Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Overlooked Nuclear Vulnerability to Grid Failure

April 1, 2011 Comments off


Conspiracies abound, but collusion can be proven – Asheham Press

Government needs to operate independently from business. Influence peddling and lobbying is putting the safety of our people at risk. We have two clear cases of where this is happening. One has already devastated tens of millions of Americans and the second is perched on the precipice of disaster. The first we can recover from, although it will take a decade or more. The second is is irreversible, permanent, and deadly.

Collusion Fusion Led to Economic Failure
We are seeing a wave of irresponsible social behavior that is having major negative social consequences across the world. Within the financial sector, nefarious practices in credit default swaps, mortgage backed securities, and credit debt obligations by the largest investment banks led to the multi-trillion dollar 2008 global collapse. They did this by no means by themselves. It was not a fluke. It was not a miscalculation. There was collusion amongst the investment banks, a federal regulatory agency (the SEC), and individuals in government (the head of the Federal Reserve bank of New York, then Timothy Geitner, now Treasury Secretary) and head of the U.S. Treasury department – then Hank Paulson, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs). The practices originated at the top tier and spread downstream to other banks across the nation. There were many self-interested parties who participated in the collusion: real estate agents, appraisers, mortgage lenders, and the borrowers themselves. This is called a systemic problem.

There is an even more serious problem in that none of the major players involved are in jail or even being prosecuted. The fact is, investigating one would lead to another and another and the inter-related groups would be exposed. See the Oscar winning documentary, Inside Job for more information.

Pattern of Social Irresponsibility
Now we see the same kind of pattern of social irresponsibility in the nuclear energy sector and the same type of collusion. In this case, the players are the energy corporations who obtain leases from the federal government to establish and run their facilities, the NRC, National Regulatory Commission who regulates these companies, and the President of the United States who endorses nuclear energy as being safe. Just a couple days ago the President stated:

“America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy,” the president said in a speech at Georgetown University. “It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe.”

Good for him. He is now the watchdog for safe nuclear energy. Grrr…. he’s on the job watching out for you and me. So, if you buy that argument, once he is out of office how will the American people know how diligent the NRC will be in regulating the nuclear industry? We don’t. We have his say so. All in all, this is a false notion. It’s pure fiction. This woeful attempt by the President this week to reassure Americans of the safety of nuclear energy at the same time we are witnessing the dire situation still unfolding at the Fukushima Nuclear plant in Japan weeks after the initial event is pathetic; PLUS making a pitch at the same time for more investment in nuclear energy is plainly irresponsible.

The Three-legged Stool
Now in both cases in the financial sector and nuclear sector, we see a three-legged stool. One is approving the other to do what they do: (i) the corporate entity who is given license by the government; (ii), a government regulation agency who gives the stamp of approval; (iii), and a top federal government official who endorses the whole deal.

In the case of the nuclear energy industry in the United States, the NRC is the government agency who oversees 104 nuclear power plants. The safety of the people of the United States rests in their hands. If there is a misstep or some disaster, the American people have little recourse against the agency except a law suit for negligence which would be difficult to prove and very costly. Quite frankly, who would we sue? Do we sue the corporations for negligence or safety violations? Do we sue the NRC? Or the President?

And when have the American people been told of a violation where it was headline news? Only one I can think of is Three Mile Island and that was after the fact. But here is the real deal and this came to light only after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Union of Concerned Scientists found 14 “near misses” at nuclear plants in 2010. And there were 56 serious violations at nuclear power plants from 2007 to 2011, according the ABC News review of NRC records.

Source: ABC News

Guess those were not worthy of the nightly news report before. Let’s be clear. These are very powerful forces at work within our country. With the exception of the President, none of these people are elected. The Treasury Secretary, the Federal Reserve chairman, and the Commissioners of the NRC are appointed positions — by the President. All the other parties are independent business people and government employees. They are beholding to what? To us? How about self-interest and profit. That is as close to the truth as you will get. But social responsibility seems to be an antiquated concept. What you have is a closed circle, socially reinforced, that has the others back and are virtually untouchable.

The NRC is headed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. One of them is designated by the President to be the Chairman and official spokesperson of the Commission.

We Cannot Control the Earth or the Sun
What the President and all the other players fail to grasp is no one controls the weather, planet Earth, or the Sun. While nuclear plants may be well run — and that is a big assumption — what if we had a Solar event where is took down the grid? We are entering the peak phase of Solar 24. NASA has estimated we could see a major event that could bring down the electrical grid in Europe. In fact, that story is my number one post here at PTWB. It was a story I came across last fall but not in a U.S. paper. It was in the Guardian UK reported last June 2010. So, let’s say we have a major solar storm that cripples the United States grid for more than 4 hours. Most nuclear facilities in the United States are prepared with only 4 hours of backup power. Fukushima had 8 hours. You see the problem here. Regardless of the cause of the power failure, a prolonged interuption of power will lead to a similar situation — keeping the reactor(s) core, the fuel rods and spent fuel rods cool. No power = no cooling = disaster across the United States at all facilities. These facts cannot be ignored or mitigated or marketed or otherwise sidestepped.

It is clear that nuclear is not insulated from naturally occurring events like tsunamis, earthquakes, and solar events. Their impact upon these nuclear facilities creates a cascading of events that are uncontrollable and the consequences of which when radiation and its related deadly contaminants is leaked render plant life, ocean life, the atmosphere, the food chain, and the fresh water supply poisonous and hazardous to humans. Therefore, nuclear energy plants should all be shutdown as this would be the socially responsible thing to do.


NASA Warns Solar Flares from ‘huge space storm’ Will Cause Devastation

List of Nuclear Power Plants

Maps of Nuclear Facilities

Union of Concerned Scientists

NRC Rules Emergency Preparedness
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has revised a section of its emergency preparedness regulations. The revised rule requires that States* with a population within the 10-mile emergency planning zone (EPZ) of commercial nuclear power plants consider including potassium iodide as a protective measure for the general public to supplement sheltering and evacuation in the unlikely event of a severe nuclear power plant accident.

The final rule amends 10 CFR 50.47(b)(10). The NRC published the rule change in the Federal Register (Volume 66, Number 13, page 5427) on January 19, 2001. The change became effective April 19, 2001.

Click here for more information


Making Progress: RIMs Balsillie Partners with Soros’ INET

March 30, 2011 Comments off

When I started my company in 1999, wireless email was just getting started. I started selling the RIM Blackberry and was part of their Reseller program. I will be closing my company in one year as it is no longer a going concern. The global crisis was the death knell. I have owned many Blackberry devices over the years and still carry one. I am a great admirer of Research in Motion and the company’s co-founder, Jim Balsillie.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) are pleased to announce a new partnership aimed at furthering their complementary missions. [see video below]

CIGI, founded and chaired by director and co-CEO of Research in Motion (or “RIM,” the company that created the Blackberry smartphone) Jim Balsillie will provide $25 million (CAD) over five years to joint CIGI-INET activities.

Both organizations are committed to broadening and accelerating the development of innovative thinking that will lead to insights and solutions for the great economic and governance challenges of the 21st century.

CIGI strives to be the world’s leading think tank on international governance, with recognized impact on significant global problems.

CIGI will build bridges from knowledge to power, conducting world-leading research and analysis, and influencing policy makers to innovate.

CIGI believes that better international governance can improve the lives of people everywhere, by increasing prosperity, ensuring global sustainability, addressing inequality and safeguarding human rights and promoting a more secure world.

GOP Cuts to NOAA Will Impair Storm Forecasting

March 26, 2011 Comments off

When I first read about House Republicans seriously proposing to cut funding for NOAA, I was taken aback. This, is light of what is going on in Japan. The NOAA performs many critical functions that serves the best interests of Americans as regards their safety.

Climate Progress has an excellent article on the issue. Click here


The National Ocean and Atmospheric Association released new data yesterday showing precisely how the loss of environmental monitoring satellites would affect our ability to forecast extreme weather events. NOAA used the example of the “Snowmageddon” storm that dumped massive precipitation from the Gulf of Mexico to New England on February 5-6, 2010.

We here at CAPAF and Climate Progress have been keeping close tabs on House Republicans’ efforts to make the country more vulnerable to extreme weather events. If Congress refuses to fund new environmental monitoring satellites to replace aging spacecraft that could fail at any time, it will undoubtedly expose Americans to increased risk from storms, floods, blizzards, and hurricanes. Meanwhile, more and more science is emerging that strengthens the link between unprecedented weather phenomena and human-caused global climate change.

Without the satellite data, NOAA’s forecasts lose as much as 50 percent of their accuracy, underforecasting snowfall in Washington, D.C. by almost a foot, and rainfall in the Gulf by up to an inch. The resulting failure to prepare for flash floods, roadside strandings, air traffic delays, and transit interruptions could halt all commerce. Even worse, failing to maintain our satellite network, according to NOAA, would reduce future flood preparedness time from days to mere hours, putting human lives at risk.

The GOP-controlled Congress took steps to eliminate $700 million in funding for NOAA’s satellite program in its bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year (until October 2011). Though that bill is still being negotiated, the three-week continuing resolution that keeps the government open until April 8 also contained cuts to NOAA’s vital satellites.

Contact your representative to oppose cuts to NOAA.

AT&T Acquisition Precedes Duopoly and Threatens Net Neutrality

March 22, 2011 Comments off

I have worked in the telecommunications business owning my own company for eleven years (Masterline Technologies). I have worked with all the carriers in the United States at one time or another. I was one of the first companies to sell Blackberry as a RIM reseller. When RIM decided to go with the carriers to sell their products — primarily with Cingular, now AT&T wireless — I was pushed out of the Blackberry market as the RIM reseller program was shutdown. I lost many thousands of dollars in potential sales to a giant corporation and not allowed to compete in that sector any longer.

I predicted years ago that we would see two platforms in the wireless space: CDMA and GPRS. CDMA will be Verizon and Sprint with a likely merger of the two; and AT&T and T-Mobile, pending merger now.

Net Neutrality Issues
I wrote about net neutrality issues back in December 2010 before the FCC voted on new rules regarding the Internet and access. The emerging duopoly is of great concern, BUT the larger concern is this: AT&T and Verizon (the latter who who spied on Americans for the Bush admin), are anti-Net Neutrality­. They want to control access of the Internet and be the gatekeeper­s. This fight is ongoing with the FCC.

A 2009 CNET article, Verizon, AT&T: Net neutrality not OK for wireless, shows exactly where these two companies stand:

The wireless industry is gearing up to fight new Net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission is formulating to keep the Internet open. Broadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications have opposed regulation or new laws that would dictate how they could run their networks. Up until this point, the Internet has been free of any regulation. And these companies would like to keep it that way.

Verizon and AT&T, which operate the nation’s largest and second-largest cell phone networks, respectively, say the rules should not apply to wireless Internet access.

Fast Forward December 21, 2011

On Dec. 21, 2010, the F.C.C. approved a compromise that would broadly create two classes of Internet access, one for fixed-line providers and the other for the wireless Net. The vote was 3 to 2, with the Democratic commissioners supporting it and the Republican commissioners against.

The rules, which address some of the principles of so-called network neutrality, will be tested in the courts in the months ahead, and Republicans said that they would challenge the rules in Congress as well.

The new rules are, at best, net semi-neutrality. They ban any outright blocking and any “unreasonable discrimination” of Web sites or applications by fixed-line broadband providers, but they afford more wiggle room to wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon. They require all providers to disclose what steps they take to manage their networks. In a philosophical break with open Internet advocates, the rules do not explicitly forbid “paid prioritization,” which would allow a company to pay for faster transmission of data.

Read entire article, click here

Related: A true duopoly is a specific type of oligopoly where only two producers exist in one market. In reality, this definition is generally used where only two firms have dominant control over a market. In the field of industrial organization, it is the most commonly studied form of oligopoly due to its simplicity. Source: Wikipedia

Japan Supplies 40% of Worlds Tech Components

March 15, 2011 Comments off

It’s all about the supply chain….no production, dwindling inventories, etc;

Industry Week reports: The economic aftershocks from the massive earthquake off the coast of Japan, the resulting tsunami and a feared nuclear meltdown could hit global production of everything from aircraft to iPads.

With ports, airports, highways and manufacturing plants across Japan shut down, the government has predicted “considerable impact on a wide range of our country’s economic activities.”

Panic selling sent Tokyo shares down 10.55 on worries the nuclear crisis would become a catastrophe Tuesday, after radiation levels near a quake-stricken nuclear plant surged following explosions and a fire. The Nikkei index closed off 1,015.34 points at 8.605.15.

The crisis has led to a huge stock sell-off, with Japanese giants such as Sony and Toyota hit after they were forced to halt production in the country.

Sony dived 6.27%, while Toyota lost 4.83% and Nissan was off 3.6%.

Reactor-maker Toshiba, which fell by its 16% daily limit on March 14, was ask-only.

Singapore bank DBS estimated the quake and tsunami would cost Japan’s economy $100 billion, equivalent to about 2% of its gross domestic product.

And the ripples are just beginning to register in the global economy. Japan manufactures more than 40% of the world’s electronic components, according to brokerage firm CLSA.

NIRS: Nuclear Information and Resource

March 14, 2011 2 comments

I subscribe to the NIRS newsletter. There is ongoing information on the NIRS website about Japan’s nuclear emergency. A video of today’s press conference can be viewed as well.

Click here to go to Nuclear Information and Resources

BREAKING NEWS. Fact sheet on Fukushima reactors and aftermath of Japan earthquake. Updated 2:30 pm, Sunday, March 13. Core is uncovered at Unit 3; Tokyo Electric Power calls it “a considerably serious situation.”

There are currently 23 General Electric Mark I reactors in the U.S.–the design that exploded at Fukushima. A top Atomic Energy Commission official first proposed banning this design nearly 40 years ago. List/fact sheet. Updated, includes license renewal information.

Link to video of press conference in Japan by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (in Japanese with English translation), March 13, 2011.

Statement of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, March 12, 2011

Green Action blog on Japan nuclear crisis, includes updates, video links.

TMI Alert piece on similarities/differences between Fukushima and Three Mile Island events.

2002 report from Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center on cover-ups of safety problems by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

November 2010 presentation from Tokyo Electric Power on how high-level radioactive waste is stored at Fukushima (including pool inventory and dry cask info).

Japan Emergency Shows Nuclear Energy Simply Too Risky

March 13, 2011 Comments off


Meteorological officials warned that there is a 70 percent chance that a magnitude 7 aftershock could hit Japan in the next three days, which could pose another risk to already unstable nuclear reactors. Source: NPR

Today we come to find out four of Japan’s nuclear reactors are in danger of a meltdown. Earthquakes and Tsunamis cannot be avoided, but nuclear power plants are manmade and the entire situation in Japan is now untenable and the building of new power plants, indefensible. The facts are simple. The gravity of what has happened makes clear that nuclear energy is a threat to the entire planet. We cannot control nature and thus we cannot control nuclear power plants. Most of the plants in Japan are state of the art – but their superior construction it is not good enough to withstand the force of the major earthquake which occurred on March 11th. We are witnessing hydrogen explosions, cracks in the structures allowing radiated steam to escape into the air, crumbling of structures, build-up of hydrogen, and leakage of highly dangerous radioactive particles, like the highly toxic Cesium-137. While nuclear experts are making their assessments and asserting the manageability of the situation, here is what is happening at ground zero:

Japanese officials struggled on Sunday to contain a quickly escalating nuclear crisis in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, saying they presumed that partial meltdowns had occurred at two crippled reactors, and that they were bracing for a second explosion, even as they appeared to face cooling problems at two more plants and international nuclear experts said radiation had leaked from a fourth.

Plus, over 200,000 have been evacuated from these areas; and many Japanese workers have already suffered radiation poisoning; plus we have no idea the fallout that will affect the ground, air, ocean, and wildlife.

It is unconscionable that industries have put our world in such peril. The building of these facilities is not by consensus, not by permission of the vote, not by power granted from the people. It is collusion between powerful interests, corporations and literally power brokers to build and maintain these facilities. It is one more glaring example of corporate power run amok. And it is also an example of how these particular corporations view the value of human life — expendable.

Who Owns U.S. Nuclear Power Plants? Download this list from Nuclear Energy Institute:

The NEI has created timeline and a new fact sheet, “Radiation and the Japanese Nuclear Reactors,” which describes the events at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear plants in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami nearby. Also a description of radiation dose limits and exposures to workers and the public in the United States, with a placeholder for radiation doses at the affected reactors in Japan.

Go here to view the timeline and read the report

Related: Japan In Race To Avert Nuclear Disaster

U.S. Nuclear Industry Faces New Uncertainty

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