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Oakland PD’s violent assault on the Constitution and Occupy inflicts severe brain injuries on Marine Iraq War veteran

By: Kirk Murphy Wednesday October 26, 2011 6:20 pm

Tuesday night the Oakland Police force, or their armed colleagues, fired into a crowd of unarmed American citizens at point-blank range. One of the weapons fired into those citizens struck US Marine and Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen in the face. Within minutes after that attack, Olsen was barely able to speak. Fortunately, Scott Olsen’s roommate was able to tell Keith Olbermann that not only was Scott conscious and speaking after the head injury, but also was able to walk into the hospital. Unfortunately, that roommate reports the injuries the Oakland PD (or one of the agencies Oakland summoned) inflicted on Scott Olsen’s head and brain are so severe that his treating physicians had to place him in a medically-induced coma.

SFGate reports:

…officials at Highland Hospital in Oakland said today that one protester, 24-year-old Scott Olsen of Daly City, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was in critical condition.

The antiwar group said Olsen, a system administrator at a San Francisco software firm, suffered a skull fracture when he was hit by a “blunt object.” Olsen joined the U.S. Marines in 2006, served two tours in Iraq, and was discharged in 2010, the group said.

Video footage widely distributed on the Internet shows a protester, identified by the antiwar group as Olsen, being carried away by others with a head wound. While he lay wounded, the footage appears to show an officer tossing something – perhaps a tear gas canister – toward people trying to help him.

“I think it is a sad state of affairs when a Marine can’t assemble peacefully in the streets without getting injured,” said Jose Sanchez, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “We are pretty upset about it.”

The Oakland PD and their armed colleagues fired their “less than lethal” projectile weapons at point-blank range on trajectories parallel to the ground, rather than from greater distance on arcing parabolic trajectories. The latter trajectory minimizes kinetic energy (and hence injury); the former pattern maximizes kinetic energy and hence maximizes injury.


Q: Who does Major Garrett serve? A: He’s a Koch-sucker.

By: Kirk Murphy Saturday July 23, 2011 11:35 am

Yesterday MSNBC’s garbage recycling team picked up a piece from the National Journal’s Major Garrett to post as journalism.  Garrett was congressional reporter for Rev. Moon’s Washington Times in the 1990′s.  After a stint at CNN, by 2002 he’d slithered down the journalistic food chain to Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes’ Fox News.  There he brought the values he’d learned working for Rev. Moon’s propaganda outlet to giving Fox’s spin on the 2004 presidential campaign .  He did so well spinning the 2004 campaign for Murdoch and Ailes that Fox assigned him to the 2008 Democratic presidential races, and then to cover Obama’s campaign.  After that, the Fox propaganda machine chose him as White House “reporter”, where he faithfully served AIles and Murdoch for over a year before leaving for the National Journal.  On his way out he slobbered over his patrons at Fox:

In making the announcement, Garrett said, “Slightly more than eight years ago, [FOX News Chairman & CEO] Roger Ailes, [former FOX News Executive Vice President] John Moody and [former FOX News Washington Managing Editor and current Senior Political Analyst] Brit Hume created a full-time reporting position for me in the Washington bureau. Our new Senior Vice President of News, Michael Clemente, has continued that support. Since August of 2002, the network and its top executives have given me every opportunity a journalist could hope for. I thank the network for giving me the chance to grow as a reporter and broadcaster.”

He continued, “Throughout my television career, I’ve known with certainty I would someday return to my roots in print journalism. That day has come. I will soon announce an exciting new phase of my career — one made possible in no small part by FOX News’ consistent support. It would take a lot — something near perfection — to lure me away from the best job I’ve ever had. Details to come.”

With nine years to “grow as a reporter”, nurtured by “every opportunity a journalist could hope for”, even a former hack from Rev. Moon’s propaganda shop could turn into one fine journalist, no?  So how did Major Garrett do in the article MSNBC picked up from his “something near perfection” opportunity at the National Journal?

Yesterday Garrett described to his readers (and editors)

Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots coalition that pushed lower taxes and lower federal spending before the tea party existed.

Poor Major Garrett: with all those opportunities and his current “something near perfection” gig, he still hasn’t learned about Sourcewatch to check his sources.

What does Sourcewatch tell us about this “grasssroots coalition”?

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a group fronting special interests started by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding astroturf operations but also has been fueling the “Tea Party” efforts. [1] AFP’s messages are in sync with those of other groups funded by the Koch Family Foundations and the Koch’s other special interest groups that work against progressive or Democratic initiatives and protections for workers and the environment. Accordingly, AFP opposes labor unions, health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s “green jobs” czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks. According to an article in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, the Kochs are known for “creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names,” that “make it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington.” AFP’s budget surged from $7 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2010, an election year. [2][3]

Poor readers: anyone who places their faith in Major Garrett, the National Journal, or MSNBC would have read Garrett’s post and come away believing AFP is a grassroots bottom-up group.  They wouldn’t have learned AFP is – in reality – a billionaire funded top-down astroturf group created to make the billionaires’ values and agenda look like regular folks’ values and agenda.

Reading Garrett’s implicit comparison of the “grassroots coalition” AFP with the Tea Party, readers who trusted him, the National Journal, or MSNBC may even have bought the Big Lie that the Tea Party is a grassroots movement.  They wouldn’t have learned the Tea Party – in reality – is simply another billionaire funded top-down astroturf group created by the Kochs’ AFP to make billionaires’ values and agenda look like normal people’s values and agenda.

Sourcewatch again:

The Tea Party Movement gained national attention in the summer of 2009 when organized protests occurred at Congressional “town hall” meetings that discussed healthcare reform.

While promoted as a spontaneous “grassroots” movement, many of the activities of Tea Party groups were organized by corporate lobbying groups….

Financial support

In an article in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker magazine, author Jane Mayer links the billionaire brothers David Koch and Charles Koch, owners of Koch Industries to tea party movement funding. Mayer writes,

The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there—people who can provide real ideological power.” The Kochs, he said, are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.[1]

Reports indicate that the Tea Party Movement benefits from millions of dollars from conservative foundations that are derived from wealthy U.S. families and their business interests. Is appears that money to organize and implement the Movement flows primarily through two conservative groups: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

In an April 9, 2009 article on, Lee Fang reports that the principal organizers of Tea Party events are Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, two “lobbyist-run think tanks” that are “well funded” and that provide the logistics and organizing for the Tea Party movement from coast to coast. Media Matters reported that David Koch of Koch Industries was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of FreedomWorks. David Koch was chairman of the board of directors of CSE.[2] CSE received substantial funding from David Koch of Koch Industries, which is the largest privately-held energy company in the country, and the conservative Koch Family Foundations, which make substantial annual donations to conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, etc. Media Matters reported that the Koch family has given more than $12 million to CSE (predecessor of FreedomWorks) between 1985 and 2002.[3][4]

Koch Industries has denied specifically funding Freedomworks or tea parties directly, however. The company’s director of communications wrote “”Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues. That said, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.” Koch’s director of communications did affirm, however, that the company funds Americans for Prosperity (AFP). TPM’s Lee Fang reports that “AFP was founded in part by the company’s Executive Vice President, David Koch. He is currently the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.” [5][6]

Media Matters also lists the Sarah Scaife Foundation as having given a total of $2.96 million in funding to FreedomWorks.[7] The Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation is financed by the Mellon industrial, oil, and banking fortune. [8]

The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, also controlled by the Koch family, has donated more than $3 million to Americans for Prosperity…. [9]

Media support

Brendan Steinhouser, Dir. of Federal and State Campaigns for FreedomWorks, discusses FreedomWorks’ role in organizing Tea Party movement events

Fox News support

Fox News Channel took ownership of Tax Day Tea Parties around the nation by promoting them on-screen as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties”

The Tea Party has also gotten substantial support in the form of promotion from Fox News Channel and its talk show hosts, including Glenn Beck. Karl Frisch of Media Matters wrote that Fox News “frequently aired segments imploring its audience to get involved with tea-party protests across the country.” Fox has also provided organizing information for the events on air and online. [10]

After nine years to grow as a reporter at Fox, nurtured by “every opportunity a journalist could hope for”, and now in his “something near perfection” position at the National Journal, don’t you think Major Garrett would have learned how to check the sources he chooses to cite for his readers?

Don’t you think his editors at National Journal and the MSNBC editors who chose to run his piece would know how to check the sources for their readers?

Of  course Major Garrett knows how check sources – even if he proclaims he’s never heard of Sourcewatch.  Same goes for his editors at National Journal and the MSNBC editors who chose to run his piece.

Why didn’t he check?  Why didn’t his editors at National Journal check his sources?  Why didn’t the MSNBC editors check?

Best explanation I can find comes from Upton Sinclair.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

There’s a world of difference between Upton Sinclair and Major Garrett (and Garrett’s editors at National Journal and the MSNBC editors who ran his piece).  Upton Sinclair was a real journalist: during America’s Progressive era, he pioneered the sort of journalism we now call “muckraking”.  Muckraking journalists challenge the powerful.  They don’t serve as stenographers for billionaires.  They’re pretty much the antithesis of the “journalists” who sign up to serve Rev. Moon and Rodger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch.  Muckrakers rake through the muck the billionaires spew out, so they can challenge the lies of power.

Stark contrast with Major Garrett, who slurps up the muck Fox spewed and spills it out as fact.  Stark contrast with the editors who chose to look the other way and not check Garrett’s sources.

Why wouldn’t all these highpowered well-paid professional opinion shapers want to use Sourcewatch?  Here’s the most obvious reason: Sourcewatch is published by the Center for Media and Democracy. Sourcewatch’s purpose?

SourceWatch profiles the activities of front groups, PR spinners, industry-friendly experts, industry-funded organizations, and think tanks trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations or government. We also highlight key public policies they are trying to affect and provide ways to get involved.

You know – the purpose the people we call “journalists” used to have.

Garrett’s career – and his editors’ choices about yesterday’s piece – show us all how the lot of them have nothing to with genuine media, or genuine democracy.  On the contrary: Garrett’s work and his editors’ choices show us that when it comes to actions, they act to serve the billioniares.

Who does Major Garrett serve?  He’s a Koch-sucker.

Just like the editors at National Journal and the MSNBC editors who passed his propaganda on to their readers as journalism.


Why does Dean Baker keep misleading FDL’s readers about medical school expansion – and when will he stop?

By: Kirk Murphy Wednesday June 29, 2011 10:37 am

Today Dean Baker again comes to FDL bearing false witness about medical school expansion.  He falsely claims

United Stated doctors….limit the supply of doctors domestically…by restricting medical school enrollment

He prefaces this false statement with a valid observation

Doctors in the United States have enormous political power.

The American Medical Association is perhaps the largest organized group wielding that political power.  (I’ve never joined precisely out of concern about the AMA uses that power and how corporate influences can deform that power.)  Three minutes search on Google reveal the ugly truth about how the AMA uses their enormous political power to restrict medical school enrollment.  And what sordid policy is that den of iniquity, the AMA’s House of Delegates, setting forth to restrict medical school enrollment?

Horrors!  Gentle readers, prepare for the shock as we delve into the deliberations of the 2009 AMA House of Delegates…concealed from the world in the AMA’s winter 2010 Medical Education Bulletin:

Council on Medical Education Report 4—Factors Affecting the Availability of Clinical Training Sites for Medical Students

1. The AMA work with the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medical Education to encourage local and state governments and the federal government, as well as private sector philanthropies, to provide additional funding to support infrastructure and faculty development for medical school expansion.

With respect to the AMA’s current policy, Dean Baker’s oft-repeated assertion that

United Stated doctors….limit the supply of doctors domestically…by restricting medical school enrollment

is not only baseless.

With respect to the AMA, Dean Baker’s oft-repeated statement is false and misleading.

That’s my polite medical way of describing a repeated public lie.  I know – I’m being so ungentle.  I’ll take a moment to pause for pearl clutching.

Now gentle readers, steel yourselves as we delve into the belly of the beast of United States medical education: the Association of American Medical Colleges!

I trust I will not shock your constitutions in revealing I was a student delegate to the governance of the Association of American Medical Colleges in the mid 1980′s.  As a board member of the AAMC’s Organization of Student Representatives, for over three years I attended the AAMC’s annual and quarterly governance meetings in Washington, DC.  There I had a window seat on the discussions of the real powers in medical education: the medical school deans, the teaching hospital leaders, and the professional speciality and research disciplines.  At the end of my tenure there, the AAMC agreed to allow physicians going through speciality training – commonly known as residents – formal recognition and participation in the Organization of Resident Representatives.

Over the time I was there, I got to know medical school deans and teaching society heads and the men and women from the real powers.  I listened to the observers from the AMA, and to all the other interest groups who came before the AAMC’s leadership.  We student reps and the other AAMC governance folks even spent a few memorable blizzards marooned in the Washington Hilton.  The blizzards gave us a lot of unexpected down times – some of which we spent doing liver rounds, watching buses start to slide backwards down Connecticut Ave and betting on when National Airport and Amtrack would start up again.

Gentle readers, today I stand before you to confess a terrible truth about medical education in those early Reagan years.  Even with the Hill on our side, we couldn’t get more funding from Reagan to open new medical schools – or to expand existing schools.

The AAMC’s very able staff prepped OSR and the Deans and COTH and the speciality society folks.  We’d troop to the Hill – we’d try – they’d listen.  They’d agree.  And none of us could any money from Reagan for med school expansion.  We couldn’t even get funding to keep biomed research funding at inflation-adjusted parity.

That was the mid 80′s.

The AMA House of Delegates resolution quoted above which puts the lie to Dean Baker’s repeated false statement about United States doctors opposing medical school expansion is from 2009.  What positions did the AMA and AAMC take on medical school expansion in the interim?

Once upon a time, United States physicians in the AMA and the AAMC were told by many learned men that the solution to the terrible funding crisis preventing access to medical care was to stop creating unnecessary need for more medical care.  The learned men told the physicians that to stop creating the need for more unnecessary medical care, America needed to choke off the point where medical costs were created.

The learned men told United States physicians in the AMA and the AAMC that the way to get everyone in the United States the medical care they needed was to take a single, bold step to control increasing unnecessary medical costs – a step that only the AMA and AAMC could take.  To stop the growth in unnecessary medical care, the learned men opined, United States physicians needed to stop the growth in physicians.

And for a few years United States physicians listened to the learned men and heeded their advice.  After all, United States were told the learned men were experts in their field.  They were eminent economists.

So for a time between the mid 80′s and 2009, the AMA did endorse halting expansion of medical education.  Like many other experts, United States medical leaders made the egregious error of placing their confidence in economists.

Since they were misled, the AMA reversed course.  How do we know?  The United States entity that licenses new medical schools is the LCME: the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.  Who controls the LCME?    One second’s search on Google reveals the awful truth:

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) is the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to the M.D. degree in U.S. and Canadian medical schools. The LCME is sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association.

Yep. The LCME reports to the AMA and the AAMC.  I know: I was in the room when the AAMC made this clear.  Repeatedly.

What does this have to do with the AMA?  Well, let look at what’s been happening in the real world while Dean Baker has spent the last couple of years repeatedly misleading readers with his assertion

United Stated doctors….limit the supply of doctors domestically…by restricting medical school enrollment

In the real world, outside of Dean Baker’s repeated falsehood, by 2008 existing United States medical schools planned to increase enrollment by 16%.  And as of 2008, a total of nine new United States medical schools were in the planning or discussion stage.

U.S. Medical School Enrollment Projected to Rise 21 Percent by 2012

Washington, D.C., May 1, 2008—An annual survey on medical school expansion, released today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), indicates that first-year enrollment in U.S. medical schools is estimated to grow 21 percent (3,400 students per year) by 2012 to 19,900 students. Edward Salsberg, director of the association’s Center for Workforce Studies, presented the survey results during his opening remarks to kick off the 2008 AAMC Physician Workforce Research Conference in Crystal City, Va.

According to the survey, more than 86 percent of existing schools have already expanded the number of first-year students or plan to do so within the next five years. In addition, nine new medical schools are under development or discussion, according to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education External Link, which accredits medical education programs leading to an M.D. degree. The AAMC estimates that almost 800 first-year students will attend these new schools in the academic year 2012-13, based on future enrollment figures.

None of this expansion could happen without the express approval of the LCME: the group that answers to the AAMC and the AMA.

When the AMA were wandering in the wilderness following false prophets learned experts’ call to extend access to health care by restricting growth in the physician supply sometime between the mid-80′s and 2008, they had good company.

After 1989, the Russians trusted the economist Jeffery Sachs when he used his learned credentials to peddle the cult of the free market.  The result?  Oligarchs snapped up the public sector, a million Russians died, and life expectancy dropped five years.  Blind trust in economists can be deadly.

For a time between the mid 80′s and 2009, nations around the world followed – or more precisely were forced to follow – the prescriptions from learned men (and women) at the World Bank and IMF.   The learned people pushing the prescriptions brought avoidable disease, suffering, and death to millions.  The learned people pushing the lethal policy prescription of free trade and free markets and privatization are called economists.

To his great credit, Dean Baker is one of a handful of economists who repeatedly and publicly point out the deadly systemic falsehoods so many economists push upon the world.

This makes his repeated false statement about United States physicians opposing medical school expansion – and his repeated false claim they are doing so for profit – all the more glaring, as it contrasts so greatly with the bulk of his fine work.

Today is one of many occasions on which Dean Baker has repeated this false statement at FDL and elsewhere.  This is a pity, as he seems to know a great deal about his own profession of economics.  If today is the last day he repeats the tired lie he’s told FDL’s readers today about the profession of medicine, he’ll demonstrate he’s added to his considerable fund of knowledge.

And that, gentle readers, would be a good thing.

Why Fukushima’s “spent” fuel rods will continue to catch fire

By: Kirk Murphy Tuesday March 15, 2011 4:26 pm

This cutaway diagram shows the central reactor vessel and thick concrete containment in a typical boiling water reactor of the same era as Fukushima Daiichi 1 (image:

Update: Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, is holding a news conference, just started. (10:15pm ET).

Yesterday the spent fuel rod pool at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4 caught fire.  About that time instruments at the plant showed an exponential increase in radiation levels.  After the fire was quenched, radiation levels fell.  In the hour before I sat down to write this, there was an explosion at the same spent fuel rod pool.  As I write, another fire is burning there.  NHK reports the radiation level – 300 to 400 milliSieverts – is so high that firefighters cannot approach the area.

NHK reports that by Monday March 14 the temperature in the spent fuel rod pool was 84 degrees C: nearly double the usual temperature.  NHK reports that there aren’t temperature readings for today: technical failure.  We do know the pool temperature increased by roughly twenty degrees C per day after loss of power on Friday.  And we know that water boils at 100 degrees C.

The spent fuel rod pool at reactor 4 is one of seven pools for spent fuel rods at Fukushima Daichii.  These pools are designed to store the intensively radioactive fuel rods that were already used in nuclear reactors.   These “used” fuel rods still contain uranium (or in the case of fuel rods from reactor 3, they contain both uranium and plutonium from the MOX fuel used in that reactor).  In addition to the uranium and plutonium, the rods also contain other radioactive elements.  These radioactive elements are created in the rods by the intense radiation around the rods when they are in the reactor core (before they are moved to the spent fuel pools).

Six of the spent fuel rod pools  are (or were) located at the top of six reactor buildings.  One “common pool” is at ground level in a separate building.  Each “reactor top” pool holds up to 3450 fuel rod assemblies.  The common pool holds up to 6291 fuel rod assemblies.  [The common pool has windows on one wall which were almost certainly destroyed by the tsunami.]  Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods.  This means the Fukushima Daiichi plant may contain over 600,000 spent fuel rods.  The fuel rods once stored atop reactor 3 may no longer be there: one of the several explosions at the Fukushima reactors may have damaged that pool.

Now that we have partial meltdown in the reactor vessels – the part of the reactor where nuclear reactions are supposed to happen – in at least three of the Daiichi palnt’s six reactors, why bother with swimming pools for fuel rods?  Simple.  Even after they are no longer usable to drive nuclear fission in the reactor vessels, the “spent” fuel rods are still highly radioactive.  Part of that radioactive energy is emitted as heat.  That’s no surprise: heat from radioactivity is the how the reactor core vessels generate the heat that drives the nuclear plant’s turbines to generate electricity.   The fuel rods don’t know whether they are in the core or in the pools: they keep emitting heat and radioactivity until the radioactive material decays into non-radioactive elements.  That process can take years, which is why spent fuel rods are still dangerous years after they leave the reactor core.

How can we prevent the spent fuel rods from bursting into flame once they’re out of the reactor core?  The Fukushima plant – like many other reactors – keeps the rods in water, which absorbs the heat energy.  But the pools – like the water in a teakettle – will boil away unless new water is added.  After the Fukushima plant lost power in Friday’s 9.0 earthquake and got hit by the tsunami, the plant was no longer able to keep the pools topped up.

How long does it take the water in spent fuel rod pools to boil down to dangerously low levels?  Yesterday FDL reader MtnWoman – who worked at TMI for twelve years – told us about the 2000 Nuclear Regulatory Commission study that looked at this very question.  For boiling water reactors (BWR) such as the Fukushima reactors, the time required for spent fuel rod pool water levels to drop to dangerouslyy low levels is about 140 hours.  The NRC study only looked at rods that had been out of reactors for six months or more: I don’t have data about how long the rods at the seven Fukushima pools have been out of reactors.  Fortunately for the NRC, they weren’t studying fuel rod poos on the upper floors of reactor buildings housing reactor core vessels that had lost adequate cooling and were in partial meltdown.  This may explain why the spent fuel rod pool at reactor 4 ignited on Monday, roughly 100 hours after the quake and power loss, but before the 140 hours the NRC calculated.

Why did the spent fuel rod pool at reactor 4 catch fire again today?  Yesterday the Institute for Energy and Enviromental Research‘s  Arjun Makhijani wrote a very detailed report that answers this question.  In his report he quoted extensively from the 2006 study perfomed by the National Research Council of the National Academies.  Their report tells us:

“The ability to remove decay heat from the spent fuel also would be reduced as the water level drops, especially when it drops below the tops of the fuel assemblies. This would cause temperatures in the fuel assemblies to rise, accelerating the oxidation of the zirconium alloy (zircaloy) cladding that encases the uranium oxide pellets. This oxidation reaction can occur in the presence of both air and steam and is strongly exothermic—that is, the reaction releases large quantities of heat, which can further raise cladding temperatures. The steam reaction also generates large quantities of hydrogen….

These oxidation reactions [with a loss of coolant] can become locally self-sustaining … at high temperatures (i.e., about a factor of 10 higher than the boiling point of water) if a supply of oxygen and/or steam is available to sustain the reactions…. The result could be a runaway oxidation reaction — referred to in this report as a zirconium cladding fire — that proceeds as a burn front (e.g., as seen in a forest fire or a fireworks sparkler) along the axis of the fuel rod toward the source of oxidant (i.e., air or steam)….

As fuel rod temperatures increase, the gas pressure inside the fuel rod increases and eventually can cause the cladding to balloon out and rupture. At higher temperatures (around 1800°C [approximately 3300°F]), zirconium cladding reacts with the uranium oxide fuel to form a complex molten phase containing zirconium-uranium oxide.

Beginning with the cladding rupture, these events would result in the release of radioactive fission gases and some of the fuel’s radioactive material in the form of aerosols into the building that houses the spent fuel pool and possibly into the environment. If the heat from one burning assembly is not dissipated, the fire could spread to other spent fuel assemblies in the pool, producing a propagating zirconium cladding fire.

The high-temperature reaction of zirconium and steam has been described quantitatively since at least the early 1960s….”

Translation for laypeople:  Without enough water to cover the, the fuel rods will keep on igniting, just like trick birthday candles keep re-igniting after we blow them out.  Just like trick birthday candles, the only way to put out the fuel rods is to put them under water.  That’s why even after Monday’s reactor 4 spent fuel rod fire was quenched, the spent fuel rod pool caught fire again this afternoon.

Unlike trick birthday candles, the spent fuel rods burn hot (3300 degrees F) enough so that the radioactive material in the rods is aerosolized: carried into the atmosphere in clouds of hot smoke.   And unlike our trick birthday candles, the spent fuel rods in reactor building 4 are four stories off the ground – just like the other five reactor spent fuel pools at Fukushima.  And unlike our trick birthday candles, right now the radioactivity around the spent fuel rods is so high that no one can approach them to put out the fire.

I’m a slow typist: by the time I completed this the fire burning at reactor 4′s spent fuel rod pool had gone out – apparently spontaneously.  Fortunately, we’re not yet at the 140 hour mark by which the NRC calculated spent fuel rods in ideal conditions would be at risk of combustion.  That’s a good thing, because there’s one other big difference between trick birthday candles and spent fuel rods.   Trick birthday candles merely drip more wax on the cake.  Uncontrolled spent fuel rod fires could pour enough radioactive waste into the atmosphere to cause what a nuclear engineer (at a Vermont plant identical to Fukushima reactors) calls “Chernobyl on steroids”.

Let’s hope the spent fuel rods at Fukushima are put back under water before we have the opportunity to test her hypothesis.

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Nuke engineer: Fuel rod fire at Fukushima reactor “would be like Chernobyl on steroids”

By: Kirk Murphy Monday March 14, 2011 12:14 am

The Fukushima reactor building that exploded March 12 is one of a series of identical General Electric reactors constructed in Japan and the US.  In this reactor design, the used nuclear fuel rods are stored in pools of water at the top of the reactor building.  These “spent” rods are still highly radioactive: the radioactivity is so great the rods must be stored in water so they do not combust.   The explosion at Fukushima Daiichi reactor unit 1 apparently destroyed at least one wall and the roof of the building: some reports stated the roof had collapsed into the building.

Two days later, the nearby building containing the plutonium-uranium (MOX) fueled Fuksuhima Daichii reactor unit 3 exploded.  So why bother about the rubble of reactor No 1?  The WaPo quotes a nuclear engineer who knows the answer:

Although Tokyo Electric said it also continued to deal with cooling system failures and high pressures at half a dozen of its 10 reactors in the two Fukushima complexes, fears mounted about the threat posed by the pools of water where years of spent fuel rods are stored.

At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, where an explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that unit 1’s pool may now be outside.

“That would be like Chernobyl on steroids,” said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi unit 1.

People familiar with the plant said there are seven spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi, many of them densely packed.

Gundersen said the unit 1 pool could have as much as 20 years of spent fuel rods, which are still radioactive.

We’d be lucky if we only had to worry about the spent fuel rods from a single holding pool.  We’re not that lucky.  The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools for spent fuel rods.  Six of these are (or were) located at the top of six reactor buildings.  One “common pool” is at ground level in a separate building.  Each “reactor top” pool holds 3450 fuel rod assemblies.  The common pool holds 6291 fuel rod assemblies.  [The common pool has windows on one wall which were almost certainly destroyed by the tsunami.]  Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods.  This means the Fukushima Daiichi plant may contain over 600,000 spent fuel rods.

The fuel rods must be kept submerged in water.  Why?  Outside of the water bath, the radioactivity in the used rods can cause them to become so hot they begin to catch fire.  These fires can burn so hot the radioactive rod contents are carried into the atmosphere as vaporized material or as very small particles.  Reactor no 3 burns MOX fuel that contains a mix of plutonium and uranium.  Plutonium generates more heat than uranium, which means these rods have the greatest risk of burning.  That’s bad news, because plutonium scattered into the atmosphere is even more dangerous that the combustion products of rods without plutonium.

Chernobyl on steroids.  When the nuclear engineer from an identical plant states there’s any possibility of such a catastrophe, Washington, we have a problem.   Chernobyl’s contamination settled upon people and nations thousands of miles from that reactor’s location.  How far would “Chernobyl on steroids” travel?  And where are the up to 20 years of reactor no 1 spent fuel rods that could cause such a problem, and the spent fuel rods held – until the building exploded – in the spent fuel rod pool atop reactor no 3?

Along with the rest of the planet, Washington’s looking at the risk of a potential catastrophe.  At least when it comes to finding the fuel rods from reactor 1, Washington possesses some unique assets.  One asset – the secretive National Reconassiance Office – runs the spy satellites remote sensing devices that enable US national security to spy on planet Earth.   The NRO’s slightly less secretive cousin over at the the Pentagon is the Defense Intelligence Agency.  The DIA, in turn, controls MASINT “measures and signatures technologies”.

What is MASINT?  FDL’s recent guest Tim Shorrock answered that question a few years ago for CorpWatch:

MASINT is a highly classified form of intelligence that uses infrared sensors and other technologies to “sniff” the atmosphere for certain chemicals and electro-magnetic activity and “see” beneath bridges and forest canopies. Using its tools, analysts can detect signs that a nuclear power plant is producing plutonium, determine from truck exhaust what types of vehicles are in a convoy, and detect people and weapons hidden from the view of satellites or photoreconnaissance aircraft.

With assets like the NRO and the DIA’s MASINT capacity, even an Obama administration that couldn’t find out millions of of barrels of Corexit and crude oil would poison the Gulf should be able to help Japan’s Fukushima plant locate their missing fuel rods.  And do so before the missing rods – or any of the other pools of fuel rods in Japan’s stricken reactors – ignite Chernobyl on steroids.

Once Obama and his generals have found the fuel rods, let’s hope they’ll time out from Gridion dinners and collateral damage and let the Americans who pay for all the fancy spy technology know what’s happening.  Because now that Americans are hearing CNN’s Dr. Gupta talking about potassium iodide (KI) to prevent radiation toxicity, they’re going to be wondering if they need to take KI.  As long as we don’t see massive uncontrolled radiation releases from the stricken reactors, they probably won’t.  Should we see Chernobyl on steroids, Americans may need a whole lot more than KI.  And until the spent fuel rods are located, there won’t be enough information to let Americans plan how to protect their loved ones. Unless we all learn the fuel rods have caught fire.

[Note: revised at 3:15 PM Pacific on 3/14/11]

[Note # 2: The next to the last comment is a link to an article from MIT Tech titled:  "Opinion: What happened at the Fukushima reactor? Events in Japan confirm the robustness of modern nuclear technology — not a failure".  If Fukushima's a success, pray we never see a failure.

The idea that MIT of all places replaces empirical assessment with ideological cheerleading bordering on fanaticism is as instructive as it is alarming.]

While Libyan Freedom fighters chant ‘Where is Obama’, Pres sends Marines to capture Bradley Manning’s clothes

By: Kirk Murphy Friday March 4, 2011 10:31 am

Reuters reports Libyan freedom fighters attacking Gaddafi’s troops are calling for Obama’ military support:

As the battle raged, fighters chanted: “Where is Obama! We want a no-fly zone!“, referring to the imposition of a no-fly zone which is being considered by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama among other options for Libya.

Back in Washington, the US Marine Corps were defending their capture of Bradley Manning’s underwear.

Dinner Theatre: Food Supply Makes Millions Sick Every Year while DHS, Media Warn of Terror Threats

By: Kirk Murphy Tuesday December 21, 2010 3:00 am

photo: neutralSurface via Flickr

Just as our chronically constipated Senate bore down and pushed out the second bolus of the Food Safety Bill upon the megacorps that have been impatiently swimming about for it, the ever so apolitical impresarios at Homeland Security fed CBS a steaming heap of fresh scoop.

NEW YORK, Dec. 20, 2010
Latest Terror Threat in US Aimed to Poison Food
Exclusive: The Dept. of Homeland Security Uncovered a Plot to Attack Hotels and Restaurants Over a Single Weekend

(CBS)  In this exclusive story, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports the latest terror attack to America involves the possible use of poisons – simultaneous attacks targeting hotels and restaurants at many locations over a single weekend.

A key Intelligence source has confirmed the threat as “credible.”

Mind you, this is in the same week when NORAD will issue credible reports of Santa’s flight path from the North Pole.

Speaking of credulity credibility -  don’t you just love the way the professional jouranimalists at CBS capitalized “Intelligence”?  What a great way to emphasize that this week’s terrah alert comes from Authority.  And isn’t anonymous authority just the most convincing source of fear?  After all, what could be scarier than a voice without a body!  . . .

Assange Accuser Worked with US-Funded, CIA-Tied Anti-Castro Group

By: Kirk Murphy Saturday December 4, 2010 9:20 pm

Yesterday Alexander Cockburn reminded us of the news Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett broke at Counterpunch in September.   Julian Assange’s chief accuser in Sweden has a significant history of work with anti-Castro groups, at least one of which is US funded and openly supported by a former CIA agent convicted in the mass murder of seventy three Cubans on an airliner he was involved in blowing up.

Anna Ardin (the official complainant) is often described by the media as a “leftist”. She has ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups. She published her anti-Castro diatribes (see here and here) in the Swedish-language publication Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas put out by Misceláneas de Cuba. From Oslo, Professor Michael Seltzer points out that this periodical is the product of a well-financed anti-Castro organization in Sweden. He further notes that the group is connected with Union Liberal Cubana led by Carlos Alberto Montaner whose CIA ties were exposed here.

Quelle surprise, no?  Shamir and Bennett went on to write about Ardin’s history in Cuba with a US funded group openly supported by a real terrorist: Luis Posada Carriles.

In Cuba she interacted with the feminist anti-Castro group Las damas de blanco (the Ladies in White). This group receives US government funds and the convicted anti-communist terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a friend and supporter.  Wikipedia quotes Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo as saying that “the so-called Ladies in White defend the terrorism of the United States.”

Who is Luis Posada Carriles?  He’s a mass murderer, and former CIA agent.  . . .