Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ontario Health Study

Don't forget to complete your Ontario Health study, for a gift card.

Who knows?  They might find that drinking red wine is good for me!  Yeah!

Little earthquake in Quebec

Time for a rant.  I know nothing about this earthquake, and have no decent maps.  It's not like the nice maps I get for the eastern US.  The Canadian earthquake site is gov't run, and is absolutely terrible.  It's not their fault, since I'm sure they are all getting sliced to ribbons, and don't have a nickel to spare.  It's sad.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Less chance for SNC nuclear hamster wheels


SNC-Lavalin is now grappling with a “tarnished” image, Neil Linsdell, an analyst at Versant Partners Inc. in Montreal, said in a note to clients. “Investors will likely wait for reports on investigations before warming up to the stock.”

As SNC sinks into a certain sordidness associated with a certain city, it must mean less chance for Ontario to choose their feeble nuclear plants.  But, I've been wrong before!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Technology Ups and Downs - Part 3 - The Betrayal

The nuclear industry cannot deny it, they are stuck in the hell of mass deployment of a technology that is only 1 in 1000 away from a major disaster, and should be somewhere near 1 in 10 million.  We designers were betrayed by the evolution of utterly contemptible and extremely stupid nuclear organizations.  I don't want to pick on any single outfit, it is universal.

What happened to our dreams?  We always had hierarchical organizations, but there was a strong barrier between the sordid politics, and the designing groups.  After all, we had to make something that worked.  But as the organization and plants aged, it turned into a self-similar organization.  That means that every sub-unit resembles each other and the organization as a whole.  Think of a tree described as a smaller tree on a branch.  Thus we get the whole tree, and each branch resembles a whole tree.

This is very bad for a nuclear organization.  The main purpose of such an organization is to hide the deficiencies of its older plants, and to deal with sordid politics.  Thus, every sub-unit becomes political, and hides it's dirty laundry.  Think of a big ancient walled city.  You are on the outside, and very concerned that it doesn't blow up, kill you, and waste all your money.  Yet, all you see are shining walls.  On top of the walls, all you see are smiling Stepford Wives, saying how perfect everything is.  They say you know it must be perfect because you can't see in, and you never hear anything from the inside.  Trust us, they say.

Yet, the inside is horrible!  The buildings are constantly collapsing, everything is getting patched up, and everybody plays politics by backstabbing each other.  All the news going outside is suppressed by the Wives.  If some intrepid explorer got in and managed to get out again, nobody would believe him!  Only total destruction by an earthquake would reveal the stinking mess.

Obviously, the professional smilers would deny such a thing at nuclear organizations.  How would you ever know?  Yet we see the disasters, and we don't see all the internal disasters that would lead up to this.

Nuclear plants have not gone up the reliability curve that is required for a mass-deployed technology, because of their opaque organizations.  People are now exercising their choice of abolishing the technology, which has never happened before, and will be immensely destructive to society.  Nobody trusts the nuclear organizations.

True, they will argue that they have regulation, and internal oversight.  But these people have caught the same disease as all the others.  They just want to feather their nests!  Nuclear regulators and oversights are just required to make sure the plants sweep their floors.  Otherwise they would never do it.  (Believe me!).

The nuclear designers were just bright people with both a broad and long view.  I witnessed most of them eventually leaving with disgust as they were betrayed.  The reason we only have 'hacked' odds of reliability is that everyone in these organizations can't see beyond the end of their nose, they work on personal experience and living history.  Any earthquake that comes at 1 in thousand will sweep away all their badly maintained backups, and cause multiple failures.  We can only hope it will be contained at the last second.

The End.

Technology Ups and Downs - Part 2

Now we can see how our personal concerns mesh with levels of reliability as to whether we condemn a technology or not.  If we are only concerned about things happening to friends and family, and 'living history', then the odds of catastrophic failure need only be better than 1 in a thousand per year.  If we wouldn't use a technology because friends of a friend are killed, then the odds are around 1 in 10,000.  If we become terrified of something because of what we read in the newspapers, then the odds have to be better than 1 in a million.  We accept the very low odds of 1 in 10,000 for driving, but are very sensitive for other things.

We can take elevators next.  If I was the designer of the very first elevator, I would accept just a single cable driving the thing.  After all, I had personally never heard of a cable failing, and I'm too lazy to go up the stairs!  It's when we start mass deployment than these odds become untenable. Soon, we read about elevators crashing and killing people.  Nobody would step into one if they had the slightest concern, and the newspapers would have a feeding frenzy!  Now, we have a ridiculous number of cables holding the thing up, with multiple independent braking systems.  The odds have become better than 1 in a million.

The same went for the airliners of the 50's and 60's.  Who cared about crashing and dying at 1 in 1000, light up another cigarette!  Projections of mass deployment predicted a big crash every year.  Who would fly then?  They had to up their game, and put the odds to better than 1 in a million.  This was done with fanatically devotion to the quality of parts, and the frequent dismantling of engines.

So, in short, new technology was always hacked together at 1 in 500 to 1000.  Sensitivity rose with worldwide communication and mass deployment.  Still, the space shuttle flew at 1 in 500.

Now we come to nuclear plants.  When we were young designers, we knew all this.  We realized that standard engineering (hacking) could only give us 1 in 1000, so we designed independent backups, also at 1 in 1000, to give us a combined reliability of 1 in a million.  We were convinced we could never have a nuclear disaster with a commercial plant.

What went wrong?  How were we betrayed?  Experience now tells us we aren't doing better than 1 in 500 to 1000 per year, the same odds as personal (hacked) engineering!  The designers shiver in their graves! (or retirement).

-to be continued.

Technology ups and downs - Part 1

This is the script for my new CBC series "Things Against Nature", which will never happen now, because they never called back.  :(   I was going to do a video on this, but that seemed like too much work.


"I have entitled my new series in response to certain opinions that we should eschew all technology, and go back to Nature.  In short, this would result in all of us being dead.  Technology invents 'things' that go against Nature, that is how we live.  I intend to focus mainly on the nuclear industry and earthquakes, but I must go through a little history.

In the history of technology, there have been ups and downs.  Successful urbanization with sewage systems drove the Roman empire to kill all those 'natural' Druids, and is considered one of the greatest advancements for mankind.  The Dark Ages showed us what happens when you forget about sewage.  Still, there was a problem in that all that raw stuff went directly into the rivers and bays, and came back to us as Cholera.  A minor patch was needed for long-term usage, which was sewage treatment.

Now, we go to the Age of Steam, which was another great advancement for mankind, and allowed us to kill all the remaining natural people, along with guns, which we won't mention because they seem to be a naturally dark technology.  :(   Steam was a glorious technology at the beginning because of trains and ships, but it had the seeds of its own destruction (possibly).  They just banged together boilers with any old stuff they had hanging around.  This gave a one in 500 or 1000 chance of blowing up, but with just one boiler near you at any time, who cared?  It is just when thousands of boilers were deployed that these odds started catching up.  Huge boiler explosions were in the news, perhaps thousands died.

I suppose at this point, if certain influences existed then, we would have given up on boilers, since the technology was obviously not 'foolproof'.  But no, the engineers 'upped the game', and increased the reliability of boilers by orders of magnitude, mainly through increased transparency in the manufacture and operation, enforced by codes.  You never hear of a boiler explosion these days.

-to be continued.

North Texas earthquake

M3.1.  I know this is injection, since it is Texas, but I am now 'out of my depth', in thinking of the mechanism.  I'm pretty sure that Ok City marks the Grenville Front, and thus, the end of the megathrusts.  Nevertheless, the Archean rock is also highly stressed, and soon you get into the mountains.  My general thought is that out there you can get injection earthquakes, but they will be limited in size, and you can't grow a large mechanism.

So, whereas, Ok can easily grow to M7's, west of there you probably can't get more than an M5.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nuclear waste in Japan


A very long-winded article that raises an interesting point on the problem of nuclear waste in Japan.  They are trying to do the France thing (plutonium extraction), but seem to be incompetent at it.  There is too much waste for this to do much, even if they got it working.  And believe me, that would present a seismic risk of inconceivable magnitude.  

Geological disposal in that country would be a worse problem than the Bruce solution of putting it on (in?) the Grenville Front!  The whole country is one big fault!  Still, that would be better than jamming fuel pools at nuclear plants, which was one big problem during that last earthquake.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Earthquakes, the media, and me

Once again I have the media after me.  Here is my open letter to them.

Hello, I'd love to go on tv, radio, web, whatever you want to do.  Here is my warning label:


This person tends to bite the hand that feeds him, including his own!

This person really sucks as a tv personality, his voice sounds like a sick cat, and his face looks as  Botoxed as that old rocker guy on idol.

Once he had an opportunity to shine on tv.  Some producer had an idea to do volcano experiments which could have been really neat.  Unfortunately, they had already engaged some old fogey prestigious volcano people, and were fixated.  He could have smiled, turned political chameleon, and agreed with everything.  But no, he thought it was stupid.  They dumped him, and ended up having a boring show.

ps. no response so far!

Earthquakes and nuclear plants - two extremes

Article 1

Suzuki has long believed that there is no such thing as "foolproof" technology. The Fukushima nuclear meltdown was simply further proof. "Nature will always out-fool our best notions," Suzuki believes.

On the one hand we have the anti-technology opinion.

Then we have another.

Article 2

"While other jurisdictions may be scaling back their nuclear energy commitment because of Fukushima, we are not," Tom Mitchell, president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), declared in an address Thursday to several hundred Ottawa delegates at the Canadian Nuclear Association's annual conference.


Japan and earthquake prediction


Over the past 30 years I never really followed any earthquake papers from Japan.  They were all on fine-tuning earthquake forecasts, which I thought was a waste of time.  They lived in their own world, and had funny units as well!  Any engineering papers were worse!  Nuclear was a big corruption, and nobody in the industry ever knew what was going on.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Earthquakes while I was gone

You will recall we had a whole week without a single earthquake in the east!  I was depressed that I would never have anything to write about, but they came back, like the snow!

Look at that!  West Texas, Okie, luv ya!  I knew you'd never stop pumping!

Today, I am most interested in the old New Madrid zone.  That centre bit is the thrust zone, and historical seismicity has a big NE shear wing zooming to the north of it, but this has been remarkably quiet in the last 6 months, and you wouldn't even know it existed!  It might be coming back.

The big question about  these zones is when do they stop growing?  Can we say at any point that this or that zone has completely shot its load?  I think they must keep growing if they get water, but this big zone stirs some doubts.  If it grows, I expect the thrust zone will get longer and there may be new shear wings, just like that little spurt on the thrust zone at the bottom (Dyersburg).

Skiing in Quebec

Ok, so I've been away 4 days in Sutton qc.  Even though I may have missed my Suzuki moment in hosting the next series on nuclear plants and earthquakes, I never tell my plans in advance because I'm afraid somebody will steal my cheap junk.  Really, there is nothing here!  As well, I'm surrounded by these fierce old people who have just stopped being sunbirds in Florida because they could drop any moment.

So, we searched for winter!  Not in Toronto!  Sutton was looking just as brown, with their worst snow ever, but we got 6 inches of heavy powder Wed night, and I got to drive through a friggin snow storm on Friday!  Enough winter!

It was magnificent!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Christchurch -- Can't rebuild, can't relocate


Unfortunately, this is turning out to be a Haiti.  Trapped by legacy infrastructure, they can't relocate, and they can't build.  In history, some cities have relocated, and some have rebuilt after an earthquake.  I really don't have much comment here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Canada's gov't scientists - Muzzled or Dead


At the same time there are shouts about muzzling, these people are all getting cut.  You've got to go with the logic -- what's the use of a muzzled scientist?  Might as well get rid of him....  :)

For earthquakes, this will be funny, since nobody will be able to talk until a week after the big earthquake hits!  Certainly nobody can talk before a big earthquake -- just me!  This ensures there will be no earthquake preparations, and so, you might as well let them all go as well!

LInux - Nvidia Fermi chip finally works

So, 6 months ago I decided to upgrade the old tower, new fancy motherboard with sata2, fast disk drive, and a generic Nvidia GT520 graphics card, with an hdmi monitor.  Too fancy for the current Linux!

Now, I can finally say it all works.  Wow!  Yes kiddies, Linux will never rule the 'Desktop for Dummies' game!  These people shall be happy with whatever gets shoved at them, with all the wonderful exploits.

Those of us who believe in open source tread a harder path.  My fancy disk drive has been getting bus errors and my graphics chip was unrecognized, but at least it sort worked on my fancy monitor, except it only worked on a smaller patch within the monitor, which was driving me nuts.  That was a result of the eternal conflict with device makers and open source.  Nv wants its 'secret sauce'.  Oh, they have this horrible 'binary blob' driver for Linux, but life with that is terrible, since every update screws it up.

So, some enterprising people were forced to reverse engineer the Fermi chip and come up with the open Nouveau graphics drivers.  That's what took the 6 months!  My poor Debian system could not handle it with the normal upgrades, so I had to compile a new custom kernel.  Not too bad since I was using the Debian Kernel 3.2 source.  There are lots of instructions on that!

The tricky part involves the settings for Nouveau.  You just follow these instructions.

In the end, my monitor was finally beautifully full, and the sata2 bus errors cleared up.  Paradise!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fracking earthquake scene dead

Wow, in the last 6 months we had huge action on the injection earthquake front, but now it's been totally dead for a week.  Have they turned everything off?  Well, I guess some people are happy.....   :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ontario not as bad as Greece


“Our message will strike many as profoundly gloomy. It is one that Ontarians have not heard, certainly not in the recent election campaign, but one this commission believes it must deliver,” 

I'm just throwing this in because we've come to the end of our Japan-like 'Grand Plans'.  This now includes the Niagara Tunnel fiasco, as wreckage on the shore.  I don't think we'll get our string of AP1000's at Wesleyville, and there is a question of how much money they can 'waste' at Bruce!

I'm just thinking of this as I was a creature of 'grand plans' when I first started.  When everything was collapsing I was as useless as a windmill in summer, and I was lucky to retire at a tender age.  The survivors at the old company were left to dealing with decaying infrastructure.

So, we are totally like Japan, without the big earthquake.  But that will come!  And like those poor people, we shall be totally unprepared.   Ah well, I'm having fun!  :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Foreign student Interns for growing businesses

The following is an unpaid non-political advertisement for my son Daniel.

Are you actually succeeding in the Ontario economy?

Do you do business in other countries?

Then you might benefit from some cheap labour that is highly effective.

AIESEC provides student interns from other countries to help with your business.  This helps Ontario students in a general trade of positions.  From what I've seen this is a very effective labour market.  As we know, things are tough for university graduates, but they have a real advantage in locating overseas, in that they know languages, and cultural ties.  If you are exporting to, say, South America, you can benefit greatly from getting an intern from there.  You are basically just paying for room and board, and the organization takes care of everything.

Contact this honest, hard-working guy looking for a job.

Daniel Asmis

daniel.asmis on gmail

Earthquake Fireworks

Nice video of 2011 earthquakes.  At least wait until the Japan earthquake!  When you live on these arcs, you need a good foundation, and good construction.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Seismic tomography under broken Japan reactor

As readers are aware, I have engaged in fighting the 'pay wall' for some time now.  Nearly all the papers I need to fight things like the Bruce silliness, are hidden behind this wall.  Right now Elsevier is using the US gov't to reinforce the wall.  And I have given up my journal subscriptions due to my self-imposed miserable poverty.  :)

So, I am happy to report that there is an open journal covering geophysics, which actually has a quality paper about the recent big Japan earthquake.  This is amazing for me, since I've always had a problem with Japanese papers due to their bizarre terms.

This one is quite beautiful, and shows the migrating fluids that come from a subducting slab.  Now, being an open paper, they strive a bit too much for relevancy.  They paint a picture of great danger for the bashed-up nuclear plant.  This has been taken up by the 'science porn' business with lurid headlines.

Is there some great new danger?  No.  These M7's are not 'superquakes' like Kobe.  They are extension quakes like Christchurch, but this part of Japan is not on a big soup like those poor folks.  These quakes can only produce something like 10 cm/s, which was about the shaking of the big quake, which makes the general hazard similar to the aftershock field of any large earthquake.

Nevertheless, I love the concept of open papers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Another Limb Chopped Off AECL


Or is this the head?  I don't know if there will be anything left after this.  So who will dig the big hole to bury all that contamination?  I'm interested since this will be the next fun thing after Bruce turns into a fiasco.

Speaking of nice Ontario schemes, did you know they are totally beefing up the Niagara pumped storage?  This has to be a lot of money, and I wonder how they hid it.  They've ripped down the old concrete structures, but they'll have to take down the earthen walls, and put in concrete to get any real increase in height and volume.  That cost has to be somewhat near a billion!

Oklahoma earthquakes

That was a fine sabbatical!  I must admit that February usually gets me down with its gloom, but this year, thanks to my exhalations of carbon, we have enjoyed a sunny, snowless winter.  I found out that I have 2 avid readers!  All of my other 200 hits a day must be spam.

I focus now on Oklahoma, which has provide the only earthquake interest this week.  This is a fine example of 'damn the torpedoes' with regard to injection.  The ultimate, of course, is West Texas, where they have a giant injection pincushion, and they live happily with regular M6's.

Now, if the US would spend a buck, they could do a seismic reflection line across the whole megathrust zone.  They would get a picture like we got going over Ontario.  I've resurrected my Art of Illusion graphics, and came up with this.

This is so neat!  You can easily animate the fault sections and make a movie.  Perhaps I'll do it one day.  This shows a megathrust with an adjustment wrench fault.  The actual dip of the fault is much shallower.  This whole area is underlain by strips of these things, making a washboard road.  My movie will show how they came together and what happened after.

So, the point is that if you were injecting along the whole line, which they probably are, you'd expect to get a nice line of seismicity, but this doesn't happen.  The seismicity comes in evenly spaced 'pearls'.  What is happening?  I think it's these adjustment wrench faults, which are generated to accommodate curvature in the footwalls.

So the real question with Ok, is how big can the earthquakes get?  A series of M6's is relatively easy, because the fault zone is only 3 km, and there is a good chance of finding surface uniformity with that type of scale.  For real fun we want to get up to an M7 which needs 30 km, and this is rare to find, and is only in the large zones such as New Madrid and Toronto.  But large zones have grown up from small ones, and so it is more challenging to find a small zone that has the potential to grow.

Now Ok, had a very clean M6 zone, much like Virginia, but they are injecting like a madman.  What do we expect next - another M6 or something bigger?  Now I don't think the seismic monitoring is up to snuff, but it looks like we have a large fault zone, with the top being the city, the middle being that nice M6 zone, and new earthquake activity at depth.  As these earthquakes come together, they start to 'even out' a potential M7 zone.  I'm not too sure, since I really think larger quakes need a conjugate fault system.  So maybe an M6.5!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sabbatical of Nothing

This is my regular time when I go off the air, possibly forever, if I can actually do it.  It's a time when I look over all my posts and realize I haven't done much.  Things will be different in a year or two:

Bruce - they may start sinking a shaft into a cesspool

Chalk River - they will see if they can actually sink a borehole in that muck.

Injection earthquakes - expect many more as injection goes exponential.

Niagara Tunnel - they will be plastering over stress cracks in the lining.


M3.3 in Manitoba-Sask

Ha!  Just when we were joking about having a large earthquake in Manitoba-Sask!

This is all in Archean rock, which is well beyond my experience.  The Montana seismic zone extends towards this earthquake.  This is probably a 'frost quake', just like Chicago, and doesn't mean much.

New US seismotectonic model for nuclear plants


This isn't 'earth shattering'.  It doesn't do any ground motion calculations.  The news is all hyped up about this, but it's the same old stuff from many years past.

A utility would use this to come up with a ground motion, but then they would use the same old crufty seismic analysis.  It's all rather sad......