are investing billions into forging plants.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Revenge of the old guys

Lots of people jumping from the good ship AECL. Where are the new guys?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

No science advice for Ottawa

Here I am in beautiful M'real (code name for that big french city!). Once again I heed my own advice and never look at the bridges! Here is a neat opinion piece on why government will again and again screw up anything to do with science.

It's why we science people will just have our blogs and laugh at everything! Like I've said, it's either laugh or cry....